According to Ayurveda, the Vedic science of holistic living, the way you cook your food will decide what it does for you. Depending on how it is cooked, the same food can boost your energy levels, make you drop off to sleep or help you meditate better!
The food we eat has a direct effect on the quality of life we live. Certain foods are heavy on the body leaving us tired and lethargic, while others over stimulate the system making us restless and agitated. Consuming sattvic food for 21 days will rid the body of harmful toxins, regulate the digestive system, and cleanse the palette. When the palette is cleansed, the flavor of food is enjoyed more, which naturally leads to a vast decrease in cravings of unhealthy food and the habit of overeating.
In other words, cooking determines whether the food will be transformed into sattva, rajas or tamas.
There are three qualities or energies, known in Sanskrit as gunas, which stem from the essential aspects of nature - matter, energy and consciousness respectively. All of us are essentially a mix of these energies, with one energy dominating at any given time.
Why Sattvic Food
The first twenty minutes immediately after we wake up in the morning, plays a vital role in shaping our entire day. The mood we are in, the thoughts that arise and the way we react to these thoughts during the first twenty minutes, sets the trend for our entire day. One way to wake up refreshed, without depression every morning, is to eat vegetarian food.
To many Western people it might come as a surprise to know that there is a finer aspect to vegetarian food. This refinement helps the energy flow in our body. This pure food is called satvic food.
Three Types of Food
Food is also classified in these three ways, depending on the effect it creates in us.
- Sattvic foods are light and easy to digest
- They bring clarity and perception
- Sattvic food has the potential to unfolds love and compassion in the individual
- Sattvic food promotes the qualities of forgiveness and austerity
- It gives a feeling of contentment
Examples of sattvic (high prana) foods
- Fruit: mango, pomegranate, coconut, figs, peaches, pears
- Grains: rice, tapioca, blue corn
- Vegetables: sweet potato, lettuce, parsley, sprouts, yellow sqaush
- Beans: mung, yellow lentils, kidney, lima
- Dairy: organic milk, fresh homemade yoghurt
- Rajasic foods are hot, spicy and salty
- They are irritants and stimulants
- All morish or tempting foods come under the category of rajasic
- Heavily spiced foods e.g. hot pickles and chutneys which can stimulate the senses
- Rajasic foods make the mind more agitated and susceptible to temptation
- The mind can become more rajasic, which means it tends towards anger, hate and manipulatio
Examples of rajasic (stimulating) foods
- Fruit: sour apples, apples, banana, guava
- Grains: millet, corn, buckwheat
- Vegetables: potato, nightshades, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, tamarind, pickles, winter squash
- Beans: red lentils, toor dal, adzuki
- Dairy: old sour milk, sour cream
- Meat: fish, shrimp, chicken
- Tamasic food is heavy, dull and depressing
- It induces sleep
- Under this category comes dark meat, lamb, pork, beef, as well as thick cheese
- Old and stale food is also tamasic
- Only when too much of it is eaten, it causes the dulling effect.
- In moderation, tamasic food is considered as grounding and promotes stability
Examples of tamasic (heavy) foods
- Fruit: avocado, watermelon, plums, apricots
- Grains: wheat, brown rice,
- Vegetables: mushrooms, garlic, onion, pumpkin
- Beans: urad dal, black, pinto, pink
- Dairy: cheese
- Meat: beef, lamb, pork
- No garlic, onions, or green chilies
When we adhere to a satvic vegetarian diet, we do not consume garlic, onions, or green chilies (jalapeno peppers) in any form. It keeps us light and active throughout the day.
‘Why should we avoid these foods? Garlic, onion, and green chilies contain natural steroids in them. They are ideal medicines.’
We can inject them as medicines, but not as a regular part of our meals. Daily intake of these as food will bring down our energy flow. Similarly, tea and coffee are not good for our system as they actually over-stimulate our body and leave us tired. Now you know why people run for a caffeine fix! Meat, alcohol, and cigarettes are considered lethargy inducing items. These foods or habits induce laziness in us. Using these substances make us dull and disturb the energy flow in our body. These foods create a feeling of depression in the morning. It is possible to support the cause for vegetarianism only from the point of view of practicality.
A spiritual point of view will provide a better understanding of the significance of vegetarian food. If an enlightened, spiritual master declares that vegetarianism is the best, then it is the ultimate truth. The master knows from experience. For every other argument we have strong counter arguments. It is in my personal experience that vegetarian food allows more sensitivity and ecstasy in the energy flow that happens in your system. We feel light and ecstatic with this diet. Definitely.,vegetarian food is better for people who wants to live a healthier life…
Sattvic Way of Cooking
Foods to be avoided in sattvic cooking:
- Canned food
- Frozen food
- Food with preservative added
Foods to be encouraged in sattvic cooking:
- Lots of fresh, organic vegetables and other organic products
- Only small portions (food should not be kept for more than 4 hours)
How to cook:
- Stir frying is best
- Add your salts last so that is does not extract minerals and nutrients from the food – use organic rock salt
Who is doing the cooking? What is the state of mind of the person cooking? Our thoughts are energy….
- Food cooked in India, mantras are chanted.
- At least listen to good music, be joyful when you cook.
- Understand that it is not the proteins, carbs, fat that are digested; it is the emotion with which you have cooked the food
Tips for Sattvic Cooking
Sattvic food is obviously the healthiest choice for your body and mind. Here are a few tips for sattvic cooking. When the food is cooked on a low flame, covered and a minimum of cooking is given to the food, just enough for you to be able to digest it. So the vegetables are not cooked until completely soft but they are left a bit crunchy. You can feel the juice in the vegetable. When you bite into the food the juice of the food is there in your mouth. So the nutrition and freshness of the food is still maintained.
Energize your food
There is one more way to increase the energy and wholesomeness of the food. In the Vedic tradition, we first offer the food to the Divine before eating it. Consecrating the food not only energizes it, but also helps us become aware that eating is a sacred act. This simple awareness will help us to avoid overeating, avoid wasting food – and above all, eat with a sense of gratitude and fulfillment.
Enjoy your food!
During your meal, drop everything else and just enjoy eating your food with awareness. Take a serving at a time, enjoying the colors and shape food through the eyes, enjoying the color of the food. Take small helpings; enjoy the visual treat. Take in the fragrance of the food. Relish its taste and texture in your mouth. Involve all your senses in your experience. When you eat with total mindfulness, you not only eat less, but you eat wisely, allowing your body to tell you what type of food it needs most that day. Most importantly, you get up from your meal with a deep sense of fulfillment.
Tips for Sattvic Eating
What is the best time to eat?
Ayurveda says that in our manipuraka region (navel region) we have what is known as digestive fire (jatara agni). This jatara agni is closely related to the sun. When the sun is out, it means your digestion is functioning at its optimum. Always aim to eat your meals between sunrise and sunset (not before or after).
Eat light, sattvic and pure foods for breakfast – fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruit etc. Our jatara agni is at is strongest when the sun is at its highest in the sky (at approximately 1pm). It is best to eat our largest meal during 12pm and 2pm. The evening meal should again be light and best eaten before the sun goes down for the day.
How to eat?
Devote at least half and hour to eat and digest each meal (1.5 hours per day for eating is not much). Remember that one fourth of your food is taken through the eye (sense of seeing) so serve your dish on a beautiful plate - you are worth your best cutlery! It is also a nice practice to set the table you are eating at decoratively. Play some beautiful, calming music while you eat your meals.
Say a small prayer before eating your food. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate, simply just say a small thank you for the food that you have and that is about to become part of your body.
Fragrance of the food
Bring your face toward the food and inhale the fragrance of the food. Enjoy the different aromas of the food. Allow this sense to be filled.
Touch the food
Touch the food with both hands and all fingers, feel the textures.All five fingers have minor chakras. Therefore, when we touch the food, we send a signal to our digestive system that you are about to ingest food.
Eating the food
Let the first morsel be a sacred act to yourself. Chew the food 32 times – or until food is pulp in the mouth. We do this for two reasons. The first is, when you chew the food slowly, your system has time to understand that enough food has been eaten. You won't overeat when you chew the food slowly. The second reason is, when you chew the food well, the digestive process begins in the mouth itself where the enzymes in the saliva can start to breakdown the food. When the food reaches your stomach, it does not have to work so hard to breakdown all the food. Breaking down food in the stomach takes more energy than running around your street block. That is why we feel very tired after eating food. Have positivity when you are eating and digesting your food.
Leave some room
You should only fill three quarters of your stomach. Leave the final quarter for some water and air. Small sips of warm water can be taken during meal. Never drink cold drinks during a meal as they can weaken your digestive fire. Leave a complete half an hour after your meal, than you can drink a full glass of warm water if it is required. One can sip water throughout the day. It greases the system and breaks down what is known as ama which is residue of your digestion.
Sit in vajrasana to help digestion
Sit in the vajrasana position (sitting on your heels, knees and feet together) for 3 - 5 minutes after a meal. This position can help the food to digest as a lot of blood will be brought to that area. It helps to remove gas and prevent bloating. If you get the urge to belch or pass wind, that is what the posture is designed to do, so try not to supress these urges. The posture will help you to feel light and energized after the meal. Never lay down or sleep after a meal. If you want to gain weight, than this is a 100% guaranteed way to put on weight; sleeping after food.