Very often we refer to the great qualities of a ‘Sattvic’ diet. Some proponents even go to the extent of calling diets other than pure sattvic as that fit for ‘demons’.
Let us decode Sattvic diet as mentioned in the Indian system of Ayurveda and see whether some of us are indeed ‘demons’.
On a simplistic note the Indian system of Ayurveda describes three basic ‘gunas’.
Guna is a property that just is, it is neither good nor bad.
Sattva Guna, represented by the colour white is the pure expansive intelligence in our mind.
Rajas Guna, represented by myriad colours is the aspect of action while
Tamas Guna represented by the colour black is rest; sometimes lethargy.
Each of these is neither good or bad. Since Tamas is represented by the colour black, there is a popular misconception that it is bad and tamsic foods including lots of grains, heavily cooked meats, spices etc are ‘demonic’.
Can the human being live without rest? or without pursuit through action?
All the three combine to form wholesome perfection.
Sattvic food is lightly cooked food without the heavy use of spices, onions, garlic, and other vegetables that grow underground in the Earth. Such food signifies the element known as Vata or Space or Air. This food creates lightness in the body.
Examples are milk and yogurt, lightly spiced soups and curries, steamed or sautéed vegetables, a predominance of fruit, smaller portions of grains as porridge, simple mung bean khichdi, water-based plants like lotus stems and chestnuts, and small fish like sardines, mackerel, and pomfret. This is typical sattva in south India.
A Sattvic Jain from Western India, may not eat any kind of root vegetables, meat is strictly forbidden. A Sattvic Brahman from Bengal in the East may eat an occasional Rohu fish. A Kashmiri Sattvic from the North may eat a bit of meat with their rice and veggies to stay warm during freezing winters.
The entire idea of sattva is to eat foods which create lightness inside. These are good for healing, for older people and for those whose professions do not call for heavy physical work.
Imagine giving such a food to an olympic athlete?
A worker at the docks won’t survive with such meals. He would need Tamas diet.
Next time we’ll discuss more about the three Gunas and who should have which type of diet.
Meanwhile, enjoy your meals with gratitude. As we don’t judge ourselves and others, so shouldn’t we place foods in white or black baskets. (Of course, we don’t refer to ‘refined’ or ‘preservative’ filled stuff as foods).