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The Jainist Diet

An important life choice

An important part of being human is finding the right balance between a busy fulfilling working life and a healthy home life. Such a balance is by no means always easy to achieve, and stressful working days can often lead to unplanned and unhealthy diets where the emphasis is laid on convenience rather than dietary need. Indeed, whilst convenience foods may provide a solution to the time equation scientists have started to indicate that poor diet may be linked to ADHD, depression, autism and other mental disorders. Amongst those foods identified as problematic were the age old culprits of sugar, unsaturated fats and vitamin deficiencies, but often it is not as simple as exclusion or inclusion of a particular food group, as for instance the exclusion of cholesterol from the diet, whilst preventing heart disease could be linked to autism. Therefore, the emphasis is laid on a completely balanced diet rather than tipping the scales in one particular direction.

It should be stated here that the link between diet and depression is not definitively proven, but it does however articulate the importance of thinking carefully about what is eaten and incorporating it into your lifestyle. There are of course a number of factors contributing to the adoption of an unhealthy diet, and this is perhaps as much a problem of culture as it is of individually poor planning. It may well be true that the US might be a particularly extreme example when it comes to poor dietary habits, but there is certainly a lesson to be learnt here.

The Jainist Diet

A great deal can be gained from paying attention to other cultures in respect to food and the Jainist diet, is here a particularly good example. The diet is vegetarian in nature and thereby avoids the downsides associated with meat protein: hypertension, cardiac problems, ulcers, and cancer and kidney failure. However, it is also more than just a diet, but also a way of life. Jainism is an Indian religion prescribing to non-violence and the spiritual independence of all living things, and has, from the very beginning, highlighted the significance of balance in life for an emotional well-being.

Consequently in order to carry over this balance into eating, food is divided into three subsections: sattvik (highest purity), rajasik (passion) and tamasik (darkness) which helps to guide the adherent. Sattvik foods are the most important, leading to clarity and equanimity of mind, and include foods such as legumes, cereal grains, fruits and nuts; Rajasik meanwhile, cause an over-excitation of the body, and includes food groups such as chocolate, salt, eggs, fish, tea and coffee which should be eaten with great constraint; Finally, the tamasik foods, which should be avoided altogether, promote anger and disease and include meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic and fermented foods. Embracing of the tamastik diet often causes overeating, not to mention anger, greed and jealousy. Thus, emotional states lie at the very heart of the diet, and it is through the emphasis on sattvik foods and the constraint of rajastik and tamastik foods that adherents of the religion gain an emotional balance.

Substance Abuse

We can see then, that overeating of tamastik and rajastik foods in the US diet can cause an emotional instability and possibly even lead to mental disorders later in life. Overeating can of course be viewed as a common form of substance abuse, but other substance abuse is of course prevalent too, such as drug abuse for instance. In Indiana drug abuse was reported to have hit as much as 8.79% of the population in 2007-2008 compared to a national average of 8.02%. Furthermore, all in all the rate of drug induced deaths were also above the national average. Luckily, organizations exist that can help with this in order that substance abusers can be allowed to regain the balance in their lives that was lost through the abuse. Here adoption of the Jainist philosophy can also help as it discourages all forms of substance abuse as it promotes the collection of poisons in the body as well as interferes with the mind. Through such a diet full control of one’s emotional state can be regained.

Indeed, even if one chooses not to embrace the Jainist diet fully it is clear that much is to be gained from the realization that food is related to emotional well-being. If anything it is this lesson that we should take onboard: even though work and a fulfilling career is important, balance and emotional health is equally so.