The Yogic Diet
Food has such a powerful impact – affecting our physical appearance, physiological processes and emotions. With such a diverse variety of food items to choose from, making small changes in what we eat and observing the effects these have on our body help us to decide which foods best nourish our bodies and minds.
The Yogic Diet comprises 3 main gunas (categories): Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Sattvic foods are seen as pure, wholesome foods that increase energy and prana (life force) within us. These leave us feeling calm, refreshed and alert, and are generally primary sources of energy so are largely plant-based. Sattvic foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts and oils, whole grains, legumes, honey and mild spices that have not been processed.
Rajasic foods are said to be stimulating, such as spices, caffeine, tobacco, processed sugar, onions and garlic. They make one overly alert and thus difficult to find calm.
On the other hand, Tamasic foods make one feel dull, sluggish and perhaps even lazy. These include alcohol, meat, fish and mushrooms, as well as foods that have been frozen, fermented, reheated, fried, stale or laden with preservatives. Unfortunately, this is the kind of food the large majority of the population consumes in this day and age, be it due to convenience such as microwave meals or taste preference, it not only provides insufficient prana to the body, but also inadequate fuel for the mind. From a nutritional perspective, some of these food items may not necessarily be harmful to health – for example frozen vegetables or meat still retain majority of their nutrients, but the process of freezing has depleted its prana.
Besides that, the manner of preparation and the way it is eaten can also determine the guna. Food that is prepared with love and awareness is Sattvic, while overeating or scoffing down your food is said to be Tamasic, even if the food itself is Sattvic. Thus, we would ideally have wholesome foods prepared with love and care, eaten in a mindful and relaxed manner.
The effects of food on our body can perhaps best be seen in meditation. During mediation, the 2 main issues are an over-active mind, brought about by ingesting excessive Rajasic food, and conversely, falling asleep due to too much Tamasic food. Thus, Sattvic foods are best for attaining the balance between the 2 to quiet the mind whilst maintaining alertness to explore our thoughts.
Cranberry Banana Bread topped with chia seeds and butterfly pea flowers
Ayurveda translates to complete knowledge about life. It focuses on balance of the interplay between the body, mind and spirit, where imbalances lead to illness. There are 3 main doshas (changeable body types) –Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is associated with the 5 different elements – Vata goes with air and space/ether, Pitta goes with fire and Kapha goes with water and earth. Your dosha is determined by 3 main criteria: physical appearance, physiological processes and your behaviours or mindset. By doing an online quiz, we found out our doshas, where most people have 1 or 2 dominating doshas. Besides that, we learnt about the health conditions each dosha is more susceptible to, and how to alter our diet to prevent this. I have summarised some characteristics of each dosha below:
|Element||Air, Space/Ether||Fire||Water, Earth|
|Skin type||Dry skin||Oily skin||Good skin|
|Metabolic rate||High||Medium, warm temperature||Low, but strong immune system|
|Mental characteristics||Quick learner, spontaneous and likes change||Opinionated, intense focus, usually a leader||Easygoing, friendly, slow learner but retains information well, likes routine|
|Weaknesses||Poor at managing finances, fickle||Domineering, poor anger management||Frugal|
|Medical conditions susceptible to||Constipation, restless sleep, arthritis, depression, anxiety||Inflammation, hypertension, coronary heart disease||Metabolic syndrome: Obesity, type II diabetes, high cholesterol|
Let food by thy medicine
In Ayurveda, diet plays an important role in affecting our physiological processes, acting as both a preventative and therapeutic measure. There are 6 main Ayurvedic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent, which are also associated with the elements as shown in the table below:
|Ayurvedic tastes||Elements||Dosha suitable for|
|Sweet||Earth, Water||Vata, Pitta|
|Astringent||Air, Earth||Pitta, Kapha|
|Bitter||Air, Space/Ether||Pitta, Kapha|
Most of the class is Pitta dosha, so I made a pitta-pacifying cranberry banana bread to celebrate the end of our first week of YTT200. Since Pitta is associated with the fire element, Pitta-pacifying foods consist of those that are cooling, hydrating and subtle. These help to balance moisture, achieve optimum temperature and neutralise any excess acidity in the body. As such, Pitta should increase intake of sweet, astringent and bitter foods and decrease that of salty, sour or pungent. As a general guideline, hot, spicy and fried food should be avoided, as well as fermented foods such as sour cream or alcohol. A more comprehensive recommendation of foods that Pitta should consume is shown in the table below:
Cranberry Banana Bread Recipe
As we practice asanas for 2h a day, we need to replenish the glycogen we’ve consumed, as well as provide our brain with the much-needed fuel for the afternoon of theory. Since our brain’s main metabolic energy is glucose, which we derive mainly from carbohydrates, I thought banana bread would be a generally sattvic snack to fuel us through YTT (which is also gluten-free). It has elements of Pitta-pacifying ingredients such as sweet overripe bananas, oat flour and cretan honey, astringent cranberry raisins and a small amount of cinnamon that contributes to the bitter taste. I’ve also topped it with chia seeds which absorb water to keep us hydrated and is rich in fibre to aid digestion. Besides that, butterfly pea flowers have anti-oxidant, anti-depressant properties that reduce stress and hypertension, and is beneficial for hair and skin.
- 3 medium bananas
- 2 cups oat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp cretan honey
- 3 eggs
- Cranberry raisins
- Chia seeds
- Butterfly pea flowers
- Preheat the oven to 180°
- Add the dry ingredients into a bowl
- Mash the bananas and add them into the bowl
- Add the wet ingredients and mix well
- Fold in cranberry raisins
- Grease baking tin (I like to use the inside of the banana peel, it works pretty well!)
- Pour the mixture into the baking tin and top with chia seeds and butterfly pea flowers
- Bake for 25min, then leave in for another 5min with oven off
And there you have it, a quick easy pitta-pacifying snack fix. Would love if you gave the recipe a try, let me know what you think!