Oh, inertia. You know that feeling - you want to run but can only shuffle along. Mentally, you are whizzing about, bursting with energy but physically, you are slouched on the couch. Tamasic state of mind is something like that. The Tamas guna, or characteristic, is epitomised by inertia. Naturally, foods that represent this characteristic lack prana (energy) and therefore, act as a sedative, making the body and mind sluggish. Baseline is, these foods hasten your descent into a less refined state of consciousness. Tamasic is not just about the guna and type of food, it also refers to how we eat our food, its preparation and the quantity consumed. Any food item which is overeaten turns Tamasic.
Tamasic food lowers the body’s ability to fight disease and disrupts the proper functioning of the immune system. In certain conditions, like overeating, reheating, leftover or stale food, what was once sattvic food can turn Tamasic.
The light at the end of this tunnel is that, as with everything, when consumed in moderation, Tamasic foods can bring stability. This virtues come in handy during times of physical pain and stress, as it helps dull the senses, allowing your body the space to repair itself.
Other times when Tamasic foods can bring relief is during extreme conditions - for eg; bitter cold, physically strenuous work, etc. In such conditions, the Tamas element tethers you to perseverance. But if you are looking to a light, stress-free, labour-free life, keep Tamasic foods to the minimum.
Tamasic food and body, mind and character
Ayurveda says what we eat affects who we are and how we think and behave. Tamasic food is considered to be basically unsuitable as it makes a person lazy, inefficient, slow and resistant to change. An individual who is Tamasic also finds it difficult to be punctual, and his or her thinking is often confused and dull. Tamasic tendencies often lead to diseases and distress.
The mind’s natural state is creative. According to Ayurveda, Tamasic food brings about stagnation in thinking, leading to degeneration of body and mind. A person who eats mainly Tamasic food will age faster. This type of food also brings about intense mood swings, insecurity, irritability and cravings. A Tamasic person is usually unable to deal with others in a calm way. He tires quickly and sleeps more than 8 hours a night.
Tamasic food and doshas
Tamasic food will aggravate all three doshas, especially Kapha dosha.
For optimal functioning of the body and mind, we need to eat primarily Sattvic foods with just enough Rajas and Tamas gunas to that add vigour and stability to enable us to stay goal-oriented. An ideal diet must consist of fresh or freshly prepared grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, milk and ghee besides cold-pressed oils and natural sweeteners, along with a few, controlled portions of Rajasic and Tamasic foods. As mentioned in the previous articles, Rajasic food in moderate quantities stimulates creativity and activity, and Tamasic food provides stability, especially when the mind becomes hyper due to excess Rajas.
Tamasic foods include meat, fish, onions, garlic, mushrooms, overripe and underripe fruits and vegetables. In addition, some fermented foods like vinegar, bread, pastries, cakes, alcohol and even leftovers and stale food are considered Tamasic. Besides the above-mentioned food items, most of our refrigerators and pantries are filled with canned and frozen foods which are also Tamasic in nature. Many experts consider microwaved food to be Tamasic too.
Common Tamasic foods:
Meat: Lamb, beef
Fruit: Avocado, Watermelon, Plums, Apricots.
Grains: Wheat, Brown Rice.
Vegetables: Mushrooms, Garlic, Onion, Pumpkin.
Beans: Urad Dal, Black, Pinto, Pink.
(Binu Sivan is a Dubai-based freelancer).