Have you ever been to a vegetarian restaurant that boasts “no garlic, onion or mushrooms”? I’ve been to many, and have always been baffled by the reasoning behind the restrictions.
Were there some ethical implications of those foods that I was not aware of? Was the restaurant catering to those with allergies? Did they hate flavor?
None of the above, actually. It just so turns out that the exclusion of garlic, onions and mushrooms in the diet is just one of many factors in following a sattvic diet.
In ayurvedic tradition, food is categorized into one of three groups: tamas, rajas, and sattva. The distinction is made based upon the foods’ qualities (called gunas). The first two work against a balanced mental state. Tamasic products (like meat, processed food or alcohol) dull the mind, while rajasic foods (like hot sauce and coffee) overwhelm and overstimulate.
Not only is this harmful for the body, but even more so for the mind.
How are you supposed to remain in a good headspace when you’re buzzing with caffeine or in a carb-induced coma? How can you possibly have the clarity to sit and reflect and manifest and meditate (if that’s your thing)?
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that the most spiritual diet is one consisting primarily of sattvic foods. These are ones considered to be pure and non-harming (to yourself or others).
Sattvic foods are as follows:
-Ripe fruits and vegetables (in season)
-Nuts and seeds
-Legumes and other minimally processed, plant-based proteins
-Natural sweeteners (in moderation)
It’s suggested to take these foods in equal amounts, to promote balance. So a buddha bowl (equal parts grain, veggies and protein with a fat-based dressing or topping) would be an ideal sattvic dish.
Now how about the things we leave behind? How can one possibly survive without a little indulgence in the treats that are oh-so bad for our minds?
First, maybe it would help to understand why certain qualities prohibit higher consciousness.
Foods with lots of caffeine act as stimulants and make the mind hyperactive. Strong spices can have a similar effect. Many foods deemed off-limits in vedic cooking are also aphrodisiacs. It goes without saying why these could hinder a pure mental state. Alcohol and tobacco are also pretty self-explanatory. Processed foods (like white flour/sugar, microwavable or canned meals, packaged snacks) induce brain-fog and make it hard to concentrate. And the list goes on…
If you’re serious about your meditation practice, you may want to consider limiting tamasic and rajasic items. It may not be easy at first, but the benefit to your meditation will surely be worth it.
Try out these alternatives for the following “forbidden” foods:
-Coffee –> try tea made from chicory and/or dandelion roots
-Chocolate –> carob is a nice, milder alternative
-Onion –> fennel or celery can provide a similar taste
-White Sugar –> sub brown rice syrup or stevia
-Fried Foods –> heavy root vegetables (like sweet potato) and/or rich healthy fats (like nut butters) can be just as satisfying without the ill effects
And a couple more tips:
-Make your meals fresh and avoid overcooking
-If you must reheat leftovers, use the stove or oven as opposed to the microwave
-Avoid excess spices and complicated food combos- keep it simple
-Try to time your meals strategically for optimal energy and digestion- eat upon rising, have your largest meal at midday, and try to eat dinner before sunset
-Slow down- eat mindfully, not when rushed or anxious
If you are a frequent meditator, it is worth evaluating your diet to see if any changes might be beneficial to your practice.
Have you tried a sattvic diet? If so, please share the results!
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Photo: Practical Cures via Flickr