Sattvic diet

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Sattvic diet refers to a type of plant-based diet within Ayurveda[1] where food is divided into what is defined as three yogic qualities (guna) known as sattva.[2] In this system of dietary classification, foods that decrease the energy of the body are considered tamasic, while those that increase the energy of the body are considered rajasic. A sattvic diet is sometimes referred to as a yogic diet in modern literature.

A sattvic diet shares the qualities of sattva, some of which include "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise".[3][4] A sattvic diet can also exemplify Ahimsa, the principle of not causing harm to other living beings. This is one reason yogis often follow a vegetarian diet.[5]

A sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits if one has no sugar problems, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Dairy products are recommended when the cow is fed and milked appropriately.[6]

In ancient and medieval era Yoga literature, the concept discussed is Mitahara, which literally means "moderation in eating".[6][7] A sattvic diet is one type of treatment recommended in ayurvedic literature.[3]


Sattvic is derived from sattva (सत्त्व) which is a Sanskrit word.[8] 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".[9][better source needed]

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, inertia, unripe, unnatural, weak, unclean). The concept that contrasts with and is opposed to sattva is Tamas.[10][11]

A sattvic diet is thus meant to include food and eating habit that is "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-giving, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise".[2][3][4]

Ancient literature[edit]

Eating agreeable (sattvic) food and eating in moderation have been emphasized throughout ancient literature. For example, the c. 5th-century Tamil poet-philosopher Valluvar insists this in the 95th chapter of his work, the Tirukkural. He hints, "Assured of digestion and truly hungry, eat with care agreeable food" (verse 944) and "Agreeable food in moderation ensures absence of pain" (verse 945).[12][13]

Yoga includes recommendations on eating habits. Both the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad[14] and Svātmārāma, an Indian yogi who lived during the 15th century CE,[15]: Introduction [16][17] state that Mitahara (eating in moderation) is an important part of yoga practice. It is one of the Yamas (virtuous self restraints).[15]: verse 1.58–63, pages 19–21  These texts while discussing yoga diet, however, make no mention of sattvic diet.[according to whom?]

In Yoga diet context, 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][6]

The application of 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[15]: verse 1.58–63, pages 19–21  suggest 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.[18] 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".[18] The Hathayoga Pradipika suggests ‘‘mitahara’’ regimen of a yogi avoids foods with excessive amounts of sour, salt, bitterness, oil, spice burn, unripe vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol.[15]: Verses 1.59 to 1.61  The practice of Mitahara, in Hathayoga Pradipika, includes avoiding stale, impure and tamasic foods, and consuming moderate amounts of fresh, vital and sattvic foods.[2]

Sattvic foods[edit]

According to ayurveda, sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic foods are comprised of some combination of any of the five basic elements: prithvi (earth), jala (water), teja (fire), vayu (air), and akash (ether).[19]

Nuts and Seeds[edit]

Nuts that may be considered a part of a sattvic diet include raw organic almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Seeds that may be considered a part of a sattvic diet include sunflower and pumpkin seeds.[20]


Fruits that are fresh and organic are considered sattvic. Fresh fruits are preferred to frozen or preserved in a sattvic diet.[21]


Dairy products like yogurt and cheese (paneer) must be made that day, from milk obtained that day. Butter must be fresh daily as well, and raw; but ghee (clarified butter) can be aged forever, and is great for cooking. Freshness is key with dairy. Milk should be freshly milked from a cow. Milk that is not consumed fresh can be refrigerated for one to two days in its raw state, but must be brought to a boil before drinking, and drunk while still hot/warm.[citation needed]


Most mild vegetables are considered sattvic. Pungent vegetables leek, garlic and onion (tamasic) are excluded, including mushrooms, as all fungi are also considered tamasic. Some consider tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines as sattvic, but most consider the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, shallots), as well as fungus (yeasts, molds, and mushrooms) as not sattvic.[citation needed]

Whole grains[edit]

Whole grains provide nourishment. Some include organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal and barley. Sometimes the grains are lightly roasted before cooking to remove some of their heavy quality. Yeasted breads are not recommended, unless toasted. Wheat and other grains can be sprouted before cooking as well.[citation needed]


Mung beans, lentils, yellow split peas, chickpeas, aduki beans, common beans and bean sprouts are considered sattvic if well prepared. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier to digest.[citation needed]


Most yogis use raw honey (often in combination with dairy), jaggery, or raw sugar (not refined). Palm jaggery and coconut palm sugar are other choices. Others use alternative sweeteners, such as stevia or stevia leaf. In some traditions, sugar and/or honey are excluded from the diet, along with all other sweeteners.[citation needed]


Sattvic spices are herbs/leaves, including basil and coriander.[citation needed]

All other spices are considered either rajasic or tamasic. However, over time, certain Hindu sects have tried to classify a few spices as Sattvic.[citation needed]

Spices in the new sattvic list may include cardamom (yealakaai in Tamil, Elaichi in Hindi), cinnamon (Ilavangapattai in Tamil, Dalchini in Hindi), cumin (seeragam in Tamil, Jeera in Hindi), fennel (soambu in Tamil, Saunf in Hindi), fenugreek (venthaiyam in Tamil, Methi in Hindi), black pepper (Piper nigrum) also known as 'Kali mirch' in Hindi, fresh ginger (ingi in Tamil, Adrak in Hindi) and turmeric (Manjai in Tamil, Haldi in Hindi).

Rajasic spices like red pepper (kudaimilagai in Tamil, 'Shimla mirch' in Hindi) are normally excluded, but are sometimes used in small amounts, both to clear channels blocked by mucus and to counter tamas.[citation needed]

Sattvic herbs[edit]

Other herbs are used to directly support sattva in the mind and in meditation. These include ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, gotu kola, ginkgo, jatamansi, purnarnava, shatavari, saffron, shankhapushpi, tulsi and rose.[citation needed]

Rajasic (stimulant) foods[edit]

Rajas food is defined as food that is spicy, hot, fried, or acidic. Raja food could lead to sadness, misery, or ailment. Junk food or preserved foods are often categorized as rajasik.[22]

Tamasic (sedative) foods[edit]

Sedative foods, also called static foods, or tamasic foods, are foods whose consumption, according to Yoga, are harmful to both mind and body. Harm to mind includes anything that will lead to a duller, less refined state of consciousness. Bodily harm includes any foods that will cause detrimental stress to any physical organ, directly or indirectly (via any physical imbalance).[citation needed]

Such foods sometimes include: meat, fish, fertilized eggs, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverage, durian (fruit), blue cheese, opium, and stale food. Food that has remained for more than three hours (i.e., one yām), is according to chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita, in the tamasic mode.[23]

Incompatible foods[edit]

Incompatible foods (viruddha)[24] are considered to be a cause of many diseases.[19] In the Charaka Samhita, a list of food combinations considered incompatible in the sattvic system is given.[19] P.V. Sharma states that such incompatibilities may not have influence on a person who is strong, exercises sufficiently, and has a good digestive system.[24]

Examples of combinations that are considered incompatible include:

  • Salt or anything containing salt with milk (traditionally believed to produce skin diseases).[better source needed]
  • Fruit with milk products.[better source needed]
  • Fish with milk products (traditionally believed to produce toxins)[24][19]
  • Meat with milk products[19]
  • Sour food[19] or sour fruit[24] with milk products
  • Leafy vegetables with milk products[19]
  • Milk pudding or sweet pudding with rice[19]
  • Mustard oil and curcuma (turmeric)[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Discovering the amazing benefits of sattvic food
  2. ^ a b c Steven Rosen (2011), Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions, Praeger, ISBN 978-0-313-39703-5, pages 25-29
  3. ^ a b c Scott Gerson (2002), The Ayurvedic Guide to Diet, ISBN 978-0-910261-29-6, Chapter 8: The Sattvic Diet, pages 107-132
  4. ^ a b c Desai, B. P. (1990). "Place of Nutrition in Yoga". Ancient Science of Life. 9 (3): 147–153. PMC 3331325. PMID 22557690.
  5. ^ "Ahimsa - religious doctrine". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Paul Turner (2013), FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul, 2nd Edition, ISBN 978-0-9850451-1-1
  7. ^ Mitihara, in What is Hinduism? (Ed: Hinduism Today Magazine, 2007), Himalayan Academy, Hawaii, ISBN 978-1-934145-00-5, page 340
  8. ^ sattvic diet What is Sattvic diet
  9. ^ sattva Monier Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Germany
  10. ^ Edward Craig (2009), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge, page 463
  11. ^ James G. Lochtefeld, Guna, in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, Vol. 1, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8, page 265
  12. ^ Sundaram, P. S. (1990). Tiruvalluvar Kural. Gurgaon: Penguin. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-14-400009-8.
  13. ^ "Russell Simmons on his vegan diet, Obama and Yoga". Integral Yoga Magazine. n.d. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  14. ^ KN Aiyar (1914), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 978-1-164-02641-9, Chapter 22, pages 173-176
  15. ^ a b c d Svatmarama. (2002). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Translated). Akers, Brian Dana. Cork: BookBaby. ISBN 9780989996648. OCLC 897647792.
  16. ^ Lorenzen, David (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas. University of California Press. pp. 186–190. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  17. ^ Subramuniya (2003). Merging with Śiva: Hinduism's contemporary metaphysics. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-945497-99-8. Retrieved 6 April 2009.
  18. ^ a b KS Joshi, Speaking of Yoga and Nature-Cure Therapy, Sterling Publishers, ISBN 978-1-84557-045-3, page 65-66
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rastogi, Sanjeev (2014). Ayurvedic Science of Food and Nutrition. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 1461496284. pp.16, 31-32.
  20. ^ "6 Sattvic Foods to Make Your Diet More Yogic • Yoga Basics". 2020-12-17. Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  21. ^ "6 Sattvic Foods to Make Your Diet More Yogic • Yoga Basics". 2020-12-17. Retrieved 2023-08-26.
  22. ^ Rastogi, Sanjeev (2014). Ayurvedic Science of Food and Nutrition. Springer. pp. 12, 22. ISBN 978-1-4614-9627-4.
  23. ^ Chapter 17 verse 10 of the bhagavad gita
  24. ^ a b c d Verotta, Luisella; Macchi, Maria Pia; Venkatasubramanian, Padma (2015).Connecting Indian Wisdom and Western Science: Plant Usage for Nutrition and Health. CRC Press, Boca Raton, USA. ISBN 1482299763. pp. 25-26.

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