Mental health disorders have become so common in the United States that according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 1 in 4 Americans ages 18 and older, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. One fact that mental health scientists agree on is the imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain. How this imbalance occurs continues to be a cause for study. Meanwhile research has produced a pharmacopoeia full of prescription meds to ease our mental suffering. Rarely is quality of diet mentioned as a treatment plan for mental illness and yet the ancient Ayurvedic practitioners and yogis knew the affects food can have on the brain.
The human body requires essential nutrients on a daily basis to function properly and we know from medical research that a lack of these nutrients can cause chemical imbalance in both organ and brain functions. Ancient practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine, known to be the world’s oldest surviving healing system, created a lifestyle in which the body and mind could maintain optimal health and mental well-being. By creating a harmonious chemical balance in the body, and practicing yoga and meditation, one may become more spiritually liberated.
The practice of Ayurveda distinguishes food as having particular energetic qualities, known as the 3 Gunas: Sattvic (lightness, purity), Rajasic (overactive, passionate), and Tamasic (lethargy, inertia). These energies are also seen to be universal in dimension and permeate all living and inanimate life. Eating too much of rajasic or tamasic foods will create a chemical imbalance in the brain. Instead eat these foods in moderation and aim for living a sattvic lifestyle. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center incorporates this knowledge into their teachings and have compiled a list of foods for students of yoga to follow.
Next: 3 types of energy and the foods that bring out those qualities