“Eat to Live not Live to Eat” is a common phrase used to describe how we should view the role of food in our daily life. Although there is no special dietary rule for those practicing yoga, the food we eat should be the food that gives our mind and body the energy it requires to function and develop at its optimal level. In the Three Gunas, the 3 fundamental natural qualities are identified as Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. When applied to describe food, the three qualities help to guide us in distinguishing an ideal yogic diet.
Sattvic foods are foods that are in its freshest and most natural state without preservatives or artificial flavouring. This type of food consist of a balance of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, nuts and seeds, using a combination of both raw and cooked foods. These foods are beneficial to the body because they are light, simple and supply the necessary nutrients that our body and mind require to be healthy.
Rajasic foods are foods that have been described with strong flavour profiles like bitter, sour, pungent and spicy. This food usually contains heavy flavoured spices, seasoning and caffeine which will create heaviness and restlessness in the mind. Some examples of Rajasic foods include onion, garlic and coffee. Rajasic foods over stimulates the mind and can cause increase over powering state of minds such as desire, lust, anger and egoism.
Tamasic foods are foods that are old and stale. They lower the energy in the body and cause laziness. Meat, fish and alcohol are classified under Tamasic foods and it also includes foods that are not cooked properly and processed foods. Stale and processed foods tend to make a person dull and lazy.
From the above brief description, a yogic diet would ideally follow a sattvic diet. If we try to eat sattvic foods we can increase our physical and mental energy making it easier to experience clarity, peace of mind and even renew the digestive system. But in our modern world due to increase in demand over supply, genetically modified foods have made their way into our food system whereby our fresh foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are considered unsafe and are poisonous to us. Cows which are our source of dairy food products are abused and mistreated and are injected with hormones to increase their supply. So the definition of Sattvic foods is now a smudged line when we make food choices in our daily diet. Some only consume organic foods and some become Vegans, whereby animal by-products are also eliminated from their diet. Basically it depends on a person to follow their own natural instinct to follow a healthy balanced diet.
Also, the above listing of the foods in the 3 categories are non-exhaustive and should be used only as a guide as there are many interpretations of the food and the state it is in when it is eaten. For example, fresh fruits which are categorised as Sattvic food can be considered as Tamasic if they are eaten in an unripe or overripe state. Overcooking with spices and seasoning makes Sattvic food turn into Rajasic food and also if a person overeats Sattvic food it is considered Tamasic. So consciously eat food that keeps you healthy and don’t make food your obsession or addiction.
Pei Ni – 200hr Jul/Aug 2013