Four essential food groups for the conscious eater

We need fat, or rather we need the beneficial fatty acids that form fat. Fat is the most concentrated form of energy in the body and is needed for brain function, energy and development. The problem is we eat too many fats, epecially the bad fats and most likely not enough good fats.

Fatty acids and cholesterol. The liver naturally produces serum cholesterol, itself a fatty acid, and manufactures even more  from the intake of dietary fatty acids/cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed for a healthy brain, nerves and glandular functions and bonds with low- and high-density lipoproteins (LDL and HDLs) in order to travel through the bloodstream to reach vital organs. LDLs are known as bad cholesterol because they deposit cholesterol in the arteries building up dangerous plaque and leading to heart problems. HDLs, are known as good cholesterol because they transport extra cholesterol out from the cells back to the liver where it is processed for elimination.

Saturated fatty acids. Found mostly in rich, creamy dairy products, some vegetable oils and shortening – read labels carefully. Eating excess saturated fats increases cholesterol levels, especially of the low density lipoproteins, and best kept to a minimum if you need to watch your cholesterol levels.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids. Found mostly in soy, corn, safflower, sunflower and some fish oils. They can reduce bad cholesterol levels LDLs and have a high caloric content, but unfortunately also reduce good cholesterol levels, HDLs.

Monounsaturated fatty acids. Found mostly in olive, nut and vegetable oils. These can mildly reduce LDL levels leaving HDLs intact.

Trans fatty acids or trans fats. These are poly- and monounsaturated fatty acid oils that are hardened into margarine and shortening and similar products. Known to increase bad LDLs and reduce good HDLs.

The healthy diet is rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre, complementary proteins and low in saturated fats.

What you have to do is get rid of the idea that meat gives you strength. That idea is so deeply rooted in your mind that now you cannot separate yourself from it. But the moment you are totally freed from that idea, you will see that it is not principally meat that gives you strength; it is wholesome food in general, as well as the proper mental attitude and spiritual aspiration.

Excerpt from The Body: Humanity's Fortress by Sri Chinmoy