A Complete List Of Rajasic Food: Ayurvedic Foods To Stimulate The Body

reviewed by Liz Burns 500H RYT
Last Updated:

In the context of Indian yogic philosophy, existence is constituted into certain aspects. These subtle aspects govern our lives, and directly engage with the material plain, known as prakriti.

Prakriti is one of two fundamental plains or dimensions of existence, with the second dimension being purusha, meaning consciousness.

Prakriti has subtle constitutions, namely three attributes that are called gunas. These Gunas are in constant interaction and variance, manifesting the phenomenon we observe. 

Simply put, the process we have with the input of food into our bodies is a type of interactive phenomenon. As we understand the gunas, we can control this interaction by choosing what to eat and what we put into our bodies.

In this article, we will cover the fundamental principles of Ayurveda in relation to food, and provide you with a full list of Rajasic foods:

  • What Are The Gunas
  • Sattvic
  • Tamasic
  • Rajasic
  • A Full List Of Rajasic Foods
jars of rajasic food

What Are The Gunas In Relation To Food?

The three Gunas harbor essences unique to them, and are titled Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic

The interplay and prevalence of these three Gunas in different measures determine the constitution of an individual, object, or system. 

The ultimate aspiration is to surpass the influence of these gunas and attain self-realization, transcending the realm of Prakriti. This realization leads to liberation (moksha) from the perpetual cycle of birth and death (samsara). 

The key lies in comprehending and acknowledging the distinction between the eternal, unchanging purusha and the ever-changing, transient Prakriti.

In relation to food, these Gunas have been conceptualized in Ayurveda.

Food is generally categorized based on their primary Guna, and the consumption of food promotes the essence of the related Guna.

group of yogis meditating

Sattvic Quality

Sattva embodies the essence of purity, harmony, and balance. When an individual or a system is predominantly influenced by Sattva, they induce clarity, wisdom, and a balanced state of mind. 

This elevated state encourages the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, truthfulness, and empathy. 

Comparable to radiant light and profound knowledge, Sattva empowers individuals to transcend material desires and attachments, guiding them toward a higher plain of existence.

Sattvic Food

Sattvic food is a dietary approach rooted in Ayurveda, promoting purity, balance, and a serene mind. It emphasizes consuming fresh, natural, and minimally processed foods. 

Primarily vegetarian, the diet includes a balanced combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and a moderate intake of dairy. 

man meditating next to a mountain

The light and nourishing nature of Sattvic foods aids digestion and provides essential nutrients for enhanced physical health. 

Moreover, Sattvic eating fosters mental clarity, reducing restlessness and supporting mindful practices. Its holistic benefits extend to spiritual growth, creating a harmonious balance between the body and mind. 

Tamasic Quality

Tamas, as one of the three Gunas in Ayurveda, embodies characteristics of inertia, dullness, and darkness. It signifies a resistance to change and a predisposition to remain in a state of rest or inactivity. 

This Guna may lead to mental lethargy, clouding the mind and reducing alertness and comprehension. 

Tamas is linked to negative traits, promoting behaviors like laziness, apathy, and attachment to material desires. It can hinder the development of positive qualities and virtues, while also deceiving individuals with false senses of satisfaction. 

Tamasic Food

Tamasic food, based on Ayurvedic principles, is characterized by its qualities of inertia, heaviness, and darkness. These foods are typically heavy, stale, and processed, making them difficult to digest and leaving one feeling lethargic. 

man slouching on the sofa with a laptop

On top of this Tamasic foods contain excessive ingredients and artificial additives.

The consumption of such foods is believed to induce lethargy, mental dullness, and negative emotions. 

While a balanced diet according to Ayurveda may occasionally include small portions of Tamasic foods, focusing primarily on a Sattvic diet – comprising fresh, natural, and vegetarian foods – is recommended for optimal well-being.

This kind of diet is important to foster physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual growth.

Rajasic Quality

Rajas embodies the essence of activity, dynamism, and restlessness. It serves as the driving force behind action, ambition, and desires. 

When the quality of Rajas takes precedence, people become determined to achieve their goals and savor the outcomes of their efforts. 

However, an excessive influence of Rajas can lead to agitation, attachment, and a diversion from the path to inner peace.

two people lunging and exercising in a park

Rajasic Food

In accordance with Ayurvedic principles, Rajasic food is distinguished by its attributes of activity, passion, and restlessness. 

These foods tend to be spicy, salty, and stimulate the senses. Rajasic diets might incorporate stimulants like caffeine and intensely flavored ingredients.

While consuming Rajasic foods can boost energy levels, it may also lead to restlessness and agitation. 

As how we mentioned that Tamasic foods in conjunction with a primarily Sattvic diet are healthy, a balanced diet may include some Rajasic foods in moderation to promote vitality and drive.

A Full List Of Rajasic Foods

Ayurvedic principles tell us that Rajasic food can be enjoyed in a balanced diet, in tandem with a primarily Sattvic diet. 

Recommended to be eaten in the daytime, rather than for dinner, so that any sort of activation before bedtime doesn’t take place.

1. Animal Products

Animals are living beings, and according to Ayurveda, their lively energy can be transferred as a Rajasic quality through the consumption of these animals.

roast chicken on the table

Many animal products have a high protein content which can be considered as rajasic as this is energizing. 

Further to this, a lot of cheeses are intense in flavor and undergo fermentation, which can enhance the stimulating properties of the food. 

Both meat and cheese also have high salt contents, which add to their rajasic profiles.

Note On Crossover

There is some crossover between Tamasic foods and Rajasic foods, which is why you may find chicken, for example, listed in both categories. 

Chicken is a good example of this overlap because it possesses both stimulating Rajasic qualities and dulling Tamasic qualities. It is a high protein source, contributing to its activating nature as a Rajasic food. 

Additionally, chicken is a dense and calorie-rich food, which aligns with its dulling Tamasic quality.

  • Red meat
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Ice cream
  • Aged cheese
two steaks on a grill pan as rajasic foods

2. Types Of Food

Food that goes through different processes, or has added ingredients such as salt creates a Rajasic quality. 

For example, when food is deep-fried, it absorbs a lot of oil, making it calorie-dense and therefore providing a quick source of energy.

  • Sattvic food fried in oil
  • Food with excess salt
  • Fermented foods

3. Spices

Spices are considered Rajasic in Ayurveda due to their stimulating and energizing qualities. When eaten, these “spicy” spices can mobilize your metabolism and digestion, and create warmth in the body. 

Spices are also said to awaken your senses and create excitement and desire.

  • Red chilies
  • Green chillies
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Turmeric
  • Caraway
  • Red pepper
  • Chili pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Fenugreek
  • Asafoetida/Hing
spices on spoons

4. Stimulating Foods

Foods that have naturally occurring caffeine or have added sugar and so on are considered Rajasic in Ayurveda. 

Consumption of caffeine and sugar can enhance mental activity and therefore cognitive performance, but has a lot of risk of overstimulation, resulting in restlessness. 

In small supply, these foods can provide a nice boost of energy, but over-activation through caffeine, sugar, and salt can create a foundation of agitation.

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Tobacco
  • Soda
  • Miso
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Cacao
  • Pickles
  • Refined sugars
  • Molasses
  • Sucanat

5. Grains

Certain grains are rich in carbohydrates and convert to glucose in the body. This increases energy levels and vitality, which fits a Rajasic profile.

  • Millet
  • Corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Oats
bags of grains

6. Vegetables, Legumes & Beans

A lot of vegetables, beans, and legumes have a distinct flavor and are regularly paired with spices. Much like as we mentioned with animal products, there is a lot of crossover here with Tamasic foods. 

Vegetables, beans, and legumes can also be prepared and cooked relatively quickly, and the processes of cooking reflect immediate gratification, adding to their Rajasic appeal. 

They are also nutrient-rich in vitamins like vitamin C, B, and fiber, which stimulates and activates the body.

Note that fresh vegetables are regularly considered Sattvic, and so consider that the vegetables in this list may go through certain cooking or preparation to become Rajasic (such as having salt added).

  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Asparagus
  • Endives
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Turnip
  • Radish
  • Capsicum
  • Tomatoes
  • Red lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Toor lentils
  • White urad lentils
  • Adzuki
  • Black gram
  • Green gram
  • Chickpeas
plate of legumes and nuts

7. Fruit

Fruit has high natural sugar content which provides quick, easy sources of energy. They are also easily prepared and consumed fresh making them convenient foods.

  • Sour apples
  • Dates
  • Fruit juices
  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Passion fruit
  • Papaya
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Guava
  • Tamarind
  • Olives

8. Nuts, Oils & Milks

Nuts, oils, and milks have high-fat contents, and so are generally calorie-dense. 

Fats are a concentrated source of energy, meaning they are too activating and stimulating, which makes them Rajasic.

  • Hemp seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocado oil
  • Hemp oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Almond milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Rice milk

Further Information

Ultimately, it’s important to maintain a balanced approach to food, and all of life. 

Embody ayurvedic principles as a mere guide into your own intuitive understanding of your mind and body, and the subtle essences that make up your reality.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about Rajasic Foods, why not check out our other articles:

Dosha Quiz | Discover My Ayurvedic Body Type

a group of women smiling and laughing together

Knowing your dosha can provide a window into your inner world. 

Whether Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, or a combination of all three, you'll receive tailored information on your unique dosha composition at the end of the quiz. 

Answer each question instinctively, try not to overthink! 

Photo of author
Born and raised in London, Luke is a passionate writer with a focus on travel, yoga, philosophy, and meditation. As a certified yoga teacher having studied under a swami in Rishikesh, Luke now lives in India pretty much just practising yoga, meditating and writing articles! Luke's life arc has gone from somewhat turbulent to peaceful, and he considers yoga and meditation direct methods to sustain introspective insight to manifest peace and happiness, despite life's challenges. Luke's passion for meditation has led him to complete multiple meditation retreats, where he spent almost 40 days in silence in the last two years. He practices various meditation techniques such as Vipassana, Anapana, and Metta Bhavana, each adding to his knowledge and experience of the true self. Most recently he meditated in Jaipur, India, and before that lived for a short spell in a monastery with forest monks in Northern Thailand. To Luke, yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a way of life that helps him cultivate a stronger mind-body connection. As a young man with arthritis, Luke understands the importance of observing and controlling his body, and yoga has been a vital tool in his journey to better health and well-being. The practice of yoga has not only helped him manage his symptoms but has also given him a new perspective on life. Luke's love for yoga and meditation is not limited to a single tradition or practice. He's fascinated by the spiritual teachings of all types of religious philosophy, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity for their essence and wisdom. His passion for spirituality is what drives him to continue learning and growing, and share his knowledge with other people. Luke in his spare time is an avid chess player, cyclist and record collector. He also has experience with addiction, and so sponsors multiple people from different walks of life in their recovery programmes.

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