Sattvik Food

Online document

By Omprakash

Regarding sattvik food

As you have probably noticed, I have until now not mentioned anything about sattvik food in our presentation document. It is on purpose, because I am in doubt, what to write about it. What do we actually mean by sattvik food? When we are following 16 points regarding food, by sattvik food we mean food that we are allowed to eat. By rajasik food we mean food that can be taken in moderation by ordinary/family margiis. Tamasik food is the food, which we should avoid. As Baba didn’t want to make it too hard for margiis to follow, the sattvik catagory is broad.  But not all food items in the sattvik catagoy is equally good, and some of the things should not be taken in excess. So a ”sattvik” diet can still be quite unhealthy. In my experience as margii, I have to narrate following: 

In spite of being a health conscious person since I was young (and before I became margii), I did not develop so good food habits as i wanted in my early days as a margii. That time there was among margiis and acaryas in my near surrounding a laissez-faire attitude towards food. If you just do your sadhana, asanas, fasting, eating ”sattvik” etc., then every thing will be fine. If you were expressing some interest in eating healthy food, you were often made a laughing stock. For instance, by some Indian acaryas, if you preferred to eat brown instead of white rice. I don’t think, that white contra brown rice was the biggest problem, but it is the principle behind. A bigger problem was to much dairy, too much oil too many fried items and too much salt and sugar. I think, that this carelessness regarding food, which I experienced, can explain some of the health problems among margiis and acaryas. In my own case, I remember frequent stomach problems and today I am still struggling with skin problem (which is slowly improving today).

So I really want to now: ”What do we really mean by sattvik food?”

 

Regarding the concept of a whole food plant based diet

When advocating a whole food plant based diet, you may think, that I’m advocating just another fad diet. But that is not the case. Firstly whole plant food means, that you eat the whole of a plant part. For instance if you eat grain, you can eat it cooked without breaking it into pieces, like you do, if you cook rice. You can also break it or grind it into flour and use it for baking bread. But as soon, as you after it is ground into flour, you remove the bran and/or germ, to make white flour (in the case of wheat), it is not a whole food any longer. If you eat a fruit, as it is directly from the tree or you blend it into a smoothie, it is whole food. But if you put it into a juice presser and discard the pulp, it is not whole food any longer. If you eat nut, avocado or other oily seeds (of course after removing the shell) it is whole food, and it is still that, if you are grinding it finely into nut/seed butter. But if you extract the oil, either mechanically or chemically, then that oil is not a whole food any longer. And of course white or even brown sugar is not a whole food. In other words you use the food items with as little extraction or deprivation as possible, after it is harvested.

But why are whole plant food the preferable food to eat? One key-word is fiber, which is mostly removed in the processes described above to make non-whole food items. Fiber is complex carbohydrate, which our digestive enzymes is not able to break down into simple sugars, which can be absorbed through the wall of our small intestine into our blood stream. So the fiber is moving further down to our large instestine (colon), where it is fermentet by good bacteries to promote and maintain af good microbiome (former known as intestinal flora). We know, that it has a tremendous importance for our over all health. Fibers also make our digestive system  more smoothly running, thus preventing constipation.

By removing part of whole food item, you are also likely to remove some benificial substances. For instance when you grind wheat into flour and then remove the bran and germ, of course you are removing many precious vitamins and minerals.

In the last decades there has been a rising number of conventionel doctors, dietitians and nutrition scientists, who are promoting a whole food plant based diet and the popularity of this concept has increased in the last decade. That development is very good sign, because most conventionel doctors have very little nutritionel knowledge. It simply forms a very tiny part of the curricilum at medical schools. These plant based doctors have by own initiative become interested in nutrition and have had great success in helping their patiens to better health by guiding them into changing their diet.

 

I will present some of these health professionals here:

Colin Campbell is a retired nutritional scientist, who lead a comprehensive population study in China in the 80s (called the Cnina Study) to find correlation between food and other life style habits in different provinces in China and the incidence of different types of cancer. The Chinese authorities had already in the 70s gathered comprehensive statistics of on different types of cancer in the different provinces. The overall message from the China Study was: more plant food better health. Before that Campbell made feeding experiments with casein (cheese protein) to rats. The results of these experiments suggested, that high animal protein promotes cancer, and that cancer could be reversed by swithcing to a diet with low amount of animal protein.

His website is nutritionstudies.org and he has written the books ”The China Study”, ”Whole – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition ” and ”The Low Carb Fraud”

Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. is a retired heart surgeon who is specialized in by-pass operations. Though his operations (who are very expensive) in some instances would save peoples life, he was frustrated to see, that patients after repeated operations were getting repeated heart incidences. He then started to do research into understanding the cause of coronary heart diseases to discover, that these diseases don’t need to happen. He then guided his patients  to eat a low fat whole food plant based diet. The patients who strictly followed his diet got their heart problems reversed if not cured. In May last year I went to a lecture by him in Copenhagen arranged by the Danish Vegetarian Association. Though he was then 86 years old he was still agile and standing up the whole lecture.

His website is: http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/ and he has written a book called ”Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”

John McDougall is a physician who promotes a low fat high carb plant based diet which he calls The Starch Solution (also the title of his most famous book). When he narrates his childhood with a too rich western diet he says, that he had easter for breakfast, thanksgiving for lunch, christmas for dinner and birhday for dessert. When he became 18 years old, he got a stroke that made the left side of his body paralyzed for some time and later on he recovered. After finishing medical school he grew frustrated when dealing with patients with chronical diseases when treating them according to, what he had learned in the medical school. He later compared the health of Asian immigrants, who was still eating their traditional diets of rice and vegetables with people on SAD (standard american diet). The former contrary to the latter had seldom chronic diseases like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. He then decided to guide his patients to better food habits, and he finally had succes in dealing with cronical diseases.

His website is https://www.drmcdougall.com/

Michael Greger is a physician who runs the website nutritionfacts.org, He and other peers are every day reading several articles about nutritional science from peer reviewed scientific magazines. Thrice a week he publishes a video with himself as speaker where he talks about a nutritional subject while showing highlighted parts of the text and relevant graphs from scientific articles. He has written a book with the title ”How not to die” with extensive dietary recommendations.

Among his recent videos he is explaining, how different pandemics like COVID-19 is caused by intensive animal feeding operations. He is even telling, that most of the pandemics through human history, since the advent of agriculture have been caused by animal husbandry. This is one more reason, why we should abolish animal agriculture.

In other words I strongly believe, that a whole food vegan diet (minus onion, garlic, mushrooms etc.) is a genuine sattvik diet.

Sucharit is asking me for evidence for the benefit of a whole food plant based diet. I have to admit, that I have read very few articles describing original research. In the near future I will like to do that. But I have read different books, read articles, listen to lectures online by these plant based professionals. And not the least I have watched many videos on nutritionfacts.org. I have also read books and articles written by people promoting different low carbohydrate fad diets, like paleo diets blood type diet and metabolic typing diet. And it is clear that the former ones make much more sense than the latter ones. To study scientific articles I will first look for references in the books, that I have read. 

The other reason for my trust in these plant based health professionals is the fact that they are tranparent with their life history and walking their talk (practicing what they preach). Not only themselves but their entire families are following their lifestyle. Family members are providing recipés online and in books.

 

About taxation of undesirable food items

Sumati is suggesting a taxation on animal products. Maybe it is more effective to make a thorough reformation of the policies of agricultural subsidies. In most part, at least in the developed countries of the world, agriculture is heavily subsidied by the government. These subsidies are favoring animal factory farming. This is one reason, why animal products are too cheap. These cheap prices dont’ reflect the resources and combined labour put into the manufacturing of animal products. In EU countries the agriculture is directly supported by funds from a pool in EU, which every member country is contributing to. Therefore it is easier for us to make the necessary reforms of agricultural sibsidies, if we leave or break with EU.

A reform of the policies of agricultural subsidies should be made to encourage farmers to reduce or eliminate animal husbandary and instead grow food for direct human consumption. Farmers should also be encouraged to rewilding some of the farm land.

If we don’t want to completely eliminate animal agriculture, we should at least try to eliminate feedlot operation plants. Firsly because it is extremely cruel to animals and environmental damaging and it doesn’t make sense to grow soy and grain to feed these animals instead of growing food for direct human consumption. If we have to keep animals at all, it should be in balance with the plant production. It can be done with a small amount of ruminant animals to eat the clover and grass, that in organic farming is plantet as intercropping or part of crop rotation to keep the soil alive and fertile. Just by this measure we have to reduce the amount of animals product down to a fraction of, what we have today.

 

About dairy

On social media I have found several health conscious vegans who find the idea of sattvik food ridiculous. They say something  in this line: ”How can you consume mammal secretion, oils and 

white bread, while on the other hand avoid onion, garlic and mushroom?” Shivanii (my vegan daughter) has also asked me the same question. I fully appreciate the reasoning behind this question, especially with the bad food habits I have experienced among margiis. And onion and garlic are among many people, also among those I respect, regarded as beneficial vegetables. In think it must be a subtle harmfull effect, that make onion and garlic undesirable.

What i usually reply to these reasonable questions regarding dairy is, that the sattvik catagory has to be easy to follow. In India dairy is promoted by culture and religion, and in traditionel Indian way the cow was treated with respect. In Western countries in my youth, to be a lacto-vegetarian was already quite controversial, what to speak about being vegan. To take this full step would make us worried about whether we could meet our nurtritional needs by only eating plants. By the raising number and popularity of plant based health professional today, there is no excuse anymore for not becoming vegan.

Besides that, modern dairy farming is a very cruel practise. As most animals in factory farming, cows and  bulls are not mating in the natural way. Semen is extracted from the bulls and cows are forcibly inseminated. Shortly after the calf is born, it is seperated from the cow, in order to steal maximum milk to be sold. Sometimes the calf is immideatly killed or it is fatten on artificial fodder. If it is a male, he is slaughered for veal. If it is a female, she is enduring the same fate as her mother. This forcibly separation of mother and infant is extremely emosionally cruel. That is why I regard milk produced in that way as glandular secretion from rape and kidnapping victims. On top of that, modern cows are breeded to produce many times the amount of milk than their wild relatives, which is overburdening their bodies. So when they are five years of age, their bodies are so worn out, that they can’t produce enough milk anymore, and they are slaughtered for making hamburgers. This cruel efficiency is necessary, if we want to have a high production of dairy in our present day world with a high human population. Here it is obvious that the modern dairy industry is closely tied to the meat industry.

 

About honey

By using honey we are stealing food from the bees. Often the honey stolen is replaced with sugar water, which lacks essential nutrition for the bees. From a nutritional point of view, I put honey in the same catagory as refined sugar.

 

Regarding the difference between veganism and plant based eating

If you go to website of The Vegan Society https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism  , which originally invented the word vegan (three first and two last letters in VEGetariAN), you will see, that the definition is based on animal ethics:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

As margiis we will recognize, that veganism is ahimsa regarding animals.

On the other hand, a whole food plant based diet is a diet that is surrounded on whole plants. It can contain small amount of animal products and over processed plant foods, because it will hardly affect your health in that case. So you see, that plant based eating is based on health, where veganism is based on ethics. Many vegans will reply, if you talk about the vegan diet, that veganism is not a diet but a philosophy and way of life. There are also many examples of people who go plant based to get rid of chronical diseases and later on start to appreciate the ethics behind veganism, and even in some instances become animal right activists.

 

More about my thoughts on naturopathy as the main medicine

Naturopathy is a subject, where the two basic needs food and medicine intersects. Sucharit and I had at our last zoom meeting a short discussion (where we basically agreed) about naturopathy. I want to eleborate more on, why I regard naturopathy as the main medicine. We can also talk about prevention. By prevention we mean, that we do the right things: eat right, exercise right, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol and proper stress management etc. etc. When people have health problems we should primarly look in to righting the wrongs sometimes with the aid of appropiate medicines. And here we have to remember, that though we have some personal responsibility for our own health, much of the responsibility lies upon the society as a whole. For instance the air we breathe (especially in cities) and the water, we drink, and our working conditions. Even our food habits are very much a society matter. First of all we human beings a social beings, and we usually share meals with family, friends, colleges etc. It can therefore pose a huge challenge, if you want to improve your diet. I think, that peer pressure is the main reason, why some people give up a vegetarain/vegan diet. Secondly we are surrounded by many temptating calorie dense edible items in our daily life by advertisement and arrangements in the supermarkets. What is there on the shelves beside you when you wait in line for paying your groceries?

A third problem is confusion about food and health. Though food guidelines from governmental institutions are not that bad, there is still room for substantial improvements. But at least if an average person is trying to follow them, it will benefit them. They at least tell people to eat less saturated fat and refined sugar and to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I think that it is certain economic interests that prevent official guidelines to be more bold. In my opinion official guidelines should promote a whole food plant based diet because the science is clear. There is also a lot of misinformation spread on social media and established media outlets about nutrition. One example is an article in Time magazine (23’rd June 2014) claiming, that ”butter is back”, which tried to debunk the well established link between saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and coronary heart diseases. Much of this misinformation is promoted by vested interest just like much of the climate denialism. They try to give the impression that scientists are disagreeing, just like the tobacco industry did to create confusion. What also fuels this kind of misinformation is the fact that many average people like to hear good news about their bad habits.

The idea I have about naturopathy means that it is not confined to the medical profession alone. Rather it is a matter of responsibility by all institutions in society to prevent diseases and promote all round health. And the accidents and incidences of diseases that inevitable happens, we leave to the medical profession. And these professionals will give the treatment which is necessary, whether it is allopathy, ayurvedic, homoeophathic, surgery etc.

Baba says in his talk about the different kind of medicine about naturopaths: 

Furthermore, the diets and lotions prescribed by naturopaths are often very expensive and beyond the means of the poor

That is not the kind of naturopathy, which I want to promote. It sounds in my opinion more like some alternative doctors, who promote different expensive powders as ”superfoods”. I prefer the naturopathy promoted by the above mentioned plant based doctors. The food items they promote is not exotic and expensive but cheap foods like rice, beans, potatoes ryebread and oatmeal. If you want to elevate any food items to the status of ”superfoods”, I think broccoli and kale is better options. John McDougall in his book ”The Starch Solution” is giving suggestion to a shopping list to live on budget. And these plant based doctors are still prescribing allopathic medicin in some instances, but much less frequently then their avarage colleges.

People may wonder, why I talk so much about food health. Is it not just the concern of a proutistic society to take that the minimum garantee of food is provided, and people should just be free to choose, what they want to eat? In my opinion it is not that simple. I have already described above, how social related our eating is. Of course I don’t want to forbid people to eat certain food items. Though a proutistic society will encourage people not to start smoking or drinking alcohol, I don’t think it is wise to prohibit people to do so. We have seen, how it promoted organised criminality in USA in the 1930’es. I am also in favor of legalization of certain drugs like marihuana, not because I want people to smoke it, but the war on drugs has been a big failure with many human tragedies. Drug policies should focus on helping drug addicts, especially with their social and psychic problems, instead of punishing them.

In the same way I want a proutistic society to promote healthier food habits. It should be encouraged by proper educational campaigns and promotion of local growing of vegetables (also in cities) and establishment of orchards. In that way vegetables and fruits will be fresher and cheaper due to transport savings. Hospitals should also offer much healthier dietary options than they do today. That is one more reason why official food recommendations should be more bold.

One other good reason for encouraging people to adobt healthier habits is for the benefit to the overall economy of the society. If less people get chronical diseases, we will have less need for doctors, nurses and hospital capacity. By that way we can make cuts in the government spending on health care in the nice way (the neoliberal push to cut healthcare spending in today’s societies is definately not nice). An other benefit is, that people in good health are more productive. There is so much talk about the burden of too many old people (in Danish we say ”ældrebyrden”), that put high demand on the healtcare system. If people live a healthy life, they will have higher life expectancy. Not only that, they can also expect to have a better and  a more active senior life, which requires less medical treatment.

 

Grassroots movements to work for better food policies and systems.

Here are two quotations from Baba, about consumer cooperatives:

The first is taken from ”Supreme Expression Part 02” chapter 10 (Some Concepts)

     The right of distribution of edible grains by businessmen is also undesirable.  This right should be fully vested with the consumers’ co-operative.  So long as the crop production and its distribution do not come under the control of the co-operative from the hands of the Vaeshyas, it is absolutely immpossible to stop hoarding, speculation, black-marketing and adulteration in the food market.  The consequence of the slightest laxity in such matters is extremely dangerous.  Such weakness is not at all desirable in such people as love Man and delve in politics.  That food-grains should rot in the cellars of the black-marketeers and speculators, or that they should be eaten up by rats and that men should die of starvation by slow degrees…is a position antagonistic to the human standard of morality.

Here Baba is clearly stating, that production and distribution of essential commodities should be controlled by collective institutions, and not be left to the free market forces (actually the ”free market” is a delusion).

The second quotation is taken from a talk about cooperatives given 18 February 1988.

      Similarly, consumers co-operatives should be formed by likeminded persons who will share the profits of the co-operative according to their individual labour and capital investment. Those who are engaged in the management of such co-operatives will also be entitled to draw salaries

on the basis of the services they render to the co-operative. Consumers co-operatives will distribute consumer goods to members of society at reasonable rates.

These quotations has inspired me at lot, and the idea of establishing consumer cooperatives is very close to me heart. This has given me the idéa of promoting the cooperative system by ”radikaliserende fødevarefællesskaber” (”radicalising food fellowships” is me feeble attempt to translate it into English).

To establish cooperative system in our present society is very challenging. If you try to start a producers cooperative in our present day world, you have to compete in the capitalistic market system, where you can easily get crushed or transformed into just another capitalistic company. I think it is better to start with establishing consumer cooperatives, which in the long run can be expanded into a network of both consumer and producer cooperatives. I think, that we from the very beginning of establishing the cooperative system should focus on developing working relationship, that is based on the principle of coordinated cooperation (instead of subordinated relationship). In this way we will challenge the capitalistic system. It has to be done, before any consideration about registering as a company. It is easier to start a consumer cooperative around food, than around any of the other four basic necessities, because we need to get it every day. In the later years in Denmark there is been a development of small associations called ”fødevarefællesskaber” (food fellowships). They are associations of consumers, who buy food directly from organic farms (usually the seasonal fruits and vegetables) and arrange weekly bags for the members. Though I appreciate this development, I still see it as a middle class phenomenon. I want to expand on this idea to a society transforming institution.

My idea of ”radikaliserende fødevarefællesskaber” (radicalising food fellowships) will be twofold. Firstly it will have a practical part in expanding collective activities around food. Secondly it will have a theoretical part in developing a vision for the future (PROUT) society, of course with the focus on developing the system of food production and distribution.

For the practical part it should focus on improving ordinary peoples food situation, both with regard to accessibility, affordability and health. How this is approached will of course vary according to time, place and person.

In the second quotation Baba is mentioning, that consumer cooperatives should be fomed by like minded people. In the case of food consumer cooperatives it will mean that should be formed by people with similar idéa and preferences regarding food. If I personally have to be involved in forming a radicalising food fellowship, I will form it together with other who either already are or are trying to follow a whole food vegan diet.

Here in my, ”stream of consciousness” I am considering, whether in my presentation paper, I should eleborate more on my idéa of radicalising food fellowships or leave it to the discussion on the Prout retreat.

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