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Sattvic foods for your health

Sattvic FoodsWhat are Sattvic foods?

Sattvic foods come from the word Sattva, originally a Sanskrit word, is defined as the quality of purity and goodness. Sattvic foods are therefore pure, clean and wholesome. A sattvic diet consists of food that gives life, strength and energy to the individual. Yoga practitioners make use of the sattvic diet to support the practices of; anushasanam, which means the governing of ones subtle nature and the quieting of the mind, this is not just for the health of the body.

Sattvic foods come from the word Sattva, originally a Sanskrit word, is defined as the quality of purity and goodness. Sattvic foods are therefore pure, clean and wholesome. A sattvic diet consists of food that gives life, strength and energy to the individual. Yoga practitioners make use of the sattvic diet to support the practices of; anushasanam, which means the governing of ones subtle nature and the quieting of the mind, this is not just for the health of the body.
The Bhagavad Gita describes the Sattvic foods as promoting life, virtue, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. It also says that Sattvic foods are savory, smooth, firm and pleasant to the stomach.
Organic foods are therefore recommended for both their purity and vitality. Food should be fresh and freshly prepared. Sattvic foods are light in nature, easy to digest, mildly cooling (this is an interesting point since in colder climates a purely sattvic diet may not be recommended… more on this to follow), refreshing and not disturbing to the mind.

Also the way Sattvic food is prepared is also important, which means the persons state of mind when making the food should be positive and the food is best prepared with a state of love and awareness. This is important because many believe the emotions or energy of the person preparing the food is passed on to the food. I am sure you remember a time where someone in a bad mood made you dinner and it just was not as good as normal (maybe they did everything right but their emotions colored the food…. something to think about). Growing your own herbs and having a Garden Theme is also helpful since you can put alot of you own love into these plants.

 

Pure, sattvic foods need to be chewed carefully and eaten in modest portions. This is also a key nutritional point if we look at todays science. If you chew your food properly then it is easier to digest, but also takes more time to eat. By taking this time the stomach can accurately tell you the moment it has had enough and when to stop. You may think you know when you are full but you do not, give this a try; for each time you put food in your mouth chew it 20 times before the next, you will find you get full with less food. Another example is eating quickly, have you ever eaten fast until you are full, and then 20 min later really not felt well and the rest of the day felt drained of energy and heavy (because food was going in so quickly by the time the stomach sent the message there was all this extra food already there to deal with). The reason for this is the stomach does not register the amount of food in it to be full (well not completely, if stuffed you will know it) but it registers when it sees the amount of energy (calories) and nutrition it is digesting. You could say it is the difference between feeling satisfied or full.


Here is a list of some Sattvic foods to help you plan your own yogic diet:

Fresh Organic Fruits:

Almost all fruits, including apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, grapes, melons, lemons, mangoes, oranges, peaches and plums, are considered exceptional Sattvic foods. Sometimes yogis will go on fruit fasts, where they avoid all foods except fruit and fruit juices, they sometimes do this when participating in a special sadhana (advanced practice). Fruit is also considered symbolic of generosity and spirituality and is often exchanged as an offering or a gift within Hindu and Buddhist traditions (just in case you may want to know).

Fresh Organic Dairy:

Dairy is considered controversial by many vegetarians, but the yoga tradition considers all types of dairy as Sattvic foods and insists on the value of a wholesome food freely given by the symbol of motherhood, the cow. We do need to use the highest quality organic fresh dairy to benefit from its sattvic qualities however. Milk, butter, clarified butter (ghee), fresh home-made cheese (I love homemade cheese), whey and fresh yogurt (especially lassi) are all very much recommended. They benefit from careful preparation, and the extra effort to learn the recipes is well worthwhile (as an extra here the simple act of cooking can be a great stress reliever, it is shown that the conscious mind can only focus clearly on one thing at a time, when you really get into the cooking your stress seems to vanish). For example, milk can be diluted and warmed with mild spices (i.e. fresh ginger, cinnamon and cardamom) and served with raw honey to overcome any mucus-forming tendencies (it is very nice, try it before bed). Traditionally, if a yogi is doing advanced practices, the dairy provides needed lubrication, grounding and protein that the body will need. In fact, dairy along with fruit have been described as the epitome of the sattvic or yogic diet.

Nuts, Seeds and Oils:

Fresh nuts and seeds are good additions to the sattvic diet in small portions, as long as they are not salted or overly cooked. Good choices are almonds (especially when peeled and soaked in water overnight), coconut (fresh coconut water is the most wonderful drink, cut open a coconut drop a straw in and enjoy!), pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds are all good as well (making sure about no added salt). Oils should be of highest quality and cold-pressed. Good choices are olive oil, sesame oil and flax oil, extra virgin oil is worth the price by the way.

Organic Vegetables:

A lot of mild organic vegetables are considered Sattvic foods, including beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green leafy veggies, sweet potatoes and squash. the green leafy one really are the best to focus on though.

Whole Grains:

Whole grains provide excellent nourishment when well cooked. Consider organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal and barley (personally I love my Porridge with raisins in the morning for breakfast). You can also lightly roast the grains before cooking to remove some of their heavy quality. Yeasted breads are not recommended unless they are toasted. Favorite preparations are kicharee (basmati rice cooked with split mung beans, ghee and mild spices), kheer (rice cooked with milk and sweetened, as an alternative you can use sticky rice and coconut milk to make a great dessert, is a Thai recipe and very nice), chapathis (non-leavened whole wheat flat bread), During some advanced training or practices Yogis will sometimes fast from grains during that time.

Legumes:

Split mung beans, yellow split peas, organic tofu, bean sprouts and perhaps lentils and aduki beans are considered Sattvic foods if well prepared. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier it is to digest. Strategies include splitting, peeling, grinding, soaking, sprouting, cooking and spicing. One note is that Legumes combined with whole grains offer a complete protein combination (as far as vegetable protein goes)…

 

A Word About Meat

Meats are not Sattvic foods, however we as humans need to have some within our diet. Remember that vegetable protein is missing several amino acids, for me I still eat meat myself but it only accounts for 10% of my diet, and that includes fish… I have added this due to my training and education in the field of nutrition.

When we think of Buddhist and Hindu traditions they also agree with this but Traditionally they will only eat the meat of Non-Mammals… so they get the protein from fish, seafood and poultry. However they do spend 3 days a week where they abstain from meat completely and 2 times a year, where they do so for a week or two for cleansing.
Sweeteners: Yogis use raw honey (especially in combination with dairy) and raw sugar (not refined).

Spices:

Sattvic spices are the mild spices, they include basil, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger and turmeric… Hot and strong spices are not Sattvic

About George Knight

George Knight has been involved in Fitness for almost 20 years. He started by teaching Martial arts in 1991. Since then he has worked as a Personal trainer, Martial Arts Instructor and Yoga Teacher. Now as owner of the Wandering Yogi he looks forward to sharing his passion for Yoga and travel with others.