Spiritual Nutrition: How the Foods You Eat Affect Your Mind, Body and Spirit
BY CYNDI DALE
every food we eat has a spiritual and energetic effect on the body, mind and spirit. becoming aware of this fact and working with it consciously is the foundation of spiritual nutrition.
In almost every culture, food has long played a dual physical and spiritual role, and with that, many rules have been handed down. The Jewish tradition forbids eating pork, the Hindus forbid eating beef, and many Native American tribes prohibit eating foods that are not sacred. Conversely, there are spiritual foods that bestow spiritual power. Indigenous ceremonies are often based on stringent rules regarding what foods to serve. While conducting two weeks of shamanic ceremony in Peru, I was put on an icaro, or medicine man’s purification diet.
Refraining from salt, sugar, and heavy meats, I was given special spiritual foods known for creating a healthy body and open psyche. What each of these examples demonstrates is that food is powerful medicine.
Sometimes the remedy lies in what we take in, and sometimes it’s dependent upon what we leave out. The question is, how do we know what to eat or drink and what not to? This is the domain of spiritual nutrition.
In the midst of too many (often conflicting) choices, there is the still, small voice within each of us that knows the answer to our question. It’s the voice of our intuitive selves, the part of us that is innately connected to our deepest truth and always attuned to what we need in body, mind, and soul. Our intuition reminds us to slow down, listen, and pay attention to the messages and signs that our bodies are continuously delivering about which spiritual foods are best for us in any given moment. These messages can be transmitted in a variety of ways, such as genuine hunger, cravings, addictions, allergies, good and bad moods, energy levels from high to low, physical discomfort, and pleasurable sensations. As you begin to understand the subtleties of spiritual nutrition, you will understand what all of these signals mean, as outlined below.
The purpose of this article is to teach you how to pay intuitive attention to what your body needs right now, drawing on a number of energetic perspectives of food. If you are a subtle energy practitioner, the tools and information contained here can also be used with clients when you deem it appropriate to help them adopt a more spiritual diet that heals on many levels.
The actual work of practicing spiritual nutrition is centered on the Intuitive Eating seven-day journaling process provided at the end of this article. This journal will help you or your clients connect the dots between specific emotions, beliefs, and food cravings.
Then the rest of this article will supply you with ideas for using spiritual foods as a subtle energy healing tool, such as foods that can balance the chakras and flavors (in the five-phase theory of Chinese medicine) that can balance the internal organs.
Food, Mood, And Mind
The following list of connections between food, emotions, and beliefs can be used as a stand-alone reference or in concert with the Intuitive Eating awareness process and journaling worksheet.
Cravings are important memos from the body and are its way of telling us about our emotional needs. They can also provide clues as to the limiting beliefs or negative self-talk that might be contributing to an emotional upset, whether that disruption is a minor, temporary state or a chronic, debilitating pattern. Cravings are tools and guides in the discipline of spiritual nutrition.
The food and feelings connections outlined here can shed some light on the interplay between certain thoughts, feelings, and emotions that may be seeking your attention. Following are examples that we can all relate to.
The Emotional Messages Of Food
Using this list can help you begin to perceive your cravings and food choices through a lens of self-acceptance, self-respect, and kindness and make the shift to eating healthier, spiritual foods as a result. For instance, if you find that you’ve primarily been eating crunchy foods, such as popcorn, celery, and chips, you might guess that you are angry. Take some time to figure out what or who you are angry with, and perhaps what subtle energy boundaries you believe have been violated or that you are violating in others. If your journal page is full of gooey, sticky breadstuffs, you are probably seeking comfort in all the wrong places—in food instead of relationships. By taking stock of your diet, you can get in touch with your inner heart and respond to your deeper needs in more self-loving ways than literally feeding your feelings, which is ideal when living in alignment with the tenets of spiritual nutrition. If you change your attitude and behavior, your food cravings and dietary habits will also become healthier.
Crunchy foods: Anger. Crunchy foods help us act out our anger in a safe way, providing us an outlet so we don’t have to deal with the people or circumstances causing us to be angry.
Salty foods: Fear. We crave salty foods because we want to have more “spice” in our lives but are too scared to take a risk.
High-gluten or wheat products: Comfort and safety. What’s more comforting than a warm cinnamon roll, mashed potatoes, or a bowl of pasta? Gluten products give us the comfort and safety we need in a non-threatening way. Has a cinnamon roll ever rejected you?
Sugar: Excitement. When we can’t provide excitement for ourselves, sugar does it for us; if we’re unable to allow someone else to share joy with us, we can use sugar as a substitute playmate.
Dairy (milk, ice cream, fatty cheese): Love. Our first food was milk—mother’s milk. Rich, sugary, and/or fatty dairy products represent the unconditional love we received—or were supposed to receive—during infancy. We crave dairy products and foods when we desire unconditional love and protection and can’t find it in our everyday lives.
Chocolate: Sexual drive. We’re all sensual, sexual beings. Eating chocolate is a safe way to feel sensual when our life lacks romance. It’s also a substitute for the sex and physical love we need but might be too frightened to obtain.
Alcohol: Acceptance. If you don’t feel accepted for who you really are, or worse, if you were punished for being yourself when you were young, alcohol can provide the illusion of self-acceptance. It can also protect you from the perceived dangers of intimacy. The sugar in alcohol can serve as a substitute for excitement. The corn in alcohol can buffer feelings of failure, and grain alcohol can give us the warm feelings we might lack in our relationships.
Corn: Success. We all want to be and to feel successful. Eating corn or corn products can not only momentarily imbue us with a sense of professional success, but also cushion us from deep-seated feelings of insecurity and failure.
Fatty foods: Shame. Fatty foods hide our internal shame. They also cocoon us in a bubble of shame (fat) so we’re safe from other people. After all, letting someone in close might make us feel even worse about ourselves.
The Mental Messages Of Food
The following are common limiting beliefs and negative internal messages related to certain foods, spiritual and otherwise. When you review your Intuitive Eating worksheet, notice what types of foods appear most frequently, as well as in what circumstances. This information will shine a light on the unconscious beliefs that might be active in your subtle energy system and keeping you from moving deeper into the practices of spiritual nutrition.
Crunchy foods: Anger causes trouble. If someone is angry with me, they don’t love me.
Salty foods: It’s dangerous to be vibrant or enthusiastic. Being different causes rejection. Girls don’t take risks. It’s not safe to take risks.
High-gluten or wheat products: No one will give me what I really need. The world isn’t safe. I can’t rely on anyone but myself for love or comfort.
Sugar: It’s not okay (it’s evil) to have fun. I don’t deserve to be joyful.
Dairy (milk, ice cream, or cheese): I am unlovable. No one will ever love me the way I really am. Love is conditional.
Chocolate: Sex is bad. My sensuality is dangerous.
Alcohol: People will hurt me if I show who I really am. No one will accept my true self.
Corn: Success leads to pride. I am a failure. I will never succeed.
Fatty foods: I am a bad person. I don’t deserve anything good. I am unworthy of love.
The Food Of The Yogis: An Overview Of Food In The Ayurvedic Tradition
In Ayurvedic medicine, the best ways to eat by the principles of spiritual nutrition and tend to your emotions depend upon your constitutional and spiritual body type, or dosha. Doshas are determined by elements as well as physical, mental and spiritual attributes. These are the basic principles behind the three doshas:
Vayu (also known as Vata) is an impulse principle that manages the nervous system and is made of air and ether. Characteristics of the vayu-dosha person: tall and lean, talkative, shifting mind, earthy skin, hairy, prefer hot and oily dishes, tend to be constipated, love to travel, enjoy life, unsteady sleep.
Pitta is an energy principle that runs the bile, or metabolic, system and is composed of fire and water. Characteristics of the pitta-dosha person: medium build, sweats a lot, pink skin, early baldness, impatient, fairly talkative, loves to eat and drink, brave and ambitious, average sleep.
Kapha is a body-fluid principle that regulates the mucus-phlegm, or excretory, system and is made up of water and earth. Characteristics of the kapha-dosha person: short and stout, sweats a lot, white skin, steady mind, can be silent, normal appetite and thirst, rests a lot, sleeps deeply.If you’re unsure which of the doshas fits you, consider the following descriptions of imbalance and balance in each dosha. Which best describes you?
Vayu (or Vata): When in balance, people with this constitution are vibrant, lively, enthusiastic, clear and alert of mind, flexible, exhilarated, imaginative, sensitive, talkative, and quick to respond. When out of balance, they are restless, unsettled, anxious or worried, sleep lightly, have a tendency to overexert themselves, become fatigued, suffer constipation, and be underweight.
Pitta: When in balance, these people are warm, loving, contented, enjoy challenges, have strong digestion, have a radiant complexion, concentrate well, speak articulately and precisely, are courageous and bold, have a sharp wit, and are intellectual. When out of balance, they can be demanding perfectionists; tend towards frustration, anger, irritability, and impatience; and have skin rashes, prematurely gray hair, or early hair loss.
Kapha: When in balance, these people are affectionate, compassionate, patient, forgiving, emotionally steady, relaxed, slow, methodical, stable, and optimistic, with good memories, good stamina, and a natural resistance to sickness. When out of balance, they are often complacent, dull, lethargic, possessive, overattached, and overweight, with oily skin, allergies, slow digestion, and a tendency to oversleep.
Based on your basic dosha assessment, you can review the following sections on spiritual foods for soothing your dosha, eating seasonally, and the importance of the six tastes (or rasas) of Ayurveda to see if there are one or two things you could change in your diet right now to restore the level or balance of energy you might be seeking. And remember to listen to the whispers of your intuitive voice as you go—a core component of spiritual nutrition.
Foods That Soothe The Doshas
Vayu (or Vata): Favor warm, spiritual foods with a moderately heavy texture, like wild rice soup or cream of wheat cereal; all oils; salt, sour and sweet tastes; and soothing and satisfying foods. Foods to avoid are red meat, corn, and rye. It’s also good to limit the intake of certain astringent fruits, such as pomegranates, pears, cranberries, and apples (cooking them, however, works very well).
Pitta: Choose cool or warm, but not steaming-hot spiritual foods; moderately heavy textures; and bitter, sweet and astringent tastes. Go easy on fats and oils, and try to avoid salty foods and sour foods like pickles and sour cream. Salads, with their astringent greens and cool temperature, are excellent for balancing overactive pitta. Cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple juice make a perfect breakfast.
Kapha: Select warm and light spiritual foods cooked without much water. Add bitter (romaine lettuce and other leafy greens), pungent (herbs and spices), and astringent (apples, pomegranate, cranberries, pears, and legumes) tastes to most, if not all, meals. Consume a minimum amount of butter, oil, and sugar. Eating spicy food will promote better digestion and warm the body. It’s hard, I know, but steer clear of all sugar except raw honey.
Food And The Chakras: Eating Vibrationally For The Subtle Body
You can strengthen a particular chakra by eating the spiritual foods and supplements that are energetically associated with it, provided you aren’t allergic to those foods and don’t go to extremes. All foods carry frequency-based messages and have the ability to change our vibration, according to the principles of spiritual nutrition. Later, you will find examples of chakra-based foods and supplements and the energetic messages they provide.
in alignment with the principles of spiritual nutrition, every food we eat has a vibrational that effects us on an energetic-chakric level as well. this diagram of the 12 chakras in combination with the guide below can help you get in tune with the subtle, spiritual energies of foods. diagram from: the subtle body: an encyclopedia of your energetic anatomy by cyndi dale
Spiritual Nutrition: Eating To Nourish The Chakras
Spiritual Food Fuel: Red foods, such as meat, beets, grapes, strawberries, and cherries
Spiritual Message: You deserve to be alive, safe, strong, and passionate.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Orange foods, such as yams, salmon, sweet potatoes, papaya, and wheat
Spiritual Message: Your feelings are good, desired, and desirable.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Yellow foods, especially corn, also grapefruit and squashes
Spiritual Message: You deserve success. You are intelligent. You can learn what you need to know.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Green foods, such as vegetables and sauces
Spiritual Message: You are loved and loveable. You deserve healthy relationships.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Blue foods, such as berries, as well as all spices, which stimulate the mouth
Spiritual Message: You can be honest and have integrity. You can manifest your needs. It is safe to communicate.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Purple foods, such as grapes, and vision-inducing substances like wine, tobacco, and organic cocoa
Spiritual Message: You are acceptable as you are. You are made in the Creator’s image. You deserve to make healthy choices.
Spiritual Food Fuel: White foods, such as parsnips, white asparagus, and fish; ceremonial substances like wormwood (used in absinthe), kava, salvia, wine and bread (as in communion); sacred herbs, including sage and lemongrass
Spiritual Message: You have a unique destiny. You are connected to the Divine. There is divine destiny.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Black foods (carbon based), such as alcohol, coffee, white flour, and sugar; past-life foods of meaning (often the foods that trigger issues); also colloidal silver
Spiritual Message: You can draw on the past for guidance and power. You deserve to be freed from the past. You can choose a new future.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Colloidal gold, bee pollen, honey; also foods symbolizing your soul
Spiritual Message: You are designed for greatness.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Earth foods: nuts, grains, potatoes, herbs, water
Spiritual Message: Your body is the meeting ground between the Divine and nature.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Vibrational substances such as homeopathic tinctures, teas, and blessed water
Spiritual Message: Negativity can transmute into positivity.
Spiritual Food Fuel: Minerals and vitamins; substances that benefit your unique physiology
Spiritual Message: You are fully human and fully divine.
Eating Seasonally With Ayurveda
Ayurveda recognizes six seasons rather than four, and each season involves general food and activity recommendations to support health and happiness and keep you in balance with the principles of spiritual nutrition.
Eat lightly and sleep lightly.
Eat lightly and drink cold fluids.
Reinforce the appetite and eat hot foods.
September–October—Sharad-ritu, short summer.
Eat cool, sweet, and astringent foods.
Eat and exercise a lot.
January–February—Shishira-ritu, cold winter.
As with Hemanta-ritu, eat and exercise, and also spend time in reflection.
The Rasas, Or Six Tastes
Diet is an important aspect of Ayurvedic medicine, as it is in traditional Chinese medicine, and food is intimately connected to the elements of nature within and around us. The beautiful alchemy of Ayurveda involves properly combining, avoiding, or increasing foods and spices of different natures. These natures are shown in the six basic rasas, or tastes, of Ayurveda, an important component of spiritual nutrition.
Sweet: adds the elements of earth and water; nourishes, cools, and moistens; includes rice, wheat, and sugar.
Sour: adds earth and fire; warms and oils; includes acidic fruits.
Salty: adds water and fire; dissolves, softens, and stimulates; in all salts.
Bitter: adds air and ether; cools, dries, and purifies; in green vegetables and spices such as turmeric and goldenseal.
Pungent: adds air and fire; warms, dries, and stimulates; in ginger and mustard.
Astringent: adds air and earth; cools and dries; in honey, buttermilk, pomegranate, and spices such as turmeric (which is also bitter).
Elements added: Earth and water
What it does for the body: Nourishes, cools, and moistens
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Rice, wheat, sugar, and root vegetables
Elements added: Earth and fire
What it does for the body: Warms and oils
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Acidic fruits
Elements Added: Water and fire
What it does for the body: Dissolves, softens, and stimulates
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Salts
Elements added: Air and ether
What it does for the body: Cools, dries, and purifies
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Green vegetables, spices such as turmeric and goldenseal
Elements added: Air and fire
What it does for the body: Warms, dries, and stimulates
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Ginger, mustard, and cayenne pepper
Elements added: Air and earth
What it does for the body: Cools and dries
Spiritual Foods it’s found in: Honey, buttermilk, beans, pomegranate, and turmeric
Food And Emotions In Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Five-phase Approach To Soothing Heart And Mind
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the five basic flavors in foods are frequently used to transform an emotion into fire in order to recalibrate the body. Spiritual foods can also be used to uplift and enhance important emotions, as well as to reduce troubling emotions and calm overstimulated emotions. Incorporating the five flavors into your diet supports the free flow of qi (vital life-force energy) and calms and nourishes shen (spirit and the psyche), an integral component of spiritual nutrition.
From a Western point of view, it can seem confusing to enhance so-called negative emotions such as anger, worry, sadness, or fear, or to reduce the seemingly positive emotion of joy. From an Eastern perspective, all emotions are considered normal, healthy physiological responses to stimulation, as long as they are kept in check and balanced. Too little or too much of any emotion, especially for a prolonged duration, will cause pathological damage to the organs and meridians and imbalance our spiritual nutrition.
For instance, too much joy will scatter the spirit and cause anxiety. This type of joy is not the sort that leads to deep contentment and peace, but rather overexcitement and hyperactivity. Lacking anger, our qi cannot rise, and we might fail to stand up for others or ourselves. If we’re too angry, we become violent and cruel. If we don’t worry enough, we might miss something important in our lives; we won’t reach out and bond with others. Too much worry leads to despair and weakness. Sadness helps us feel love; this would be a shallow world if we could not feel loss. Too much sadness, however, will lead to being consumed by grief.
And fear causes the qi to descend, helping us back down and take stock of a situation. If we are too scared, our mind becomes scattered, and we can’t think or act correctly. As you can see, every emotion is important in our spiritual nutrition when equalized and accessible.
Meridians: Liver and Gallbladder
Emotions Enhanced: Anger
Emotions Reduced: Thought
Meridians: Heart and Small Intestine
Emotions Enhanced: Joy
Emotions Reduced: Sadness and worry
Meridians: Spleen and Stomach
Emotions Enhanced: Thought
Emotions Reduced: Fear and shock
Meridians: Lung and Large Intestine
Emotions Enhanced: Worry and sadness
Emotions Reduced: Anger
Meridians: Kidney and Bladder
Emotions Enhanced: Fear and shock
Emotions Reduced: Joy
Note: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body clock is a remarkable tool for supporting a particular organ and its corresponding meridian.
Intuitive Eating: The Seven-day Journaling Process For Vibrant, Whole-being Health
The Intuitive Eating Worksheet, a journaling and tracking tool, will help you tune in to the interconnection of emotions, thoughts, spiritual food choices, and the subtle body.
Note: You can download a PDF copy of this and the worksheet that follows for printing here: Spiritual Food & Nutrition Intuitive Eating Workseet
Intuitive Eating Worksheet
1. Day # ____________________ (date):
2. My primary goal today in relationship to food (e.g., healing, regeneration, weight loss, vibrant energy):
3. My deepest desire today in relationship to food:
4. The feelings I’d like to encourage today would suggest I eat the following (see this article’s section on “The Emotional Messages of Food”):
5. Foods to avoid so I can better deal with my emotions include the following (see “The Emotional Messages of Foods”):
6. Foods to avoid so I can better deal with my mental states include the following (see “The Mental Messages of Foods”):
7. Foods to enhance a certain chakra include the following (see “Food and the Chakras”): Flavors to choose to shift my emotions include the following (see “Food and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Medicine”):
8. Ways to incorporate seasonal dietary needs include the following (see “Eating Seasonally with Ayurveda”): Based on my dosha (see “The Food of the Yogis”) I can incorporate the following rasas, or tastes, to enhance my body type (see “The Rasas, or Six Tastes”):
Tuning In To Yourself: Questions For Building Awareness
1. What I ate today:
2. What I wanted to eat (if different than what I did eat): When I ate today (specific times):
3. Where I ate today (the setting or environment):
4. Whom I ate with:
5. My emotional state just before eating:
6. My emotional state after eating:
7. My predominant thoughts while eating (my inner dialogue): My predominant thoughts after eating:
8. My energy just before eating:
9. My energy after eating:
10. Did I receive intuitive, inner guidance prior to eating at any point today? If so, what was the message(s), and did I follow the guidance?
11. Intuitively, which chakra did I sense needed nourishment today?
12. Did I give this chakra the foods or nourishment that it needed? And is there a particular food that I could include tomorrow that will support, feed, and balance this energy center?
13. Special healing focus: To deal with my current illness or condition (whether acute, chronic, or life-threatening), I intuitively sense, or a professional practitioner has suggested, that I could add or eliminate the following from my diet:
14. Concluding notes (additional insights, observations, feelings, or thoughts):
This piece on spiritual nutrition and foods is excerpted with permission from The Subtle Body Practice Manual by Cyndi Dale.
About The Author
Cyndi Dale is recognized worldwide as an authority on subtle-energy anatomy. She is the author of several books on energy healing, including New Chakra Healing, which has been published in more than ten languages, and six other bestselling books on the topic, including Advanced Chakra Healing and Illuminating the Afterlife. Find out more about her at CyndiDale.com