The ancient yogis of India recognised long ago that “we are what we eat” and devised a system of guidance to promote the most harmonious state of mind and body. The term “sattva” is the central guiding principle behind a diet which cultivates a sense of love, connection and peace. The foundation of sattva is the idea of non-harming – namely, vegetarianism where food is naturally grown, free of harmful pesticides, chemicals, hormones, irradiation and, in our modern day, GMOs.
Meals prepared and enjoyed with love and awareness are part of a sattvic way of life too. The rewards of adhering to such a philosophy are stable, loving, relaxed mental states and a healthy body. If you feel you need more healing balance in life and desire a happy, clear and peaceful mind, a sattvic orientation can help.
The time-honoured philosophy of Ayurveda believes that all energy has three states: sattva (purity), rajas (change, passion, activity) and tamas (lethargy, darkness). In “Peace through a Sattvic Diet,” an analogy is given to demonstrate this process:
” . . . on an apple tree, some of the fruit is ripe (sattvic), some ripening (rajastic) and some overripe (tamasic). But no matter which quality prevails, an element of each of the other two will always be present as well. Most of an individual apple will be ripe, but part will be rotten, even if the naked eye cannot see it, and part will be in the process of changing from one state to the other.”
As far as the diet is concerned, each state is represented in the following ways:
Food that create dullness, inertia and darkness fall under this category – junk food is a prime example. Offering very little nourishment, these foods promote disease and create a mind filled with anger, greed and jealousy. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, alcohol and drugs, along with overly processed, stale and hard to digest foods, are included in this realm. Tobacco, onions, garlic, artificial sweeteners, margarine, white flour and sugar, as well as microwaved, fried and fermented foods, are considered tamasic as well. Foods prepared in anger or unbalanced emotional states, and rushed or distracted eating, are part of this category too.
When we need to be active in the world, a combination of sattvic and rajastic is a good fit. Salty, dry, sour, bitter and hot foods are in this category. Examples include sharp spices, stimulants (including coffee and tea), fish, eggs, meat and chocolate. Eating quickly is also considered rajastic. Consuming rajastic foods in excess will trigger strong emotions and an unbalanced mind, which will eventually cause harm to physical health.
Foods which encourage equilibrium and peace are deemed sattvic in nature. Think nutrient-dense vegetarian foods like organic nuts, seeds, oily fruit, whole grains and vegetables (except onions and garlic). It is important all food is free of modern toxins such as herbicides, chemical fertilisers, hormones, pesticides, additives and GMOs. Likewise, processed or irradiated food are off limits. Criteria for sattvic food is simple: food grown organically in fertile, healthy soil and minimally processed.
Composed of light, easily digestible foods, a sattvic diet gravitates towards nut and seed milk, whole grains, fresh fruit, cheese, sprouted nuts and seeds, honey and herbal teas. Sattvic spices include asafetida, cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, basil, cumin, nutmeg, mint, basil, fennel seed, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Additionally, food prepared and consumed in a calm, loving and stable environment is important. Striving for an orientation of forgiveness, kindness, openness, generosity and truth also supports a sattvic way of being.