Sattvic Diet

Sattvic diet is a diet based on foods in ayurvedic and yogic literature that contain the quality (gunasattva. In this system of dietary classification, foods that decrease the energy of the body are considered tamasic, while those that increase the energy of the body are considered rajasic.

A sattvic diet is meant to include foods and eating habits that are “pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise”. A sattvic diet can also exemplify Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence, or not causing harm to other living things, which is one reason that yogis often follow a vegetarian diet.

A sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits if one has no sugar problems, dairy products if the cow is fed and milked in the right conditions, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins.

A sattvic diet is sometimes referred to as a yogic diet in modern literature. In ancient and medieval era Yoga literature, the concept discussed is Mitahara, which literally means “moderation in eating”. 

Food Healthy Dried Fruits Nuts Nut Almonds Dates

Sattvic Diet – Nuts, seeds, and oils

Etymology

Sattvic is derived from sattva (सत्त्व) which is a Sanskrit word. Sattva is a complex concept in Indian philosophy, used in many contexts, and it means one that is “pure, essence, nature, vital, energy, clean, conscious, strong, courage, true, honest, wise, rudiment of life”.

Sattva is one of three gunas (quality, peculiarity, tendency, attribute, property). The other two qualities are considered to be rajas (agitated, passionate, moving, emotional, trendy) and tamas (dark, destructive, spoiled, ignorant, stale, inertia, unripe, unnatural, weak, unclean). The concept that contrasts with and is opposed to sattva is Tamas.

A sattvic diet is thus meant to include food and eating habit that is “pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-giving, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise”.

Ancient literature

Main article: Mitahara

Yoga includes recommendations on eating habits. Both the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad  and Svātmārāma, an Indian yogi who lived during the 15th century, C.E. both state that Mitahara (eating in moderation) is an important part of yoga practice. It is one of the Yamas (virtuous self restraints). These texts while discussing yoga diet, however, make no mention of sattvic diet.

In Yoga diet context, the virtue of Mitahara is one where the yogi is aware of the quantity and quality of food and drinks he or she consumes, takes neither too much nor too little, and suits it to one’s health condition and needs.

The application of sattva and tamas concepts to food is a later and relatively new extension to the Mitahara virtue in Yoga literature. Verses 1.57 through 1.63 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggest that taste cravings should not drive one’s eating habits; rather, the best diet is one that is tasty, nutritious and likable, as well as sufficient to meet the needs of one’s body. It recommends that one must “eat only when one feels hungry” and “neither overeat nor eat to completely fill the capacity of one’s stomach; rather leave a quarter portion empty and fill three quarters with quality food and fresh water”. The Hathayoga Pradipika suggests ‘‘mitahara’’ regimen of a yogi avoids foods with excessive amounts of sour, salt, bitterness, oil, spice burn, unripe vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol. The practice of Mitahara, in Hathayoga Pradipika, includes avoiding stale, impure and tamasic foods, and consuming moderate amounts of fresh, vital and sattvic foods.

Sattvic foods

Nuts, seeds, and oils

Fresh nuts and seeds that have not been overly roasted and salted are good additions to the sattvic diet in small portions. Choices include almonds (especially when soaked in water overnight and then peeled), hemp seeds, coconuts, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds (til), pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Red palm oil is considered to be highly sattvic. Oils should be of good quality and cold-pressed. Some choices are olive oil, sesame oil and flax oil. Most oils should only be eaten in their raw state.

Fruit

Fruits are an important part of the sattvic diet and all fruits are sattvic.

Dairy

Milk must be obtained from an animal that has a spacious outdoor environment, an abundance of pasture to feed on, water to drink, is treated with love and care, and is not pregnant. The milk may only be collected once the mother’s calf has its share. Dairy products like yogurt and cheese (paneer) must be made that day, from milk obtained that day. Butter must be fresh daily as well, and raw; but ghee (clarified butter) can be aged forever, and is great for cooking. Freshness is key with dairy. Milk should be freshly milked from a cow. Milk that is not consumed fresh can be refrigerated for one to two days in its raw state, but must be brought to a boil before drinking, and drunk while still hot/warm.

Vegetables

Most mild vegetables are considered sattvic. Pungent vegetables like hot peppers, leek, garlic and onion are excluded, as are gas-forming foods such as mushrooms (tamasic, as are all fungi). Some consider tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants as sattvic, but most consider the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, shallots), as well as fungus (yeasts, molds, and mushrooms) as not sattvic. Potatoes and rice are considered highly sattvic. The classification of whether something is sattvic or not is defined largely by the different schools of thought, and – even then – individually, depending on the understanding and needs of practitioners. Sometimes the given nature of certain foods can be neutralised by careful preparation. A practice is to drink freshly made vegetable juices for their prana, live enzymes, and easy absorption.

Whole grains

Whole grains provide nourishment. Some include organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal and barley. Sometimes the grains are lightly roasted before cooking to remove some of their heavy quality. Yeasted breads are not recommended, unless toasted. Wheat and other grains can be sprouted before cooking as well. Some preparations are khichadi (brown or white basmati rice cooked with whole or split mung beans, ghee and mild spices), kheer (rice cooked with milk and sweetened), chapatis (non-leavened whole wheat flat bread), porridge (sometimes made very watery and cooked with herbs), and “Bible” bread (sprouted grain bread). Sometimes yogis will fast from grains during special practices.

Legumes

Mung beans, lentils, yellow split peas, chickpeas, aduki beans, common beans, organic tofu, and bean sprouts are considered sattvic if well prepared. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier to digest. Preparations include splitting, peeling, grinding, soaking, sprouting, cooking and spicing. Legumes combined with whole grains can offer a complete protein source. Some yogis consider the mung bean to be the only sattvic legume. Convalescent food in ayurvedic diet includes yusha soups made with lentils.

Sweeteners

Most yogis use raw honey (often in combination with dairy), jaggery, or raw sugar (not refined). Others use alternative sweeteners, such as stevia or stevia leaf. In some traditions, sugar and/or honey are excluded from the diet, along with all other sweeteners.

An array of Indian Spices commonly used in Indian and south asian cuisine

An array of Indian Spices commonly used in Indian and south asian cuisine

Spices

Sattvic spices are herbs/leaves, including basil and coriander.

All other spices are considered either rajasic or tamasic. However, over time, certain Hindu sects have tried to classify a few spices as Sattvic. It is however considered as inappropriate by purists.

Spices in the new sattvic list may include cardamom (yealakaai in Tamil, Elaichi in Hindi), cinnamon (Ilavangapattai in Tamil, Dalchini in Hindi), cumin (seeragam in Tamil, Jeera in Hindi), fennel (soambu in Tamil, Sonph in Hindi), fenugreek (venthaiyam in Tamil, Methi in Hindi), fresh ginger (ingi in Tamil, Adrak in Hindi) and turmeric (Manjai in Tamil, Haldi in Hindi). Rajasic spices like black pepper (karumilagu in Tamil, Kaali mirch in Hindi) and red pepper (kudaimilagai in Tamil)are normally excluded, but are sometimes used in small amounts, both to clear channels blocked by mucus and to counter tamas. Salt is good in strict moderation, but only unrefined salts, like Himalayan salt or unbleached sea salt, not iodized salt.

Sattvic herbs

Other herbs are used to directly support sattva in the mind and in meditation. These include ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, gotu kola, ginkgo, jatamansi, purnarnava, shatavari, saffron, shankhapushpi, tulsi and rose.

Rajasic (stimulant) foods

Stimulant foods, also called mutative foodsmutable foods or rajasic foods, are foods that often provoke mental restlessness. They are not completely beneficial, nor are they harmful, to body or mind. Foods that cannot be categorized as either sentient or static are classified in this food group.

These foods are thought by some to cause aggressive and dominating thoughts, especially towards others.

Stimulant foods energize and develop the manipura (navel) chakra and body but do not promote advancement in the higher chakras.

Such foods include: caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea , cola drinks, energy drinks, brown or black chocolate, ginkgo biloba, spicy food, eggs, food that is pungent, very much salty, bitter or is not balanced in taste.

Tamasic (sedative) foods

Sedative foods, also called static foods, or tamasic foods, are foods whose consumption, according to Yoga, are harmful to either mind or body. Harm to mind includes anything that will lead to a duller, less refined state of consciousness. Bodily harm includes any foods that will cause detrimental stress to any physical organ, directly or indirectly (via any physical imbalance).

They are, however, sometimes necessary during times of great physical stress and pain. They help dull the pain and lower consciousness, allowing the body to repair itself. Such static foods may be deemed necessary in times of war or great distress.

Static foods stimulate and strengthen the lower two chakras, but will not assist in beneficial development of the higher chakras. In fact, they are usually detrimental to the advancement of the higher chakras.

Such foods include: meat, fish, egg, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverage, durian (fruit), blue cheese, eggplant (only in Jain customs), opium, and stale food (food cooked three hours before according to chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita.).

Incompatible foods

Incompatible foods (viruddha) are considered to be a cause of many diseases. In the Charaka Samhita, a list of food combinations considered incompatible in the sattvic system is given. P.V. Sharma states that such incompatibilities may not have influence on a person who is strong, exercises sufficiently, and has a good digestive system.

Examples of combinations that are considered incompatible include:

  • Salt or anything containing salt with milk (produces skin diseases).
  • Fruit with milk products.
  • Fish with milk products (produces toxins).
  • Meat with milk products.
  • Sour food or sour fruit with milk products.
  • Leafy vegetables with milk products.
  • Milk pudding or sweet pudding with rice.
  • Mustard oil and curcuma(Turmeric).

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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