Food for thought and inner peace on Janmashthami

August 23rd, 2008 - 9:54 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) Before Janmashthami, the Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, this weekend, devotees have been making changes in their diets to accommodate ’satvik’ food habits that are considered to have a calming influence on one’s soul, bringing people a step closer to God.India’s traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda, categorises food as satvik, rajasik and tamasik.

Satvik food is vegetarian, sans onion and garlic (as these produce heat and are considered aphrodisiacs), simple and easily digestible. Such food is basic, cooked in minimal heat and is eaten fresh, immediately after it is prepared.

Rajasik food is high in both taste and nutrition, with more oil and spices, while tamasik food is overcooked and processed.

“Ayurveda, Unani, Greek medicine even the Chinese concept of yin and yang record the fact that different food items generate different levels of heat in one’s body and affect one’s emotional well-being. Satvik food helps control the emotions of a person and makes him more relaxed,” nutritionist Shikha Sharma told IANS.

“It is not meant for people from all walks of life. It is suited to those who choose to lead the path of self-growth and emotional consciousness. On the other hand, you can’t live on a diet of butter chicken and beer all the time. That is why people bring about a conscious change in their diets during religious festivals.

“They pray to God and fast. This, combined with a satvik diet, paves the way for spiritual well-being.”

All food closest to the natural form are satvik. They include milk, milk products (non-processed), fruits and fresh vegetables (except garlic, onion, scallions and chives).

Spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, aniseed and cardamom are used in satvik cooking. Busting a common myth, Sharma said raw food is not satvik as it may harbour parasites.

Integral to a satvik diet is to avoid intoxicants like alcohol and stimulants like tea, coffee and tobacco.

Celebrity cooking expert Nita Mehta feels that satvik food is very similar to many international cuisines, where the food is not very spicy and is cooked on low heat.

“But if you had to choose between an American hash brown and a ‘tikki’ (a flavoured Indian potato dish), for a satvik meal, the choice would obviously be the tikki, because one can’t separate food from tradition,” she told IANS.

Nita’s daughter-in-law Tania experiments with Satvik cuisines in order to attract the young palate. She feels the variety of satvik food is yet to be explored, and the majority of youth don’t know much about this way of eating.

“Satvik cooking is easy and full of flavour, contrary to popular belief. Spices like cumin and coriander are often used. Only certain spices and ingredients need to be avoided. Eating such food also gives the body and digestive system a much-needed break,” Tania told IANS.

Is it enough to go on a Satvik diet only during religious festivals?

Vrajendra Nandan Das, director of communications at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), told IANS: “One should always think of the body as a gift from God. So one should always attempt to eat satvik.

“This may not appeal to many people who are too absorbed in their lives to care about eating habits. Surely, one can find time to attend to habits that influence our soul in a negative manner. This should be done routinely, not just during festivals.”

“One should redefine satvik to fit the broader vision of today’s generation. People should feel free to question the reason for restrictions or benefits of eating satvik food,” Sharma said.

“It does not give you a size zero figure, nor does it give you glowing skin. But it is a concept which if followed with dedication can give you an overall feeling of inner peace and control of emotions.”

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