Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.
-Hippocrates, 400 B.C.
A healthy diet can help your body heal from disease. Ayurvedic medicine divides foods into three categories: Sattvic (health), Tamasic (disease), and Rajasic (destruction). A Sattvic diet is necessary to balance our bodies and provide it with ideal fuel to remain healthy. Pure, Sattvic food needs to be chewed carefully and eaten in modest portions. Overeating is Tamasic. Avoid heavy spices and seasonings, too much salt and spice has a Rajasic effect. Eat a balance of the food described below. Fill half of your stomach with food, one quarter with air, and one quarter with water. Eat your meals when there is sunlight and avoid late night meals.
Examples of sattvic foods
- Fresh organic fruits
- Most fruits are considered Sattvic. Sometimes yogis go on fruit fasts, where they avoid all foods except fruit and fruit juices. Fruit is also considered symbolic of generosity and spirituality and is often exchanged as an offering or a gift. Some dried fruits are used to keep the digestive system operating optimally.
- Fresh organic dairy
- Yogic and Ayurdevic philosophy holds that fresh, high-quality dairy foods have beneficial Sattvic qualities. Milk, butter, ghee, cheese, whey, and yogurt are all recommended.
- 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. Some choices are almonds (especially when peeled and soaked in water overnight), coconut, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds. Oils should be of good quality and cold-pressed (sesame oil and flax oil).
- Organic vegetables
- Most mild, organic vegetables are considered Sattvic. Pungent vegetables like hot peppers, garlic, and onions are excluded. Gas-forming vegetables such as mushrooms and potatoes are generally avoided. Sometimes the shortcomings of these foods can be overcome by careful preparation. A practice is to drink freshly made vegetable juices for their prana, live enzymes, and easy absorption.
- Whole grains
- Whole grains are a great source of protein. Some include quinoa, amarantus, 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 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) are also included.
- Yellow split peas, organic tofu, bean sprouts, lentils, and red beans are considered Sattvic if they are prepared correctly. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier to digest. Preparations include splitting, peeling, grinding, soaking, sprouting, cooking, and spicing. Beans combined with whole grains offer a complete protein combination.
- Sattvic sweeteners include raw honey and raw sugar (not refined).
- Sattvic herbs include ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, gotu kola, gingko, jatamansi, purnarnava, shatavari, saffron, shankhapushpi, tulsi, nutmeg, and rose.
Foods that destroy
According to Ayurveda, Tamasic and Rajasic foods are foods that are harmful or stale to either mind or body when consumed. They are harmful to the mind by leading to a duller, less refined, state of consciousness. Tamasic and Rajasic food causes stress to organs directly or indirectly via any physical imbalance. It is recognized that some of these foods may be necessary in times of great distress.
Examples of Tamasic/Rajasic foods
- meat, fish, eggs, onions, scallions, leeks, mushrooms, garlic, opium, stale food, canned and preserved foods like jams and pickles, and pungent condiments
- eggplants, carrots, lemons, tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, foods that are not fresh, overcooked food, processed foods made from refined flour, pizza, and pastries
- burgers, chocolate, soft drinks, fermented foods, fried foods, fried breads, sweets made from sugar, ice cream, pudding, and most ‘fun foods’