These categories are found in all levels of earthly manifestation. In Sanskrit, these are known as gunas.
Your body and mind serve as a manifested vessel of prakriti, and one way to balance this energy is through the food you consume.
With this in mind, yogic philosophy applies the same energetic categorization to food.
Some people interpret these categories as relating to the fertilization of the food, while others interpret them as relating to the primary nutritional content, such as protein, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, water content, minerals, and fiber.
However, it is important to note that this classification of food for balance is ultimately based on the spiritual and energetic qualities, as opposed to their scientific nutritional value.
Consuming Sattvic food can increase your energy levels, promote peace of mind, and enhance mental clarity.
On the other hand, consuming Rajasic food in moderate quantities can stimulate creativity and physical activity.Tamasic foods can have a stabilizing effect, especially when the mind becomes hyperactive, but are predominantly known for their heavy and dull effects, leading to inertia.
And so in line with yogic philosophy, to achieve optimal body and mind performance, it is about establishing an equilibrium of the gunas.
It is recommended to consume predominantly Sattvic foods, supplemented with moderate amounts of Rajasic and Tamasic foods to provide energy and steadiness, respectively, thereby promoting balance.
In this article, we will outline the below:
- A Full List Of Tamasic Foods
- What Are The Gunas?
- What Is A Tamasic Diet?
- Impact Of Tamasic Foods
Tamasic Foods List
Meat products are commonly considered Tamasic foods due to their perceived heavy and dulling quality, causing lethargy.
Furthermore, the act of slaughtering and consuming animals can be viewed as violent, potentially causing adverse impacts on one’s emotional and mental well-being.
- Red meat
Certain vegetables and fungi are categorized as Tamasic foods due to their perceived dulling or heavy quality in the body and mind.
For instance, root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions are believed to be Tamasic foods because they grow underground and absorb nutrients from the earth, which can lead to a dampening effect on the body and mind.
Additionally, mushrooms are also classified as Tamasic foods because they grow in dark and damp places, and their consumption is believed to dull the mind and promote a sense of heaviness.
- Winter squash
- Refined grains
Processed foods are regarded as Tamasic foods also due to their perceived dulling or heavy quality that leads to lethargy in the body and mind.
This is typically due to the high content of refined sugar, fats, and processed ingredients.
High quantities of these ingredients make it difficult for the body to digest, and are usually deficient in nutritional value.
- French fries
- Flavored drinks
- White Flour
Anything that is high in fat and difficult to digest are often considered as Tamasic foods, and some dairy products fall into this category.
For example, aged cheeses, heavy cream, and butter are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which can be challenging for the body to break down and assimilate properly.
Furthermore, similar to meat products, the process of obtaining milk and dairy products from animals can also be seen as violent.
The use of hormones and antibiotics in the production of dairy products can also contribute to imbalances in the body and mind, and removes the organic quality that we see in Sattvic food.
Organic dairy products exist as sattvic, such as fresh milk, yogurt, and paneer.
Lastly, too cold milk is considered to have a stunning effect on the body, creating heaviness.
- Aged cheese
- Heavy cream
- Ice cream
- Too cold or pasteurized milk
Tamasic Inclusions In Foods
Preservatives, and artificial ingredients also are considered to have a dulling and heavy quality.
The benefit of these ingredients in food don’t generally reach the consumer – they are used to make the food more convenient and cost-effective for manufacturers.
These ingredients can also be difficult for the body to digest.
The same applies with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin. These additions to the foods we eat give them a Tamasic quality.
- Artificial ingredients
- Artificial sweeteners
Alcohol and other drugs broadly speaking have a disruptive quality to the balance of the body and mind, leading to negative effects on well-being, cognition, and motor function.
Not to mention the contribution to inflammation, digestive imbalance, and stress on organs.
This state of mind and body is the result of an elicited dullness from these intoxicants, making you imbalanced and more Tamasic.
- Alcohol – like spirits such as whisky and rum
- Recreational drugs
Tamasic Behaviors Around Food
It is not just the food type, but also the behavior around the consumption of food. You could eat Sattvic food, but overeat, which would make it Tamasic. Specifically, this is related to fats, oils, and sugar.
A good measuring scale for the behavior is how you feel in relation to the impact of the food.
- Excessive intake of fats
- Excessive intake of oils
- Excessive intake of sugar
States Of Food
Beyond specific ingredients and food types, the state of all foods can have Tamasic qualities, which are usually a result of a combination of the other food aspects mentioned earlier, such as being preserved, processed, artificial, or consumed in excess.
The states of food below are Tamasic generally because of their lack of nutritional value, and therefore energetic and spiritual value in relation to the balance of the mind and body.
For example, stale and overripe food has lost its vital energy, whereas unripe food hasn’t developed its vital energy.
- Stale food
- Overripe food
- Spoiled foods
- Frozen foods
- Canned foods
- Foods with excessive starch
- Foods preserved with salt
- Fried foods
- Burned foods
- Unripe fruits
What Are The Gunas?
In yogic philosophy, all matter in the universe is in essence, germinated from prakriti. Prakriti can be considered as the primary, or essential substance of reality.
Out of this subtle substrate, there are three emergent energies (or in Sanskrit: gunas) which characterize the physical world.
These three energies are present in all sentience and inanimate objects of the universe in relative quantities.
Uniquely, we have the ability and understanding to manipulate these gunas within the framework of our own minds and bodies, through consumption of food, as well as all types of external interaction.
Awareness and conscious effort to manage these three energies helps to promote mind and body balance, cultivating the conditions for inner peace and therefore samadhi.
Qualities of The Gunas
These three gunas are as follows:
Representing darkness, destruction, stability, impurity, and laziness.
Representing energy, action, velocity, and movement.
Representing harmony, joy, peace, and intelligence.
Food also has the qualities of gunas, and better understanding of these can lead to a more balanced life according to yogic philosophy.
What Is A Tamasic Diet?
A Tamasic diet is made up of food which is heavy, dull, and stagnant in nature.
Most of the food, like Rajasic food, is lacking in nutrients, due to a lot of it being processed and supplemented by artificial ingredients.
Importantly, other types of food such as Sattvic can become Tamasic if it undergoes a process of change that creates a Tamasic nature, such as burned, gone off, or frozen.
Generally, Tamasic foods are also non-vegetarian.
According to ayurvedic principles, the Western symptoms of poor digestion and nutrition are attributed to our tendency to create fast, Tamasic foods in order to keep up with our fast-paced and consumption-driven lifestyles.
Impact Of Tamasic Foods
Tamasic foods dull the mind, lower the body’s resistance to disease, cause brain fog, and promote negative emotions like anxiety and depression.
It also obstructs the flow of energy and generates harmful toxins.
In Ayurveda, Tamasic foods are thought to slow down the mind’s functioning, leading to feelings of laziness and a higher likelihood of experiencing negative emotions such as insecurity, jealousy, and mood swings.
Consuming Tamasic foods can also cause a person to lose their sense of balance and can result in oversleeping.
According to Ayurvedic instruction, Tamasic foods can cause these states:
- Faster aging
The Benefits Of Tamasic Foods
However, it’s not all bad with Tamasic foods. Eating in moderation can promote stability of the mind and body, which is a useful quality to have in times of stress.
You could argue that Tamasic foods dull the senses, and therefore can facilitate the body’s healing process.
On top of this, Tamasic foods can provide resilience in physically demanding circumstances.
Like anything in life, and especially within a yogic lifestyle, balance is absolutely key.
Opposing values are complementary, both spiritually and energetically. Therefore, it’s not about completely ruling out Tamasic foods, but rather incorporating it into a healthy diet and lifestyle.
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