We are What We Eat – The Three Types of Food – Sattvic, Rajasic, Tamasic
According to Ayurveda, in order to experience swasthya or best health, the human body needs to have the right mental, physical and emotional balance. Ayurveda states that dashavidha pariksa or proper functioning of ten factors including genetic constitution (prakriti), age (vaya), geographical location (desa), body tissues (dhatus/dusya), five senses (panchindriyas), strength (bala), metabolic or digestive system (agni), seasons (ritus/kaal), disposition (sattva), acclimatization (satmya) and food (ahara) determines the health and wellbeing of an individual.
Ancient Ayurvedic texts state that ahara or diet is one of the three pillars of life (other two are sleep and reproductive health) and that dietary choices need to agree with the panchamahabhutas (Vayu/air, Agni/fire, Prithvi/earth, Jal/water, Akash/ether or space), the tridoshas (vata, pitta & kapha) and the changing ritus (seasons) for optimum digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Ayurvedic texts (Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita) have detailed descriptions regarding food, its classification based on taste or shad rasas (sweet/ madhura, salty/ lavana, sour/amla, pungent/katu, bitter/tikta and astringent/Kashaya), its digestion power (Laghu/ light or Guru/heavy), the source from which the food is derived, its form (Ashita/eatable, peeta/drinkable, leedha/ lickable, khadita/chewable) and its effect (sattvic food, rajasic food, tamasic food) on the physical and mental well being of an individual.
As per Ayurveda, the food classification is based on shad rasas/six tastes, gunas/primary and secondary qualities that enhance the properties of food, virya/ potency of food, vipaka/post digestive effect and karma/therapeutic activity from food consumed.
Ayurveda states that there is a close link between six emotions (lust, anger, greed, desire, attachment, ego) and manifestation of diseases. In turn, these emotions are closely linked to ahara, or certain foods that have the ability to alter the disposition of an individual. These states are sattva/purity or contentment, rajas/passion or excitement, and tamas/dark or unpalatable and the three types of food are known as Sattvic food, Rajasic food, and Tamasic food.
Sattva or sattvic means pure in Sanskrit. Adopting a Sattvic diet calms, purifies and energizes the mind and body by flushing out toxins and ensures longevity and health. The principle of Sattvic diet is to avoid consuming food before sunrise and after sunset.
Sattvic diet lays emphasis on consuming freshly cooked, light and easy-to-digest food items preferably at room temperature. Ayurvedic principles always stress on eating well cooked food instead of raw food items. Cooking the food removes germs or infections and also makes it easy for digestion.
A Sattvic food list includes products such as moong, legumes, green beans, fresh coriander, turmeric/haldi, rice, barley, pomegranates, grapes, apples, oranges, guavas, Indian spices such as cinnamon, Hing/Asafoetida, roasted nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, curd and buttermilk, homemade ghee/clarified butter, honey, coconut oil, sesame oil etc. Regular consumption of a Sattvic diet helps develop and re-build strong body tissues.
Rajasic is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rajas’ meaning full of passion and activity. Ayurveda considers Rajasic foods as a balance of pure and impure, neither too nutritious nor too unhealthy. Spicy, salty & sour foods are considered Rajasic as they can give a boost to the body, both physically and mentally.
Individuals who engage in strenuous physical activities (sportspersons, manual laborers, farmers etc.) are advised to intake Rajasic food items in appropriate quantities.
But, although Rajasic foods may stimulate the mind and body, extra consumption can also aggravate the pitta and vata doshas in the body and may cause hyperacidity, dehydration, increase in body toxins, anger, envy, restlessness and reduced sleep etc.
A Rajasic food list includes chilies, black peppers, radish, tomatoes, capsicum, cauliflower, dates, guava, lemon, apple, bananas, peanuts, rajma/kidney beans, red lentils, sunflower seeds, corn, millet, oats, cheese, paneer, sunflower oil, garlic, olives, fermented foods like idli, salt, coffee, tea etc.
Tamasic comes from the Sanskrit word ‘tamas’ meaning dark or unpalatable. A diet that is harmful to the health of our mind, body and soul, as it drains the vital energy from the body, increases stress and anxiety levels, is considered tamasic.
Tamsik food items are heavy to digest, dull the senses, cause sleepiness, incite anger and cause a lot of aggressive and violent tendencies in the individual. Overindulgence in Tamasic food has a negative effect on the body and can lead to early aging, digestive tract troubles, anxiety and restlessness etc.
A Tamasic food list includes mushrooms, pumpkins, onions, garlic, watermelon, avocado, apricots, plums, wheat, rice, vegetable oil, urad dal, black dal, white sugar, chicken, fish, goat, lamb, beef etc.
Stale, reheated & fermented foods, alcohol, foods with high salt content such as chips, foods that contain extra sugar, all purpose flour/maida and oil like cakes & pastries, are all tamasic in nature and need to be avoided.
Ayurvedic food principles state that food prepared and consumed with depression, anger, negativity has no health benefits and turns toxic or tamasic. There is a reason Indian elders always stress the importance of eating all meals with a happy, contented and thankful attitude, it helps a person get maximum health benefits from the food that is eaten.
Finally, food is the life source of any living being. India’s rich food culture is derived from highly knowledgeable and intensely studied Ayurvedic food principles that propagate including foods, in the daily diet, that have a long term & positive effect on the physical, emotional & mental wellbeing of a person.
Many of our modern-day health troubles (acidity, stress, insomnia, poor digestion, increased cholesterol, hypertension etc.) arise from an overindulgence of Rajasic and tamasic food items. Reducing intake of Rajasic and tamasic foods and including a higher ratio of Sattvic foods in the daily diet is the key for good health.
Including time tested Ayurvedic food in the daily diet can not only provide nutrition to the body but also rejuvenate the mind and soul for optimum health. Book an ayurvedic consultation with an experienced Ayurvedic Vaidya for a customized Ayurvedic diet plan to enjoy holistic health all year round.