Ayurveda is underpinned by the belief that food is a dynamic force, which not only interacts with our body physically but also at an emotional, energetic, and spiritual level. A “pure” or Sattvic diet is considered essential for healthy living, particularly for keeping our minds clear, happy and at peace. The original Sattvic diet was devised for the development of higher consciousness and self-enquiry through yoga and meditation. As Sattva is also about purity of thoughts, ongoing self-enquiry and developing a deeper sense of spiritual awareness are part of the journey. Maintaining a positive nature, demonstrating generosity, kindness, openness, and forgiveness also increases Sattva.
Ancient practitioners believed that Sattvic foods are abundant in Prana – the universal life-giving force for both plants and animals. The criteria for choosing Sattvic foods were that they should be wholefoods, eaten fresh and as close as possible to their natural state, to preserve their Prana! Today we recognise that fresh foods, eaten raw or lightly cooked, retain the highest levels of minerals and vitamins. Foods should be grown on fertile soil and harvested at the correct time of year. Irradiated produce or food grown with pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or hormones as well as canned and processed food should be avoided.
Mind balance in Ayurveda means modifying the mind from Tamasic or Rajasic towards a Sattvic state. This means that not only should the diet comprise Sattvic foods but it also means moderating Rajasic foods and avoiding Tamasic Foods. It is believed that consistent attention to these principles creates mental harmony as well as strengthening the immune system.
Animal products were not considered pure, so traditionally a Sattvic diet has been based on light, easily digested foods which do not cause bloating or stomach discomfort. Nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables as well as nut/seed milk and cheese, sprouted seeds and culinary herbs are also Sattvic. Food preparations is also considered important – meals made with love are thought to be the most Sattvic!
Rajas is the energy we need to accomplish, create, and achieve; it gives us drive and determination and is necessary for day-to-day living. However, a diet containing too much rajasic food will over stimulate the body and lead to aggression as well as making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic foods include very spicy (hot), sour, dry, or salty tastes as well as stimulants, like coffee and tea. Poultry, fish, eggs, salt, and chocolate are also Rajasic. Plus, eating in a hurry is considered rajasic.
Tamasic foods include red meat, alcohol and recreational drugs as well as foods that are over-processed, overripe or stale. Overeating as well as foods that are prepared whilst angry or in a negative mood are also considered Tamasic. A Tamasic diet is considered the most detrimental to good health; immunity is impaired along with mental clarity. The mind moves to a more negative state more prone to anger, jealousy and greed!