By Lorena Junco Margain
As we move toward a new year, many of us are contemplating resolutions around food, mood and well-being. Especially right after the many gatherings of the holiday season and the inevitable excesses they bring, we may be feeling out of balance—perhaps even a bit depressed—and might see the new year as an opportunity to hit the reset button and be more intentional about self-care.
I know these struggles well. Nine years ago, shortly after the birth of my third child, I learned I had a benign tumor on my adrenal gland. I was told that with a simple surgery I’d regain my strength, joy, and stamina—all of which had seemingly vanished. But the surgeon made a terrible error: instead of removing my right adrenal gland, where the tumor was, he removed my healthy left adrenal gland, leaving me with a lifetime of medical issues. I desperately needed to find ways to care for my body, mind, and soul. I write about this in my memoir, On the Way to Casa Lotus.
With the expert help of Ayurveda and Yoga expert Renu Namjoshi, to whom I am deeply grateful, I found ways rooted in Ayurveda to both regain my physical health and overcome the grief, anger, and loss I was experiencing.
As Renu has explained to me, Ayurveda, the medical science of Yoga, seeks to harmonize the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and, earth) and the three types of imbalances or “doshas”, (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) that result when these any of these elements become excessive in our body and mind.
The foremost therapy Ayurveda focuses on is improving and preventing further damage to digestive health by introducing the appropriate herbs, spices and foods for your dosha imbalance. Modern science today also recognizes that up to 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin—the key hormone in stabilizing mood and well-being— is produced in the gut.
Although Ayurveda gives each person their unique prescription based on their specific dosha imbalance, below are some food-related steps rooted in Ayurvedic medicine that I have taken, and that everyone can take to improve mood and well-being in 2022:
Incorporate all 6 dietary tastes each day to foster balance and harmony. These are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent (spicy), bitter, astringent. For example, bananas and beets have a “sweet” taste; onions, ginger, and garlic have a pungent taste; and kale, eggplant, and cumin have a “bitter” taste.
Understand the impact of food’s taste and vibrational energy. According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste, vibrational energy, and post-digestive effect. When I’m feeling angry or upset―an emotion she describes as “hot and fiery”―Ayurveda has taught me to reach for cooling foods such as cucumber, lemon, and mint instead of hot salsa and chips. Heavily salted and spicy and processed foods also increase willfulness and lack of cooperation, as they increase inflammation in the body and mind. Unprocessed sweet tastes like carrots, fruits, sweet potatoes, etc. increase equanimity, satiation, and forgiveness.
Eat Mindfully. Taking the time to sit down, being present, and thankful for the food improves digestion, nutrient absorption, mood and prevents toxins from building up. Especially with the busy, fast-paced lives we live, it is essential to slow down, sit down, and be mindful while enjoying the food we eat.
Choose grass-fed, free-range animal products. Make eating animal products an intentional act by considering the condition of the animals; their suffering can be transferred into us through the meat and dairy products we consume.
Avoid anything that comes in a package - Choose fresh, organic food in its natural form and avoid all artificial flavors and chemical additives.
Changing habits and ways of thinking around food is never easy, but when it comes to mood and well-being, I have found that there is no better path to healing. The extraordinary benefits have gone far beyond helping me live day to day with a serious medical condition: they have given me a whole new way of approaching life and opened me up to new dimensions of self-acceptance.
I wish the same for all in 2022.
About Lorena Junco Margain:
Art collector and philanthropist Lorena Junco Margain is the author of On the Way to Casa Lotus, a memoir about her journey coming to terms with the permanent consequences of a surgeon’s devastating mistake. After studying visual arts at Universidad de Monterrey, she co-founded the Distrito14 gallery in Monterrey. She also co-founded and curated, with her husband, the Margain-Junco Collection to promote awareness of Mexican art internationally. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family.