Sattvic diet

Sattvic diet is a diet based on foods in Ayurveda and Yoga literature that contain sattva quality (guna). In this system of dietary classification, foods that decrease the energy of the body are considered Tamasic, while those increase the energy of the body are considered Rajasic.

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

Sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Some Sattvic diet suggestions, such as its relative emphasis on dairy products, is controversial.

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

The goal of yoga is self-realization or moksha, whereby the individual self or I-consciousness is freed from all bonds by the three gunas. These three gunas or binding principles are the emanations from the Cosmic Spirit of Saguna Brahma, who together produce creation. The subtlest guna is sattva (pure guna: I am ), the movable guna is rajas ( I do ), and the gross or static guna is tamas ( I did)). Every creature in creation would be composed of a combination of these three gunas, whereby the distribution within a certain being depends on the stage of development in which it finds itself.

In the philosophy of yoga one assumes that the union with the Cosmic Consciousness can only take place after one has brought the I-consciousness to the most subtle levels where the subtlest guna ( sattva ) is dominant. In order to facilitate that development towards the dominance of sattva, the yogi tries to organize life in such a way that thinking and doing are aimed at purity as much as possible. This aim is facilitated if the external body (cleanliness of the body and the environment) and the inside (purity of the blood, the nervous system, the body cells) are kept as free as possible from the external influences of rajas and tamas.. The dominance of the rajas influence would make the mind restless, impure and unconcentrated. The dominance of tamas would make someone sluggish, drowsy or rude, such as in the stimulation of aggression, lust or discontent.

According to the philosophy of yoga, the nature of the food consumed has an effect on the purity of body and mind. The principles of this diet are also applied in Ayurveda to restore or improve health. Disease according to this healing system would be caused by an imbalance of the gunas in relation to the constitution of the patient.

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.

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
Yoga includes recommendations on eating habits. Śāṇḍilya Upanishad and Svātmārāma 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 suggests 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”. Verses 1.59 to 1.61 of 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 (Akhrot), sesame seeds (til), pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. 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, but some oils like ghee, sesame oil, palm oil, and coconut oil can be used in cooking.

Fruits are the major part of the sattvic diet and all fruits are sattvic.

The 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 that is freshly milked from a happy cow, still warm, is nectar to man and woman. Milk that is not consumed fresh can be refrigerated for one to two weeks in its raw state, but must be brought to a boil before drinking, and drunk while still hot/warm. Pasteurization, homogenization, and the use of GMOs and pesticides are all considered poisonous to humans—as is the consumption of milk from cows that are treated poorly, and consuming cold milk.

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) and potatoes. Some consider tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes as sattvic, but most consider the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, shallots), as well as fungus (yeasts, molds, and mushrooms) as not 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 kicharee (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.

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.

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.

Sattvic spices are Herbs/leaves including basil (Tulsi) and coriander (Dhaniya in Hindi).

All other spices are considered as either rajsik or tamsik. 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 (Elaichi in Hindi), cinnamon (Dalchini in Hindi), cumin (Jeera in Hindi), fennel (Sonph in Hindi), fenugreek (Methi in Hindi), fresh ginger (Adrak in Hindi) and turmeric (Haldi in Hindi). Rajasic spices like black pepper (Kaali mirch in Hindi) and red pepper 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 foods, mutable 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 (both black and green), cola drinks, energy drinks, brown or black chocolate, ginkgo biloba, spicy food, unfertilized eggs, and salt.

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, fertilized eggs, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverage, durian (fruit), blue cheese, eggplant (only in Jain customs), opium, and stale food.

Source from Wikipedia