A sattvic diet, also referred to as a yoga diet or sentient diet, is a diet based on foods which, according to Ayurveda, Yoga, Vaishnavism and Jainism, are strong in the sattva guna, and lead to clarity and equanimity of mind while also being beneficial to the body. Such foods include water, cereal grains, mung beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts, unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk and milk derivatives (mostly ghee, but also butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt), and raw honey.
Foods to be avoided in sattvic cooking:
- Canned food
- Frozen food
- Food with preservative added
- Anything packaged
- Lots of fresh, organic vegetables and other organic products
- Only small portions (food should not be kept for more than 4 hours)
- Stir frying is best
- Add your salts last so that is does not extract minerals and nutrients from the food – use organic rock salt
- Who is doing the cooking? What is the state of mind of the person cooking? Our thoughts are energy….
- Food cooked in India, mantras are chanted.
- At least listen to good music, be joyful when you cook.
- Understand that it is not the proteins, carbs, fat that are digested; it is the emotion with which you have cooked the food.
The traditional sattvic diet
Fresh nuts and seeds that have not been overly roasted and salted are good additions to the sattvic diet in small portions. Some choices are almonds (especially when peeled and soaked in water overnight), coconut, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Oils should be of good quality and cold-pressed. Some choices are olive oil, sesame oil and flax oil.
Most mild vegetables are considered sattvic. Pungent vegetables like hot peppers, garlic and onion are excluded, as are gas-forming foods such as mushrooms and potatoes. They are considered rajasic and tamasic, respectively. Sometimes the shortcomings of these foods can be overcome by careful preparation. A practice is to drink freshly made vegetable juices for their prana, live enzymes, and easy absorption.
Whole grains provide nourishment. Some include organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal and barley. Sometimes the grains are lightly roasted before cooking to remove some of their heavy quality. Yeasted breads are not recommended, unless toasted. Wheat and other grains can be sprouted before cooking as well. Some preparations are kicharee (brown or white basmati rice cooked with whole or split mung beans, ghee and mild spices), kheer (rice cooked with milk and sweetened), chapatis (non-leavened whole wheat flat bread), porridge (sometimes made very watery and cooked with herbs), and “Bible” bread (sprouted grain bread). Sometimes yogis will fast from grains during special practices.
Mung beans, lentils, yellow split peas, chickpeas, aduki beans, common beans, organic tofu, and bean sprouts are considered sattvic if well prepared. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier to digest. Preparations include splitting, peeling, grinding, soaking, sprouting, cooking and spicing. Legumes combined with whole grains offer a complete protein combination.
Some yogis use raw honey (often in combination with dairy) and raw sugar (not refined). In some traditions, sugar and/or honey are excluded from the diet.
Sattvic spices are mild spices including basil, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger and turmeric. Rajasic spices like black pepper, red pepper and garlic are normally excluded, but are sometimes used in small amounts, both to clear channels blocked by mucus and to counter tamas.
Other herbs are used to directly support sattva in the mind and in meditation. These include ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, gotu kola, gingko, jatamansi, purnarnava, shatavari, saffron, shankhapushpi, tulsi and rose.
Stimulant foods, also called mutative foods, mutable foods or rajasic foods, are foods which often provoke mental restlessness. They are not completely beneficial, nor are they harmful, to body or mind. Foods that cannot be categorized as either sentient or static are classified in this food group. These foods are thought by some to cause aggressive and dominating thoughts, especially towards others. Stimulant foods energize and develop the manipura (navel) chakra and body but do not promote advancement in the higher chakras. Such foods include: coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, hot spices, salt.
Static foods or tamasic foods are foods whose consumption, according to Yoga, are harmful to either mind or body. Harm to mind includes anything that will lead to a duller, less refined state of consciousness. Bodily harm includes any foods that will cause detrimental stress to any physical organ directly or indirectly (via any physical imbalance). They are, however, sometimes necessary during times of great physical stress and pain. They help dull the pain and lower consciousness, allowing the body to repair itself. Such static foods may be deemed necessary in times of war or great distress.
Static foods stimulate and strengthen the lower two chakras, but will not assist in beneficial development of the higher chakras. In fact they are usually detrimental to the advancement of the higher chakras.
Static foods include: meat, fish, egg, onion, scallion, leek, mushroom, garlic, alcoholic beverage, opium, stale food.