According to Ayurveda, the food which we consume can be classified into three categories. Each type of food has its benefits with the source of energy, fibres, vitamins, minerals, and more. The food that we consume is directly related to our wellness, physical and mental.
1. Sattvic food
Sattvic food is a combination of fresh, light, and nutritious food. They are mostly categorised under easily digested food. This type of food has natural properties of fibres and minerals good for our digestive system. For a yogic lifestyle, sattvic food is recommended to keep the digestive system easily and light at all times.
1. Rajasic food
This category of food is hot, spicy and stimulating in nature. Due to the essence of spices this particular category have poor nutrition level. They may be tasteful to the tongue and satisfying for our senses but they are stimulating which increases our blood pressure level. In today’s time and age rajasic food is prepared at a maximum amount of places, be it indoors or outdoors. They create irritation in our digestive system which leads to restlessness and overeating. Both of which are harmful to our physical health and mental health.
1. Tamasic food
On the other hand, tamasic is food which is overcooked, processed, packaged, and stale. This type of food has the lowest amount of nutrition level and is majorly advised in Ayurveda to be avoided at all costs. This type of food is responsible for increasing confusion, dullness, and disorientation in the human mind.
Due to the popularity of fast food in this age, Tamasic food and Rajasic food are highly consumed. Which has led to a point of the epidemic for health in general around the world. West is the place where the concept of packaged food originated and it has spread all across the globe, making it the most type of food consumed. What this has done is, it has created an illusion of food being available at the fingertips of people, making the concept of ‘fast life’ durable for people.
Health as we know is not a commodity to be bought but a necessity to be endured. People take the concept of health for granted and do not take action on things until it is too late.
What is health?
Health is our bodily systems functioning at a balanced level at all times in our day-to-day life and so on. Our body functions on 10 systems total, starting from the foundation (infrastructural system) of the Skeletal system, to our muscles with the Muscular system, the Nervous system which is responsible for our communication throughout the body and the cardiovascular system that helps us pump the blood in our body.
Apart from the foundational systems, we have an energy system which includes the respiratory system to help us gain energy from the oxygen and release carbon dioxide minutely from our bodies. The digestive system helps us generate food into glucose and glucose into energy.
Furthermore, with the regulation system, we have an endocrine system which runs the hormones and chemicals in the body that are responsible for releasing chemicals like bile that helps the digestive system to break down the food, cortisol in our brain to determine our stress levels, dopamine to see our happiness level and more. Under the regulatory system, we have lymphatic and urinary systems also which are responsible for the drainage and cleansing process of our bodies.
All these ten systems are responsible for our whole body to function on regular basis, imbalance in any one of them causes irritation, toxins, disability, and more. Our healthcare these systems work in synchronisation to keep us functioning. Every system functions on its own if they are given two things, first is food which converts into energy and the second is oxygen. To keep up with good health it is vital to have food that supports all these systems to function at their level best.
Food as fuel
Food is a nourishing component of our bodily organism. When we consume food rich in nutrients we are providing our bodies with the energy which it requires to live and breathe on daily basis. Energy is an essential part of our system. It is not visible to the naked eye but it is that feeling we get when we consume energy, it is the feeling of power, enthusiasm, and zest for life. Hence food is considered a fuel for the body which charges up the systems of the body to function for daily purposes.
Earlier there were not many options for food when we were anticipated to be the cave people. According to evidence in history, when man discovered the fire when they discovered meat to be consumed apart from leafy vegetables. But if we see it in detail, the meat-consuming humans were majorly located in the cold areas of the world where consuming meat was and still is beneficial because it generates heat in our systems. Whereas, in a tropical country like India where we have all the seasons round the year, different corp existed for a different times in the season. That is where the concept of consuming seasonal food came into play and to this seasonal day, food keeps the body full of nutrition and minerals.
Food items like flavoured drinks, packaged items, chocolates, ice cream, chicken, and meat are considered Tamasic food, the least amount of nutrition is considered within them. These are also the same items which are consumed the most majorly around the globe in recent times with a fast-paced life. Food is on the go as people are finding themselves without proper time to sit and eat food.
The ‘Drive thru’ concept for fast food originated in the west and has been majorly adapted throughout the world. Burgers, fries, pizzas, soft drinks, fried food, and more are consumed for their tastes. They fuel the body as any food sustains the property of energy but is it nutritious? No. Is It good for health in the long run? No.
Why Sattvic food?
Food items like boiled vegetables, fresh fruits, lentils, whole wheat flour, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds have always existed on the pallet. But their consumption has always been limited. The time of pandemic has perpetually affected the ideology of people around health and food. With issues like lack of immunity affecting the larger group of people the rest of them started to incorporate healthy food habits into their routines.
This change forced various groups of people to take steps at looking at food not just as fuel and energy for the body but as something of value to be consumed for overall wellness. It pushed people to look at their physical health as well as mental health from a fresh perspective. All around the globe people started experimenting with herbs and plants to increase their immunity levels. Mothers started to experiment with recipes for health purposes and not just to stimulate the taste buds. Around the household, people started to incorporate fitness regimes by looking at YouTube videos and Instagram.
Articles on ‘How to increase immune system?’, ‘How to keep your lungs health’, and more such topics started to surface on the internet. Keywords like Health, Fitness, Pilates, Yoga, Immunity, and Longevity became the most searched topics. The pandemic gave a reason to people around the globe the to focus on their health not just as an option but as a priority for a better, illness-free life.
Here is where the practice of yoga skyrocketed. The daily activity started having a slot for workouts and many started their journey on the path of a yogic lifestyle. This lifestyle includes minimalism, nutritious food, daily asana practice, pranayama and meditation practice. A yogic lifestyle is an overall path to wellness where the physical and the mental body are challenged to its ultimatum.
When we consume food which is light for the body and is full of richness, it stimulates not only our digestive system but our endocrine system in the body to release hormones which are known as happy hormones. These hormones signal our nervous system to stay in the parasympathetic mode, which is the state of rest and digestion. To make it more simple, our bodies tend to juggle the Sympathetic Nervous System and Parasympathetic Nervous System.
- Sympathetic Nervous System – Fight and Flight mode
- Parasympathetic Nervous System – Rest and Digest mode
When our SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) is active, we are in our hyperactive functioning mode. Generally, when we are attempting tasks which are new for us or tasks which require in-depth research, our brain starts to release the cortisol hormone which is the stress hormone and a certain amount of it drives us and pushes us to achieve something. Whilst too much of it can cause issues like acidity, high blood pressure, ingestion, and more. SNS also gets stimulated through Rajasic and Tamasic food which is, fast food, boxed juices, fried food, meat, dairy, and more.
Whereas, PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) is the rest and digest mode of our nervous system. Yoga is known to be the practice of taking our nervous system from SNS to PNS. When we consume food which is fresh, non-preserved, non-stimulant, and full of fibre, minerals, and vitamins our PNS gets stimulated. This keeps the cortisol levels in our body in moderation, enough for us to function happily throughout the day. Our digestive system does not take an extra load because of leafy, easily digesting food in our system.
The majority of Yoga practitioners follow a Sattvic diet not only to have their bodies healthy but their bodily systems healthy. Sattvic diet is light to the stomach which means less energy to be consumed by our digestive system throughout the day. Have you ever felt sleepy after consuming a heavy meal during the day? Ever wonder why? This is because our digestive system works day and night to break down the food in our system and convert it into energy that use to do our daily tasks. Our body temperature rises after we consume food because the HCL in our stomach is responsible for breaking down the food in our stomach, this creates heat in the body, and the blood which is flowing around in our system helps the processed food in the stomach to turn into glucose which runs through the bloodstream in the form of energy.
A single fruit takes around half an hour to be digested in our stomach, any sort of grain takes about six to eight hours to be digested and broken down properly, rice takes about four hours to be digested and so on. Our digestive system is tirelessly working towards breaking down the food that we consume. Nighttime is the only time our digestive system gets to rest in our PNS.
This is why the consumption of light and fresh food is recommended in the yogic lifestyle. It is not just to benefit in the sense of nutrition and protein but it is for the overall benefit of the physical and mental bodies. This ensures longevity for such practitioners. Apart from practitioners, for people who desire a life without illness and fatigue, sattvic food is the solution.
Food holds more power in our life than we can ever imagine. The first decision that you take in the morning related to food sets the mood for the rest of your day. For example, It is advised to have warm water first thing in the morning as it helps to clear out the gut. Cleaning out toxins first thing in the morning can help to improve the mental body as well with less amount of time to be invested in worrying about it.
It is said that one should always consume food with good intentions otherwise the negative energy can cause digestive troubles. This may be taken into account subjectively but mindfulness while consuming food has proven to be fruitful in the long term.
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