In yoga, energy can classify itself in three Gunas – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. These three qualities are within ourselves and and motivate/demotivate different actions and attitudes that we take. When it comes to food and drink, the three Gunas can translate as follows:
Sattvic – foods that are pure, fresh, natural, unprocessed and will nourish the body in a balanced way. Whole grains, proteins like nuts, and pulses. Foods low in salt, sugar, spice.
Rajasic – stimulating or altering foods with excessive flavour – spicy, sweet, saline. Alert the senses and thus over stimulate the mind.
Tamasic – food that intoxicates a person or make them feel dull, lazy. Alcohol is included in this category, as is food that has been burned, fried, preserved.
The yogic diet encourages a sattvic approach to food and drink – which in modern society can be a challenge! Not only because we are surrounded by rajasic, tamasic eateries and products that are well marketed, but also because we use food as a social bonding activity.
Here are some simple swaps I have made in the past three weeks to (slowly) help shift myself to a more sattvic approach to food and drink.
1. Processed Sugar < Fruit Sugar
I have a real ‘sweet tooth’. I often use sugar as a reward/treat, or an energy boost if I’m physically or mentally tired/stressed. It tends to help initially but I always slump a few hours afterwards and hunt out more sugar! Over the past few weeks I have swapped biscuits, sweets, for fresh fruit.
2. Sweet Drinks < Herbal Tea
Historically I am not someone that has been hooked on sweet drinks/fruit juices/fizzy drinks, however as soon as I moved to Singapore I found myself drawn to the array of choices on offer when it comes to drinks! We are told through advertising that these are the most ‘thirst quenching, energising’ drinks but in actual fact they offer empty calories, damage teeth and make us produce more gas!!
I have swapped these drinks for herbal teas (with ice) or cold water. I have found this to be an easy switch and it has actually helped my energy levels and appetite to become more stable!
3. Plain Carbohydrates < Whole Grains
Back in the UK we LOVE to bake!! This means that many people consume a lot of bread, cakes, rolls, biscuits, pizza. Carbohydrates are important for a balanced diet but in aiming to move to a sattvic frame we should avoid foods that are over processed or too much food that will make us feel sluggish and have a tamasic effect.
I have reduced my bread intake (I’ve found there to be less temptation which is good!) and lean towards whole grain rice, pasta, carbs when possible. It makes such a difference to energy levels!
4. Dairy < Alternatives
Traditionally dairy would be incorporated as part of a sattvic diet. However in recent years with mass production of milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt we have been exposed to the mass methods of production and treatments of animals which do not align with a sattvic existence.
I have reduced my dairy intake and have found some great alternatives – coconut yoghurt, almond milk, adding bananas and chia seeds when baking rather than butter. I will consciously aim to make these swaps in future!
5. Eating ‘on the go’ < Mindful Eating
This swap has been a big one for me! Working in a busy job in London, despite my healthy approach I often find that I cram time to eat in. Most days I would eat at my desk or en route to a meeting, and meal times were never planned! I have learned that even pure, sattvic foods become rajasic when eaten on the go as the action promotes a restless state of mind.
I am now taking time to appreciate my food in all stages: buying – preparing – serving – chewing – swallowing – digesting.
I have found this super helpful and has solved a problem I often face which is that I over eat and bloat (probably from shovelling food rather than appreciating it!).
I still have a way to go but am happy with the difference I have noticed thus far when incorporating some of these simple swaps.
Give them a try!