Gita Series – 155: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. Verse 8 – 10
“Food that promotes longevity, intelligence, vigour, health and happiness are juicy, sebaceous, bland and wholesome in nature and are liked by those who have sattvic quality. Food that is bitter, sour, salty, overheated, pungent, dry and hot is consumed by those with rajasic quality. This type of food causes discomfort, grief and sickness. Food that is not cooked properly, stale, tasteless and spoilt are impure and liked by those with tamasic quality.”
The type of food that one consumes determines the guṇa or the quality of a person. Ayurveda says that there are three kinds of causes to any disease. They are wrong utilisation, non- utilisation and over utilisation of time, mental faculties and sense organs. Balanced utilisation of these factors alienates all type of diseases. The quality of the food that is consumed determines pathogenic factors of the body. For example, food with vāyu, pitta and kapha (that produces gas, bile and phlegm) causes rajasic and tamasic qualities. A man keeps a perfect health only if his food is balanced. A balanced food keeps mind, body and soul in perfect harmony as they constitute the substratum of everything. Inappropriate food affects this perfect harmony and causes changes in one’s inherent quality, which in turn afflicts one’s mind. Therefore, irrespective of one’s inherent quality, the food one consumes is capable of altering the nature of a person. That is why, Kṛṣṇa attaches importance to the quality of one’s food consumption. Ayurveda elaborately deals with types of food.
A person with sattvic quality has a liking for sattvic types of food, like fruits, vegetables, ghee, milk, etc. Food prepared with more of chilies and spices are capable of not only affecting the quality of a person, but also capable of affecting one’s health. A person with sattvic quality does not consume this kind of food. He always likes a bland food with more of fruits, vegetables and milk products. These kinds of food are wholesome in nature and provide all kinds of nutrients to the body and mind. Sattvic food, particularly fruits and vegetables are capable keeping the mind serene and active. Spicy food not only affects the digestive system, but also affects the mind. Nothing needs to be said about the stale food. Only those persons, who are totally deluded by ignorance, consume state food. Saints and sages follow disciplined eating habits. They do not take food that is more than six hours old. They do not consume spicy food. They take more milk and ghee, which are capable of keeping their body cool. Their bodies become warm because of their penance. Particularly during kundalini meditation, one’s body heat is bound to go up. Adequate consumption of milk and milk products maintain normal body temperature.
It is also said that one should never take food to fill up his entire stomach. Food should be taken to fill only half of the stomach. Another quarter of the stomach should be filled with water and the balance quarter of the stomach should be left for air. When the stomach is full, the movement of duodenum gets affected causing the lungs to function with reduced capacity. Only when the duodenum is fully expanded, air fills the entire lungs. Deep, slow and steady breathing is ideal for keeping the mind calm. Spicy food makes the breathing shallow, fast and erratic, which in turn corrupt the mind, by inducing amorous thoughts and agitated temperament.
Those who truly long to pursue the true spiritual path have to choose sattvic food, like fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Rjasic and tamasic types of food not only affect the digestive system but also corrupt the mind, which is the primary factor in spirituality.