There are a few simple rules about eating which will make you healthier. Follow a yoga diet and you will certainly become healthier. Do not drown food with drink. Too many people have the habit of drinking water with meals (or soda pop, beer or coffee), thus diluting the digestive juices before these have had a chance to do their work. If the food leaves the stomach only partially digested, it cannot be properly absorbed through the walls of the intestines.
What is the yoga position on alcohol in general? The answer, for the Western student, is moderation. There is no prohibition against liquor as such. But it would be inconceivable for a Yogi to get drunk; the advanced Yogis do not touch alcohol, since they become more and more frugal with time, preferring pure water. However, if you enjoy wine, beer and whiskey, by all means continue having them, but in small amounts.
The same may be said of tobacco. An occasional cigarette, cigar or pipe never hurt anyone. Some Hindu Yogis smoke; many Chinese ones do. Unfortunately, it is easier for the average man or woman to regulate the drinking than the smoking habit. Persons who worry about it are generally heavy smokers already and seem powerless to cut down.
For them, the only answer is to cut out smoking altogether, as an alcoholic must cut out liquor, for it becomes an all-or-nothing proposition. Other people do not have the same problem.
Now for the drinking of liquids in general: the best drink of all, the Yogis claim, is pure cool water, of which the body requires six to eight glasses a day. Although not itself a food, water is nevertheless a life-giving substance, and the liquids within our tissues must constantly be replenished.
We eliminate water constantly, largely through our sweat glands, and this is true even when we are not conscious of sweating. It is a continuous process, like breathing, necessary for the proper elimination of poisons. Water is also vital for flushing the kidneys properly, for cleansing the blood, and for proper elimination through the intestines.
The yoga diet includes having a glass of water immediately upon rising, a final glass before going to bed at night, and several glasses in between meals. This water is never iced, but merely cool - at room temperature or even a bit warmer. Ice water and all iced drinks are one of civilization's more harmful inventions, for they impair digestion, produce stomach cramps and crack the enamel on the teeth.
Other drinks that are highly beneficial are fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Frozen and canned juices are not as rich in vitamins, but still valuable. It is a good general rule not to let juice stand more than a day in the refrigerator once it has been squeezed or opened, for some of the vitamins will inevitably be lost.
Milk is the only liquid which may be taken with a meal, for although it is nine-tenths water, it is the most complete of foods and should be treated as such. A glass of whole milk provides all the protein you need at one meal. It should be sipped slowly, alternating with a few morsels of non-protein food. Modern dietician's advice is that a pint of milk be included in the diet of every adult, and double that amount in the diet of children and pregnant women; but this quantity includes milk derivatives, such as cheese and butter.
For persons watching their calorie intake skim milk, buttermilk and yogurt are even better, since all of these have most of the butter at removed. Moreover, the culture added to yogurt and buttermilk to promote fermentation is extremely beneficial for the organism, destroying bacteria and seeming to prolong life.
Before we leave the subject of liquids, a word of warning about tea, coffee and drinks like soda-pop and cola. Americans are a nation of inveterate coffee and cola drinkers, and - this may be hard on some of you - but the fact is that numberless cups of coffee, or tea, in the course of a day are a stimulant which the body is better off without.
Stick to these general principles of the yoga diet and you will be much healthier.
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