There are three Gunas in Ayurveda - Sattva,
Rajas and Tamas. These gunas are fundamental attributes that
represent the natural evolutionary process. These three gunas
are presented in every human being with more or less
domination. An important way to regulate these gunas in body
and mind is ayurvedic cooking or food. On the bases of these
three gunas food can be classified as Sattvic, Rajasik, and
Sattvic food is most simple and easiest to digest type of
food. The food contains most of its nutritional values as it
is cooked by using minimal heat and modest processing. It
provides the necessary energy to the body without taxing it.
It is also considered as a foundation of higher states of
consciousness, that is why saints and seers survive on sattvic
foods. Sattvic food should be taken fresh or immediately after
it is prepared.
Fresh juicy fruits, vegetables (that are easily digestible),
milk and milk products, whole soaked or also sprouted beans,
grains and nuts, many herbs and spices consumed in their
natural and near-natural forms are good examples of satvik
food. Common spices like ginger, turmeric, coriander,
cardamom, cinnamon, and aniseed are highly recommended in
Sattvic diet while the vegetables like onion, garlic, red
chilies and black pepper and such other pungent and astringent
spices are forbidden.
Cow’s milk - the most Sattvic Food
Cow’s milk is regarded as the most complete, nourishing, and
sattvic among all sattvic food. Though buffalo milk is also
used widely, it is not considered to be as nourishing, and is
usually not form the part of a sattvic diet. In the absence of
cow’s milk, goat’s milk is recommended as a substitute. An
exclusive body of work of Ayurveda deals with the benefits of
cow’s milk and explains guidelines for taking care of cows.
Milk products like butter, ghee (cooked and dehydrated butter)
also used prominently in sattvic diet as they are prepared
with very nominal amount of heat and retain their sattvic
Benefits of Satvik Food
Sattvic diet is best for health and vitality. A person who
eats sattvic food has an ideal combination of physical, mental
and emotional harmony. Sattvic food increase person’s
well-being, and inner peace. Such a person always remained
focused in his work, sleeps less and stays energized all day
Sattvic food keeps the person disease and disorder free.
Person having sattvic food remains sensitive to the various
nuances of his sensory being. He/she is less affected by
exposure to adverse conditions. Even if he/she falls sick, the
recovery is very fast.
Person having sattvic diet is usually of a calm disposition.
She/he is not provoked easily and usually not aggressive in
Rajasik food is rich in flavour but heavy to digest. It is
suitable for people who do arduous physical work. Vegetables
cooked in excess butter, with spicy and strong flavoring
agents, are typical example of rajasic preparation. Cooked
fresh, rajasic food is rich in nutrients with minimum dilution
with water. Such food is heavy on salt and sugar and takes
longer period to digest than sattvic food. It calls for
extended sleeping hours and is sexually stimulating. Sattvic
foods that have been fried in oil or cooked too much or eaten
in excess, specific foods and spices that are strongly
exciting, bitter, pungent, hot and dry are examples of rajasic
food. A rajasic food eater is usually aggressive and
overflowing with energy as the rajasic food increase the speed
and excitement of the human organism. According to Ayurveda
this energy can be beneficial if used wisely, it can lead a
person towards prosperity, power and prestige.
A person lives on a rajasic diet, has love for life and all
the worldly pleasures. Rajasic food is the foundation of
motion, activity and pain hence rajasic person has the
capacity to suffer the pains, as well as the trials and
tribulations of life.comparison to a sattvic person, rajasic
person would lead an eventful but shorter life. He/she would
be a good worldly being, while a sattvic person is more
focused on exploring life beyond physical pleasures.
Tamsic food is considered the worst among all types of food.
Dry, unnatural, overcooked, stale, decaying and processed food
makes for a Tamasic diet. Tamaasic diet consumes a large
amount of energy while being digested. Refined food - be it
cereals, oils or hydrogenated butter, stimulants and beverages
like tea, coffee and soft drinks, fast and ready-to-cook food,
canned or frozen food, precooked and warmed food items like
burgers, pizzas, pastries, and chocolates, incompatible food
as well as intoxicants like tobacco and alcohol are tamasic
examples of tamasic food.
Tamasic diet is foundation of ignorance, doubt, pessimism and
leads a person to sick and painful life. A tamasic person
always at serious discomfort with himself and forgets to lead
healthy a happy life. Ayurveda suggests that a householder
that live in the world and need to keep pace with its' changes
should include both the sattvic and rajasic food in his/her
diet. One can lead a long and healthy life by having a balance
diet which includes sattvic and rajasic foods. Tamasic foods
must be avoided as much as possible.
Food according to Tastes
According to Ayurveda, taste is considerable element in
cooking as taste of each food or herb has specific
physiological effects. There are six major tastes in Ayurveda
that have specific qualities and effects on body. A balanced
diet should involves all the six tastes in every meal or at
least have them once everyday.
The six tastes are
Sweet or Madhura – Sweet foods have earth and water elements
and usually sattvic gunas. These are good for vata and pitta
person as they subdued these doshas while kapha person should
avoid sweet foods as they increase it. In general, sweet foods
are nourishing, cool, moisturizing, and increase weight.
Sour or Amla – Sour foods have earth and fire elements
and usually Rajasic gunas. Such foods are good for vata people
as they subdued this dosha. Pitta and kapha person should
avoid sour foods as they increase these doshas. In general,
sour foods are warm, oily and increase weight.
Salty or Lavan – Salty foods have water and fire
elements and usually Rajasic gunas. Good for vata people as
they subdued this dosha, salty fods should be avoided by pitta
and kapha person as they increase these doshas. In general,
salty foods are warm, dissolving, stimulating, softening,
oily, and increase weight.
Pungent or Katu – Pungent foods have air and fire
elements and could be Rajasic or Tamasic. They are good for
kapha person because they subdued this dosha but should be
avoided by vata and pitta persons as these doshas increased
with such foods. In general, pungent foods are warm, dry,
stimulating, and decrease weight.
Bitter or Tikta –
Bitter foods have air and ether
elements and usually Rajasic gunas. These are good for pitta
and kapha person as they subdued these doshas while vata
person should avoid such foods as they increase it. In
general, bitter foods are cool, dry, purifying and decrease
Astringent or Kasaya - Astringent foods have air and
earth elements and Rajasic gunas. These are good for pitta and
kapha person as they subdued these doshas while vata person
should avoid such foods as they increase it. In general,
astringent foods are cool, dry, and reduce stickiness.
Food according to Doshas
Ayurveda consider each person as an individual with different
composition and needs. There are five basic elements in
Ayurveda air, water, earth, fire and ether that forms three
basic doshas. Each individual has his/her own composition of
these elements which determines his/her dominant dosha. Thus
every individual requires different diet according to the
dominant dosha. A food, which is beneficial for one, could be
detrimental for another. For example, Vata is a cold dry dosha,
hence person with Vata as predominant dosha need warm,
nourishing foods, while the Pitta person requires cool food to
balance his fire element.
Pitta Dosha and overeating are the main causes that trouble
pitta, hence such food items should be reduced. Instead
starchy foods such as vegetables, grains and beans, salad,
milk and ice cream should be included in the diet. Alcoholic
and fermented foods should also be avoided. Pitta person
should not take coffee also as the acid in the coffee is also
pitta aggravating, instead they can have herb teas like mint,
licorice root or other that pacify pitta.
If you have a mixed body constitution like, pitta-vata or
pitta-kapha, then you should include portion for the second
influential dosha also.
Kapha is mainly water element thus influences the heavy, moist
aspects of the body. To keep kapha under balance warm, dry,
light food cooked with less water and minimum of fat is
needed. One should increase the use of pungent, bitter, and
astringent tastes. Kapha people should consume limited amount
of sugar, oil and salt as well. Lightly cooked vegetables and
raw fruits and vegetables are more beneficial for kaphas.
Kapha people usually have a tendency to overeating that should
be controlled because it lead to weight gain due to slow
digestion. Any spicy food is good for kaphas such as very hot
Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter.
For kapha types, breakfast is optional that means they can
skip it they like. If breakfast is taken it should be very
light. They can have foods such as hot-spiced cider, buckwheat
pancakes with apple butter, corn muffins, and bitter cocoa
made with skim milk and a touch of honey. The main meal should
be at the middle of the day, and only a light, dry meal in the
evening is advisable. Kapha person can take honey, hot water,
lemon juice and ginger to energize themselves in the morning.
Ginger tea can also be taken.
such foods are good for settling disturbed Vata. Food items
such as warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot
cereals, fresh baked bread, ripe fruits, salted nuts are good
for vata. Breakfast is very important for vata people. They
can add hot cereals such as cream of rice or wheat, any warm,
milky, and sweet food item in their breakfast. Vata person
should avoid high caffeine drinks instead of them they can opt
herbal teas. Spicy Mexican or Indian foods that are cooked in
oil also good for vata people. On the other hand cold foods
such as cold salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables and greens
are not very good for persons with vata imbalance. They should
avoid eating candies, dry fruits, and unripe fruits.
Ayurveda Cooking and the Seasons
According to Ayurveda with the changes in season our body
needs different foods to adjust itself to the outside
environment. Every season brings about nurturing qualities and
the body needs plug into the nature for rejuvenation. The main
role of food is helping the body to maintain its normal
temperature. As the outer temperature swings with season, our
body needs energy to maintain its own temperature. For
example, summer is hot season when temperature rises and our
body need cool foods to subdued heat. Ayurveda further
explains the relation between season and doshas and recommend
foods accordingly. Summer is a pitta season, in which
individuals are prone to sunburn, acne etc, so cool, light
fruits and salads are recommended to pacify the pitta
imbalances. Winter is a vata season and cold, arthritis,
rheumatism etc are more likely to occur, so Ayurveda
recommends warm, oily and hearty meals like beans, whole
grains and meats to lubricate the system against dryness of
Vata season. Spring, which is a kapha season, increase the
chances for bronchial ailments and common colds etc, hence
honey, millet and greens are advised for season to dry the
body of the mucus.
Common Tips for Healthy Food
Use organic foods as much as possible.
Avoid frozen, canned, processed, and genetically modified
Avoid consuming fake foods which have small nutritional value,
refined white flour, white sugar, margarine, preservatives,
artificial flavors, and colors.
Avoid leftovers, either cold out of the refrigerator, or
Cook foods slowly, on a lower heat, and avoid microwave.
Use fresh, ripe fruits and veggies.
Eat fresh food that is freshly prepared.
Add a wide variety of seasonal, wholesome foods in your daily
Choose foods according to the season, your specific imbalance
and Ayurvedic body type.