Classification of Food


Over the past centuries the spiritual people of Bharat have classified food as Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic. Somehow the Vaishnav’s got to classifying food and it looks as though they got carried away a bit too far, often classifying foods that have strong smells as tamasic such as Onion, classifying Garlic as rajasic and going to the extent of classifying many whole dals as tamasic. Others even went to extent of saying that Kathal looks like meat and so must be avoided. Now how can one compare Garlic with egg or Kabuli Channa (Chole) with meat. Therefore this classification needs restructuring.
In my humble opinion there are atleast three factors that need to considered while classifying foods. These are a) the intrinsic quality of the food and its effect on the body, b) time taken to cook the food, and c) time taken to digest the food. Again in my opinion all food that is of vegetarian origin is Sattvic, but within each of these broad categories we can further sub divide the categories into sattvic, rajasic, tamasic. Now instead of three categories we have nine categories that is

  1. Sattvic – Sattvic
  2. Sattvic – Rajasic
  3. Sattvic – Tamasic
  4. Rajasic – Sattvic
  5. Rajasic – Rajasic
  6. Rajasic – Tamasic
  7. Tamasic – Sattvic
  8. Tamasic – Rajasic
  9. Tamasic – Tamasic

Now according to this classification Garlic would fall under Sattvic – Rajasic while Egg would fall under Rajasic – Rajasic and Kabuli Channa would fall under Sattvic – Tamasic while Red Meat would be Tamasic – Tamasic and Fish perhaps would be under Tamasic – Sattvic. From among others, one simple measure of food is the time it takes to cook, both Red Meat and Kabuli Channa take a long time to cook but they have a difference in time taken to digest the food as well as the effect on the body and mind. Red meat heats up the body and produces and aggression in the mind. Kabuli Channa does not do that. It is heavy but will get digested sooner than red meat and does not particularly disturb the mind except for making one feel lazy.

One of the biggest fallacies created by past beliefs is that Garlic should not be eaten. Garlic can be boiled to remove the smell, when fried it loses its pungency and overall it has very broad health benefits. The whole idea of adding a mixture of herbs and spices in our cooking was to help the immune system and to maintain good health, since each spice has numerous health benefits. Another similar point – Mushrooms. Traditionally Indian Mushrooms are heavy and needs to be soaked overnight, then cooked in a pressure cooker for a long time, however today most of us use Button Mushrooms that are not an Indian variety, and they need only about 10 -15 minutes to cook, so how can one classify these as tamasic. They perhaps may be called Sattvic – Tamasic.
The issue of the benefits of various herbs and spices is another huge topic on which I will in the future write on.

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