Ayurveda conceptualizes the effects of food on the mind as causing either an increase or decrease in the three Modes of Nature: SatvaGuna, the mode of goodness; RajoGuna, the mode of passion; and TamoGuna, the mode of ignorance. General guidelines are as follows:
A Satvik diet consists of fresh fruits like pomegranates, apples, berries, oranges, grapes, grains, and dairy products like milk, yoghurt and ghee (clarified butter). These foods sustain a lean and agile body while encouraging a calm and quiet mind. Fresh buttermilk, fresh green vegetables like spinach, green beans and green peas or split peas are all examples of Satvik food. Although a mild sweet taste is considered Satvik, a strong sweet taste as in chocolates and heavy sweets increases Tamasik qualities.
Food recipes of a spicy, salty and sour nature are considered Rajasik. Vegetables like onions, garlic and spicy or sour preparations like ketchup and vinegar have Rajasik qualities. Wines, pickles, meat (especially red meat), and stimulating drinks like coffee and tea, and all types of alcoholic drinks are Rajasik in nature. These foods can aggravate Pitta and Vata and increase restlessness, anger and irritability. Some Rajasik foods, if vegetarian and taken in moderation by Kapha types can be energizing.
The Tamasik diet is comprised of stale, over-heated, oily, heavy to digest, canned meat and fish products containing lots of preservatives. Large quantities of cold pasteurized dairy products like milk and yogurt are also considered Tamasik. These foods increase Kapha and lethargy, ignorance and apathy. Frozen and preserved foods as well as hybrid foods also increase the Tamasik quality.
Of note, from the Magical Rachael of Tattva’s Herbs, on listening to the body; “That’s the Beauty of Ayurveda, everything is poison and medicine at the same time depending on how you use it!”