Understanding Ayurveda’s Perspective of Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic Food
We have often heard that “health is wealth” which emphasizes the importance of prioritizing our physical and mental well-being, regardless of how financially prosperous we may be.
A crucial factor in maintaining good health is the food we consume. To lead a healthy and fulfilling life, it is essential to give careful consideration to our diet.
Traditional Indian medical (Ayurveda) scriptures offer valuable guidance on the kinds of food that are most beneficial for our bodies.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda has been showing us the path to living a healthy and beautiful life for thousands of years. In ancient India, Ayurveda was considered the way to treat diseases and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Ayurveda teaches us that a well-balanced diet is key to achieving optimal health. A diet may be composed of one or more of six distinct tastes: Sweet, Pungent (Spicy), Sour, Bitter, Astringent, and Salty.
As per Ayurveda food can be categorized according to its gunas (quality, essence, or soul). The gunas are three in number — Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas — with Sattva being the highest among them.
Sattva (like a sage) is the quality of purity, balance, and harmony. It is associated with goodness, light, and clarity of mind. A person with a predominance of sattva is calm, peaceful, and compassionate.
Rajas (like a king or emperor) is the quality of activity, energy, and restlessness. It is associated with passion, desire, and motion. A person with a predominance of rajas is driven, ambitious, and competitive.
Tamas (like a daemon) is the quality of inertia, darkness, and dullness. It is associated with ignorance, laziness, and attachment. A person with a predominance of tamas is lethargic, dull, unmotivated, and cruel.
According to Hindu philosophy, everything in the universe is made up of these three qualities in varying proportions, and the balance of these three qualities determines the nature and character of a person, object, or situation.
Let’s delve into the details of these foods that have been part of the human diet since ancient times. The sattvic diet, the purest and most beneficial for the body, was preferred by sages and saints.
On the other hand, Rajasic food, prepared for kings and emperors, involved the use of an excessive amount of oil and spices. Finally, Tamasic food is known for creating laziness in the human body.
Let’s understand these foods in detail.
As per the adage, “you are what you eat,” our dietary habits play a crucial role in shaping our human nature. Notably, our mental well-being is closely linked to our diet, which is why adhering to a Sattvic diet is often recommended to cultivate a calm and serene mind.
In addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is essential to consume a variety of Sattvic foods and maintain a balanced diet.
Sattvic is a term derived from “sattva,” which denotes a mind that is enriched with micronutrients like purity, energy, cleanliness, and strength. This dietary approach places a strong emphasis on promoting good health and longevity.
A Sattvic diet is believed to promote emotional balance, eliminate toxins from the body, enhance energy levels, and cultivate mental clarity. Notably, this diet excludes meat and poultry, as they are not considered conducive to the Sattvic way of living.
Nature of Sattvic Food
- Easy to digest
- Fresh, juicy, nourishing and tasty
A Sattvic meal is supposed to consist of amla (Indian gooseberry), sprouted whole grains, pulses, honey, ghee, vegetables, fresh fruits, cashews, herbal tea, ginger, pepper, jaggery, milk, spinach, potatoes, various fruits, etc.
Feelings Associated With Sattvic Food
- Calmness, love, gratitude, satisfaction,
- Happiness, enjoyment, confidence, enthusiasm
Benefits of Sattvic Food
Sattvic food is not only beneficial for the body but is also essential for mental health. Being rich in micronutrients, dietary fiber, antioxidants, protein, minerals, and monounsaturated fat, it helps to avoid many dietary disorders.
A Sattvic diet is believed to offer several benefits, including:
Taste is very important in Sattvik food. Sweet tastes are used to evoke feelings of love and affection, bitter tastes are used to burn fat and protein, and salty and sour tastes are used to repair the body.
It is important to note that following a Sattvic diet is not limited to just the food you consume. The timing of your meals and cultivating pure thoughts are equally important.
Incorporating practices such as meditation, refraining from speaking ill of others, and steering clear of stress can help cultivate positivity and enhance the benefits of a Sattvic diet.
What is Sattvic Personality?
According to Ayurveda, a person with a sattvic personality is someone who is balanced, peaceful, and content. They have clear and calm minds, and they are able to make decisions easily.
They have a strong connection with their inner self, and they are compassionate towards others. They have a positive outlook on life and are able to handle stressful situations with ease.
A sattvic personality is achieved by following a sattvic lifestyle, including practicing yoga and meditation, eating a sattvic diet, and cultivating pure thoughts and actions.
Historically, when we reflect on the opulent lifestyles of kings and emperors, their extravagant culinary choices often come to mind. The food and drinks served in royal households were of the Rajasic variety, hence its name, as it was fit for a king.
The Rajasic diet is characterized by salty, spicy, and bitter flavors and is typically cooked for longer periods. While the food is fresh, it can be heavy on the digestive system.
Rajasic food stimulates the mind and provides energy to the body, with a greater emphasis on spices compared to Sattvic food. This diet is often favored by those who lead an active and ambitious lifestyle, such as businesspeople, soldiers, leaders, and athletes.
While Rajasic food is not considered as beneficial as Sattvic food, it is still a healthier choice than Tamasic food.
Nature of Rajasic Food
It includes meat, chilly, onion, garlic, lemon, heavy spicy deep-fried food with a strong taste, sweets (desserts), curd (yogurt), brinjal (eggplant), carrot, radish, lentils, tea and coffee.
Feelings Associated With Rajasic Food
- Desire, excitement
- Anxiety, relentlessness
- agitation, egotism, passion
Impact of Rajasic Food
The effects of Rajasic food can be significant. In fact, many diseases that we see today are a result of consuming such types of food. Rajasic food can increase excitement and lead to attachment and fickleness.
It can make a person tense, restless, and very emotional, causing them to be constantly busy. It is difficult to predict whether excessive consumption of Rajasic food will lead to any specific health issues or diseases.
What is Rajasic Personality?
According to Ayurveda, a Rajasic personality is characterized by restlessness, ambition, competitiveness, and a tendency to be easily agitated or angered.
Individuals with a Rajasic personality are driven by their desires and passions and may be attracted to stimulating and exciting experiences. They may have a strong desire for success and achievement and are often active and hardworking.
However, if this energy is not balanced, it can lead to burnout, stress, and even aggression. Rajasic individuals are encouraged to balance their energy with sattvic practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and a healthy diet.
In the modern world, our reliance on fast food has increased. Due to our busy lifestyles, we often resort to consuming packaged foods, which are not beneficial for our health. Junk food can lead to several health issues, and such food is referred to as Tamasic food.
It is believed that after consuming Tamasic food, a person’s mental state becomes Tamasic, which can lead to feelings of anger and cruelty. Garlic and onion are considered mildly Tamasic, while eggs, meat, chicken, fish, and alcohol are considered strongly Tamasic.
Tamasic food is harmful to the body and lacks the vital energy and power that Ayurveda considers essential. Strong-smelling and hypnotic substances also have Tamasic properties.
Nature of Tamasic Food
- Baked, deep fried
- Chemically processed
It includes flour, chemically processed food, chocolates, soft drinks, bakery products with long shelf life, tobacco, alcohol, canned and frozen food, tea-coffee, cake, eggs, jam, ketchup, fried food like chips, pickles, ice creams, and most of the fast food, onion, garlic, oil or fatty substances
Feelings Associated With Tamasic Food
- Depression, inertia, dark feeling
- Dullness and delusion
- Apathy and laziness
Consequences of Tamasic Food
Tamasic food leads to laziness, excessive sleep, despondency, excessive sexual desire, illness, and loss of consciousness. It causes negative emotions like anger, greed, and jealousy and decreases positive emotions such as love, compassion, and contentment. Consciousness is lost by eating vindictive food, and according to Ayurveda such a person becomes a fool and starts to enjoy a lot of food and sexual pleasures.
Tamasic food also leads to digestive problems and an accumulation of toxins in the body. Ultimately, the consumption of Tamasic food is said to lead to an imbalanced and unhealthy state of being.
What is Tamasic Personality?
According to Ayurveda, a Tamasic personality is characterized by laziness, procrastination, and a lack of motivation. People with a Tamasic personality tend to be inactive, and slow and may have a tendency to oversleep.
They also tend to have negative thoughts and emotions and may struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, they may have poor eating habits and a lack of interest in self-improvement.
Ayurveda suggests that practicing a Sattvic lifestyle can help individuals with a Tamasic personality overcome these negative tendencies and achieve balance in their minds and body.
It is not just about eating the right kind of food, but also consuming the appropriate quantity of food at the right time. Overeating leads to sluggishness in the body while consuming too little does not provide adequate nourishment to the body.
Despite being aware of the fullness of our stomach, we often find ourselves unable to resist the temptation of delicious food. Although the precise amount of food cannot be measured in cups or grams, by attentively listening to our bodies, we can ascertain when to pause.