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Yogic Sattvic Diet: Food for Mind and Body

Many ancient cultures believe that you are what you eat. Today’s modern lifestyle may not allow us to maintain a diet that our body demands, but for centuries, people across cultures have inculcated dietary practices that helped them live healthy, long and fulfilling lives. In the contemporary world, dominated by the forces that sell what you eat, drink and wear, our food platter has become more packaged than ever.

While returning to the roots, living a mentally and physically peaceful life and uniting with the soul are the reasons a large number of people across the globe are resorting to yoga, the yogic sattvic diet is finding equal importance in their lives. The yoga diet includes food that is healthy and light, a diet that Ayurveda believes increases your energy and happiness levels and brings calmness to the mind, resulting in mental clarity.

So, what is the meaning of the sattvic diet, and why is it important?

Many people who follow yoga also follow a sattvic diet. Provided that it is deeply rooted in Ayurveda, the primary food items that make up a sattvic diet include nutritious items, freshly produced food, nuts, etc.

This diet is usually high in fiber and low in fat. It is strictly vegetarian. It is further divided into three types, sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic.

Let’s first understand the difference between sattvic, rajasic and tamasic before moving ahead

Sattva is believed to be the ideal state with the highest guna which represents balance and harmony. Rajasic is movement and activity. Too much indulgence in this type can cause stress, overstimulation and overexcitement. Tamasic is the base guna of the three and is usually associated with weakness, laziness and pessimism.

Aspect

Sattvic DietRajasic Diet

Tamasic Diet

DefinitionPromotes purity, clarity, and spiritual growthStimulates activity and passionLeads to lethargy and inactivity
EnergyBalanced and harmonious energyHigh energy, potentially leading to overstimulationHeavy and dull energy
Primary FoodsFresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy (milk, ghee)Spicy, salty, and pungent foods, caffeine, fried foodsMeat, alcohol, processed and stale foods
Cooking MethodsSimple, natural, and minimally processedModerately processed, often spicyHighly processed, reheated or leftover
Impact on MindPromotes mental clarity, calmness, and positivityIncreases restlessness, aggression, and excitementCauses confusion, dullness, and depression
Impact on BodyEnhances vitality, strength, and immunityBoosts energy levels temporarilyLeads to sluggishness, diseases, and fatigue
DigestibilityEasily digestible and lightModerately digestibleHard to digest and heavy
Examples of FoodsFresh fruits, leafy greens, almonds, honey, whole grainsCoffee, tea, hot spices, eggs, garlic, onionsMeat, alcohol, stale bread, canned foods
Philosophical ContextAssociated with purity, peace, and wisdomAssociated with activity, passion, and movementAssociated with ignorance, inertia, and decay
SuitabilityIdeal for meditation and spiritual practicesSuitable for active, busy lifestylesUnsuitable for physical and mental health
GoalTo achieve balance and harmonyTo achieve success and powerTo experience pleasure and comfort

As in Ayurveda, a sattvic or yoga diet is also a personal choice, which may vary from every body type. The followers of the sattvic diet believe that it is all about how a person’s body reacts to different foods and must be changed/altered accordingly. Since the yogic diet, or the sattvic diet, is related to Ayurveda, a practice that believes in naturalism and not harming any other creature, the sattvic diet tends to be vegetarian or vegan.

While the vegetarian or vegan part is an important element of the diet being classified as sattvic, the food items being fresh and properly cooked are also important factors. Sattvic food items are usually ripe, raw and lightly cooked. The food must be freshly prepared.

Anything that is not fresh is not sattvic. Here’s a sattvic food list:

  • Whole grain sprouts
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seed milk
  • Cheese
  • Legumes
  • Other seeds
  • Sprouts
  • Herbal teas
  • Ghee

Food items to avoid when following a sattvic diet include:

  • Sour and salty foods
  • Beverages like tea, coffee, alcohol
  • Garlic and onion
  • Frozen and packaged food
  • Non-vegetarian items like fish, meat, eggs, poultry, etc.
  • Any food item that is not fresh or freshly cooked

Benefits of the Sattvic Diet

So, like following Ayurveda and its related practices provides several health benefits, the same is the case with the sattvic diet. The yoga diet, deeply rooted in Ayurveda is by nature very healthy as it creates a balanced lifestyle. By simply eating food items that are fresh and natural means you are removing anything processed, stale, sugary and unhealthy. A yogic diet will help your body remain light and give you a feeling of happiness.

  1. Mental Clarity and Focus: The sattvic diet has a profound impact on your mental health. It increases focus and clarity. This happens due to the increase in sattva, or purity, since the diet mostly includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc. Better mental health is directly related to having a more satisfactory life, enhancing your decision-making, concentration, calmness, etc.
  2. Better Digestion and Metabolism: Our modern lifestyle celebrates oil and butter-laden food items, processed and packaged food, and other dairy products like cheese that can be heavy on the stomach. Not sattvic diet. In fact, the sattvic diet promotes food that is easy to digest. Since most food items in a sattvic diet are rich in fiber, they are easily digestible, enhancing your metabolism. Additionally, the inclusion of herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric aids in boosting metabolism and improving overall digestive health.
  3. Improved Physical Fitness: Since processed and packaged food gets replaced with more natural options, the body gets more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, etc. This automatically improves physical fitness. The body feels more energetic and less lethargic. The diet’s emphasis on balanced nutrition ensures that the body receives the necessary fuel for sustained energy and vitality.
  4. Emotional Well-being: Emotional well-being is also often linked to physical fitness. If you are physically fit, you will feel more relaxed, resulting in better emotional health. The overly stimulating food items in tamasic food are also a big factor here. The calming effects of Sattvic foods are believed to foster a positive and tranquil mental state.

While yoga has its obvious benefits, a yoga diet also comes with many positives. When your body is fed with natural food items, consumed in a form that retains most of its nutrients, it gives many physical and mental health benefits. No wonder that people who follow a yogic lifestyle also follow a yogic diet. Which is why it is often called food for the mind and body.

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