Take a loaf of ciabatta. Choose and wash some basil and arugula leaves, and cashew nuts. Take a tablespoon of virgin olive oil. Grill fresh broccoli and chunks of bell pepper in all colours. Make the pesto with clean basil leaves, cashews and salt, while emulsifying with olive oil. Cut the ciabatta in half, slather the pesto on the slices, add the washed arugula leaves and grilled vegetables. Drizzle olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sounds Italian? It is a sattvic sandwich.
India's 21st century began with the Discovery of the World. Manmohanomics opened up the economy and borders, middle-class Indians grew rich and travelled overseas, exploring the tables of Italy and Japan, France and America, and Thailand. Their taste buds brought home memories of alien, pleasing flavors and fragrances and India witnessed a global food boom.
Oriental and continental food penetrated even the small towns and cities, and pasta no longer rhymed with nashta and a nacho wasn't a TV show.
Then came organic eating, eating local and conscience consumption. More recently a new food trend is obsessing Indians. Sattvic cuisine.
It is strictly vegetarian; in extreme cases even vegan.
Its soul is Ayurveda.
Many recipes are derived from Vedic practices.
What is a sattvic diet? It is pure vegetarian. It must include seasonal fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grain, pulses, sprouts, dried nuts, seeds, honey, fresh herbs, milk and dairy-free of animal enzymes.
Shailvi Shah Soni, a public health nutritionist who was an Assistant Manager with the Research and Advocacy
Department of Akshaya Patra, a nutritious mid-day meal programme in government schools in India, defines it as cuisine that is light, healthy, gives energy (sattva) and is soothing to the mind. It is vegetarian but has specific food ingredients. It is a balanced meal that soothes the body and keeps the mind in control. Soni is certain that slowly, but surely the shift towards sattvic food is happening though it is more a hunch than based on hard stats. But the global trend of adopting, adapting, and allowing foods to generate recipes global in taste and local in nature includes sattvic food in the modern wellness concept.
Sattvic appeals to many primarily for the simple reason that it is pure food. The word 'sattvic' comes from the Sanskrit word sattva, which means purity and wisdom constituting one of the three gunas of Sankhya philosophy. Sattvic food is said to carry strong positive energy. It is the food of the gods. Even the Bhagavad Gita extols its benefits as it influences your mental well-being and cleanses the body and mind. In the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, Lord Krishna advises Arjuna on how to live a happy life by paying attention to his health. An entire chapter in the holy scripture is dedicated to what, when and how to eat to maintain bodily vigour and mental stability, says Dr Partap Chauhan, Director, Jiva Ayurveda, Faridabad, Haryana. People often confuse sattvic with vegetarian or vegan food. This is far from the truth, according to Chauhan. If you have spicy food, indulge frequently in fired and fatty dishes, or consume sugary foods and beverages, it is not sattvic despite being vegetarian, he adds.
FEEL IT IN THE GUT
Yoga categorises three types of foods with three different qualities and health effects: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic.
The second includes sweet foods that are supposed to charge in the body and makes it hyperactive. Tamasic diet is mainly non-vegetarian and spicy. Sattvic foods are rich in pranas, or life force. Some vegetables with negative pranas are brinjal, onion and garlic which are reputed to disrupt concentration. No fried or greasy food, excess sweets, mixing grains with different enzymes; to steer clear from extremes, do not consume food that is too salty, too sweet, too sour, too overcooked. Sattvic food's USP is that it is good for gut health because of its high fiber content. Energy levels and immunity goes up with sattvic food. Given that India is predominantly non-vegetarian—a recent Pew Research Center survey polled 39 percent of Indians as vegetarians—can sattvic food be popularised?
Before the pandemic, the market size of sattvic food was limited as a sattvic diet was considered to be a yogic diet and hence preferred by selected people only. “However, after it, more people are conscious of how our diet affects our health and immunity. A sattvic diet has provided multiple benefits since it incorporates healthy and naturally available ingredients. The ability of the sattvic diet to include a broader range of dishes to suit modern-day food preferences while staying true to its roots is encouraging more people to shift to a sattvic diet, says Shrawan Daga, Founder, Krishna's Herbal & Ayurveda, Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Ravindranath Amingad got initiated into ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) in the year 2000 and identifies himself as Ramananda Kanai Das since then. A Cost Accountant from Hyderabad who now lives in Oman, Muscat, Das has been an ardent Krishna devotee since he was four. Embracing the sattvic lifestyle came easy to him. His wife Anuradha says they as a family embraced sattvic food once he did. It was a practical thing to do. In fact, cooking without onion, garlic or other such accompaniments is easy as it means fewer ingredients to procure.
We love the original flavours of vegetables minus the masalas, she says. Eating any other kind of food is non-negotiable for them. Not even at the office offsite or on long airplane journeys. “We never eat out in Oman. In long distance flights, we either carry food, opt for Jain food or stick to the fruit platter. We just recite the Hare Krishna mantra and eat, the couple shares. Their son Srinath, who lives in Australia, and daughter Taruni, a high schooler in Oman, also eat the same food when they are home. Although pickles are not prohibited, the family has chosen to avoid pickles, also caffeinated beverages.
Food consultant Rennee Saradha who lives in Auroville, Puducherry, thinks so.
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