There are all kinds of people. Some binge on junk food and try to shed the extra kilos by sweating it out at the gym. Some adopt bizarre diets to stay in shape. And then, there are those who live on food supplements. The one thing that is common among these groups of people is that each one strives to be healthy. But the one thing most of them don’t know is that understanding food is the first step on our way to improved wellbeing.
It is important to be aware that the food we eat not only affects the body, but also the mind. Taking a cue from this fact, Ayurveda classifies food into three categories–sattvic (pure), rajasic (passion) and tamasic (darkness). Of the three categories, sattvic food is considered the best. The word ‘sattvic’ is derived from the Sanskrit word sattva, meaning purity and goodness. Sattvic food items are those that are pure and wholesome. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes.
Rajasic food is known to stimulate the body and make the mind restless. These foods are generally salty, bitter, sour or hot. They are neither harmful nor beneficial to human body. Tamasic food, on the other hand, is considered harmful to both body and mind. It includes alcohol, onion, garlic, fermented food items and anything that is overripe, rotten, or stale. Tamasic food is said to induce inertia and drain the body of its energy.
“Clean and pure food nourishes the body and mind. It helps the natural processes of detox, cleaning and healing.”
Having understood the nature of food and how it affects the body, we might assume it is good to consume sattvic food exclusively. However, that would not be the right diet for anyone. The key to a healthy diet is balance: We need varied proportions of sattvic, rajasic and tamasic food to maintain a healthy body and mind. For instance, people living in cold places might need to consume more rajasic food to keep their bodies warm. And people living in tropical climates might need to consume lesser amounts of rajasic food to keep their bodies cool.
For ages, ayurvedic practitioners have been ardent followers of sattvic diet. Today, many people follow suit. Raw vegan expert Anjali Sanghi reckons sattvic food is special. She says, “Clean and pure food nourishes the body and mind. It helps the natural processes of detox, cleaning and healing.” She is right, of course. After all, food is the carrier of the life-force energy or prana, and sattvic food is rich in prana, which elevates the mind. Hence, food of this kind is said to not only provide energy, but also enable vitality, nourishment, peace of mind and self-determination.
Sattvic food does not merely provide fats, vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins. Its purity and wholesomeness surpass such basic gross requirements of the human body and aid in meeting the subtler requirements of the mind. Sanghi explains, “In the ancient times, sattvic food was given to students in gurukula when they were initiated into the positive practice of awakening the kundalini energy (the inner universal spiritual consciousness).”
This is clearly not possible if one consumes rajasic or tamasic foods excessively, as they make one feel over agitated or sluggish. No wonder many yoga and meditation practitioners opt for sattvic food. It allows them to fulfil the subtle requirements of their mind and spirit. It is with this understanding of food that we can truly nourish ourselves holistically.