Every month, Spiritual Guidance and Plant Based Wellness Coach Jenna Davila answers your questions on physical and emotional health and wellbeing. If you have a question for Jenna’s next advice column, send it here.
Many spiritual gurus don’t eat a raw or even vegan diet and seem to be in touch with their higher self but you speak about our light body being nourished by a plant based, non-violent diet. Can you explain how some people are able to thrive mentally and physically on a diet that includes animal products?
Hello there and thank you for your questions!
A diet is just one component that can greatly help us with our spiritual journey. Our symbiotic relationship, give and take, with Nature is the Divine Spirit of Infinite Intelligence. The deeper our connection is to nature, the more one can feel the presence and communion of Creation itself. Opening one’s heart to nature is opening the heart to the flow of the Universe. Recognising this relationship and diving into it with diet begins awakening “new” wisdom from within. With that being said, there are people who have the diet down but are not spiritual and on the other hand, there will be people who are spiritual but still consume animal products. It all depends on where their focus lies and how they want to move forward in their life. We must remember that people need to figure out on their own what their balance is between spirituality and human life. Each person will have a unique and different way of going about things.
I think it is important to understand that just because a person, guru or spiritual leader doesn’t have a non-violent diet in their life doesn’t mean that they cannot be connected to their spirituality. Diet is just one key aspect to the collective. Anyone who dedicates their life to spiritual practices can absolutely tap into the Divine flow that is their birthright. Also, diet does not determine what kind of person someone is. If someone is not vegan, that doesn’t mean they do not have a good heart, good intents or merit. It does not mean that they can’t be in touch with the wisdom and knowledge within them. You can find something valuable from multiple teachers that resonate with you regardless of diet. People can be spiritual in a vast amount of ways. Also, please be aware that not one person has all the answers. There can be some very pivotal points missing but overall their teachings can be great. Maybe there is a teacher that you deeply connect with but there are a few things that don’t feel right to you. Always go with your own intuition and use your discernment. Try not to ever put someone up on a pedestal. Remember, they are just people like everyone else; this is just something to be mindful about.
Eastern spirituality encourages vegetarianism but it is not a strict rule. This also applies to some Tibetan Buddhist or specific temples. Some temples will only serve vegan or vegetarian meals but what people do outside of the temple is up to them. More so than not, I have personally found that spiritual people tend to at least refrain from eating meat or eat it very seldomly. If we look at the core of the Sanskrit word ahimsa which means “non-injury,” it can have multidimensional concepts attached to it. It is to not cause pain, harm or suffering to any living, sentient being. It also means kindness, respect and unity that all things are connected. Please remember that every time we eat, we are making an exchange. We have to be aware of the impact of our choices, not only for ourselves but for other living beings. I suggest looking up Matthieu Ricard PhD, dubbed ‘The Happiest Man in the World’, who is a Buddhist monk who went from a scientific career as a molecular biologist in France to the study of Buddhism in the Himalayas 45 years ago. He has some wonderful videos and information on this topic. Doreen Virtue is another great source of spirituality and veganism, I suggest Eating in the Light. Dr. Will Tuttle, a former Zen monk, wrote a great book, The World Peace Diet which I suggest, along with Conscious Eating by international spiritual teacher Gabriel Cousens M.D. as well as books by Anthony William, Guru Singh, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sri Ram Kaa and Kira Raa.
As with everything in life, you will always find polarity. You will find gurus and spiritual leaders who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and you will find those who don’t for their own reasons which can range vastly. You can absolutely find just as many gurus and spiritual leaders on either side of the coin. Food can be very personal in regards to human psychology. Humans can become very accustomed to eating a certain way and it can be strictly out of habit or sense of comfort. To dive into your question even deeper about thriving mentally and physically on a diet that includes animal products, well how does anyone do this? The human body and mind are constantly doing their best with what they are dealt with. We can never truly know what someone is going through in their day to day life unless we personally know them and have an open communication with them. I believe it to be unfair to make assumptions about a person’s health and wellbeing without truly knowing them or what is going on in their inner world. I do believe in the power of thought but, of course, it matters what you put into your body. Diet most certainly plays a role in the health of the human body, some even say up to 90-95%. I would recommend looking to epigenetics which through diet, we have the ability to turn off or on disease by altering cells.
We must take care of our home that our Spirit is hosted in. The food we consume should be digested, transported and assimilated into our cells with a minimal amount of resistance the body is designed for. Animals are complex, sentiment beings with real lives of their own. They have feelings, emotions, memories and families. This complex energy that makes up their being will never breakdown 100% within the human body. Whatever life we are ingesting, we are making it a part of own lives in some form or another. When it comes to spirituality in general, there is a spectrum just like anything else in life. By acknowledging this, one can most certainly take their own own growth, expansion and spirituality to the next level. It is much easier to ascend when our food choices align with our Spirit, light body and the physiology of the human body.
How can I eat a raw diet and make sure I meet all my nutrient requirements? Is there a programme I can follow? Do you recommend regular blood tests? I ask because I have friends who have struggled to maintain their health on an all raw diet.
– Vincenzo, Italy
Hi Vincenzo and thanks for reaching out!
When it comes to a successful raw diet, eating a wide variety of foods is important to make sure you are nourishing your body with the proper nutrients. This includes fruits (all of them), vegetables, sprouts, microgreens, herbs, wild foods, nuts and seeds (chia, hemp and flax are key). For vegetables I want to emphasise how vital it is to get your greens in. Things like tender lettuces, dandelion greens, spinach, swiss chard, baby kale, celery, cucumber, asparagus, fresh coriander and parsley. These are all amazingly dense with minerals that your body needs. When we look at cruciferous vegetables which are powerhouses for fighting things like cancer, you want to make sure you are either shredding, grinding, blending and/ or massaging them. These consist of curly kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and collards. These vegetables are harder to digest raw so when we prepare them properly, it aids optimal digestion. If you think it is too much work, you can always lightly steam them; it is much better to get them into your body than to not. Other items I would suggest adding into one’s diet are turmeric and ginger root (great for digestion and fighting inflammation) as well as Hawaiian spirulina, barley grass juice power and moringa which all meet a variety of nutritional needs. Another helpful tip is to drink green juices that will ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals into your diet.
As for programmes, myself as well as many other health coaches put together specific plans based on the client’s needs and desires. Each plan is personalised for the client’s goals. It is not a one size fits all. Each raw food diet can have certain baselines that needs tweaks here and there to accommodate each person. Some people are looking for faster recovery times from athletics, detoxification, healing, toning, weight loss, more energy, more mental clarity and so forth. Drs. Rick and Karin Dina have a Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course programme which is available as well. There are many programs to choose from. In addition, there is a range of what raw food is to certain people. To some, raw food can be high in fat which is more gourmet and contains lots of nuts and seed with the use of salt and olive oil. On the other side of the spectrum, there is the 80/10/10 diet that focuses on a high fruit diet where salt and oil of any kind are a big no-no. That programme also uses small servings of nuts and seeds sporadically. I think the most important thing is to figure out what feels best to you.
To touch base about your concerns with your friends, I don’t know specifically what plan or kind of raw food diet they are following. Cultivating good eating habits is essential. Eating in a peaceful setting, no distractions, eating consciously, chewing and breaking food down in the mouth instead of eating quickly all helps with assimilation and absorption. Your body needs to absorb what you are eating. Again, I want to stress the significance of how important it is to get as many greens in your diet as possible. They are super dense in minerals and eating as organic as possible is key as the soil isn’t as depleted in nutrients like conventional soils. It is also critical to make sure one is consuming enough food since fruits and vegetables aren’t as calorie dense as animal based foods. Getting to know how many calories a fruit or vegetable contains will help you get in the right amount of calories required for your body type. Start familiarising yourself with not only the calories but how much protein each food source contains, especially if you are working out. Using an app like Cronometer can be very helpful and I am always recommending it to people who are starting out on their raw/ vegan journey. To answer your question about the use of regular blood tests, they sometimes aren’t very accurate and a lot of them are outdated. The one you may want to look into is a B12 test which is actually a MMA urine test and not a blood test. D3 is also very important but it’s less of a diet issue and more of location issue. People who live in certain areas of the world with less sun need to supplement with D3. If you have any concerns about your health, always speak to a licensed doctor or physician who understands and respects your dietary choices.
I eat well, little animal products and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables but my cholesterol is high. Do you have any advice for balancing it out?
– Paul, U.K.
Hi Paul, thanks for writing in!
It is wonderful that you are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, way to go! To really help you out with this issue, when you say little animal products, I would have to know specifically what little is and what little means to you. Our perspectives could be very different but I will do my best to help you with the information at hand. When it comes to optimal cholesterol levels, we need to look at what we need to avoid which are trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. These can be in anything from animal products, baked goods, margarine or anything in a box. The top food sources for cholesterol are eggs, chicken, beef, pork and dishes that have any of those four items mixed into them as well as regular cheese. According to the Institute of Medicine, any amount or intake level above 0% increases LDL (bad) cholesterol concentration. This means any meat, dairy, eggs or junk food increases your LDL cholesterol because they all contain trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. There is no tolerable intake and any intake can increase your chance of cardiovascular disease.
Since your cholesterol is already high, I would suggest finding replacements for the animal based items you are consuming. This would be fresh, whole foods and nothing processed. Instead of meats you can eat lentils, chickpeas, beans, split peas, etc.. Tempeh is another great healthy option that many vegans use to even make a fake bacon by adding marinades and spices to it. You could also try tofu which is processed but if it helps you get off the animal based products, go for it. Try to play around with flavors, textures, look up recipes and have fun! If you are trying to remove cheese from your diet, Julie Piatt just came out with a fabulous book called, This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home. I truly believe education is essential for anything and especially with you dealing with high cholesterol, my recommendations to you are Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Programme, Dr. Neal Barnard who founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Greger who blogs about the latest in health and nutrition related research as published in peer reviewed scientific journals, Dr. Colin T. Campbell who runs the Center for Nutrition Studies and Dr. McDougall who runs a health and medical centre. All of these amazing men have written numerous books about health with the focus on cardiovascular disease and their have websites share incredibly valuable information that I think you will find very helpful.
Sources Cited Trumbo PR, Shimakawa T. Tolerable upper intake levels for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Nutr Rev. 2011 May;69(5):270-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. This column, its author and the website are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.