Food nourishes our body and soul. Every bite is a new chance to feel happier and healthier. An extension of yoga practice and meditation, food plays an essential role in setting the body. A many years ago I shifted my focus to sattvic diet, a yogi diet. I believe that food is the creator of my life force to maintain my body and keeps me in excellent health. Therefore, it is very critical to make the right food choice for healthy living. My primary goal was to achieve physical strength, a calm mind, good shape, and longevity. According to ancient Ayurvedic principles, some products are the purest types of food we can eat. In ancient India and their yoga books, the concept discussed is Mitahara, which means ‘eating with moderation’ – a diet based on foods that contain ‘guna’ – the quality sattva. Sattvic principles include foods and eating habits that are essential, pure, clean, natural, vital, true, conscious, honest, and wise. A sattvic diet also represents the principle of ‘Ahimsa’ – the concept of not making harm or any other violence to other living beings, which is the main reason why yogis follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Sattvic diet can help improve our yoga practice and support a quiet mind. It helps to fit the body with a balanced flow of prana (energy) between the two. Our physical body depends on the food, and the soul depends on the body. The principles of sattvic food are very simple – it consists of light and easy to digest. Many of the sattvic products are ”sun product”, meaning they grow above ground and they are exposed to the sun.
In ancient India, Yoga and Ayurveda classified food into three types based on the consequences they have on our body – sattva, rajas and tamas. Ancient masters believed that ‘tamasic food’ can bring out lethargy whereas ‘rajasic food’ can make one restless. On the other hand, sattvic food can make you feel enthusiastic and energetic.
Let me explain the differences between those three shortly.
Rajasic products are stimulants in our diet foods that often make mental restlessness. They are not beneficial, nor are they bad, to our body and mind. These foods cause aggressiveness and bring disturbing thoughts, mainly towards others. Such foods include caffeine, tannin (tea, both black and green), energetic drinks, chocolate, spicy products, salt, and eggs.
Tamas means one that is destructive, ignorant, spoiled, stale, unripe, unnatural, weak and unclean. Tamasic foods according to Yoga philosophy, are harmful to body and mind. The Tamasic diet consists of foods that may cause certain harmful mental and physical conditions to occur. Hurt to mind holds anything that leads to a heavier state of consciousness, includes any foods that cause directly or indirectly stress to any organ. However, tamasic food sometimes is necessary especially during physical stress and pain. They help to alleviate the pain and lower consciousness. Such foods include meat and fish, fertilized eggs, garlic, leek, mushroom, blue cheese, alcohol, and any other fermented foods, including vinegar, bread, pastries or cakes.
Sattva means one that is pure, natural, true, vital, energetic, clean, conscious, strong, honest and wise. People who follow the sattvic principle are gifted with a great memory, are very grateful for life and other people, free from stress and anxiety, and their intellect is engaged in virtuous acts. A sattvic diet accent on seasonal foods, vegetables, fruits, dairy goods, seeds, nuts, oils, whole grains, legumes, and other non-meat proteins.
Below you will find a list of sattvic products which you should add in your daily diet to promote health and happy mood. These will help bring your physical body, mind, and soul into alignment.
Common sattvic herbs
All herbs strengthen the mind and are used during the meditation or help for some mental weaknesses.
Ashwagandha – stress, fatigue, and difficulty in focusing
Saffron – often used in cooking, also help t calm and balance all three doshas in our body (the doshas are energetic forces of nature, I promise to write more about Ayurveda in the next post)
Bacopa – to improve memory formation and to reduce anxiety
Calamus – perfect for muscle relaxation
Gotu kola – enhance meditation
Gingko – to balance heart rate, lungs, and kidneys
Tulsi – holy basil, this herb is used in medicinal teas to help offset the body and mind.
The best choice is as following – Coriander, Basil, Cumin, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Fennel seed, Parsley, Cardamom, Fenugreek, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger. We can add them to any meal.
Ghee – butter
Ghee is clarified butter, a little bit sweeter than normal butter we can buy in a shop. The most common, and often recommended, is ghee from cow’s milk. In Sattvic diet and ayurvedic principles, milk is unique because it contains the best nutrients a mother can give. Ghee is considered the essence of milk. There are various Ayurvedic elements in different types of milk, the qualities of ghee will depend on its source. In yogic diet Rice mixed with vegetables and ghee is considered the food of God.
Sprouted Whole Grains
Grains should be the main part of every meal we have. Sometimes we may fast from grains to clean our digestive system, but it is important to remember that grains are an essential part of a sattvic diet. Whole sprouted grains nourish our body and mind. We should consider adding to our diet millet, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, oatmeal, quinoa, and organic rice. In every part of the world we can find this rich variety of grains, so we can easily include it with every meal.
Fresh and organic vegetables
Almost any vegetable on a sattvic diet is acceptable, only cooking with garlic and onions is considered as a bad habit. Those two, along with chili peppers, potatoes, and mushrooms should not be used. Is better to stick with mild veggies, such as carrots, beets, squash, celery, green leaves, sweet potatoes. Through full of vegetable diet we can quickly and easily connect to our prana (life energy).
Fresh Organic Fruit
For the most part, any fresh organic fruit can be included in the sattvic diet, but there are some exceptions. Avocados and tomatoes are considered rajasic and should never be consumed in excess. You’re safe to eat most fruits, including apples, bananas, pineapples, watermelon, berries, grapes, melons, oranges, apricots, peaches, and plums. Sometimes it is critical to fast from fruits, but otherwise, they are essential in our sattvic diet. They are considered as a symbol of the generosity of nature. Eating fruits in a moderate amount is believed to increase our magnetic field.
Seeds, nuts, oils
The best choice for a snack would be fresh nuts or seeds. An excellent way to add them to our diet is to soak them overnight, by doing so it will remove their enzyme inhibitors and make them easier to digest. The next day we can combine them with any meal. Nowadays nuts and seeds are roasted or salted to much, by this they lose their sattvic properties. The best selection is to eat in moderation: almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts, pine nuts, flax seeds, and hemp seeds. Choosing the oils, we have to consider the temperature we are going to cook. Most of the oils should be consumed raw, but some of them can be used in cooking or frying. These include coconut oil, ghee, and sesame oil.
Legumes are a vital part of a sattvic diet, and the smaller the size, the better. Tinier beans, such as mung beans, peas, and lentils, are lighter to digest. We can also add chickpeas, aduki beans, and tofu. For a complete protein dish, we should combine legumes with whole grain.
Honey and jaggery
Those two are sweeteners and in moderate amount is OK to implement them in a sattvic diet. Brown rice syrup, good quality fruit juice concentrate or cane juice are also acceptable in a balanced amount.
Some points to keep in mind when making a sattvic dish
Always freshly cooked and simple
Mix products to get nutrients from a variety of sources
Foods that are grown naturally
Not processed food in any form, not packaged, not canned
No food wastage
The meal is eaten at a slow pace
Foods that are grown harmoniously with nature (seasonal foods)
And one significant element – food is prepared with love and gratitude. If you want to read more about the healing power of food, please read the article here
Is important to remember that as everything good needs time, and also here, it takes time for the effects of dietary changes to manifest on the body and mind. Stick to sattvic diet, can affect our well being significant.