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Healthy Eating For a Balanced Lifestyle
The three gunas or powers of Nature are sattva (consciousness or transcendence), rajas (activity and distraction), and tamas (inertia or unconsciousness). These qualities are found in all foods and have a great effect on the mind and spiritual development.
Tamasic foods are processed, artificial, isolated, overcooked, or refined. Not only do they damage physical health, they also promote spiritual ignorance, mental unhappiness, and violence. Examples include canned foods, white sugar and flour, alcohol, and processed meat and dairy.
Rajasic foods stimulate and develop active powers. These foods are not necessarily harmful, and are often strengthening and useful for the body. In addition, they can create confusion in the mind and emotions and desire for worldly things. Examples include spicy foods, garlic, and meat.
Sattvic food promotes a peaceful, pure mind. As things that are similar in nature complement each other, sattvic foods eat each other peacefully (without passion) and pure (without impurities). Sattvic foods are well prepared according to traditional methods. Many modern methods of food preparation have effects on food that make them rajasic or tamasic and impair health.
The sattvic diet emphasizes all naturally grown foods that are eaten raw or freshly cooked (not microwaved), as well as “raw-cooked” or lacto-fermented foods. In particular, the diet will include many locally produced foods, especially foods that you yourself play a role in producing and thus strengthen your connection with your natural environment.
It is primarily a lacto-vegetarian diet that includes dairy, but avoids other animal products including eggs, fish, and meat. A sattvic diet eliminates artificial food production and transformation as much as possible. Unfortunately, this includes a confusing portion of modern diets.
It should be noted that although clean, avoiding meat means that this is not necessarily the food with the highest physical energy, nor is it intended to be, because its focus is primarily spiritual, it is not physical. Exclusion of animal products other than dairy also excludes some important foods that are exclusively derived from animal products. For this reason, it will not be right for everyone all the time, but it can be followed safely with amazing benefits for short or long periods for different terms, even in combination with spiritual retreat or isolation.
Whether meat is included in the diet or not, everyone will benefit physically and mentally from including the greatest amount of fresh, local, organic and sustainably grown foods, making healthy meals, and avoiding manufacturing commercial and processed foods.
Categories of Sattvic Foods
Paramhansa Yogananda on refined white flour: “… there is no excuse for any wise and intelligent person who kills himself or pulls about half alive because of the consumption of cooked or improper foods.”
All grains are generally sattvic, but should be ground to neutralize the weak and divisive substances (mainly phytic acid) and make them easier to digest. In the case of flour, the best seeds are freshly milled to avoid contamination. Later, they can add the flour with rich ingredients, or use flour from grains. Slow cooking is generally preferred, and pressure cooking is not recommended because high heat can over-denature proteins.
Cold breakfast cereals and granola should be avoided as their cooking and manufacturing processes make the grains toxic and indigestible.
Boiled porridge is an excellent way to prepare seeds. Rinse and soak the seeds at least overnight in clean hot water with a little organic yogurt, kefir, whey, or cream. Cooking time will depend on the hardness of the grain. Porridge can be made with flax seeds or nuts, raw butter or cream, and natural sweetener. The homemade bread is also wonderful.
Sattvic dairy foods include: raw milk, cream, butter, ghee (clarified butter), soft-milk cheeses, and solid dairy products such as milk, kefir, butter, or whey.
Dairy is a very spiritual food with amazing health benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. In its natural state you can drink a lot. Its powers have been dramatically altered by modern practices however, and turn a sattvic diet into a tamasic diet with devastating effects on health. These practices include torturous environments for cows, grain and chemical feed, the addition of growth hormones, pasteurization and homogenization.
The client then receives the physical, emotional, and spiritual toxins associated with these practices.
The best source of milk is from grass-fed cows, especially in the spring and fall seasons when the cows are grazing on growing grass. It should be taken raw, but if we do not stick to milk, it is also well cultured.
Of all dairy products, ghee (clarified butter), is especially important. It is the most refined mixture of milk, the change from milk to fat is compared to the change from rasa (plasma) to product (vital energy). Ghee works as a vehicle for many medicines in Ayurveda, carrying their powers deep into the body. It is especially rejuvenating for the brain and nervous system, contributing to spiritual behavior and development. Ghee is one of the four mahasneha (great fats) revered in Ayurveda. Sneha, or ghee, is the literal meaning of love, and ghee nurtures the quality of our love and devotion.
Sattvic natural sweeteners include: raw honey, jaggery, dried cane sugar, stevia, date sugar, molasses, malted syrups, and corn syrup.
The above sweeteners should also be used in moderation so as not to upset blood sugar levels, the main cause of mental and emotional instability. As with all foods, choose organic sources for your flavors.
The following sweeteners are rajasic or tamasic and should be avoided: white sugar, brown sugar, concentrated fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Healthy Non-Animal Fats
Sattvic non-meat fats include: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or butter, palm oil, flax oil, and sesame oil.
Avoid consuming safflower, cottonseed, sunflower, canola, soy, cottonseed, and corn, and also hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated trans fats. All these oils contribute to a number of health challenges.
Fruit is essentially sattvic, as fruit, along with flowers, are the most evolved parts of the plant kingdom. Fruit helps to develop the spiritual heart. It is best to focus on local and seasonal productions, as this works to help connect you with the songs of Nature in your local area.
The spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, attributed specific spiritual powers to certain fruits:
Peaches – selflessness
Oranges – emotional recovery
Grapes – spiritual love
Banana – humility
Apple – self control
Strawberry – dignity
Pineapple – courage
Cherries – joy
Fruit should be fresh, cooked fresh, or lacto-fermented as chutney. Canning enhances the tamasic quality, as does freezing, though to a lesser extent.
Most vegetables are fairly sattvic. It’s great to have some raw, but slightly cooked can be better (soaked, boiled, baked, or fried in butter, olive oil or coconut oil) because many vegetables have substances that has a harmful effect on digestion, assimilation, and cellular functions, and these substances are neutralized with cooking. Cooking improves the quality of vegetables, but at the same time destroys enzymes and certain nutrients.
So, what to do?
Raw your vegetables! Add some lacto-fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut). This process really increases the nutritional value, and adds greatly enhanced enzyme activity and friendly bacterial flora, improving digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Raw onions, leeks, and garlic have more of a rajasic quality, and although they have much medicinal merit, mushrooms are considered tamasic. Canned, frozen, or processed vegetables also increase tamasic quality.
Fruits and seeds
Like grains, fruits and seeds are generally sattvic, but require some preparation to neutralize harmful substances.
Start with raw organic fruits. These can be sprouted, or soaked overnight with a little natural salt (Celtic sea salt is best) and then chilled or dried in the oven at low heat (less than 150 degrees), or in the sun, for 12 to 12 to 24 hours.
The fruits prepared as above can then be eaten by themselves (eaten well) or cooked with food. They can also be blended to create wonderful nut butters.
“Beans, beans, magic fruit.
The more you eat, the more you eat.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So, let’s eat beans for every meal!”
– My Elementary School
Legumes are known for their challenges with digestion, but many traditional societies have been largely based on beans without challenge. This again, is important because of the preparation method.
Soak all the vegetables in clean water with whey, lemon, or lime juice and leave them in a warm place for 24 hours. Later, pour off the drained water and rinse well. Cook the beans until they are soft and skim off any foam that rises to the floor. Finally, rinse the beans again and add the appropriate spices and natural salt, lemon juice or water from lacto-fermented vegetables, and raw butter or olive oil.
The most sattvic legumes are mung beans and chickpeas. A small amount of tofu is not good, but soy should be taken otherwise in fermented form such as miso, tempeh, and natto, as these preparations neutralize harmful substances that occur naturally in the body.
Uncooked beans are irritating and rajasic, and canned beans increase tamas.
Most sattvic spices are mild and tend to taste with pungent and bitter notes. They can be taken freely as they help in the digestion of other foods and have many health benefits. These spices are numerous, but a few examples include: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, ginger, and turmeric.
Very pungent spices such as hot peppers or chilies and garlic are more rajasic and stimulating, and aromatic spices are dull and tamasic.
Unfortunately, most of today’s beverage choices are unhealthy. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are very stimulating and rajasic. Pasteurized juices, soda pop, and beer have an overall tamasic quality. Even today’s “healthy drink” soy milk has some health challenges because it contains dangerous substances and is not neutral in its preparation.
Sattvic drink choices include: pure spring water, raw milk, sattvic herbal teas such as chamomile and mint, sattvic fruit and vegetable juices diluted with pure water, well-prepared seed, grain, or nut milks. (see related sections above), and lacto- beverages made from dairy, seeds, nuts, and seeds.
Adapted from Dietary Supplements for Lightness: A Guide to Inner Peace and Self-Awareness, by Jacob Griscom, CAS
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