As a cardiologist, I am constantly being asked what are healthy foods and unhealthy foods for the heart. Much has been written about this topic: whole foods vs processed foods, organic or conventional, genetically modified foods, superfoods, essential nutrients, powerful antioxidants. Great attention is given to the foods we use to nourish and sustain our bodies, but equally important are the thoughts we use to nourish and energize our mind, spirit, and soul. Just as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are preferable choices over hamburgers, fried foods, and donuts, so too exist preferable nourishing foods for the soul. It does not matter how physically fit our bodies are if we do not have tranquility, peace, and harmony within our souls. Lets explore some of the healthy and unhealthy foods for the soul. 

Healthy foods - gratitude, appreciation, self love and love of others, laughter, joy, mindfulness

Unhealthy foods - self doubt, judgement, fear, anticipation, anger, hatred

Healthy Foods for the Soul:

1. Gratitude is an expression of thankful appreciation for the benefits that one has received or will receive.  Wallace Wattles in his 1910 book, The Science of  Getting Rich, wrote “The Grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best.  Faith is born of gratitude.  The grateful mind continually expects good things and expectation becomes faith.”  Nourish yourself with gratitude by stating 5 things you are grateful for each day before you rise out of bed.

2. Appreciation is the recognition of the quality, value, and significance of all things, no matter how seemingly small.  It is noticing the gentle breeze, the faint smile, the fragrant scent, the sharp pungent taste, the silence and recognizing the full value of each moment of life and all that life has to offer.  Nourish yourself with appreciation by being present in the moment, appreciating all your senses and allowing nature and your surroundings to fill your very being.

3. Love is an intense emotional feeling, a core human need that takes many forms. Self love is equally important as love of others. It is human nature to take good care of the things we love. We treasure them as valued possessions. To truly love others, however, we must love ourselves first. Nourish yourself by finding things every day to love about yourself. Then show ways to say I love you to the rest of those you love.

4. Laughter relaxes muscles and releases tension. It causes physiological changes that have been compared to a mild workout. It increases blood flow and improves sleep, making it easier for your physical body to restore itself. Nourish yourself by finding reasons for laughter in even the most insignificant occasion. Don’t be afraid to get silly. It’s good for your soul.

5. Joy means finding something worth celebrating in everything you do. It is goal-oriented and positive. You may have prepared a particularly satisfying and delicious meal for your family, your child may have shared a lovely, poignant drawing, or you may have simply looked out the window and been inspired by a beautiful sunset. Nourish yourself by finding something joyful to celebrate out of your day before you go to bed each night.

On the other hand, there are unhealthy foods that diminish and damage the soul, wearing down the protective mind portal. These foods are powerful, but not as powerful as those that nourish.

Unhealthy Foods that Diminish and Damage the Soul:

1. Self doubt is the inner voice that says, “I can’t; I’m not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. I don’t know how!” Self doubt is insidious in its nature. It destroys hope, imagination, and dreams. These feelings of inadequacy were often instilled into the very fabric of our beings long before we were able to develop strong cohesive thoughts of our own, often from our upbringing. Nourish yourself against self doubt by acting without worrying about the whys. Trust in the absence of evidence and stay present without allowing the past to taint or infect the moment.

2. Judgement - “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung. We may judge others, but we often turn a more harsh judgement on ourselves. Constant judgement and criticism will wear your soul down. Accept that you are human. We all make mistakes. Be compassionate and forgiving towards yourself.

3. Stress. This is a difficult one, because it is so often outside of your control. You may not always be able to control stress itself, but you can control how you deal with it. Stress tears away bits of your soul. It causes the release of cortisol, which provides short-term immediate energy but compromises the immune system in the long term. When you are under stress, pay particular attention to the need to nourish your soul with good foods. Try to look beyond the moment. You may be beaten down, but you started from a standing position and can get there again. Do not feed stress. Feed a calm spirit of acceptance.

4. Fear and insecurity. We live in a fearful world. People feel the need to protect themselves and often let that fear eclipse common sense. Your neighbors feel the same way you do. We are in this together. Focus on things that build confidence and security, rather than those that make you fearful. Work together on things that build confidence. Find something that makes you feel strong and make it your touchstone.

5. Anger and Hatred. Anger builds up and feeds hatred. It can be directed towards self and towards others. Either way, it is toxic. Anger will eat your soul and destroy any nourishment you have provided. It increases anxiety, raises blood pressure, causes headaches, and can impede healthy circulation. It causes the release of damaging stomach acid and can interfere with breathing. Anger can kill you. When angry and hateful feelings start to fill you up, breathe slowly and focus. Access your quiet, peaceful inner soul and push the anger back from the door.

Nurture your soul with healthy foods that inspire you and build you up. Avoid those that create ugly feelings inside. By doing this, you will be able to keep your inner garden oasis beautiful and flourishing. It will remain an exquisite and restful place where you can find rejuvenation and achieve inner peace. When your soul is healthy and strong, your heart will be also.


©
2013 Dr. Cynthia Thaik

About the Author

Cynthia Thaik, M.D.

Cynthia Thaik, M.D., is a Harvard trained physician and currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine

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