Food not only sustains our bodies but also profoundly influences our minds and consciousness. Ancient Indian yogis and sages held the belief that food serves as the creator of the life force that nurtures our bodies and maintains good health. Choosing the right kind of food is crucial for overall well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Yogis categorized food into three types based on their effects on the body: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Consequently, they developed three distinct dietary habits associated with these emotions – Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic. Let’s delve into the details.
A Sattvic diet is a purely vegetarian one, comprising seasonal fresh fruits, ample fresh vegetables, whole grain pulses, sprouts, dried nuts, seeds, honey, fresh herbs, milk, and cruelty-free dairy products. This dietary system emphasizes the consumption of foods and eating habits that are considered “pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, and wise.” Sattvic food is known to embody the quality of sattva, representing goodness, positivity, truth, serenity, balance, peacefulness, and virtuousness aligned with Dharma or Gyaan (knowledge).
Sattvic diet advocates Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence or causing no harm to other living beings, making vegetarianism a common choice among yogis. Fresh nuts and seeds, in moderation and without excessive roasting and salting, are permissible in Sattvic food. Fruits play a significant role, and all fruits are considered Sattvic. Mild vegetables are generally categorized as Sattvic, while pungent ones like hot peppers, leek, garlic, and onions are excluded. In modern literature, a Sattvic diet is sometimes referred to as a yogic diet. Ancient Yogic literature, particularly the concept of Mitahara, meaning ‘moderation in eating,’ highly praises the Sattvic diet.
Impact of Sattvic Diet on the Body:
The benefits of a Yogic or Sattvic diet are extensive, positively influencing the body, mind, and soul in numerous ways. Some of these benefits include:Starting the day with warm water with lemon juice, acting as an alkaline to cleanse the body of harmful toxins through regular detoxification, enhancing organ function and reducing the risk of ailments.Increased brain flexibility and agility, promoting a balance between the body and mind, contributing to an individual’s longevity.Easily digestible Sattvic foods, such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, and sprouts, devoid of heat-inducing foods like meat, fish, onion, and garlic, facilitate proper bowel movement and clear skin.Inclusion of Sattvic foods like ghee, coconut oil, and sprouted seeds not only enhance taste but also contribute to maintaining a healthy brain and sharp memory.
Rajasic food symbolizes activity, decision-making, energy required for tasks, and mental stability. This category of food stimulates and activates various bodily functions, especially the nervous system, pushing the mind beyond normal capacity. Rajasic food, derived from the word “raja” meaning “king, kingly, or fit to be king,” is associated with quality and freshness but can also encourage aggression and cause individuals to feel overwhelmed or bothered.
When consumed in excess or in an imbalanced manner, Rajasic food can disrupt the equilibrium between body and mind. Ayurvedic practitioners advise against regular consumption of Rajasic food as it includes spicy, hot, bitter, sour, and pungent items, making it less easily digestible than Sattvic food. Items like red lentils, toor lentils, white urad lentils, black and green gram, spices, and stimulants fall into the category of Rajasic Food. In its purest form, Rajasic Food is nutritious and fresh, but problems arise when oils or spices are added, negatively impacting its balance compared to the Sattvic diet.
Impact of Rajasic Diet on the Body:
Individuals who moderately consume Rajasic food tend to remain goal-oriented and objective, maintaining mental stability. However, this go-getter attitude is often accompanied by a restless nature seeking recognition and admiration. Rajasic diet followers may exhibit selfish and aggressive tendencies, leading to more worries than happiness. This type of food stimulates and over excites the body and mind, potentially leading to hyperactivity and overexertion. The mind remains restless and doesn’t switch off even during rest or sleep.
A Tamasic diet primarily involves foods that possess Tamasic qualities or can increase Tamas energy. Often, people find themselves too lazy to cook and don’t mind consuming stale food or relying on fast-food culture, negatively impacting metabolism and bowel movements. Ayurveda identified these issues ages ago, categorizing such foods as Tamasic Foods – those detrimental to both mind and body, causing major health hazards.
A healthy lifestyle or adherence to the Ayurvedic way of living necessitates avoiding Tamasic foods. Tamasic food is heavy, dull, and depressing, inducing sleep and making the body sluggish. Examples include animal meat, fish, fertilized eggs, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcohol, beverages, blue cheese, opium, and any food stored overnight or preserved in canned or frozen form.
Impact of Tamasic Food on the Body:
A Tamasic diet is known to impair the body’s ability to fight diseases, disrupt the proper functioning of the immune system, and destructively alter normal brain pathways. According to Ayurveda, individuals resorting to a Tamasic diet may lose Prana or life energy, filled with dark, strong urges like greed or anger, coupled with a lack of proper cognitive and reasoning skills and a sense of inertia. Such individuals are deemed incapable of achieving the enlightenment needed to transcend the gunas. Tamasic diet is thought to cause mental diseases, further emphasizing the detrimental impact of Tamasic foods on overall health.
According to Ayurvedic food principles, consuming meals prepared and eaten with feelings of depression, anger, or negativity offers no health benefits and can become toxic or tamasic. Indian elders consistently emphasize the importance of approaching every meal with a happy, contented, and thankful attitude, as it enables individuals to derive maximum health benefits from their food.
Fundamentally, food serves as the life source for all living beings. India’s rich food culture draws from extensively studied Ayurvedic principles, advocating the inclusion of foods in daily diets that contribute to long-term positive effects on physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Many health issues, such as acidity, stress, insomnia, poor digestion, increased cholesterol, and hypertension, stem from an excessive consumption of Rajasic and tamasic foods. The key to good health lies in reducing the intake of these types of foods while incorporating a higher proportion of Sattvic foods into daily diets
Incorporating time-tested Ayurvedic foods into daily diets not only provides nourishment to the body but also rejuvenates the mind and soul, promoting optimal health. To enjoy holistic health throughout the year, consider scheduling an Ayurvedic consultation with an experienced Ayurvedic Vaidya for a personalized Ayurvedic diet plan.