You are what you eat. This is what I have heard since I was a kid.
“Drink the milk, Anika! You are starting to look like a Somalian orphan! Eat all the rice on your plate. If you don’t eat meat you won’t have muscles! No one loves scrawny kids. And once older, “every man wants a lady with some cushion”.
And so on and so forth if memory serves me correctly….
In Bangladesh, our history, culture and with that out diets have evolved significantly over the last century. We went from being a mainly agrarian grain based, pescatarian, vegetarian people to a one that of late cannot stand to eat a single meal without eating animal meat or sweets.
Once upon a time, Bengal used to be famed not only for muslin but for its advanced and sophisticated agriculture, the strong fishermen and its wide and unending rivers. Today, sadly the rivers are dark, dank and polluted and the fish and other critters that live here are full of deadly toxins and disease.
Vegetables have mysteriously disappeared from our plates.
Ever notice beggar kids, village or slum kids and how scrawny they look? I wonder what they eat. I wonder how we get bigger and fatter and our hearts shrink in morality and generosity. I wish we could grow bigger hearts instead of bellies sometimes. With the 1% richest economy in the world, Bangladesh is a strange playground of stark black and white of rich and poor with little gray area or dichotomy or middle class. And these people are subjected to the worst quality of grains and oils, certain to develop chronic disease and spend most of what they earn their whole lives at hospitals paying heartless doctors to the very end. While it is good to know what to eat it is also important to never waste food. So many people all over the globe are starving, even dying from it, always use your awareness and be conscious of your carbon and karmic footprint.
What if I told you – you can change your health by changing what you eat?
Our TV screens are splashed with food and lifestyle channels that show monster meat meals. Diet fads beckon us, eat meat, low carb, get slim and sexy. But strength? No one utters a word on that almost taboo topic. For in our culture, women aren’t supposed to be strong, at least not as strong as the men. We forget the kind of strength it takes to push a baby out.
Our diets now include a form of “food” we have come to know as fast food. It is delicious, near dense tasting, sweet or oily food that has a lot of processed salt or is cooked in low quality oils. It’s easy to procure and produce, easy to eat, easiest to get slow and lazy on. This is in no way real food and containw zero nutrition and empty calories and brings with them a host of diseases.
The burgers, pizza and pasta we cannot live without. Waistlines starting to bulge and faces altering their original shape, we are told we have autoimmune diseases, blood pressure problems, insulin issues but it is not enough to deter consumption perhaps just a minor slowdown.
When the (indoctrinated) medical doctors pronounce you overweight, with hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, possible cardiac issues and prescribe a single pill (for millions of unique people and individual issues) – not even then. We go on with the persistence and determination of a gastronomic Muhammad Ali.
For we are haplessly addicted.
What makes all these delicious meals so dangerous?
Let me break it down for you. We eat rice and bread. Processed, rice and bread will cause the body to go into a frenzy as most bodies do not recognize processed foods. It does not tolerate wheat and gluten. Over time most people end up with a leaky gut and from there arise various other complications. The solution? Eat rice that is grown wild and unprocessed and definitely not white. We have an array of red and brown rice that will break down slowly and give long lasting energy.
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates (400 BC)
When it comes to what compliments the rice or bread, choose vegetables over fish or meat. Unfortunately the planet is slowly dying and unless we choose to eat consciously animal farming will further deplete what remains of the world’s forests. Bangladesh, a tropical country, is blessed with a wide and rainbow coloured array of flavourful fruits and vegetables as with grains, pulses and lentils. Eat these. People, doctors and such others in positions of authority and outdated studies have continually undermined the potency of vegetarian protein but this can be a powerful source of energy.
In the olden times, warriors would carry around a sachet of chia seeds to munch on before heading out to a fight. They claimed they gave them energy. The Roman gladiators, the fiercest fighters the world has ever known were vegetarian. Powerful animals like the gorilla and rhino eat leaves and grass. Look around you and wonder whether everything that you are taught conventionally is true or not.
I love to eat chia, pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseeds in addition to nuts and coconuts after a powerful and taxing yoga session. It gives me a lot of light energy without the heavy sluggishness that usually comes after consuming a big meal.
I also love to have wheatgrass juice. I get this from overseas and feel that it really helps keep my body alkaline. I think everyone should try to have (gluten free, organic) wheatgrass at least once a day to optimize health benefits. Spirulina and chlorella make for excellent protein and vitamin sources as well.
For snacks I like to eat vegetable chips, like sweet potato or roasted vegetables like carrot or cauliflower. I also love to eat healthy sugar free baked treats made with almond flour and oatmeal is a definite winner in my book. Please buy gluten free if you have allergic reactions to regular steel cut oats.
Dinner should be eaten before the sun goes down. I know most of us eat very late in Bangladesh but this is really bad for the body as most of the food takes a long time to digest and it steals space for precious deep sleep as the body is working hard to break down meals when it should just be healing, sleeping and repairing. If you must eat animal protein opt for it consciously, think of how much water it takes to raise one cow and how much land and other resources and not to mention the amount of pollution waste from farming or raising animals floods our water ways with. Eating meat contributes to acid rain, deforestation and extinction of other species. Be accountable!
What about sweets?
Can I just say no, no and no?
Sugar and fast breaking carbohydates are the sole reason for the massive numbers of diabetic and cardiac patients in Bangladesh.
The disease comes from what is piled on your plate day in day out. Eat natural sugars as those from fruits and say a firm no to processed refined sugar. Sugar has been shown by scientists to be the biggest cause of cancer, more so than cigarettes. Beware especially of hidden sugars, in foods like pasta, breads, cereals and anything that is packaged or processed or seems to send a “reward signal” to the brain. High fructose corn syrup is a deadly killer.
Sugar and cocaine both stimulate the same part of the brain. If you don’t see sugar as a drug, look for the clues once you stop taking it and the withdrawals start to pick up.
Caffeine is another legal drug. We cannot (I am included here) seem to function without the stuff. Limit your caffeine intake to till 2 pm or else it can and will disrupt your sleep and the circadian rhythm (cycle of sun and moon) to which all living beings are attuned.
You can drink water with a dash of lime juice all day to cleanse and support your system. Gentle movement and walking in an open space with grass beneath the feet help an individual get grounded (“earthing” as they say for electricity), feel balanced and at peace with the world.
I’ll end the article with a much loved quote from Jiddhu Krishamurti. One of my favourite philosophers and teachers of all times and he said:
“Is that really a very great problem, whether we should have an egg or not? Perhaps most of you are concerned with non-killing. What is really the crux of the matter, is it not? Perhaps most of you eat meat or fish. You avoid killing by going to a butcher, or you put the blame on the killer, the butcher - that is only dodging the problem. If you like to eat eggs, you may get infertile eggs to avoid killing. But this is a very superficial question - the problem is much deeper. You don’t want to kill animals for your stomach, but you do not mind supporting governments that are organized to kill.”
Therefore whenever and wherever you can be kind and be just. This will more than anything, help you to find the best form of health and wellness money can buy. Forgive your enemies and find peace in your heart, the kind of peace the world really and truly could use at this time in history.
Here’s to health!