Five Harmonious Foods
Day to day, we are impulsively working towards harmony and balance - at work, in our relationships, and through our personal rituals. Balance is the foundational principle of Ayurvedic healing. As my great grandmother used to say. Everything in moderation!
Today I share five highly sattvic foods, their healing properties, mineral content, and fun features.
The three gunas (biological humors) are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. In simple terms, the gunas represent our potential states of being. We can also refer to them to describe certain qualities in foods. For example, a rajasic food is stimulating (an obvious example is caffeine), a tamasic food is a food that causes dullness (this can be different for everyone), and a sattvic food is a food that is high in nutrients, is plant based, and creates an overall harmonious state in most people.
The pomegranate is a fruit bearing deciduous shrub originally from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India. Pomegranate is sweet, astringent, sour, and cooling. It is generally balancing for all people but is especially good for dispelling excess heat. If you are familiar with Ayurveda, Pomegranate is good for high Pitta. It is best taken as a pure fruit juice without any added sugar. It cleanses the bile and blood and is good for indigestion, gallstones, hyperacidity and fevers. So, you might drink a little pure pomegranate juice in the middle heat of summer or if you are experiencing heartburn or loose stools. Also, if you have a temper, maybe a shot of that sweet pom wouldn’t hurt. Pomegranate seeds are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and dietary fiber.
The Mung bean is a plant food in the legume family mainly cultivated in Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Korea, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Mung beans are sweet, astringent, and cooling. They are the most widely used food item in Ayurvedic cooking. Mung beans are helpful for detoxification, especially smoking or alcohol detoxification or for cancer. When concocted into a paste they are good for burns, sores, joint inflammation as well as for swollen breasts and breast cancer. They are rich in Vitamin B’s, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc.
Cardamom is a spice native to the Indian subcontinent. Cardamom is sweet, pungent, and warming. It helps regulate sugar and water metabolism. It is good for nausea, belching, vomiting, and morning sickness and the fetus generally enjoys it as well. It promotes circulation and gladdens the heart, it opens the mind and senses. It antidotes the negative effects of dairy. Cardamom is also made into an essential oil and is helpful in yogic practices like meditation.
Fennel is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. The bulb, foliage, and seeds are used in many culinary traditions but originally, it is from the Mediterranean region. Fennel is perhaps the most sattvic of spices. It is sweet, pungent, and warming. It is good for abdominal pain due to gas, indigestion, menstrual cramps, or a hernia. It treats colic and anorexia. It promotes vitality in men and increases vision. It is rich in healthy fats, vitamin B’s, and minerals including Iron, Magnesium, and Calcium.
Seaweed refers to several species of algae and as we all know, it grows in the ocean. Edible Seaweed is salty, astringent, and cooling. It is an excellent source of minerals. It is rejuvenating for your plasma, which is what delivers nutrients to your tissues, muscles, organs and bones. It strengthens the thyroid, helps to dissolve cysts and benign tumors, and softens mucus and swollen glands. It is used to help counter the side effects of radiation. While seaweed in excess can aggravate vata types, it is generally a healthy food item to implement into your diet especially if you don’t live close to a coast. The most important nutritional quality of seaweed is that it is rich in both selenium and iodine. In the U.S. we used to receive Iodine from our breads, but in the 1980’s they stopped putting Iodine in bread and we simultaneously saw an increase in breast cancer in women. There has been significant research done on this subject and it is recommended that all women consider iodine and selenium deficiency when dealing with thyroid or hormone imbalances.
When I think about eating a sattvic diet I liken it to eating a heart based diet. Rather than say a plant based diet, or a health based diet, or a blood type diet. What if you started to eat the foods that made you feel more connected to the earth and to your spirit? In Ayurveda we recognize that everyone is unique. So eating a heart based diet is going to be unique to you!