Food to Nourish the Spirit

According to the ancient knowledge of ayurveda, everything possesses spiritual properties, including food. Food is thought to not only nourish the body, but also to nourish the mind and consciousness, allowing us to perceive the truth of who we are. Through the close observation of nature, [they] came to believe that everything possesses the three spiritual qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas.

The quality of sattva is pure, calm, harmonious and upward moving in nature. Therefore the quality of sattva allows for the mind to perceive with clarity and observe without reaction. It enables us to see the truth. Foods which possess sattvic qualities are generally fresh, juicy, sweet and nourishing in nature.

Rajas is the quality of energy, vitality and emotion. It motivates us and helps us to achieve our goals. In excess however, its outward moving nature can cause us to become distracted and entangled by our desires and ego. Foods possessing the quality of rajas often taste pungent (spicy), sour or salty, including meat, fish, eggs, garlic, onions, legumes, radishes, chilis and coffee.

Tamas is the quality of stability and inertia. It is a downward moving energy that in excess can create heaviness and lethargy and an inability to perceive things clearly. Foods with a tamasic quality are stale, old, canned or processed and will often taste bitter or astringent (drying) and heavy in nature.

As the purpose of life, according to ayurveda, is to realize the truth of who we are, a sattvic diet and lifestyle were often recommended. The quality of sattva can be cultivated through meditation and yoga, spending time in nature, living in harmony with life and eating a sattvic diet.

Foods that are thought to be sattvic in nature include:

• All fresh fruit especially peaches, pears, mangos, coconut and figs.

• Most fresh vegetables especially lettuce,sprouts, celery and squash.

• All whole grains especially rice and oats.

• Beans are generally considered to be rajasic with the exception of mung beans, adzuki beans, tofu and lima beans.

• Good quality organic dairy foods including fresh cream cheese and cottage cheese and small amounts of yogurt. However, when dairy foods are pasteurized they are thought to lose much of their sattvic quality.

• Nuts and seeds in small quantities, especially, almonds, pine nuts, pecans and walnuts. They should be fresh or lightly toasted, not roasted with salt.

• Oils are heavy in nature, however small amounts of coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter), sesame and olive oil are thought to be sattvic in nature.

• Unpasteurised honey and raw sugar.

• Spices are mostly considered rajasic in nature except for ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, tumeric, basil, fennel and coriander which are thought to help purify the mind.

• Clean, purified water.

All three qualities of satva, rajas and tamas are present in all things and are necessary to combine and balance each other. The sattvic diet and lifestyle was promoted as it supported a spiritual life. It allowed the mind to become calm and free of distraction in order for us to perceive the truth clearly. However, the qualities of rajas and tamas are also important, rajas to energise us and tamas to ground us. As always, finding a balance is the key.

Anna Louise Dodds is a nutritional consultant who addresses health issues through diet. She can be contacted at 751 9751 or