According to the Charaka Samhita, one of the classic textbooks of Ayurveda – persons having the sattvic principle are gifted with memory, devotion, are grateful, learned, free from anxiety, having a well-directed and serious intellect and are engaged in virtuous acts.
Ancient yogis believed food to be the creator of life force that sustains our bodies and keeps us in good health. Therefore, it is very critical for us to make the right food choice for healthy living. Food is categorized into 3 types based on the effects they have on our body – sattva, rajas and tamas.
They believed that tamasic food can bring out lethargy whereas rajasic food can make one restless. On the other hand, sattvic food can make you feel enthusiastic and energetic. It is the one that is pure and wholesome and promotes strength, intelligence and courage. Sri Jnana dasa, a temple devotee at ISKCON Bangalore says, ‘It not only meets your physical requirements of protein, carbohydrates and fats but also sustains you mentally and physically.’
Significance of a sattvic diet
According to the Bhagavad-gita, the significance of a sattvic diet is that it is light in nature, easily digestible, slightly cooling and not disturbing to the mind. It is rich in prana (purity), so promotes positive thoughts, happiness and satisfaction. This kind of diet can leave us peaceful, alert and refreshed. It is different from other kinds of food as it is savoury, smooth and pleasant to the stomach unlike the rajasic diet that is unduly pungent, sour and salty, and tamasic diet that is stale and tasteless.
Traditional sattvic food
The Bhagavad-gita says that, sattvic food is quite simple and grown organically on rich productive soil. Food preparations are good-looking in appearance and are harvested at the correct time of the year. Sattvic diet encourages foods that are grown and ripened by nature. It shuns any type of food that involves killing / hurting animals. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts are sattvic and are believed to clean the mind and body leading to optimum physical and mental health. Cooked food that is consumed before three-four hours of cooking is considered sattvic.
Health benefits of a sattvic diet are enormous. As per Ayurveda, this is the best diet for strength, calm mind, perfect health and longevity. It also eliminates tiredness and improves peace and tranquillity. This kind of food is easily digested and can strengthen the stomach, intestine, liver and the pancreas. If you are prone to diseases such as high BP and diabetes then adopting a sattvic diet can be the best option for you. Besides, sattvic food can improve the health of your skin and quality of your hair.
The Bhagavad-gita describes the sattvic diet as – promoting lifespan, virtue, strength, well-being and satisfaction. Sattvic foods are savoury, firm and pleasing to the stomach. In contrast, the Bhagavad-gita describes the rajasic diet as – excessively pungent, sour, salty and astringent leading to pain, depression and sickness. The foods in the mode of tamasic are described as: stale, tasteless, smelly, left-over and foul.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) who advocated eating only prasadam (food that is sanctified by first offering it to Lord Krishna) said in one of his lectures – When one has a tiger’s body, his taste for food will be very abominable, fresh blood, etc. And if one has a hog’s body, then he shall feel pleasure by eating stool. And when one has a brahmana’s body, he will be pleased with nice sattvic foodstuff and that is wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, milk products, etc., which are in the mode of goodness.
Tips to keep in mind
The Shastras suggest that sattvic food needs to be chewed properly and eaten in small servings. Never overindulge sattvic foods as they become tamasic and lead to diseases in the body. You should also not overcook or over-spice sattvic foods as they then convert to rajasic foods and lead to restlessness.