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Introduction to Ayurvedic Nutrition

One of the core differences between western and eastern systems of medicines is on how we view the role of food in our diets. In Ayurvedic and Yogic tradition, nutrition from food is classified by the gunas (qualities) they have vs the calories they contain or their macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats) composition. Gunas of a food are further dependent upon series of factors including benefits they provide an individual, prana (life force energy) they contain, tastes they contain, preparation and they way they are consumed.

The yogic system of nutrition recognizes three categories of foods.

  • Tamasic Foods: Prana, or energy, is withdrawn in these foods. These foods generally bring stagnation in thinking, leading to degeneration of body and mind. They aggravate the doshas in the body, particularly Kapha Dosha (Earth and Water Elements). Tamasic foods include meat, alcohol, tobacco, overprocessed and fast foods. Overeating is also considered a tamasic behavior.  
  • Rajasic Foods: They agitate the mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind. An excess of rajasic foods will over stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic foods include hot substances, such as hot spices, stimulants like coffee, tea and mate, fish, eggs, salt and chocolate. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic. Rajasic foods should only be consumed occasionally.
  • Sattvic Foods: sattvic foods are the purest, and the most desirable for practitioners of yoga. Sattvic foods are the most nourishing and yet maintain the body in a peaceful balance. They have a calming and purifying effect upon the mind, allowing it to function at its fullest potential. Sattvic foods include fresh organic fruit and vegetables, unadulterated fruit juices, milk, butter and cheese, grains, whole grain breads, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas.

In Ayurveda, especially for pregnant and post partum women or individual’s with an ailment, it is recommended to adopt a Sattvic diet which simply means light and healthy food. It does not go to any extremes of taste – neither too sweet, nor too salty or spicy – just moderate. A Sattvic diet consists of pure food (not processed) that is light in potency, and rich in prana (life force). It energizes the body and mind.

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