Seven - it seems like a consistent, magical, cosmic number. The same number of days it supposedly took to form the earth, the number of main chakras in the body, days of the week, and the main levels of tissue formed in the body...all counted by sevens. What nurtures one doesn't always nurture all, but when the foods which can nourish the whole are recognized, eating healthy takes on a whole new meaning.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is recognized that there are seven main levels of tissue development and sustenance. Starting with the lymph system and ending up in the essence of the reproductive system, the body is in constant release, repair and rejuvenation of these vital tissues. All seven layers include, and in this order: the fluids (including plasma/lymph/milk), blood, muscles, fat, bones, nervous system, and reproductive fluids. Foods that can nourish all seven layers of the self are known in Ayurvedic medicine to be called Bringhana foods, and consuming them not only can help you in coming into physical health and balance, but also can deepen a greater sense of emotional well-being.
When one layer of the body's tissues comes out of balance, it inevitably affects all of the other systems. By tracing illnesses back to their root tissue issue, one can begin the path to repair damaged systems and find wholeness again. However, by treading the path of preventative medicine, and beginning to eat a more well-rounded Bringhana diet, both physical issues – and their associated emotional counterparts – can be avoided entirely. By taking in foods which nourish the whole body, no matter what, you run a lower risk of facing health problems and find yourself in the high probability window of living a fulfilling life full of love, joy and full-body bliss.
There is an emotional and spiritual reason for the following recommended foods that reach beyond the nutrition of the foods themselves. Each one individually, but more importantly, balanced with the entire list, makes for a whole individual who is strong in all variants of the constitution and who can access the full flavor of Divine Beingness.
Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Live, fresh, raw, organic produce which has not been sprayed with pesticides is the first item on the list. This also assumes these farm-fresh goodies are grown with love and awareness and prepared with a conscious mind and an open heart. The vibration of the food itself is affected by the location it grows and by those who have handled it, so the closer you can get to source, the more nourishing the food will be. In this way you can see that fresh and raw have the capacity to nourish the development and upkeep of all the vital tissues by speaking their inherent language of wholeness.
Making sure to choose whole grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley and spelt ensures that the nutrients you receive are well-rounded and contain complex carbohydrates so as not to tax any of the body systems with immediate sugar spikes. In both the process of healing chronic illnesses as well as the mindset of preventative medicine, whole grains are supportive to healing and delicious to consume. It is not so difficult to transition from standard white and even brown rice (which is also fine occasionally) to a more hardy grain, as the taste is fabulous. They also add a flare of variety and depth to the art of cooking that any chef can appreciate.
Whole grains have an inherent sweetness that does not “burn up” quickly. So, for the spirit, they help to invoke the sustainable quality of finding and enduring in the sweetness of life. They teach patience, which is needed to cook them, and add variety into the senses, which helps one to broaden the palate of their personal expression.
Raw, Fresh Dairy Items
I always have to add a clause to this item early on, since eating dairy in India is a very different experience when compared with eating dairy products in the United States. I would greatly discourage any dairy consumption in the U.S. unless it was definitely certified raw or made locally. The enzymes in dairy assist in its digestion, and once dairy is pasteurized it becomes a very different little giant, ready to insult the health of the body and throw off the health of the main doshas.
In the United States, I would recommend in this category: raw goat milk and cheeses, farm-fresh cheeses, raw milk, home-made yogurts/curd, paneer and the like. I would avoid all together any store-bought milks or cheeses unless the source is clearly known and trusted. There is much in the way of antibiotics in dairy products today which are undesirable and do not support good health or a peaceful state of mind.
Raw dairy items connect one with the “nectar of the Mother” - reminding one of the first food of life, that of the mother's milk. Especially when drinking a warmed raw milk, the spirit is brought back to the first moment of contact with breast milk which ignites a great healing and soothing essence into the soul. Dairy, when consumed at the right time and in balance with the other bringhana foods, can add an element of depth and trust to one’s life if it is missing, or to enhance these qualities for one who is longing.
All nuts are best when they have been soaked first. It is best to soak them for anywhere between 3-8 hours, depending on the nut (cashew is shorter, almonds longer). For the strict intent of this article, almonds and walnuts are the best nuts to choose in order to ensure the health and vitality of all seven dhatus (body tissues).
Nuts provide an oily, fatty substance and quality that allows you to feel protected and cared for, cushioned and warm. The protein they provide also feels of sustenance and gives the sense that one is well provided for and even “rich” in the bounty of life.
Sweet Juicy Fruits
This bringhana food consists of mangoes, plums, peaches, nectarines, pears and apricots. These fruits, which also fall in the first category of “fruits and vegetables,” have their very own heading due to the special qualities they invoke in a person. There is something very spiritually metaphorical about the sweet and juicy fruits. They allow one to truly “suck the juice” out of life and instill a remembrance of childhood when all was sweet and “flowing from lips,” food smeared to faces. It is the joy of picking the fresh, ripe pear from the tree and allowing the juices to run down cheeks as the sunlight fills the sky and all cares flow away.
Sweet, juicy fruits are added to the list because the child-like qualities of life are absolutely essential for true joy and health to exist and if one is engaged in a healing process, negating the laughter and sweetness of childhood could be detrimental to the journey.
In this category are the especially nourishing dried fruits: dates, figs, raisins, and I like to add – goji berries. Each one of these are dense in nutrition and packed full of flavor and health benefits. The dried fruits help to balance the other tastes and are especially indicated to bring sweetness back into the body and life, but unlike the dripping sweet and juicy fruits previously mentioned, they speak to that which would age in us. The wrinkles remind us that youth does not promise to stay always, but that sweetness only deepens with time. These fruits bring wisdom and a knowing that their use in moderation is key, unless specifically working to draw in new life, as in the case with conception.
Stewed Apples & Mung Dahl
Both of these foods seem to be panaceas for so many conditions. The “apple a day” idea is found here in the recommendation that apples, especially when the juices are released with heat, can be extremely balancing to the body's ph and nourishing to every layer of being. Mung dahl gets a similar reputation in India, where this simple dahl (which is mung beans simply cooked with several basic Ayurvedic spices such as tumeric and cumin), is touted as the perfect “sattvic food” fit for one who wishes to live for enlightenment and true health.
By consuming a balance of the above foods on a regular basis the body's tissues are able to maintain a state of health and proper regeneration over time. By incorporating such a diet now, the need for drastic measures to “heal” later on will then be avoided, and you will be able to drop into the deeper meaning of existence offered by exploring what some deem the “middle path.”