What is Yogic Food?
Yogic food sounds like exactly what you think is sounds like: a diet designed specifically for those following the practice of Yoga. For those thinking that yoga is simply a weekly activity of mats and stretches, it’s a lifestyle and philosophy that requires a certain amount of discipline across all aspects of life— including diet. A proper diet which promotes the balance of nutrition and fuel, leading to optimal health and a better practice of yoga.
The most recognized representation of a yogic diet is a sattvic diet. In the practice of Yoga and school of Hindu philosophy, Sattvic is one of the three gunas or “modes of life”, along with tamasic and rajasic. Sattvic represents purity while tamasic represents destruction and rajasic represents passion/forcefulness. These qualities translate over to their representative diets as well. A sattvic diet consists of light, nutritious, natural foods that create balance like fresh vegetables, high fiber foods, whole grains, etc.. On the other hand, tamasic and rajasic diets consist of over stimulated, over processed, or artificial foods that create depression, illness, or fatigue, such as caffeinated drinks, hot chilis, red meat, fried food, alcohol, even garlic and onions. So out of the three, the sattvic diet is best suited for those trying to create a lifestyle and nutrition balance.
A traditionally Sattvic diet is a vegetarian diet with a high amount of fiber, protein, and low amount of spice or cooking. Foods/ingredients that typically are used for this diet include:
- Nuts, seeds and legumes
- Plant-based oils
- Fresh vegetables and fruits (except for garlic and onion)
- Whole grains
- Natural sweeteners (raw honey, molasses, raw sugar, etc.)
- Mild spices and herbs
- Supplemental, vegetarian proteins
- Herbal teas
- Organic dairy products (optional)
- Fish and eggs (optional/avoided)
This may seem daunting in its tight options and absence of modern pleasures such as meat, alcohol, or even strong seasonings but, along with yoga itself, yogic food comes with many benefits.
- Encouraging healthy, natural, nutritious, whole foods in your diet
- Promoting weight loss
- Reducing risk for chronic disease
- Promoting focus, energy, and spiritual development
- Promoting a healthy mindset
- Improves digestion/metabolism
As for calling vegetarian or vegan diets yogic, it simply depends. Most vegetarian and vegan foods include garlic, onion, and strong seasonings but they can just as easily be removed to become yogic foods. So all it comes down to are tweaks and turns to aline with a yogic diet.
Another diet that is frequently grouped with the yogic diet is the Jain diet, or a diet adopted by followers of the Jainism religion. Though there are many similarities between both diets, the jain diet is significantly stricter in both ingredients and instruction because of the base philosophy surrounding non-violence. For example, the jain diet restricts all root vegetables, unlike yogic food that just avoids garlic and onions, because of the fact that consuming a root vegetable kills the entire plant. The jain diet also restricts honey and any animal by-product, fermented drinks, food stored overnight, and even cooking after sunset for fear of bugs dying due to their attraction to light sources needed for night cooking. So while yogic food focuses on inner balance through light eating, jain food focuses on the external factors that come with consuming foods.
Remember, a yogic diet and the yogic lifestyle is about balance and light in your mind and body. While a yogic diet has many benefits, if you need the nutrients, proteins, or healthy fats from foods that tend to be avoided in this diet, you aren’t any less Yogi for prioritizing your needs/health. But no, a pepperoni pizza stacked on top of a BBQ platter smothered with queso is not a priority.