Can Food Make You Stupid? (Food and Spirituality)

I remember when I was in high school, back in Burma, students were allowed to bring snacks into the classrooms after recess. One of the most common snacks we enjoyed was sunflower seeds–those unshelled ones.  One day, the teacher got annoyed by the noise we made cracking the sunflower seeds and eating them in the class.  She came to our desks and asked us to stop eating.  I distinctly remember she asked, “Don’t you know that food can create stupidity?”

In Burmese, she actually said, “Don’t you know that food can cause moha?”  The word “moha” came from Pali and Sanskrit meaning “ignorance, stupidity, or dullness.”  Moha is one of the three spiritual poisons, which are lobha, dosa, and moha, meaning “greed, anger, and stupidity.”  These three things can poison your spiritual enlightenment.

We tend to think stupidity is natural—that some were born that way.  However, since then I’ve learned that even though we are born with certain level of intelligence, we can still increase it or decrease it by what we do, particularly what we eat or not eat.  Forest Gump was born stupid, but he turned out to be one of the smartest guys by sticking on doing the right things.

All major religions that I know have a ritual of fasting.  Ancient wisdom literatures often mention the value fasting.  The Bible says, Jesus fasted for forty days before he launched his ministry. Fasting gives us mental clarity.  It opens our mind to God’s mind.  It allows us to discern God’s will and clarify our calling, so that we can make better decisions, or godly decisions, and ultimately make a difference in the world with our lives.

Medically, it has been long proven the benefits of fasting.  At minimum, it helps us heal.  It keeps us fit if you do it properly.  The opposite is also true.  If you Google, “Food can make you stupid” you will find a lot of articles about how your diet can affect your brain functions.  You can do some research and tell me what you think.

Jesus taught a parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  The rich man spent his life feasting sumptuously every day.  At his gate was Lazarus, who was dying of hunger and disease.  Lazarus died and ended up in Abrahams arms. Later the rich man also died, but he ended up being tormented in Hades.  In short, his problem was not his wealth, but his food-induced stupidity that made him fail to heed God’s calling and use his gift to make a difference.  At least he could have made a difference in the life of a man who was dying at his gate.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we have a Sabbath day once a week.  The Sabbath is for us to fast.  The problem is, some religious people follow this ritual superstitiously and some don’t follow it at all because they don’t understand the value of fasting and feasting.

Just as we read in the Bible about Jesus fasting, we also read about Jesus feasting.  If you read the Gospel of Luke, you’ll see Jesus feasted quite a lot—we read about him frequently being present at someone’s dinner party—to a point that the Pharisees accused him of being a glutton, implying that he wasn’t spiritual because a spiritual man doesn’t eat so much.  But Jesus said that there are times when you must feast, and times when you must fast. (Luke 5:33–35)

Just like Kenny Rogers’ song that says, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”  You’ve got to know what food to eat and what to avoid and when.

I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting lately and it helps me normalize my blood sugar.  It also gives me mental clarity, increased ability to concentrate on my work.  I also lost quite a bit of body fat.  However, I don’t do it blindly, I did my research carefully both from spiritual and medical perspective.

Here’s my recommendation.  Treat your eating as a spiritual activity.  Don’t eat it so much and so frequently that it produces spiritual dullness, or stupidity.  You can start by learning to fast once a week.  Each of us has a different body and unique metabolism, so I’m not advising you to do what I do.  But I’m willing to share my knowledge with you.  Always check with your doctor first.

So this is my advice “You’ve got to know when to fast, know when to feast. You’ve got to know what to pass, and know what to eat” because your wisdom, fulfillment, and eternal happiness depend on it.  You are here on earth to fulfill a dream—a calling, and you need an optimal body, mind, and spirit to make the maximum impact in the world so that God’s name is glorified with your life.

I’d love to hear about your experiment.  If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.  Please do post your questions and comments below.