Photo courtesy of Kami Stafford

Gunas in Food

Foods generally have most of their energy in one guna. Most prepared foods, being made of several foods together, have a blend of these energies. One thing to keep in mind when you mix these energies is mixing any two of them gives the third!

We mix these energies all the time without thinking about it to produce the results we want. When we are "down in the dumps" and decide to lift our mood by getting up and doing something, we've mixed tamas (depression) with rajas (action) to yield satva (contentment). When we have an unruly child (rajas), we give the child a "time out" (tamas), to yield a more pleasant, right-acting child (satva). It may seem all wrong at first to view a dish made of meat and peppers as having the same energy as a fresh apple. But, that's what we do. It's a matter of what guna, or energy type, comes out as dominant in the end. This includes what we drink along with our meal.

It might get a little complicated if we're mixing a lot of things, but it's what the final result is. If you mix a LITTLE bit of peppers with vegetables and steam them, you've still got a satvic dish. If you mix a LOT of peppers with some meat, as in a taco, you have a rajavic dish. If you take my Curried Vegetable Stew and spice it with curry very gently, it remains a satvic dish. If you spice it heavily with curry, it becomes a rajavic dish. Then, if you add some meat, which is tamasic, they combine to become satvic again

What Foods are of what types?

In order to start, we have to know what sorts of things to start with. Below is a very brief list of commonly used food items and their energy type. You can probably get a "feel" for what things are of what types from this brief list. If you have questions, feel free to contact me.

Satva Rajas Tamas
Photos courtesy of Kami Stafford
Sweet Spicy Fermented
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Spices and refined sugars Cheese
Milk Coffee Beer, wine, and whiskey
Ginger Peppers Salt
Fruit Salad Kung-pao vegetables (spicy!) Turkey and Gravy
Fruit and Yogurt Energy Bars Bacon and eggs
Steamed vegetables Curried Vegetable Stew Vegetables simmered in wine sauce
Steamed potatoes and butter Mexican Rice Portabella Steak


Manipulating One's Own Energy

On top of the entire meal is the guna which is prevaling in yourself, in general, and at that moment. The prevailng guna is the one which you can change short term. For instance, if you're in a low mood, that you've experienced some disappointments over the course of the day, the guna to add to it is rajas, in order for it to combine with the tamasic, disappointed mood of the moment, to yield satva.

Secondly, is your prevalant type. If you are fat or heavy and muscular, you are unlikely to change that overnight, if you can change it at all. Contrary to popular belief, you would not become a thin, contented, satvic person by adding a lot of satva to your diet or environment. That would yield rajas, to get you running around willy-nilly. Instead, you would add rajavic energy - something to "get you moving", in order to overcome the inertia of tamas, to get to satva. On the other hand, if you are a very energetic, athletic, or nervous person, and have trouble slowing down and relaxing, and enjoying whatever parts of your life you want to spend more time with, adding satva to this natural energy won't give satva either. The rajavic natural energy combines with the introduced satvic energy to yield tamas. Rather than peaceful and contented, you will probably feel slow and lazy, which will be contrary to your goals as well. This is the reason, I believe, that various sorts of attempts to help onesself overcome such things by deliberately and directly trying to be what one wants to become so often fail. Of course, such repeated failure leads to disappointment.

The goals given in these pages are to give guidelines and information on what energy combinations give what results, and thus greatly improve the chances for success in attaining your own goals. It is also noted that your goals are unique to yourself. They may not be what anyone else thinks your objectives should be. Various methods can be used to attain these goals. All of the choices remain yours.


Combinations of Energies

Likewise, every individual has their own nutritional, health, and medical needs. Every individual has their own preferences and ethical or religious guidelines. There is no reason those cannot be worked around or with. For instance, someone with an ulcer who cannot consume spicy foods which are rajavic may attain rajas by combining meat and vegetables; a combination of tamas and satva, to give rajas. A vegan who consumes no animal products may gain tamas through grains or fermentation. Or, this vegan may attain tamasic meals by adding rajavic spices to the satvic vegetables, combining to give tamas.

Any dish, meal, or diet usually comes out to having a balance toward one of these gunas. This may be done consciously or unconsciously. Done unconsciously, the tip in the energy balance will be unconscious and almost random. Done consciously, anyone can get whatever energy type they desire. What's more, it may not require any sort of drastic change in lifestyle!


Meal Planning

Before we can begin to plan meals, first consideration should be made for any particular health or medical needs. If you have any medical conditions which require any particular dietary modifications, please consult your doctor or nutritionist before implementing these methods! Likewise, if you have food allergies, the offending foods may be omitted or substituted in all cases. If you have ethical or religious dietary considerations, those must be included too. It will not do either to have one set of your goals in life fighting with another set.

Almost any special diet can work with these. Indeed, these could work as well for a diabetic vegan with lactose intollerance who eats a Kosher diet as well as they would for a person who "eats everything". Indeed, it may even be easier for the person already on a restricted diet because he or she is used to consciously deciding what is to be eaten and what is not.

Likewise, there may be budget restrictions on many people. Most of these guidelines will work into any budget, as foods of various expense may be used with any of the gunas. As an extreme, someone whose diet consists only of cornbread, beans and blackeyed peas, and hamhocks can balance the gunas! The beans are satvic. The hamhocks are tamasic. The cornbread is a combination of all 3, with a dominance of tamas. Rajavic is missing, but it may be added by including some spice (chili powder or jalepenos), or it may be added by combining the satvic beans with the tamasic hamhocks. Nonetheless, I am going to focus on pretty much balanced diets, and include all of the food groups to some degree.

It's a matter of planning ahead, thinking it all through. Indeed, by planning ahead, it is unlikely that you will accidentally run out of some needed ingredient and have to waste time and gasoline running to the store unexpectedly, or that you will not have what you need and run out to a fast food place, to get a very tamasic meal consisting of meat, grains, and grease-laden food, which is most likely unhealthful.

Not making any judgments about fast food, but even the menus in fast food restaurants can be used along with these guidelines! Indeed, along with the very tamasic meat, grains, and grease, there is the very rajavic cola drinks with sugar and caffeine. Most fast food restaurants also have salads available. Without the dressing which is tamasic with the fat content, the salads themselves are satvic. Indeed, with the hurried lifestyle many people are forced to lead, fast food may be the only option at times. One can still balance the energies using these menus, although it may be more difficult to balance one's nutritional needs.


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