A Sattvic (also spelled Saatvika or Saatvik) diet draws its roots from Ayurveda and Yoga, and teaches that food habits determine one’s health and consciousness.
Gunas or Energies
Ayurveda believes the human body consists of three energies or gunas:
- Vata: Energy that controls body functions such as movement, blood circulation, respiration, blinking and heart beat.
- Pita: Energy that controls metabolic functions such as digestion, absorption, and thermoregulation.
- Kapha: Energy that controls regulatory activities such as growth, hydration and immunity.
The Sattvic diet believes in the harmonious balance of these three energies to create an idealistic emotional, physiological and spiritual state of being. Hence, Sattvic foods are in the mode of goodness.
Rules of Sattvic Cooking
What are some basic rules of cooking Sattvic food?
- Sattvic food is always freshly prepared.
- Sattvic food is simple, but must have plenty of variety and nutrients.
- Sattvic food must be ideally prepared from local, seasonal and natural (organic) ingredients. That means, no synthetic pesticides, GMOs and petroleum based fertilizers.
- The use of packaged, canned and processed food is not allowed in a Sattvic diet.
- Food wastage is forbidden in Sattvic cooking. Hence, copious amounts of food is never prepared.
Types of Ingredients in Sattvic Cooking
Sattvic cooking places emphasis on seasonal produce, fruits, dairy, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains and oils.
• Nuts, Seeds and Oils
Example: Almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, flax oil, ghee, palm oil, and coconut oil
Fruits constitute a significant part of a Sattvic diet, and all fruits are considered Sattvic.
In contrary to current practices of the dairy industry, farmers and consumers, the collection of milk has strict rules in Sattvic living:
- Animals must have spacious grazing land, organic feed and adequate drinking water.
- Animals cannot be given growth hormones or any animal by-products.
- Animals are to be treated with love.
- Milk collected from animals that have been treated poorly is considered unhealthy.
- Milk is to be collected only after the calf has had its share. Denying a calf its mother’s milk is a serious sin.
Some people don’t consider eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes as Sattvic, but many temples and religious gatherings use them in their cooking. Today, the vast majority of vegetables are considered as Sattvic.
• Whole Grains
Example: Rice, whole wheat, barley, and oats.
Example: Chickpeas, mung beans, bean sprouts, as well as lentils like urad dal and chana dal.
Example: Sugar, jaggery, and honey.
• Spices and Herbs
Example: Turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, black pepper, red pepper, cumin seeds, cardamom, basil, saffron and coriander.
Prohibited Ingredients in Sattvic Cooking
A Sattvic diet prohibits foodstuffs related to these two categories:
• Tamasic (sedative foods): Considered as dull and for those of lower consciousness, Tamasic foods are in the mode of ignorance. Ayurveda only permits Tamasic foods during times of war and physical distress, where it is believed these foods help “dull” pain.
Example: Meat, fish, fertilized eggs, onions, garlic, fungi (e.g. mushrooms), alcohol, stale or leftover food.
• Rajasic (stimulant foods): Believed to provoke restlessness and aggression, Rajasic foods are in the mode of passion.
Example: Caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, aerated drinks, energy drinks, excessively spicy food, unfertilized eggs, or chocolate.
A common question that is often asked about the Sattvic diet concerns the exclusion of onions and garlic. According to Ayurvedic principles, onions and garlic are not conducive for mental, physical and spiritual progression because they produce bad breath and body odor.