Sattvic diet

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The Sattvic diet is a diet based on foods with the sattva quality (guna).[1] In Yoga and Ayurveda literature, the Sattvic diet is said to restore and maintain a sattvic or sentient state of living.[2][3] In the Sattvic system of dietary classification, foods and drinks that have destructive influence on the mind or body are considered Tamasic or course, while those that neither lead to better health nor are destructive are considered Rajasic or mutative.

The Sattvic diet is meant to be "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise".[3][4]

The Sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods such as fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins.[5] Some Sattvic diet suggestions, such as its relative emphasis on dairy products, are controversial.[6]

The diet is sometimes referred to as Yogic diet in modern literature. In the ancient and medieval era Yoga literature, the diet concept discussed is Mitahara, which means "moderation in eating".[5][7]


Sattvic is derived from Sattva (सत्त्व) which is a Sanskrit word. Sattva is a complex concept in Indian philosophy, used in many contexts, and it means one that is "pure, essence, nature, vital, energy, clean, conscious, strong, courage, true, honest, wise, rudiment of life".[8]

Sattva is one of three gunas (quality, peculiarity, tendency, attribute, property). The other two qualities are considered to be Rajas (agitated, passionate, moving, emotional, trendy) and Tamas (dark, destructive, spoiled, ignorant, stale, inert, unripe, unnatural, weak, unclean). The concept that contrasts with and is opposed to Sattva is Tamas.[9][10]

A Sattvic diet is thus meant to include foods and eating habits that are "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-giving, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise".[1][3][4]

Ancient literature[edit]

Main article: Mitahara

Yoga includes recommendations on eating habits. Śāṇḍilya Upanishad[11] and Svātmārāma[12][13][14] both state that Mitahara (eating in moderation) is an important part of yoga practice. It is one of the Yamas (virtuous self restraints). These texts while discussing yoga diet, however, make no mention of sattvic diet.

The application of the Sattva and Tamas concepts to food is a later and relatively new extension to the Mitahara virtue in Yoga literature. Verses 1.57 through 1.63 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika[12] suggests that taste cravings should not drive one’s eating habits, rather the best diet is one that is tasty, nutritious and likable as well as sufficient to meet the needs of one’s body.[15] It recommends that one must “eat only when one feels hungry” and “neither overeat nor eat to completely fill the capacity of one’s stomach; rather leave a quarter portion empty and fill three quarters with quality food and fresh water”.[15] Verses 1.59 to 1.61 of Hathayoga Pradipika suggest that the ‘‘mitahara’’ regimen of a yogi avoids foods with excessive amounts of sour, salt, bitterness, oil, spice burn, unripe vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol. The practice of Mitahara, in Hathayoga Pradipika, includes avoiding stale, impure and tamasic foods, and consuming moderate amounts of fresh, vital and sattvic foods.[1]

The Indian text Bhagavad Gita links sattva, rajas and tamas to food in verses 17.8 through 17.10.[16] It states that those who are in the Sattva state of mind prefer foods that are life giving, purifying to one's existence and that give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Sattva-oriented foods are juicy, oily, wholesome, and pleasing to taste. Non-Sattva oriented foods are too bitter, too sour, too salty, too spicy, too pungent, too astringent, stale, tasteless or decomposed. Non-Sattvic foods cause distress, disease and disorders.[16]

In the context of Yoga, attention to one's diet is essential for good health of body and mind, and the virtue of Mitahara is one where the yogi is aware of the quantity and quality of food and drinks he or she consumes, takes neither too much nor too little, and suits it to one's health condition and needs.[4][5]

Sattvic foods[edit]

The Sattvic diet places emphasis on lacto-vegetarian ingredients that are fresh, seasonal, and naturally sourced (non-processed).[17] Grains, well ripened vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes that are well prepared and freshly cooked are favoured.[17] Oils and spices are considered sattvic, if naturally sourced and used in moderation. Milk and milk products are emphasized in many forms.[17]

Moderation is considered a key practice in sattvic lifestyle and yoga, which implies not over-eating.[17]

In Ayurveda and Yoga, Sattvic foods are considered as those that help restore and maintain harmony and balance in one's body and mind.[18] Given Yoga's emphasis on virtuous living based on Yamas and Niyamas, the diet consists of food that empowers virtues such as ahimsa (non-injury to all living creatures) and others. Sattvic foods thus place emphasis on vegetarian foods, thereby minimizing injury and harm to animals and ocean life.[18] Raw and cooked ripe, seasonal foods are preferred, including fruits, seeds, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, milk among others. Processed foods are considered tamasic. Stale food, overcooked or over-spiced foods are also considered inappropriate.[18] All six flavors - sweet, salt, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent is preferably present in a Sattvic diet, at least on rotational basis, as each of these tastes are considered vital. Extreme emphasis or over-eating one or few flavors is considered Tamasic.[5][18]

Gerson,[3] in his review of Caraka Samhita, states that Yogic diet should include primarily freshly prepared and warm, be slightly unctuous (moist, oily) on palate, in small portions, eaten at a moderate pace (not gulped, nor very slow) and started when hungry (not as habit). Further, a Sattvic diet pays attention to one's particular physical and biological needs (there is no one diet is right for all, according to the Indian text Caraka Samhita).[3] Food must be combined to get nutrients from a variety of sources. Gerson states,[3] that Sattvic diet recommends the preferred sequence of food variety eaten, and what sorts of food should not be eaten at the same because they react and cause adverse effect on one's body and mind. Protein-rich salty and fibrous foods are considered ideal at the start of a meal, followed by ripe vegetables (salad), and then fruits is a preferred sequence in a Sattvic diet.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Steven Rosen (2011), Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions, Praeger, ISBN 978-0313397035, pages 25-29
  2. ^ Amadea Morningstar, Cooking for the Spirit, Yoga Journal, May/June 1996, Vol. 128, pages 44-46
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Scott Gerson (2002), The Ayurvedic Guide to Diet, ISBN 978-0910261296, Chapter 8: The Sattvic Diet, pages 107-132
  4. ^ a b c BP Desai (1990), Place of nutrition in yoga, Ancient science of life, 9(3): 147-153, PMC 3331325
  5. ^ a b c d Paul Turner (2013), FOOD YOGA - Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul, 2nd Edition, ISBN 978-0985045111
  6. ^ Gary Gran, The Sattvic or Yogic Diet Yoga Chicago Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005
  7. ^ Mitihara, in What is Hinduism? (Ed: Hinduism Today Magazine, 2007), Himalayan Academy, Hawaii, ISBN 978-1-934145-00-5, page 340
  8. ^ sattva Monier Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Germany
  9. ^ Edward Craig (2009), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge, page 463
  10. ^ James G. Lochtefeld, Guna, in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, Vol. 1, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 9780823931798, page 265
  11. ^ KN Aiyar (1914), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 978-1164026419, Chapter 22, pages 173-176
  12. ^ a b Hatha Yoga Pradipika verse 1.58-63, pages 19-21
  13. ^ Lorenzen, David (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas. University of California Press. pp. 186–190. ISBN 978-0520018426. 
  14. ^ Subramuniya (2003). Merging with Śiva: Hinduism's contemporary metaphysics. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 155. ISBN 9780945497998. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  15. ^ a b KS Joshi, Speaking of Yoga and Nature-Cure Therapy, Sterling Publishers, ISBN 978-1845570453, page 65-66
  16. ^ a b Christopher Key Chapple (2009), The Bhagavad Gita: Twenty-fifth–Anniversary Edition, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-1438428420, pages 641-643
  17. ^ a b c d Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, ISBN 978-1556434716, page 641
  18. ^ a b c d David Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind: The Healing of Consciousness, ISBN 978-0914955368, pages 190-198

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