Nourishment from Eating Animal Products: A Holistic Approach to Consuming Nutrients from Animals
Consumption of animal products is holistic and wholesome when properly sourced, prepared and eaten, consumed for specific reasons, and taken by a strong agni.
Deep Roots: Explore the Connection
Hunting (and fishing) wild animals for consumption has been a key survival and culinary skill to continue the evolution of humanity, and has been practiced for hundreds of thousands of years . These hunter-gatherers not only relied on their edible plant identification expertise for nourishment, but also their ability to track, capture, and process animals native to their environment . Intrinsically synced with the ebb and flow of nature, its elements and wildlife, these early humans worked tribally to feed their families and villages, lessening the burden for individuals to fend for themselves and ultimately creating opportunities for thriving, artful, and communal societies .
Take for instance the Makah Tribe, an indigenous coastal group from the Pacific Northwest that date back to the mid 1800’s. The Makah people survived because of their connection to the land, ocean, marshes, tidepools, rivers, wetlands, and forests. They became fishermen and sea mammal hunters in order to feed their communities . Their acuity to nature made the abundance of salmon, halibut, sea otters and humpback whales fit for consumption, and a variety of other uses such as clothing, oil, tools, and trade . It is vital to recognize the early-on surfacing of modern day potlucks, what the Makah people called potlatches, giant food-focused feasts that were central gathering points for trade, song, dance, and discussion of economic and social issues . Here is where we begin to notice the importance of survival skills, hunting and fishing, and how ultimately paves a road for thriving societies. A commonality between tribal societies and modern day civilized folk is the undeniable and ongoing relationship between food, nourishment, herbs, and positive lifestyles.
In her book The Jungle Effect, Dr. Daphne Miller highlights the connection amongst socializing, eating communally, hunting and gathering wild food, exercising, and cultivating a relationship with Mother Earth with living longer, healthier lives . The ancient and wise science of Ayurveda holds the same resonance and natural orders of things.
Ayurveda emphasizes the unity and interconnectedness amongst humans and the natural world. Born by nature, and sustained by nature, the pillars of Ayurveda encourage us to utilize the freshest food as close to the source as possible, in hopes to build bodily strength, promote longevity, and purify the mind .
While the intricacies of Ayurveda guide us to explore diversity in food and understand the effects of food on our bodies, we are also reminded to work and live realistically with what is most accessible at any given time, making this a truly holistic approach. As an advocate for eating quality animal products, ethically and in reason, I see no difference between an Ayurvedic approach to nutrition with traditional hunter-gatherer practices of nourishment. As a relatable voice in the modern world of holistic health and nutrition, I hope to serve my community in a practical way and be a bridge for those who are trying to make sense of fad diets, and faulty nutrition information. Consumption of animal products is holistic and wholesome when properly sourced, prepared and eaten, consumed for specific reasons, and taken by a strong agni.
What to Eat. When to Eat. How to Eat: Explore the Qualities
Eating the right quantities of animal products at proper times can contribute to a holistic and wholesome diet. Some examples given by Kerala Academy include eating flesh at high noon when the sun is the strongest and drinking warm milk before bed to enhance deep rest . Other ways to measure proper quantities are self assessing: feelings of satiation, not feeling heavy or sluggish after eating, ability to walk, talk and breathe with ease, and sharpened senses . Because flesh such as poultry, fish and meat contain the quality of heaviness- which is not bad!, it is best to eat them when the sun is at its highest point during Pitta hour, when our digestive capacity is the strongest. Eating these products in the evening during Kapha hour might increase sluggishness and lethargy in our mind body systems .
Seasonal eating is another principle that can contribute to a holistic and wholesome diet. The Makah Tribe’s deep understanding of their environmental conditions prompted them to preserve large quantities of hunted food (via drying, curing, and smoking) for the darker, colder winters . According to Kerala Academy and basic Ayurvedic wisdom, winter is when our digestive capacities are the strongest, making it an ideal time to consume sweeter, heavier, and oilier foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy . Selecting quality animal products will contribute to a holistic and wholesome diet. It is best to favor grass-fed and grass-finished, pasture-raised, organic, non-GMO, and wild-caught from trusted sources such as farmer’s market purveyors when possible.
The fresher the food, the more prana it contains. The more prana in food, the more our subtle bodies and energy centers are awakened and enlivened, thus increasing our life force energy and principle activation of life .
Properly preparing and cooking animal products can benefit or detriment one’s nutritional status. According to Ayurveda, because meat stays in the digestive tract a bit longer, it is best to cook it properly . Kerala Academy suggests adding warming and pungent spices to heavier meats to lighten it. Cooking thicker, denser cuts of meat for longer periods of time (braising, steaming, brining) tenderizes the meat and makes it juicier, thus making these cuts more digestible .
Understand your Functional Nature: Explore your Why
Eating animal products for specific reasons can contribute to a wholesome and holistic diet by understanding the qualities of food and how they affect the mind body. If we know our “why” for consuming animal products, they can be nourishing for us. Meat embodies the sweet taste, the essence of lubrication, grounding, building, and nourishment specifically to the mamsa dhatu, or the muscle tissue [9, 10]. Fish, venison, and poultry from chicken and other birds may have lighter qualities than flesh from cow or pork which tend to be heavier . If someone with a Vata imbalance is experiencing lack of groundedness, eating heavier and denser foods such as beef or pork may be beneficial. Ayurveda holistically guides us to reduce quantities in half if opting for heavier products . The functional intelligence system in our body, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, is composed of the 5 Greater Elements- Ether, Aid, Fire, Water, Earth (panchamahabhutas), and represents attributes that can bring one more into or out of balance. Vegetarian diets are most closely linked to a predominantly Sattvic nature, some meat in the diet is linked with a predominantly Rajasic nature, and a lot of meat in the diet is linked with a predominantly Tamasic nature . All 3 of these gunas exist within all humans at all times, but are greatly influenced by what, why and how we consume. If animal products are consumed with wisdom and intelligence for a specified reason, it can be highly therapeutic .
When animal products are consumed by a strong agni or digestive fire, the nutrients can be properly metabolized, assimilated, and digested, and therefore nourish the mind body . Ayurveda states that the impact of food on the body is more important than the quality of the food itself. A weak digestion can lead to toxic buildup in the tissues otherwise known as ama, undigested and non-recognizable food that is unable to be absorbed, thus causing metabolic sluggishness and stagnation . Ama is the root cause of all diseases according to Ayurveda. By balancing the digestive fire, we are strengthening our agni which nourishes our tissues, thus increasing our strength and ojas . The holisticism of Ayurveda aligns with the middle path- Sarva karmeshu madhyamam. The Caraka Samhita states that “a proper measure of food taken will be digested in time without impairing one’s health… but positively promote one’s strength, complexion, and health and life” . Another key principle illustrated from this text is to not eat in too little amounts or in excess, otherwise it will lead to diseases .
While there is no such thing as a truly Ayurvedic diet, there are principles that when followed, can promote a wholesome state of being and living, which are represented by food pairings and incompatibilities. Some incompatible animal product combinations that lead to ama buildup and therefore disease include pairing yogurt with chicken, milk and fish (exacerbates heavy and slimy qualities), combining milk with sour tastes like citrus, eating equal parts of ghee and honey, pairing meat with fruit (creates fertile ground for fermentation in the gut), eating processed foods, eating foods that aggravate predominant dosha, and eating trans fats . Alternatively, Ayurveda sees specific combinations of animal products through a medicinal lens such as consuming cultured, grass-fed ghee with meals, taking buttermilk lassi after meals, drinking buffalo milk for insomnia and to balance Vata and Pitta aggravation, drinking warm milk before bed with spices like turmeric, saffron and nutmeg to aid in sleep, and as previously stated, eating meat mindfully to promote a sense of groundedness and stability .
Explore the Truth of your Existence
Consumption of animal products is holistic and wholesome when properly sourced, prepared and eaten, consumed for specific reasons, and taken by a strong agni. Ayurvedic nutrition goes beyond measurements and calculations. The subtleties of Ayurvedic nutrition not only take into consideration the effects of food on our tissues and organs systems, but on our entire mind body system down to the cellular level, physiological level, and agni function. Eating animal products is not an outdated practice only belonging to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If animal products are properly sourced, prepared and eaten, consumed for specific reasons (mindfulness), and taken by a strong digestive fire, then this practice can be relevant for the modern day, healthy person. As illustrated throughout this paper, my stance on the heavily debated vegetarian / vegan only approach remains clear.
Ayurveda’s neutral science upholds the natural order of things by recognizing that everything in nature is given a role to survive, sustain, and maintain balance.
Only when one is firmly established in themselves (Swastha) can they be truly whole and healthy. The Samkhya philosophy of Ayurveda gently reminds us to sustain the whole flow of nature by realizing the truth of our existence. My favorite quote from Dr. J is, “Don’t lose the essence of life by trying too hard to be technically perfect. Enhance what is good for you, reduce what is not so suitable for you.”
If this article inspired you, or this perspective feels aligned and you want to learn more, please go to www.humannaturehunting.com and check out the immersive courses my dear friends Bruce and Sarah offer up in Eastern Washington. All of these photos were taken last summer on their lush property, where I had the honor of cooking for a series of HNH retreats.
Their mission resonates at a core level with Clean Nature's, and that is to heal and strengthen the relationship between us and nature, remembering we are nature, not separate from it.
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