The Science Behind A Sattvic Diet
Many people who practice yoga favour a Sattvic diet—which is high fibre, low fat, and strictly vegetarian. Read on for more on the benefits of a sattvic diet.
The term ‘Sattvic’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Sattva; a concept from the Indian Yogic philosophy. This word represents true, ethical, energetic, clean, healthy, wise and vital characteristics. It also treats food just for what it is—fuel—not associating emotions of Raag (love) or Dhvesh (hatred) while we consume it. The food is consumed purely for the sake of the body to function. According to our ancient scriptures, the sattvic diet could increase your life expectancy. Moreover, a Sattvic diet includes foods that are sustainable for our environment. A Sattvic diet can support your yoga practice by helping you be more mindful of what you consume. The meaning also extends to instilling healthy eating habits; like eating in moderation, avoid overeating and managing your weight.
According to Ayurveda, Sattvic foods are essential in maintaining the balance of a healthy mind and body. And to maintain this balance, Ayurveda promotes eating according to one’s dosha. If you don’t know your dosha, try our dosha quiz to understand how your dosha corresponds to your physical and personality traits.
Our bodies are made up of three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We should ideally be eating as per our dosha, to avoid aggravating or unbalancing our mind and body.
Many people confuse this diet with raw and uncooked food. Sattvic diet is a regimen that emphasises on both raw and cooked seasonal foods such as; fresh fruit, nuts, dairy products, ripe vegetables (except onion and garlic), seeds, oils, whole grains and legumes. Since this diet empowers virtues, like; Ahimsa (non-violence), it only includes vegetarian proteins; as a result, this collectively avoids harming nature and all its living beings.
Processed, stale, overcooked and over-spiced foods are all considered—Tamasic (destructive). Unlike other popular notions, Sattvic food is not bland or tasteless. Sattvic foods are meant to consist of all the six flavours—sweet, salt, bitter, sour, pungent and astringent. Each meal is supposed to cater to all the vital, nutritious and refreshing flavors included in the Sattvic diet!
Things to keep in mind while preparing Sattvic diet
- Ensure the food is always freshly cooked, and the ingredients and vegetables are ethically sourced.
- Foods should be combined to get nutrients from a variety of sources.
- It encourages foods that are grown harmoniously in nature (seasonal foods) and foods that are ripened and produced naturally without being treated with harmful chemicals.
- This diet specifically forbids the consumption of packaged, canned and processed food in any form.
- Cook a sufficient amount of food while you are cooking to avoid unnecessary food wastage.
- The food should always be chewed properly, eaten at a moderate pace and not rushed.
- Last but not least, food should always be prepared with love and gratitude before consumption.
Why are onion and garlic excluded from the Sattvic diet?
Garlic, onion and other vegetables from the same family aren’t included as per Ayurveda. These types of foods may induce aggravation, agitation, anxiety and aggression; thus are considered physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually harmful. Another reason to avoid onion and garlic is for the simple reason that it may also cause bad breath and body odor. This fact is even recognized in the Chinese culture, which is as old as our civilization.
Why is seasonal produce only included in a Sattvic diet?
Due to the advancement in technologies of food production, all the natural produce is available throughout the year. Sattvic diet recommends seasonal food for a simple reason. Fresh, organic and locally-harvested foods have their full and whole flavors intact, are released and absorbed when we consume them. Thus, the food is tastier and nutritious rather than the produce, which is induced with chemicals for preservation purposes. Buying seasonal food from locally sourced farmers is fresh, organic and also budget-friendly.
Everything we eat is food for the soul. And for our soul to be clean, virtuous and accurate, the food should also be sourced, prepared and consumed in the same manner!
Foods to Eat When UR on a Sattvic Diet
- Fruits that have ripened naturally without being induced with chemicals and harmful pesticides
- Include every green and leafy vegetable; however, there should be no use of onion and garlic
- Whole grain products like rice, oats and wheat
- Dairy products like milk, ghee, curd, paneer, cheese, cream preferably made from the milk of cows, goats and buffaloes that are given organic fodder
- Sesame, coconut, olive and sunflower oil
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Herbal teas, honey, lemon juice without artificial sweeteners and preferably with rock salt, jaggery or honey can be used as healthier substitutes
- Cinnamon, cardamom, mint, basil, fennel, turmeric, ginger and cumin to make food delicious and flavorful
- Sprouted seeds
- Alkaline foods
- Mostly uncooked food or produce which has been cooked less to retain the nutrition and foods that have less oil and spices
Foods to not include in Sattvic Diet
- All types of non-vegetarian foods like animal protein, fish and eggs>
- Processed food like white sugar, maida etc
- Junk, excessively oily and fried food items should always be avoided
- Onion, garlic, or food which is spicy and cause an imbalance in your dosha/Prakriti
- Artificial sweeteners
- Soda, aerated drinks, sugary beverages or fizzy drinks
- Avoid consuming excessively, caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, etc.
- Foods made or reheated in a microwave.
- Stale food
- Refrigerated items
Who can follow a Sattvic diet & who should avoid it?
It’s a prevalent saying “We become what we absorb”. In simpler words, ‘you are what you eat’! Balanced nutrition is imperative during childhood to support consistent growth, cognitive, emotional and spiritual development of a child. When children are introduced to unhealthy foods and eating patterns, it may later stir-up some unnecessary behavioral issues in them. Among the most common of these concerns is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, irritability and even aggression! All of which can be avoided if we introduce healthy eating patterns and food choices for our entire family to follow.
Giving our children high-energy foods like – fresh fruits, veg, milk & other dairy products, etc., can assist us in reaching greater consciousness and will wholly connect us with our higher source. In our Indian Scriptures, these kinds of foods are called – “Sattvic FOODS” (clean, simple, less cooked, less masala and oil, etc.) This type of food can help your mind become less confused, more alert, calm and kind – as the quality of the food consumed infuses in your mind and body. Similarly, when your child is consuming processed, high in preservatives, fermented or spicy foods he or she tends to develop traits like anger, irritation and these can worsen over time if the diet isn’t filtered according to your specific dosha. No wonder why children nowadays are far more violent and aggressive than what they used to be a decade ago. The Satvik principles should be encourged right from childhood.
The Upsides Of A Sattvic Diet
- Assists in managing our weight
- Lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes
- The diet promotes the overall health of an individual
- To boost immunity and keep health issues at bay