Ayurveda classifies food as Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic. Rajasic foods are those that over stimulate while tamasic foods make us lazy and weak. Sattvic food on the other hand is one that is pure bringing calmness, happiness and mental clarity and is said to be crucial for to mental and physical well-being, and long life.
While there are four Navratri in an year, they are celebrated twice a year. On both occasions one season is changing to another. This to my mind is the most perfect time to give our body a break from the regular, heavy food that we eat and change over to a Sattvic diet for 9 days. This helps our body rejuvenate and get itself ready for the next extreme season.
Sattvic diet is composed of mostly fresh ingredients, is low in fat and spices and contains whole grains. All these foods are linked to health.
Navratri food is super healthy because of the ingredients that are used to cook. To understand the health benefits of a sattvic diet let me take you through the nutritional contribution of all these foods.
Typically, during Navratri we give up wheat, rice and all the "normal" staples that we consume on a daily basis. Instead we replace the same with nutrient bombs like, jau (barley) , kuttu (Buckwheat) and samai(Little millets), amaranth, and even quinoa. All these millets are:
a) Gluten Free, hence our gluten overloaded systems get a relief from the daily dose. Gluten is a protein commonly found in wheat and wheat products and has no adverse effect on our health, however a change is always welcome, and our digestive system get a break.
b) Millets are associated with better gut health as they are rich sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber. These help colonization of our gut with healthy bacteria.
c) Millets have a positive effect on risk factors of heart diseases. They are associated with lowering cholesterol and BP. They also are associated with better sugar control in diabetics.
d) Millets are rich in minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron. All these are needed in adequate amounts for the overall health of our tissues and our body overall.
e) Millets are very strong antioxidant foods. They contain phytonutrients, vitamins and polyphenols that act as scavengers in our body and remove free radicals.
Seasonal veggies are low in calories and high in protective nutrients. All health care specialists around the world recommend at least three servings of vegetables / day and one serving being 1/2 your plate. The reason behind this rational is that:
a) All vegetables are nutrient dense. They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Vegetables add a lot of protection to our meals.
b) There nutrients present in vegetables like, vitamin a in green leaves, & yellow orange vegetables, zinc in green leaves and roots are related to enhanced immunity.
c) Vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin C are potent antioxidants and help control oxidative stress.
d) They add fiber to our diet making gut healthier. A healthy gut is a prerequisite to a healthy body
e) Vegetables contain complex carbohydrates which take longer to digest and prevent high and low sugar dips. They also add to satiety.
f) Weight management becomes easy with these low-calorie filling foods. Most vegetables are very low in calories, especially the summer ones, and can be eaten in larger amounts to fill up without extra calories.
Like vegetables, are nutrient dense, and are thus an ideal addition to any healthy diet.
a) Fruits are naturally low in fats, sodium and add very few calories per serving. This makes them a perfect choice for snacks.
b) High in water content, they are good foods to keep you hydrated. Dehydration can lead to a feeling of weakness and exhaustion.
c) Consumption of fruits are linked to protection against heart diseases as they are fiber rich and contain minerals like potassium that protects against high BP
d) The compounds that color our fruits are strong antioxidants and are linked to reduced risks of cancers, heart diseases and stroke. So choose red, yellow, green and blue.
4. Milk & Milk Products
The health benefits of milk and milk products like yogurt, paneer and cheese is far beyond than just strengthening bones and teeth. These products are:
a) Rich in quality proteins, they are a perfect fit for vegetarian Sattvik meals.
b) Fermented milk products like yogurt and cheese are natural probiotics which enhance gut health.
c) Milk, lassi and chaas are healthy drinks for staying hydrated. They also provide Sodium, Potassium and calcium making a perfect oral hydration solution.
d) The calcium of milk is easily absorbed by our body. Calcium is needed not just for our bones and teeth but also for our muscles to move effortlessly. From the muscles in our arms and legs to our heart muscles, we need adequate calcium.
5. Nuts & Seeds
These little wonders of nature are loaded with health. They are a good choice because:
a) Healthy fats present in them help prevent against heart diseases and Diabetes. Monounsaturated fats, omega -3 fats are amongst the healthiest fats for our body, and nuts and seeds are loaded with them
b) Proteins and fiber add satiety preventing snacking on nutrient free foods, protecting against weight gain
c) They are loaded with immunity boosting nutrients like Zinc, Selenium, and Magnesium.
d) They contain phytonutrients and polyphenol compounds that are strong antioxidants.
Switching to natural whole some foods that are nutrient dense, not processed and keeping the fried foods to a minimum, following a sattvik diet this Navratri, irrespective of whether you fast or not, is a good way to reboot and detox the system.
Stay safe and wishing you all a Happy Navratri 2021!
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.