How Food affects the Mind (Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Food)
Food not only nourishes the body, it affects the mind and consciousness as well. As our physical constitution is characterized by different proportions of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, we also have a mental constitution determined by the sattva, rajas, and tamas. These three qualities are universal and equally necessary to maintain our psychological balance.
Sattvic qualities imply essence, reality, consciousness, purity, creativity, and clarity of perception. People in whom sattva predominate are loving, compassionate, and pure – minded. They tend to have positive behavior, and love for all beings. They do not become upset or angry easily. They look fresh, alert, aware, and full of luster and are recognized for their wisdom, happiness, and joy. Satvic individuals do not get mental fatigue, although they work hard mentally, so they need only four to five hours of sleep. See also: “Features of Sattvic Person”
Rajas leads to the life of sensual enjoyment, pleasure and pain, effort and restlessness. People in whom rajasic qualities predominate tend to be egoistic, ambitious, aggressive, proud, and competitive and have a tendency to control others. They work hard and like power, prestige, and position and are perfectionists. They suffer from a fear of failure, tend to be angry and jealous and to have few moments of joy. Rajasic individuals are quickly drained of mental energy; they require 8 hours of sleep.
Tamas is darkness, inertia, heaviness, and tendency toward materialism. Individuals dominated by tamas tend toward depression, laziness, excessive sleep, eating, drinking, and sex. They may be greedy, possessive, attached, irritable, and uncaring toward others. A little mental work tires them easily; they sleep more than 8 hours a night (Kids leave in Kapha period of life no matter what their inborn constitution is, that’s why they sleep longer).
How we respond to events and circumstances depends on the specific balance of sattva, rajas and tamas in our mind. The basic nature of the mind is creative or sattvic, with just enough rajas and tamas to bring desires to fruition. It is vital for health and happiness to keep this balance for our life to move in a progressive direction. Sattvic mind lends itself toward calm, clear, creative thinking that allows one to easily find effective solutions to life’s problems. Then we need the lesser qualities of rajas to implement these solutions and tamas to bring these activities to an end when the problem has actually been solved.
Too much rajas or tamas distort the natural balance of the mind and have a negative impact on our lives. Unfortunately, the Westerns eat tremendous amounts of rajasic and tamasic foods and very little fresh unprocessed sattvic foods. From an Ayurvedic perspective, there is a connection between how we are eating and how we are acting, our levels of violence, crime, and depression.
Unlike our physical constitution, which is hard to change, our mental attitude greatly depends on the food we eat on a daily basis, thus it is possible for us to choose between consciousness, agitation, or inertia. We do so by choosing the right food.Sattvic food not automatically fits for all doshas, some can be too heavy for Vata, too sour for Pitta, or too mucous provoking for Kapha. See also “The Food list for Vata, Pitta and Kapha” to pick food that will pacify your dosha along with satisfying your mental constitution.
Sattvic foods support sattva; they help the mind become clear and stay focused.
Here is an alphabetic list of sattvic foods:
* – in moderation; **- in excess.
Alfalfa sprouts, almonds, amaranth, anise, apple, apricot, artichoke, arugula*, asparagus, banana (ripe), barley, basmati rice, beans (azuki, black, broad, fava, green, lima*, mung, navy*, pinto, tepary), bean sprouts (all), bee pollen, berberies, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, butter, buttermilk (fresh), cabbage (cooked), cantaloupe, cardamom, carob, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, cheese (freshly made), cherry, coconut, collards, corn (fresh), cornmeal, cranberries, cream (sweet), cucumber, currant, dates (fresh), fennel, figs (fresh and dried),fruit juices (freshly made), ghee (clarified butter), grapefruit (sweet), grapes, honey (raw unheated), honeydew melon, kale, kohlrabi, lentils (black, tan), lettuce, licorice, mango (ripe), maple syrup, Mother’s milk, milk (fresh, raw, pure), millet, mung dahl, mustard greens, nectarines, nuts (Brazil, cashew, chestnuts, macadamia, peanuts, pine, pecans, walnuts), oats, oranges (sweet), okra, papaya, paneer (Indian cheese), parsley, parsnip, peaches, peas (black eye, green), persimmon, pineapple (sweet), plum, pomegranate, prunes, pumpkin, quinoa, raisins, raspberries, rice, rose hips, rutabaga, sesame seeds, saffron, sorghum, soy lecithin, spinach, strawberries, sugar cane (raw), summer squash, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tangerines (sweet), turnip, watercress, watermelon, wheat, wild rice, winter squash, yams, yogurt (fresh), zucchini.
Rajasic foods generate more fire, outward motion, creativity, aggression, and passion.
Any canned, sweetened fruit, all fermented food, all bottled fruit juices are rajasic. Sattvic food can be turned into rajasic when eaten too hot, too cold, or too spicy. Here is an alphabetic list of other rajasic foods:
Avocado, beans (garbanzo, kidney), black pepper corn, brewer’s yeast, buttermilk (not freshly made), cabbage (raw), cacao, cheese (hard, cottage), chili, chocolate, coffee, dates (dried), eggplant, guava, grapefruit (sour), kefir ( not freshly made), lemon, lentils (red), lime, malt syrup, mango (unripe), molasses, olives, peanut oil, peanuts (salty), peppers, pickles, peas (green dried**), pine apple (sour), pistachios (salted), potatoes, radish, red beets, rhubarb, rice bran syrup, salt (all kinds), sour cream, sugar (white, brown, date, fructose, jaggery), sugar cane juice, tea (green and black), tomatoes, vinegar, yogurt (not freshly made).
Tamasic foods increase inner darkness and confusion. They slow us down, depress us and enhance inertia.
Tamasic foods include all fast food, fried food, frozen food, microwaved food, processed food, left over night food, alcohol, all drugs, and chemicals. Even sattvic and rajasic food become tamasic if eaten not fresh. Here is an alphabetic list of other tamasic foods:
Alcohol, beef, chicken, drugs, eggs (all parts), fish, fowl, garlic, goat, ice cream, lamb, lard, leeks, margarine, not fresh milk ( homogenized, pasteurized, powdered), mushrooms, onion (raw, cooked, green), pop corn, pork, rabbit, black radish, shallots, shellfish, soy beans, turkey, venison.
The basic nature of the mind is creative or sattvic, with just enough rajas and tamas to bring desires to fruition. That means that the base of our diet should consist of fresh or freshly prepared grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, milk, ghee and butter in moderation, cold pressed oils and natural sweeteners. We need just a small amount of rajasic foods to stimulate creativity and outward motion. Tamasic food can be helpful when an excess of rajas is present. If the mind is hyper and ungrounded – some tamasic food can be eaten to promote stability. Freshly made steamed mushrooms or onions although tamasic are a healthier choice than a frozen steak, which has been fried, re chilled and microwaved.
NB: Some food categories can be, and are disputed. Especially often are discussed garlic, onion, eggs, and soy.
TODAY’S TIP: Don’t let this new information overwhelm you. Take small steps to choose more and more sattvic foods from your Vata, Pitta or Kapha food list every day. As soon as your body gets rid of toxins you will intuitively choose the food that is good for you. See also What it meas to eat fresh; Vegan eating in A-da; Myth about Vegetaranism and Anemia, Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic life.