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Next to air and water the most important requisite for a human being to stay alive is food. What should one eat? What is the objective of food? How much should one eat? These are the questions which need due consideration.

What Is the objective of food? The object of man's food is not just to fill his belly, to maintain health or to satisfy his taste but to properly develop his mind and character too. Our intake of food is closely related with our thinking, character and deeds. Age old saying "The kind of food you eat determines the kind of man you are', is equally applicable today also. The taste of a man in different types of food reflects his behavior and character. In fact it is an indicator of one's innermost self. Hence, the objective of our diet should be to consume only those items which contribute to our physical, moral, social and spiritual uplift and promote love, affection, compassion, non violence, peace and similar values of life.

What type of food we need? Our food should contain all those ingredients which produce energy, health and heat. Our food should have proteins, sugar, vitamins, minerals and fats in adequate quantities and right proportion so that good quality of new cells and R.B.Cs (Red Blood Corpuscles) are produced continuously. Because in our system, millions of R.B.Cs are produced and destroyed every second. It is estimated that in each duration of six years, all the cells and tissues of our body are completely replaced. As the snake changes its old skin by the new one every six months, similarly our body also changes its all cells and tissues every sixth year, and the quality of these new cells depends on the quality of our intake of food. Simultaneously, our food should contain substances which help build up our body's defence system or immunity from disease and do not interfere in expulsion of waste materials and toxins. Our food should not contain substances which are disease inducing, which destroy health and which create excitement and affect us emotionally, phychologically and create imbalance and lack of self control and discipline in the body.

Food requirement of our body : Nature has created for us so many kind of foodgrains, fruits, nuts, leaves and vegetables etc. which contain all types of nutritional ingredients in sufficient quantity.

According to your taste and financial status you can prepare both cheap and costly, balanced and nutritional vegetarian diet by selecting various items from the list of products. Vegetarian foods not only cost less but also increases the resistance power of our body against diseases, thereby saving our health, money and time. Raw and uncooked vegetables and fruits are well known for their qualities in curing many ailments. Certain type of dietry fibres which are found in plant foods only, help to keep the blood cholesterol level low and offer protection against diabetes and many other diseases.

How much to eat? Many more people die of over-eating than of starvation. Eating a bit less is much better than to eat more. We must remember that "We eat to live and not live to eat". Thus our food intake should be slightly less than our hunger as like many other bodily functions, eating also is a matter of habit. People doing same kind of work and of same age group, do not eat equal quantity of food. Some eat more while some eat less. Those who eat less are by no means less healthy than those who eat more. Nor are those who eat costly stuff stronger than those who eat cheaper nutritional food. Those who eat more than their appetite, become victims of obesity which tends to make them lazy and sluggish, leading to indigestion, constipation and other ailments. Over-eating is the main and root cause of most diseases.

There is a saying "Bigger the waistline shorter is life line". The great Sufi saint Sheikh Saadi, advised that only half of one's stomach should be filled by food, one quarter should be filled with water, the remaining quarter should be left empty and that would be filled with the glory of God. Eating more due to tasty foods invite problems for one's health. Shastras have advised both the students as well as Saadhaks (spiritual practitioners) to eat sparingly and described it as an essential pre-requisite for the success of their endeavours.

One of the biggest advantage of the vegetarian food is that it is bulky and satisfies our hunger quickly. It contains less cholesterol and is usually less spicy. As such it is difficult to eat more vegetarian food than the requirement of the body. The obesity thus remains under check.

Our body is a wonderfully complex machine which is constantly engaged in many activities like breathing in and out, purifying and circulating the blood, producing fresh blood, digesting, expelling toxins and waste products from the system and numerous other functions. Like other machines, this machine also requires some rest, which we can give it by observing fast once a week. This practice will reduce pressure on our digestive system and on the kidneys, and avoid many kinds of diseases. More food does not mean more health. The less you pour into this machine the more efficiently will it work for you, and the more you give it, the less productive it will be for you. "Food is made for us and we are not made for food", hence to remain healthy our principle should be "Eat less - have more patience".

Difference between hunger of body and mind : In order to justffy all his actions, man often says that he has to do everything to satisfy the hunger of his body. It is a fact that hunger of body makes every person restless and forces him to tread on a wrong path but it is much more true that the demand of hunge,- of body is very limited and he can fulfil it by little bit of hard work without resort to sinful or criminal actions. The hunger which never satisfies and for which one does so many wrong deeds, is not the hunger of body but is in fact the hunger of mind. This malaise of mind goes on increasing. The more one tries to satisfy it, the more it grows and leads him to cheating, fraud, arson, crime, murder and other bad habits resulting in fear, tension, anger and hatred, which are the main causes of all bad deeds and diseases.

It is often said that hunger of stomach has been satisfied but not of mind. This ever hungry mind creates most of the problems for us. As such it is in the interest of man to understand the difference between these two types of hungers.Source:Jainism