The Nature of Food

Ayurveda uses food as medicine to balance the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of human life. Conscious choice of food and sourcing can ultimately unfold spiritual growth.

Anything we hear, smell, see, taste or touch may be classified into the categories of Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic – though in this article we will focus on food.

Food can be classified by the effect it has on a particular dosha as well as classification of being  Sattvic (pure), Rajastic (stimulating, passion, the process of change)or Tamasic (darkness, inertia) in nature.

Sattvic foods are known to be high prana foods. The benefits of sattvic foods are they are light and easy to digest, bring clarity and clear perception, generate feelings of love and compassion, and gives feelings of contentment.

Our mental attitude, mood when purchasing food and preparing food, and where we buy our food play a role in the energy being added into your life.  By preparing food joyfully and with love we can increase the sattvic quality.

Some examples of sattvic foods are: 

** Fresh, locally grown, unrefined, Organic – Vibrant ( processed food drains the food of prana, essentially making it life-less, look for food that is vibrant in color and energy).

Fruits – mango, pomegranate, coconut, figs, pears, peaches and dates.

Vegetables– Sweet potato, sprouts, leafy greens, zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus.

Grains- Basmati rice, quinoa,  blue corn, tapioca and barley.

Beans–  Mung beans, dal, red and yellow lentils.

Dairy– Unprocessed & quality sourced soft cheese, goat milk, homemade yogurt.

Nuts and Seeds– Almonds, white sesame seeds, cashews.

Spices– Saffon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, fennel, cumin,

Sweets–  Maple syrup, Raw honey (as long as bees are not harmed)

Beverages– Herbal teas

Meats– None

  • Ayurveda recommends a vegetarian diet – although meat can be used as medicine in some cases such as emaciation and extreme.
  • Simply stated – Ayurveda uses food as medicine to raise the vibrational frequency of a human, meat has a very low vibration.
  • The science of Ayurveda suggests respect to animals- Ancient Rishis believed one who eats meat takes on the karma of that animal- therefore absorbing the stress hormones that were released during the time of death of the animal.
    • The problem today is that meat is becoming more affected by hormones, antibiotics, steroids and preservatives as well as being commercially farmed and treated poorly.

Rajasic food is hot, bitter, sour and salty.  Rajasic foods in excess can over stimulate the mind and body,  making the mind more aggravated, restless and susceptible to temptation.

Some examples of Rajasic foods are: 

** irritants and stimulants

Fruits – sour fruits- apples, banana, guava, tamarind, most citrus

Vegetables– Potatoes, nightshades,cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, winter squash, pickles.

Grains- Millet, corn, buckwheat

Beans–  brown lentils, lima beans, kidney beans, small amounts of black and pinto beans.

Dairy– sour cream, salted or sour butter, cream, cottage cheese, ice cream

Nuts and Seeds-most nuts, brown sesame seeds

Spices– curry, chili, cayenne, black pepper

Sweets– processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, cooked honey

Beverages– coffee, black and green tea

Meats– fish, most seafood, chicken

Tamasic food is heavy and dull and leads to inertia.  High tamas are found in drugs, alcohol, stale or leftover food, over ripe or rancid foods, as well as in the act of over eating.

** Tamasic foods can be beneficial for grounding in small amounts and taken mindfully.

Dark emotions such as jealousy, anger and greed can be associated with a diet high in tamas. Cooking while experiencing “dark” emotions will be transmitted into the food.

Some examples of Tamasic foods are: 

**over processed

Fruits – Avocado, watermelon, plums, apricots. ( fruit overall is sattvic, these few are more tamasic than other fruit)

Vegetables– mushrooms, garlic, onion, pumpkin

Grains- wheat, brown rice

Beans–  Urad dal, large amounts of black and pinto beans

Dairy– cheese (hard, aged), processed milk and eggs

Nuts and Seeds-peanuts, rancid nuts, black sesame seeds

Spices– jalapeno pepper, nutmeg

Sweets– molasses, soft drinks, stevia, extremely sweet tasting foods

Beverages– alcohol, marijuana, most other drugs

Meats– beef, pork, lamb, venison

Finding balance is what is most important in Ayurveda. Each individual is unique and there is no one “healhy diet” for all.  Understanding the gunas sattva, rajas and tamas can help us to conscious choose which foods are most suitable for us in the moment.

Remember, the energy of where you source your food, how you cook your food and even how the food was obtained ( stolen, gifted, purchased) all has an effect – so be joyful, be loving, support local farming and buy organic fresh food as much as possible.

“The most important ingredient in any dish is love, which transforms food into a profound form of healing that brings balance to body, mind and consciousness”.

– Dr. Vasant Lad

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