This article has been taken from main series- Science of Human Wellness, The Complete Health Series, which is a step by step illustration on Health, Yoga and Ayurveda. What should we be eating is the most common question if we really want to offer healthy and palatable diet to our family. Ayurvedic texts provide bit by bit detail of healthy foods and differentiates it with poor food which has low minerals, is relatively junk or heavy, stimulating and acidic etc. Whole concept is divided into Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic foods and in deeper sense it proves that “we are what we eat”, it draws dietary guidelines which commands balanced diet, has laid objectives of yogic diet, describes physical and mental effects of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Foods etc.
Human beings have different food habits as compared to other apes or other animals. We are omnivores and can consume much more meat and fat, vegetables and cereals, we cook food; however “does food has any implication on our physiological, genetic or mental constitution?” is surely a great point of research and Yogic system has attained pinnacles of this. The fact is that we expect certain fulfillment from the food we consume but if we delve more then we will realize that food also has some intrinsic qualities which make us feel satisfied, our liking and dislikings are according to the innate constitution each of us carries and we are what we eat. Humans are highly social beings who live, work and act intelligently, unlike animals we belong to only one species called ‘homo sapiens’ and our skills go beyond the need of survival; whereas animals only feed to survive and reproduce, if they get enough food and sex then this is the greatest luxury for them. Based on Svabhava (natural tendencies) different animals eat differently like- Cow and goat eat Plants, Sparrow and Pigeons eat grains, seeds and fruits; Lion kill and eat other animals, Crow eat flesh and plants, but on the flip side, you can easily conclude that eating habits will affect behavioral tendencies of a person. Eating is not just grasping bread or gratifying your taste senses but you allow food to enter your stomach and become integrated part of your body. When you take non-veg food then your unconscious mind knows, you are eating a dead body of a being which has been killed or which has reached your dining table as a consequence of cruelty, so unconsciously you also agree for killing or cruelty. This mental deposition may programme your mind to remain silent or ignore any cruelty or violence and therefore manifests a behavioral alteration you are not even aware of. Think of some creatures and how they look at you; when lion sees, there is aggression in his eyes, on the other hand when a cow sees there is compassion in her eyes. You can also analyse their body gestures, carnivores sit with their frontal limbs spread, however herbivores mostly sit with their front legs folded; whereas omnivores follow both states. Animals are what they eat, but they cannot change their diet as this is how they are made up, but we are intelligent enough to do so and can develop favorable tendencies as an effect of our food habits.
Many medical professionals and doctors strongly believe that virtually every illness is based on some kind of nutritional deficiency. When we are deprived of some nutrients, it becomes more or less susceptible to particular diseases. Such deficiencies can be eliminated by changing the dietary patterns, eating what suits to us, selecting food according to our mental and physical constitutions which has been expounded in yogic texts thousands of years ago. Ancient yogis spent majority of their time in deep meditations and other yogic practices and realized that physical health and mental calmness are very essential requirements to continue their meditation and reach spiritual awakening. Therefore it is very important to have profound understanding of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Foods and related guidelines to this. With balanced diet which one can easily follow if he has knowledge of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic categories, can keep his cholesterol and sodium under control and reduce the heart related risks, automatically choose diet-rich in calcium to keep bones and teeth strong, keep avoiding high calorie food disproportionate to physical activities to prevents the blood sugar, easy digesting food to have proper nutrients to increase blood flow in brain and protect brain cells from many diseases like Alzheimer, allow weight control etc.
According to yogic texts main objective of yogic diet is to achieve physical and mental balance. Indeed Yogic diet is one of the five main principles of yoga and it is said that we become what we eat. Sattvic diet or yogic diet is kind of food that enhances Sattva Guna and is considered as natural, clean, vital and pure. It is believed to nourish body and balance energy flow. Rajasic food is salty, dry, sour, hot and bitter, it tends to fulfill passions and excite or stimulate our body, however may make mind restless. Eating Tamasic Food is considered as bad practice for body and mind. It makes a person emotionally unstable and invokes feelings of anger, jealousy and greed.
Yogis have realized that a sound body with sound mind can be a real temple of god; they worked on type of foods and based on inherent tendencies of each food they divided it into three different categories. Great sages had discovered that Food has three type of qualities- Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic:
|Type of Food||Examples||Effect on body||Effect on Mind|
|Sattvic||These are refreshing and rejuvenating foods which are also cleansing in nature, for example: Vegetables, fruits, whole wheat flour, honey, milk, butter, nuts, sprouts etc.||Foster seven Dhatus and provides nutrition at each of the food processing stages in our body. Boosts physical health and pacifies three Doshas, Sattvic food is not only rich in nutrients but also in prana (life-force energy), vegetables grown with the help of pesticides, herbicides or anything unnatural will be less sattvic.||Arouses emotions of love and compassion and results in mental stability|
|Rajasic||Spicy food, fried and acidic food, excessive sugary, tea, coffee, fermented foods etc.||Repeated intake of Rajasic Food can cause acidity, constipation, obesity, arthritis, diabetes||Arouse passion and desire and have negative effect on mental peace and memory|
|Tamasic||Food that is stale, unnatural, ill-cooked, burnt is Tamasic. Other examples are chillies, acidic diets, flesh, fish and red meat, fast foods, canned foods etc. Tamasic food has very low vibration and their energy is dark, dense and congested.||Regular intake of Tamasic Food may lead to acidity, heartburn, reflux, ulcers and other digestive problems.||Tamasic food can cause lethargy or drowsiness and sometimes high aggression|
Tamasic Foods have sedative effect and causes mental dullness and physical numbness. According to yogic texts stale or heavy foods which lead to accumulation of free radicals in the body are Tamasic foods and promote ill health. Our body is a workshop of constant metabolism which is responsible of producing energy and all the physical and mental activities. This also includes oxidation process, where oxygen splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. These atoms are free radicals which cause intra-cellular damages which is sometimes irreparable. Tamasic Food is believed to cause maximum free radicals and can invite diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, alzheimer, deterioration of eye lens, damage of nerve cells, heart and liver diseases etc. In good old days people used to take Tulsi leaves, lemon and mango that was rich in vitamin C which contains antioxidants and helps in neutralizing the free radicals.
Preferring Sattvic diet over Rajasic and Tamasic and consuming more antioxidants with blueberries, purple grapes, strawberries etc. is the mool mantra of physical health and serenity, however we should also not become too bigot or food freak or refrain too much from garlic and onions as it is perfectly all right if you indulge sometimes with any kind of food. An occasional cup of tea or coffee or egg in the breakfast or a glass of wine or little bit desserts etc. It may all be okay and sensible, provided if we don’t become slave of senses and make it your daily routine. Above article has been taken from main series- Science of Human Wellness, The Complete Health Series.