Gandhiji read extensively about diet, health, and nutrition in the literature of the times and also corresponded and met with a number of prominent writers on these subjects. He also wrote numerous articles and books on the subjects usually using his own experiments as examples. Examples are the Key to Health, Guide to Health, Diet and Diet Reform, which consists of many articles he had written in the Harijan and other publications. He also freely and openly discussed the failings and shortcomings of these experiments and changes he implemented. He was keenly aware of the economic realities of his time. He was very vocal in his condemnation of the use of polished rice, white flour, and white sugar pointing out the loss of vitamins and minerals in the processing of the whole grains and sugar cane. His approach to diet was very balanced and rational. He sagely noted the unhealthy departure from older methods of processing foods and the ill health of many urban peoples. Probably today he would again be taken aback by the relentless use of white flour, white sugar and white rice. Again he would also be happy to see that the whole grain alternatives are readily available. He was also opposed to the use of condiments as salt, chilies, pepper, turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, cumin, and so on. This of course, could never become popular with the majority of people. Salt as Gandhi pointed out occurs naturally in all foods, but cooking methods often take out the natural salt and we put it back in. one could also argue that many spices and seeds have beneficial qualities as methi, and haldi—or turmeric. Chilies, of course, have the interesting history of coming from the America and traveling where they sautéed themselves into Indian cuisine; black pepper, native to India, traveled to the western world and beyond and stuck there. Condiments Gandhi observed destroyed the natural flavor of foods. Tea, coffee, and cocoa were also on Gandhi’s taboo list. And we need not mention intoxicants as liquors, drugs, tobacco, where he observed the ill effects of time and again in England, India and South Africa.
When I decided to become a vegetarian some 45 years back I also had to experiment in a land where it was considered a little mad. Gandhi, however, was my guiding force and strength as I read and reflected on his life. At the time I did think he was a little extreme but such a revered worldwide figure could not be rejected for any reason. Again, Gandhiji has come to my aid in my own extreme as I also go on another experiment to improve my health and find the correct diet for losing and maintaining proper weight and giving up salt and sugar, which I have seen for a long time as unnecessary evils. When I see the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other related ills I again see the wisdom of Gandhiji. But the Truth has to slap you in the face and cause sufferings and pain before we can recognize it as the Truth, for most of us. My body has said once again, “stop,” and this time I think my mind is listening.
An example of what Gandhiji ate in his unfired or uncooked food experiment is this: Sprouted wheat, pounded almonds, whole almonds, green vegetables, raisins or fresh fruit, lemons and honey, sometimes he took sprouted grams and grated coconut. He strove to find the right combinations of food. He also stressed proper mastication for unfired food and so on.
While reading again Gandhi’s writings which I always find to be clear, concise, and touching many sides of the topic, I became fascinated once again with his diet of unfired food, I took a vow to myself also to eat unfired or uncooked food until Gandhi Peace Prayer Day, today, and I am considering going until after Navaratri which ends on October 13th. Since Gandhi realized that most people need to take some milk product he introduced nonfat cheese in a small amount. I am going towards my weight loss goal I feel very fit and full of energy and I feel full most of the time.