While the origins of yoga can be traced to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, some researchers believe this ancient practice may date back 10,000 years. Fast forward to the present and we see yoga enjoying a greater popularity in the West than ever before. According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, there are now 36.7 million U.S. yoga practitioners, up from 20.4 million in 2012.
If you have been devoted to yoga for long, you may know that there is more to this ancient practice than the poses, or “asanas.” In fact, these comprise just one of the eight limbs of yoga. These limbs might be described as guidelines for a healthy, spiritually balanced life.
From the start, diet has played a significant role in yoga, with a prevailing theme that everything we eat is food for our soul. The way we nourish ourselves is thought to reflect our conscious development.
What are sattvic foods?
The earliest yogic philosophy suggested that an ethical, plant-based diet supports the development of “sattva,” which is a state of love, awareness, connection, and peace with all sentient beings. The basis of sattva is the concept of ahimsa—living a life free of violence or harm to any living creature.
Modern science supports the tremendous health benefits of “ahimsa dining” as well. According to the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and many other agencies in the U.S. and abroad, a diet based in fresh, whole plant foods offers the best overall disease prevention across the board.
These “good karma” yoga menu tips will help you embrace this soul-nourishing approach to food:
Focus on plant-based foods
Sattvic foods are thought to promote health through a peaceful mind and fit body, balanced together in harmony. Plant-based sattvic foods include:
- Whole grains, like quinoa, brown and wild rice, millet, farro and oats. Enjoy them in pilafs and entrées, built into hearty salads, or rise and shine with these deliciously healthy Pumpkin Spice Maca Overnight Oats.
- Raw fruit and veggie juices, such as revitalizing fresh grapefruit-lime-tangerine juice, or maybe an energizing spinach-beet-carrot blend.
- Beans of all kinds and legumes like lentils and split peas. Think comfort soups!
- Raw nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios. Avoid roasted nuts, as heat changes their structure and chemical composition, making them more susceptible to oxidation.
- Raw seeds like pumpkin, flax, sunflower, chia or hempseeds—a perfect source of complete, plant-based protein. As with nuts, choose raw seeds for optimal benefits. Sprinkle them over sweet and savory foods alike for tasty, nutritious crunch!
- Sprouted nuts, seeds, beans and grains. Protein-rich sprouts—bursting with live enzymes—are nutritional rock stars. They’re fiber-dense, contain few calories, and pack a punch of vitamins and minerals. Enjoy them in salads, soups, sandwiches and entrées. Or try these delicious, grab-and-go sprouted chocolate-maca protein drinks.
Savor the flavor
Yogis have traditionally consumed herbs and spices daily, as they promote healthy digestion, alkalize the blood and support cleansing and healing, not to mention adding incomparable flavor to meals. But did you know they pack more antioxidants than virtually any food, based on their ORAC value? The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale was originally developed by the National Institutes of Health to measure antioxidant content in foods. ORAC superstars include turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon and cloves (which contain 22 times more antioxidants than blueberries!)
Yoga helps us cultivate our awareness in the here and now. So, when it comes to food, how we eat is as important as what we choose. Savoring our food mindfully and with gratitude nourishes our spirits as well as our bodies. These tips will heighten your awareness while also promoting healthy digestion, assimilation, and a slim waistline:
- Avoid eating when stressed or upset
- Eat only when truly hungry
- Always sit down to dine, free of distractions
- Breathe deeply before starting your meal
- Take a moment to express thanks for your nourishment
- Emphasize “high vibrational” foods—fruit, veggies, sprouts, nuts and seeds
- Quench your thirst before, rather than during, your meal
- Chew your food thoroughly
- Stop eating when you are 75-80 percent full
Conscious eating will serve you well on every level—mind, body and spirit. Namaste!