Such a great deal of time in our daily lives is related, in one way or another, to food and feeding ourselves. We may find it difficult to remain mindful of what we choose to consume: just one more drink, another piece of cake, a few chocolates here and there…do you often lose track?
Without needing to keep a food diary or mental list of every sugary, alcoholic or fried food we shove in our mouths, we can keep ourselves healthy simply by noticing how we feel after consuming certain foods or beverages. Many people are surprised to discover the strong relationship between their diet and their mood or general wellbeing!
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Ayurvedic guidelines are a great starting point for developing mindfulness of the relationship between food and our bodies and minds. Very broadly speaking, in Ayurveda there are three diet types Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic (the three gunas). These diet guidelines are for general purposes only, where there is an illness or special circumstances, individual needs should be taken into account and the diet adjusted accordingly.
The 3 Ayurvedic and Yogic diets
- Sattvic Diet: This is the diet generally followed by yogis and is usually the one offered at ashrams, retreats and meditation centers. It consists of a vegetarian diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic if possible), whole grains, legumes, and dairy products. Mild, sweet tastes are included while strong, stimulating spices are avoided. Sattvic foods are believed to keep the body lean and agile and promote a calm, clear and compassionate mind.
- Rajasic Diet: The party food diet! This group of foods tends to be spicy, salty and sour in taste. Foods that are pickled or aged in some way including, sauces, ketchup, vinegar, wine, tea, coffee, carbonated drinks, all alcohol, and red meat are rajasic in nature. These foods are said to increase restlessness and irritability.
- Tamasic Diet: This diet consists of food that has been processed and modified in some way or is stale, overheated, oily or heavy. Canned meat and fish, foods with preservatives, frozen, preserved and genetically modified foods have tamasic qualities. These foods are thought to increase lethargy, ignorance, and apathy.
The sattvic diet isn’t necessarily or always the best, sometimes low energy and depression indicate a need for rajasic foods, and tamasic foods such as tinned tuna, in small amounts can be added to meals for convenience and increase the nutritional value of a salad or sandwich. When you are eating at cafes and restaurants perhaps you will think of these three food groups and let them guide your choices, or perhaps you will notice how you are feeling and base your choices on that mindfulness. Once you have cultivated more mindfulness around your food choices you can more easily learn how to make your diet more sattvic, nutritious and supportive of your yoga practice. You may want to take our quick and easy guna quiz to further help you understand how to shift and balance the energetics of your diet.
Most importantly, when you can understand the link between your diet and its effect on your mental, physical and emotional bodies you will be able to go beyond these three broad food categories to further fine-tune your diet.
What is your relationship with food? Do you notice how different foods have a different effect on your mood, your energy levels or even your asana? What sort of foods dominate your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments below!