The food we eat plays a huge role in the health and well-being of our body, mind and spirit. The ancient yogis recognized the energetic and healing properties of food and developed a yogic diet that focused on cultivating sattva, or inner peace. A sattvik diet involves the purest, lightest, and most easily digestible foods you can eat. Eating more sattvik foods is important for all yogis to research and use, as it has several benefits and promotes a calm but focused mind, clear heart, and strong, healthy body. A yogic diet can be difficult to achieve in this modern world of processed foods, but it is important to develop as much sattvik diet as possible in order to advance in the yoga path. Fortunately, there are some easy ways for you to shift your diet towards sattva.
What are Sattvic Foods?
In general, a sattvik diet is primarily plant-based and focuses on organic, whole, natural fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains grown in harmony with nature. Sattvic foods are generally sweet, fresh, light, nutritious, and aromatic, and produce feelings of contentment, joy, and aliveness upon digestion. Sattvic foods keep the body slim and healthy and make the mind clear and sharp.
How can my diet be sattvier?
We have compiled a list of the six most saturated foods that you can easily swap out for less healthy options in your diet. We recommend testing these foods individually so that you are not overwhelmed and can fully incorporate them into your daily life. As Swami Sivananda says, "Evolution is better than revolution." When you make any of these simple changes, you will promote kindness, peace, calm, strength, well being, health, and happiness, which will align your mind, body, and spirit more closely on a spiritual path of oneness. We have also included a list of the most common Tamasic and Rajasic foods to avoid eating.
Sattvic Foods as a Supplement to Your Diet
Work on adding the sattvik foods listed below to promote and support a yogic lifestyle. When you eat more of these foods you will benefit from your meditative, spiritual, and yogic practices.
1. Fresh fruit
Fresh fruit is filled with prana (life energy) and antioxidants and can make up up to 50% of a yogi's diet. All fruits that are sweet, fresh and organic are considered sattvik. Hence, adding more fruit is the easiest and most effective way to make your diet more yogic. Minimize frozen, dried or canned fruits in favor of fresh and seasonal fruits. You can easily swap desserts for fruit and use fruit as a snack or accompaniment to your daily meals. Swami Sivananda notes that the combination of fruit and milk increases mental focus and supports meditation.
Ghee, or clarified butter, tastes slightly sweet, which makes it the most saturated cooking oil. Ghee is an essential concentrate feed, but it is also energetically cold and heavy, so it should be used moderately. Ghee is rich in fatty acids and vitamins A and E, and is traditionally used more in the early stages of yoga practice to increase strength and endurance. Try replacing all of the other oils with ghee, or at least only use vegetable oils like sesame, sunflower, and olive oils. You can easily make your own ghee or buy pre-made ghee.
Honey is a sattvik food as long as it is raw, organic, and preservative free. Honey is the least perishable of all the foods found in a sattvik diet. It also aids in the detox process and is easily digested. As with all sweeteners, you need to consume it in moderation as overeating can be harmful. Honey should also never be boiled, as Ayurveda encourages the absorption of honey with cold water. Remove refined and artificial sweeteners from your diet and replace them with raw, unfiltered organic honey, raw sugar, maple syrup or molasses.
4. Basmati rice
According to Ayurveda, basmati rice is the king of all rice types as it helps to balance all three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha). In addition to being easily digested and nourishing body tissues, it is also low on the glycemic index and promotes healthy brain function. Avoid instant or pre-cooked rice as Ayurveda suggests that it contains less food and less prana. Whole grain products, especially oats and wheat, are also considered sattvik unless they are made into yeast bread. Try organic basmati rice over other types of rice.
5. Fresh vegetables
Most mild and sweet vegetables are considered sattvik, such as beets, carrots, celery, bok choy, cucumber, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. Potatoes, cabbage, spinach, and tomatoes are also considered very sattvy. Avoid mushrooms, cucumbers, radishes, beets, onions, garlic, and chilies. Fresh vegetable juice is an easy way to add more sattva to your diet and replace soft drinks, coffee, tea, or other beverages.
6. Seeds and nuts
Packed with healthy fats, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, fresh raw nuts and seeds are an important part of the sattvik diet. Raw organic almonds in particular can be eaten to energize the mind, and the high magnesium and calcium content nourishes the bones. Ideal for people with lactose intolerance. They can also be used to make almond milk to build strength, immunity, and grounded energy. Cashew nuts and pistachios are good sources of protein, while pumpkin and sunflower seeds can be used to pacify the Vata dosha. Ayurvedic experts do not recommend eating peanuts as part of a sattvik diet as they can make you feel lethargic and difficult to digest. Soaking nuts and seeds overnight is recommended as it removes all natural enzyme inhibitors and makes digestion easier for your body. Consume seeds and nuts in small portions as a snack or add them to meals as a source of protein.
Food to avoid
Rajasic foods stimulate and contribute to physical and mental stress. Tamasic foods are unclean, rotten, or dead, and cause physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual heaviness and lethargy. Eating small amounts of tamasic and rajasic foods is okay. However, if you eat too many tamasic or rajasic foods, it will counter your efforts to add more sattvik foods to your diet. The following infographic summarizes the foods to avoid.
Try not to get too excited about your diet as this can lead to excessive stress and worry. Instead, focus on eating simple fresh foods that are easy for you to digest and that best suit your constitution. Be mindful of the effects of food on your body, mind, and heart and refine your diet accordingly. With awareness and patience, you will find the sattvik foods that are most effective for creating long-term inner peace on and next to your yoga mat.
Has changing your diet based on Ayurvedic principles increased your physical strength, weight loss, digestive system and energy flow? We'd love to hear your experience of how adjusting the types of foods in your diet has impacted your yoga practice and supported an overall healthy life.