You’re loving the results you’re seeing since you started practicing yoga. Nothing beats toned muscles, a strong core, and a calm mind! But optimal health is also about what’s going on inside your body, and that’s got you wondering about the benefits of a yogic diet.
The first thing you should know is that the yogic diet isn’t really a diet in the way we tend to think of dieting today. It’s not about cutting calories or avoiding carbs. It’s actually an ancient way of eating that prioritizes nutrient-dense whole foods, nourishing the mind and body, and practicing mindful eating.
So, if you’re interested in gaining even more benefits from yoga teaching when you’re off the mat, here’s everything you need to know about the yogic diet.
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What is the yogic diet?
The true yogic diet is a whole-food, plant based diet. It recommends eating fresh fruits and vegetables and other unprocessed foods that are nutritious and easy on the digestive system. These types of foods are known as Sattvic, or pure, foods. Meat, alcohol, and processed foods are prohibited on this diet.
The yogic diet is sometimes called the sattvic diet. Its foundation is based on the belief that the mind and body are intricately connected. Think of the old saying, “You are what you eat!” and you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what the yogic diet is all about.
If you only eat pure foods, your body and mind will also be pure.
The Health Benefits of a Yogic Diet
Making the switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet is vital for energizing and healing the body with food. Here are some of the most significant benefits of a yogic diet for nourishing your mental and physical health.
Boosting the metabolism is key for increasing energy. Studies show that those who follow a plant-based diet have a faster metabolism than those who eat an omnivore diet. Not only do they have more energy and improved mental clarity, but they’re also burning more calories even when they’re at rest.
Increases Energy Levels
Whole foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts have a low glycemic index. That means the body digests them more slowly, so they’re fantastic for providing long lasting, steady energy. But even more than that, these foods are nutrient-dense, which means they’re fueling your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal performance.
Lower Risk of Chronic Disease
Studies show that those who follow a plant-based diet are 22% less likely to develop heart disease than those who eat meat. They’re also less likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and other chronic health issues. This is likely due to the increased intake of antioxidant-rich foods that protect the heart and cells from free radical damage.
Following a plant-based, whole food diet is better for your gut health. That’s because the more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables you consume, the more fiber you’re getting as well. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut which improves digestion.
Improved Mood Health
The research on the gut-brain connection is evolving all the time, but there’s sufficient evidence to indicate that your gut health is directly related to your moods. Studies show that people who eat a diet rich in plant-based foods are less likely to develop symptoms of depression. On the other hand, those who eat a diet high in processed foods and sugar are at a higher risk of depression.
How to Get Started with the Yogic Diet
If you’re ready to make the transition to a yogic diet, start with a balanced meal plan that includes protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Choosing a variety of legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables will get you off to a great start for your healthy lifestyle.
Onions and garlic should be limited because they increase heat in the body. Remember that the less processed the food, the purer it is, which is a key priority on the yogic diet. Although not required, you should choose organic foods whenever possible.
You don’t have to stick to just plain water to drink, but you should limit caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. Herbal and flower teas are a great choice when you’re craving something different.
But even more important than what you eat, the yogic diet is all about eating mindfully. That means eating slowly, chewing your food thoroughly, avoiding distracted eating, and enjoying the experience of preparing and eating a meal.
Yogic Principles for Energizing and Healing the Body with Food
Here are the fundamental yogic diet principles for energizing and healing the body with food.
Prioritize Hydrating Beverages
Hydrating beverages like hot water with lemon, herbal tea, rooibos, and vegetable broth are prioritized in a yogic diet. They are extremely cleansing and nourishing for the body. They also support detoxification through the lymphatic system.
Have Porridge and Fruit for Breakfast
Breakfast on the yogic diet often consists of porridge with fruit for its ability to warm and energize the body. Whole grains like millet, rice, amaranth, quinoa, barley, and oats are all eaten in porridge for their high nutrient content.
Wheat is usually avoided because it can trigger inflammation in some people. Sweet fruits, like berries, are fantastic in the morning because their natural sugars boost your energy. They also promote cleansing and detoxification.
Adding yogurt to your breakfast is also a great idea for boosting protein and probiotic intake. If you’ve chosen to avoid dairy, try yogurt made from coconut milk or soy milk instead. This combination will give you a long lasting energy boost that will keep you going until lunchtime.
Make Lunch Your Largest Meal Every Day
According to yogic and Ayurvedic teachings, our digestive fire is the strongest in the middle of the day. That means lunch should be your largest meal every day. Have a large meal that includes lots of raw vegetables or salad and plant-based protein like tofu, beans, or sprouted grains.
Vegetable soups, miso soup, curry, and cooked root vegetables are also great choices. Your midday meal should also include some healthy fats, like olive oil, nuts, or seeds for long lasting energy.
Don’t Snack Between Meals
The yogic diet recommends allowing space between meals. That means avoiding snacking between meals to give the body plenty of time to digest your food and absorb nutrients. This is crucial, not only for nutrition but also for cleansing and detoxifying the body. You should feel free to drink hydrating beverages between meals but try to eat only at regular mealtimes.
Eat a Warm Dinner
Your dinner should be smaller than lunch and it should consist of warm, cooked foods. Choosing cooked foods will allow you to sleep better than energizing raw foods will. Your goal should be to keep your energy levels up during the day, not when it’s time to rest.
Cooked vegetables, lentil soup, and cooked root vegetables are all good choices at dinnertime. After dinner, drink a warm beverage like herbal tea or broth to warm and soothe your body for better sleep.
Include Healing Herbs and Spices
Your meals should include a variety of healing herbs and spices in your diet regularly. Herbs like mint, cilantro, parsley, basil, and sage are great choices for supporting digestion, detoxification, and adding nutrients. Spices like cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, and turmeric alkalize the blood, reduce inflammation, and aid in healing the body.
Wrapping Things Up: Following a Yogic Diet Supports Your Yoga Practice
Following a yogic diet supports your yoga practice by increasing your energy and focus. It also improves your attitude towards food and will likely improve your sleep, too.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply avoid meat and processed foods and limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. Prioritize fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Combining a yogic diet with your yoga practice will have you well on your way to energizing and healing your body and mind in just a short time.