In Ayurveda, eating a sattvic diet is a way to promote, and keep, sattva—a clear head space of truth, contentment, and stability.
You can get there by eating more fresh, local foods; being thoughtful about how you prepare them; and sitting down to enjoy them. This way of eating can be a companion to your yoga practice and may help you pay attention to how foods make you feel—not just in your gut, but in your heart—and how they can affect your mood.
What Is a Sattvic (Pure) Diet?
When you follow a sattvic diet, you eat foods that in Ayurveda are considered to have higher frequencies to help cultivate a higher mind that comprehends deep truths and a kind of spiritual contentment—while staying grounded enough to carry on. A food’s frequency, or energy, comes from how it is grown, its freshness, preparation, and how it is enjoyed. High-frequency foods that are full of prana (life force) are vegetarian, organic, non-GMO, and straight from the farm or garden; they’re prepared mindfully and eaten slowly. Low-frequency foods (which are canned, frozen, fried, or out of a box) are limited or avoided.
Sattvic meals are designed to help balance the three mental energies called the maha gunas. The essential energy of the mind is sattva, or a pure and content state, while tamas (the maha guna of rest, inertia, and stagnation) and rajas (the maha guna of movement, creativity, and passion) disturb sattva. Tamas and rajas aren’t bad per se; they just have trickier energy and a tendency toward imbalance. Tamas slows down your mind, while rajas speeds it up. Too much tamas can make you feel unmotivated and tired. Overdo rajas and you’ll experience racing thoughts and an inability to sit still. The qualities of your mind can change often, so you may have too much tamas one day and too much rajas another.
Use these recipes to bring your mind into balance. There are recipes to support sattva and clear thinking, as well as those to motivate tamas or calm rajas—although you’ll benefit from each of these meals regardless of your state of mind.
See also Transform Your Life with Ayurveda
In a balanced state, your mind is clear.
Sattvic meals digest easily, nourish your tissues, and utilize the six tastes in Ayurveda (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent) to help balance your sattva, rajas, and tamas maha gunas (mental energies). The six tastes describe the flavors of different foods and their vital essences. For example, the sweet taste is the staple of a sattvic diet; it brings the soft, juicy qualities of earth and water and is equated to the experience of love. Sour and salty tastes bring regenerative qualities to your body and nourish and ground you. The lighter tastes—pungent, bitter, and astringent—purify, tone your tissues, and assist in the breakdown of fats and proteins. A well-rounded meal will incorporate both nourishing and purifying qualities.
When you sit down to a balanced sattvic meal, it’s also important to pause for a few breaths and eat mindfully. Notice the flavors of a dish and how it makes you feel. In time, slowing down to truly enjoy your food will become second nature, and mealtimes will become touchstones in your busy day.
Ayurvedic Recipes to Cultivate Sattva
These dishes help naturally bring your mind into a content, satisfied state. Use them to infuse your days with a creative, sustainable spirit. Recipes for sattva balance warming and cooling qualities and are delicate enough to help you keep a clear mind, but tasty enough to satisfy.
Sattvic Caesar Salad
Tastes: bitter, astringent, sour, sweet
In hot weather, crunchy, watery, leafy romaine lettuce feels like a perfect choice. But if you eat too many raw vegetables that lack grounding qualities, your mind will eventually become unsteady. Look no further for the perfect salad! The purifying, bitter aspects of greens are balanced by the sweet, nourishing tastes of quality oils from tahini (sesame-seed paste), pumpkin seeds, and olive or flaxseed oils. Mix in some kale to get the deep-green energy, toss it with this creamy dressing, and let it stand for a few minutes while you toast the pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle them on your salad while they’re still hot to gently soften the greens.
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces (remove 2 inches off the bottom and snip any brown tips)
2 cups baby kale
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp tahini
¼ cup olive or flaxseed oil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
In a bowl, toss romaine and baby kale.
To make the dressing, place raw pumpkin seeds, tahini, oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and ¼ cup water into a blender in this order. Stacking the ingredients this way will ensure a smooth blend because hard-to-grind items are on the bottom. Pulse on low a few times, then blend on high for 1 minute. If the dressing looks too thick, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches a pourable consistency.
Add dressing to the romaine and kale, and toss. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately.
Nutritional Info 672 calories per serving, 64 g fat (9 g saturated), 22 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein, 1,246 mg sodium
Date-Pear Morning Kitchari
Tastes: sweet, astringent, slightly pungent
Bring balance to your morning with a nourishing kitchari. This one-pot, complete-protein breakfast is simple to make and sweetly combines dates, pears, and spices to promote sattva. Pear is light, cool, and beneficial to all body types, while dates add density to get you through to lunch.
½ cup basmati rice, rinsed
½ cup split yellow mung beans, soaked overnight (or at least a few hours) and rinsed
4 cups water
2 pears, chopped into ½-inch cubes
4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tsp sweet spice mix (see recipe below)
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut oil
Note: For a lighter dish, replace dates with raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine rice and mung beans with 4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer uncovered until the beans soften and begin to break down, 15–20 minutes.
Add pears, dates, and sweet spice mix to pot and stir. Simmer until a porridge forms (go for the consistency of a thick oatmeal), 15–20 minutes more, adding more water if the kitchari dries out or if you like a thinner consistency. Remove from heat and stir in salt and coconut oil. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Nutritional Info 227 calories per serving, 4 g fat (3 g saturated), 49 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 3 g protein, 300 mg sodium
Sweet Spice Mix
Makes ¼ cup
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
Mix the spices together and store in a glass jar.