What’s for dinner? This question is coming up in regards to mental health. More research is finding that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body; it’s great for the mind, too. Recent studies have shown the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet.
Sadhguru, yogi, mystic and the foremost authority on yoga and Mark Hyman, American physician and bestselling author, explore the connection between the food that we eat and our physical and mental health, as well as possible approaches to change our food system.
Mark Hyman: One of the questions that came from the audience is about the connection between our mind, our mood, our emotional state, our mental health, and the food we eat. Everything from ADD to bipolar disease, to depression could be linked to that. So, what is the connection between our body and our mind?
Sadhguru: The yogic system does not identify body and mind as two different entities. Your brains are part of your body. It is just that what we generally refer to as mind is a certain amount of memory and intelligence. Between the rest of the body and the brain, which has more memory, which has more intelligence? If you look at it carefully, your body’s memory goes back millions of years. It clearly remembers how your forefathers were. The mind cannot claim that kind of memory. When it comes to intelligence, what is happening in a single molecule of DNA is so complex that your whole brain cannot figure it out.
In the yogic system, there is a physical body and there is a mental body. There is an intelligence and memory running right across the body. People generally think the brain is everything just because it handles the thought process. And because of this separation of body and mind, a large number of people in the West are taking antidepressants at some point in their life.
The type of food we eat has a huge impact on the mind. An average American is said to consume 200 pounds of meat per year. If you bring it down to 50 pounds, you will see 75% of the people will not need antidepressants anymore. Meat is a good food to survive if you are out in the desert or the jungle. If you are lost somewhere, a piece of meat will keep you going, because it provides concentrated nourishment. But it should not be a daily food that you eat when there are other choices.
There are many ways to look at this. One thing is animals have the intelligence to know in the last few moments that they are going to get killed, no matter how cunningly or how scientifically you do it. Any animal that has the capacity to express some kind of emotion will always grasp when it is going to be killed.
Suppose all of you come to know right now that at the end of this day, you are going to get slaughtered. Imagine the struggle that you would go through, the burst of chemical reactions within you. An animal goes through at least some fraction of that. This means when you kill an animal, the negative acids and whatever other chemicals are in the meat. When you consume the meat, it creates unnecessary levels of mental fluctuations.
If you put people who are on antidepressants on a conscious vegetarian diet, in about three months’ time, most of them will not need their medication anymore.
For most of those who have become mentally ill, the illness has been cultivated – there is nothing pathologically wrong with them. Such a large percentage of people cannot be mentally sick unless we are culturing it within our social fabric. We should never let commercial forces determine the quality of our lives. Commerce is there to serve humanity. But right now, we have structured the economic engine across the world in such a way that human beings are here to serve the economic and commercial process.
It is not in the hands of the politicians and policymakers alone. If everyone realizes their physical and particularly their mental health improves when they change what they eat and how they eat, we will also change the politicians.
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