पृथिव्यां त्रीणि रत्नानि जलमन्नं सुभाषितम्
“Water, food, and words of wisdom are the three jewels of this earth”
The ancient science of Ayurveda teaches us that holistic well-being is based on the harmonious balance of meditation, physical activity, our environment and food. In Ayurveda, food is recognised as the source of energy for our body and is divided into three kinds of food groups – ‘Tamasic’, ‘Rajasic’ and ‘Sattvic’. Each of these groups has its unique value or ‘Guna’. Knowing one’s dominant ‘Dosha’ or Ayurvedic body type is an important step in identifying which diet is best for holistic well-being. Incorporating simple Ayurvedic principles into your everyday food habits, can heal and rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. The Ayurvedic principle of experiencing food with all our senses in order to derive true nutrition, also helps in gaining a deeper connection with food and develop an abiding respect for the bounty of nature that feeds us all.
Sattvic derives from the Sanskrit word ‘Sattva’ which means purity. Following this diet can help in attaining a calm mind, active body and longevity. It also purifies the body and soul by flushing out toxins. A Sattvic diet emphasises on incorporating fresh food in our daily meals and typically includes fruits & vegetables, spices and even grains. Light, easily digestible food is preferred and that too at a normal or room temperature. These foods nourish our body and mind and unsurprisingly, most of the Sattvic food items top the all modern nutrition charts like nuts, fresh fruit juices, spices like Cinnamon, Asafoetida, Turmeric, fresh Coriander, whole grains like Rice & Barley, Apples, Oranges, Guavas, Lentils and Sprouts. Ayurveda also emphasises on eating more cooked food than raw, as that makes it easier to digest for the body. In a traditional Sattvic diet, the principle is to avoid eating anything before sunrise and after sunset. With the hectic lifestyles of our modern times, incorporating a few if not all of Sattvic principles in our regular food habits may prove to be a true calming and balancing mantra.
Rajasic comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Rajas’ denoting passion and activity. Rajasic foods in Ayurveda are considered neither overtly positive nor negative and a blend of the pure and impure. Hot, salty, pungent foods that can boost one both emotionally and physically make for a Rajasic diet. Rajasic food is recommended by Ayurveda for those who need to accomplish physically challenging tasks like farming or sports and is also beneficial for anyone with a physically active lifestyle. Rajasic food typically includes stimulants like Tea & Coffee, spices like Chillies, Pepper and vegetables like Broccoli, Cauliflower and Spinach. However Ayurveda also warns us that while Rajasic foods are beneficial for physical strength and stamina, they can also create an imbalance in our constitution. Overindulgence in such foods can cause restlessness, dehydration and over-enthusiasm. Unfortunately a lot of our modern food habits include an overbearing amount of Rajasic foods, resulting in breakouts, brittle hair and anxiety. Reducing this imbalance and incorporating a greater proportion of Sattvic foods is key to correcting the modern diet.
The word Tamasic comes from ‘Tamas’ which means darkness in Sanskrit. In Ayurveda, a Tamasic diet is considered unpalatable and detrimental to the well-being of our mind, body and soul. Tamasic food items are considered to drain one of essential energy and peace of mind. Such items are heavy on the digestive system and when eaten beyond balanced proportions, they strain the constitution and make one lethargic, sleepy and are even said to cause depression. Tamasic foods include anything that is aged, inclusive of alcohol or fermented. Meat, fish, eggs, Tobacco, Onions, Garlic, Cheese, Vinegar and wine are all Tamasic and said to have negative effects on the body. Ayurveda also propounds that eating food that is cooked or served with anger gives us no benefits and hence turns food toxic or Tamasic. The reality of the modern world is that such Tamasic items are occupying a large portion of regular food habits and leading to faster ageing, insomnia, digestive issues and a sense of restlessness.
The importance of food in our overall well-being is no secret. Yet our lifestyles today and our dependency on modern technology have made us addicted to fast or processed food. Opening a can, reheating the contents and drowning it down with a fizzy cola is the easiest meal. More often than not we eat in a hurry, while working on our presentations, unmindful of what we are feeding our bodies. Adapting simple and easy to follow Ayurveda principles into our everyday diet has far-reaching and positive effects on one’s physical, spiritual and psychological well-being. Start with small steps like reducing processed foods and eating earlier rather than later to discover how the ancient teachings of Ayurveda can help you balance your modern lifestyle.