Its soul is Ayurveda. Many recipes are derived from Vedic practices. As a personal choice and business opportunity, sattvic food is here to stay.
Take a loaf of ciabatta. Choose and wash some basil and arugula leaves, and cashew nuts. Take a tablespoon of virgin olive oil. Grill fresh broccoli and chunks of bell pepper in all colours. Make the pesto with clean basil leaves, cashews and salt, while emulsifying with olive oil. Cut the ciabatta in half, slather the pesto on the slices, add the washed arugula leaves and grilled vegetables. Drizzle olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sounds Italian? It is a sattvic sandwich.
India’s 21st century began with the Discovery of the World. Manmohanomics opened up the economy and borders, middle-class Indians grew rich and travelled overseas, exploring the tables of Italy and Japan, France and America, and Thailand. Their taste buds brought home memories of alien, pleasing flavours and fragrances and India witnessed a global food boom. Oriental and continental food penetrated even the small towns and cities, and pasta no longer rhymed with nashta and a nacho wasn’t a TV show.
Then came organic eating, eating local and conscience consumption. More recently a new food trend is obsessing Indians. Sattvic cuisine. It is strictly vegetarian; in extreme cases even vegan. Its soul is Ayurveda. Many recipes are derived from Vedic practices.
What is a sattvic diet? It is pure vegetarian. It must include seasonal fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grain, pulses, sprouts, dried nuts, seeds, honey, fresh herbs, milk and dairy-free of animal enzymes. Shailvi Shah Soni, a public health nutritionist who was an Assistant Manager with the Research and Advocacy Department of Akshaya Patra, a nutritious mid-day meal programme in government schools in India, defines it as “cuisine that is light, healthy, gives energy (sattva) and is soothing to the mind.” It is vegetarian but has specific food ingredients. It is a balanced meal that soothes the body and keeps the mind in control.
Soni is certain that slowly, but surely the shift towards sattvic food is happening though it is more a hunch than based on hard stats. But the global trend of adopting, adapting and allowing foods to generate recipes global in taste and local in nature includes sattvic food in the modern wellness concept.
Sattvic appeals to many primarily for the simple reason that it is pure food. The word ‘sattvic’ comes from the Sanskrit word sattva, which means purity and wisdom constituting one of the three gunas of Sankhya philosophy. Sattvic food is said to carry strong positive energy. It is the food of the gods. Even the Bhagavad Gita extols its benefits as it influences your mental well-being and cleanses the body and mind. “In the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, Lord Krishna advises Arjuna on how to live a happy life by paying attention to his health.
An entire chapter in the holy scripture is dedicated to what, when and how to eat to maintain bodily vigour and mental stability,” says Dr Partap Chauhan, Director, Jiva Ayurveda, Faridabad, Haryana. People often confuse sattvic with vegetarian or vegan food. This is far from the truth, according to Chauhan. “If you have spicy food, indulge frequently in fired and fatty dishes, or consume sugary foods and beverages, it is not sattvic despite being vegetarian,”
Feel in the gut
Yoga categorises three types of foods with three different qualities and health effects: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. The second includes sweet foods that are supposed to charge in the body and makes it hyperactive. Tamasic diet is mainly non-vegetarian and spicy.
Sattvic foods are rich in pranas, or life force. Some vegetables with negative pranas are brinjal, onion and garlic which are reputed to disrupt concentration. No fried or greasy food, excess sweets, mixing grains with different enzymes; to steer clear from extremes, do not consume food that is too salty, too sweet, too sour, too overcooked.
Sattvic food’s USP is that it is good for gut health because of its high fibre content. Energy levels and immunity goes up with sattvic food. Given that India is predominantly non-vegetarian—a recent Pew Research Center survey polled 39 percent of Indians as vegetarians—can sattvic food be popularised?
Before the pandemic, the market size of sattvic food was limited as a sattvic diet was considered to be a yogic diet and hence preferred by selected people only. “However, after it, more people are conscious of how our diet affects our health and immunity. A sattvic diet has provided multiple benefits since it incorporates healthy and naturally available ingredients. The ability of the sattvic diet to include a broader range of dishes to suit modern-day food preferences while staying true to its roots is encouraging more people to shift to a sattvic diet,” says Shrawan Daga, Founder, Krishna’s Herbal & Ayurveda, Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Ravindranath Amingad got initiated into ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) in the year 2000 and identifies himself as Ramananda Kanai Das since then. A Cost Accountant from Hyderabad who now lives in Oman, Muscat, Das has been an ardent Krishna devotee since he was four. Embracing the sattvic lifestyle came easy to him. His wife Anuradha says they as a family embraced sattvic food once he did. “It was a practical thing to do. In fact, cooking without onion, garlic or other such accompaniments is easy as it means fewer ingredients to procure. We love the original flavours of vegetables minus the masalas,” she says. Eating any other kind of food is non-negotiable for them. Not even at the office offsite or on long airplane journeys. “We never eat out in Oman. In long distance flights, we either carry food, opt for Jain food or stick to the fruit platter.
We just recite the Hare Krishna mantra and eat,” the couple shares. Their son Srinath, who lives in Australia, and daughter Taruni, a high schooler in Oman, also eat the same food when they are home. Although pickles are not prohibited, the family has chosen to avoid pickles, also caffeinated beverages.
Food consultant Rennee Saradha who lives in Auroville, Puducherry, thinks so. Saradha curates an exceptionally good experiential lunch at Mohanam Cultural Centre there. She picks locally sourced rice varieties, pulses and ingredients. A certified Ayurveda chef, she previously owned a gourmet store called Bagel Pot and Pidhi through which she created healthy sattvic recipes using indigenous methods. She also specialises in hemp-based recipes. What are the dishes she wishes more mainstream restaurants in cities start serving? “Kozhukatta and steam-cooked food indigenising rice varieties, plant-based dips, bamboo rice payasam, ragi dosa with bean and moringa, peanut chutney, banana stem soup and hemp-based recipes,” she says. Sahithi Divi, head of Mohanam Centre, is working on setting up a steam cafe which is coming soon at Mohanam. The cafe will have sattvic delicacies such as jowar moringa ada, white bean cabbage vada, mochai masala Chettinad, turnip Carrot salad, ashgourd soup, varagu thippili rasam rice and paal paniyaram.
Sattvic is the world
Healthy is not good enough for something to catch on, it must be trendy too. Sattvic cuisine is as Indian as you can get, but is easily adaptable to global cuisines. This means sattvic is good business.
Restaurants such as Sattvik in Saket, New Delhi, boast a year-long global sattvic menu, not just for Navratri. The Chef’s favourites include the Palak Patta, Sattvik Agnihotra, the Malai Broccoli, among others. The Navratri Thali includes contemporary favourite dishes such as Shakarkandi Seekh, Quinoa Kofta, Aloo Anardana Rasmisa, to name a few. Head chef Gunjan Kumar says the Sattvik Navratri Thali is an amalgamation of culinary treasures from all over the world such as coconut jackfruit delicacies from Indonesia and Burmese soup. Those like Satkriti Saatvik in Bengaluru also follow a strictly sattvic menu in their restaurant—from Bhindi Anaardaana, Aromatic Rosemary Potato Curry and Millet Dal Khichdi to V33 Porridge, made from 33 grains served with vegetables.
In Hyderabad, clinical and holistic dietician Mayuri Aavula is making sattvic multigrain atta cupcakes for her nine-year-old daughter Medhadeep. Aavula turned to sattvic food in January 2021. “A bunch of health and spiritual reasons made my husband, my children and I turn to sattvic food for the last 10 months,” says Aavula, whose husband suffered severe intestinal ailments prompting the family to switch to food cooked in a way that Ayurveda recommends.
“Sattvic food is about good thoughts while cooking. The food we eat should not be over three hours old. Although all of us are working/studying from home, on some days I don’t have an option but to eat what is cooked in the morning. However, the effort to turn sattvic is worth it since we are living a stress-free life,” she adds. Aavula recommends sattvic food to her patients. “It is a myth that sattvic food is bland and boring. My kids love my wheat flour pizza and cupcakes made with natural ingredients. There are multiple YouTube channels that put out gourmet sattvic recipes. Eating sattvic is both fun and healthy,” she assures.
Aavula advises against changing one’s cooking patterns and taste much to adopt a sattvic diet. “Recently I had a Fondue Sizzler, made of exotic vegetables and chilli paneer blended with cheese and pepper sauce. Such food experiments will definitely have more takers,” she believes.
Perhaps she has a point. A 2019 survey recorded that 63 percent of Indians were willing to replace meat with plant-based options. To benefit from the rapidly growing global plant-based market, there is a necessity to assure consumers about authenticity. “The Sattvik Council of India has almost 40 codes for certification in food, hospitality, textile, dairy, agriculture. Soon, 20 more codes will be added to the Sattvik Codex System. Technological innovation, including digital, is rewriting every industry, including the food and lifestyle industry in this world, the ever-increasing acceleration of change is one of the few constants, and Sattvik Certification would be that constant,” says Abhishek Biswas, the Founder of the Council, which is food safety and regulatory compliance for vegetarian and allied adherents.
There are also small pockets of passionate sattvic food enthusiasts who are building an entire supply chain to ensure that sattvic food is available to everyone and can pave the way for embracing it as a lifestyle, rather than as a fad. Mumbai-based brand called Satvik Food is a group of farmers from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra who believe in sendriya khat-cultivated (using natural fertilisers) vegetables—directly from farms to the user’s doorstep in the form of weekly healthy sattvic food baskets of assorted vegetables. They use cow manure to grow the crops, thereby making it a sustainable process. Sri Sri Institute of Agriculture Science and Technology Trust in Benguluru mentors the brand on the cultivation process. In fact, they also hold face-to-face interactions in Thane every alternate Sunday to help people understand the need to adopt sattvic food.
With the Hindu identity becoming part of cultural awareness, inward-looking and culturally investigative Indians are discovering tradition on their tastebuds. “It is a misconception that it’s a Hindu entitlement. The diet works as well on Hindus as it does on Christians. After all, an amla will offer the same benefit for everybody. It won’t see religion as a deciding factor,” says Chauhan. Global travellers at Dubai’s Al Karama Shopping District can be seen digging into Spicy Thai Cigars—a cheese and bell pepper contemporary Indian starter and Navratan Stroganoff, fusilli pasta mixed with vegetables in an Indian spiced earthy gravy at My Govinda’s. This sattvic restaurant on the western banks of Dubai Creek is pushing the envelope on sattvic food.
Melting the pot
When a trend rears its obliging head, it stands a good chance of becoming a business wave. The sattvic food interest is part of the new Indic health trend, along with yoga and meditation. Sattvic restaurants, food festivals, nutritionists, food coaches and chefs have sprung up in this new guilt-free culinary constellation. Sattvic cookbooks offer food laws for cooking, manuals to set up a sattvic kitchen and meal plans to reverse disease.
Says Girish Bindal, Lead, RoundGlass Thali, a food company that brings together food experts and chefs to contribute recipes and establish mindful eating practices, “Our health and wellness are deeply rooted in the meals we consume, the cuisines we prefer, our culinary traditions, and cooking practices. At Thali, we bring on board food experts and specialty chefs who create the perfect dish, class, or course from an exciting mix of diversity and representation of cultures. We also offer culinary classes and courses on holistic food, created and curated by some of the best chefs and experts in the world. Food enthusiasts can follow a chef, learn from their cooking style, or explore courses on cuisines taught by different chefs.
They can even engage with the RoundGlass Thali community to participate in and foster conversations around food and wellbeing.” There is Mumbai-based ‘DivineTaste!’ by Anushruti, who describes herself as a food writer and presenter, health and well-being consultant, recipe creator and photographer, India whose cooking style stems from ancient Ayurvedic and sattvic cooking principles, incorporating dishes from around the world using fresh, seasonal and local ingredients.
Bindal sees a rise in the Ayurvedic and sattvic food trend. The pandemic fear has accelerated the search for immunity-boosting dishes. “Chefs who employ ancient Ayurvedic techniques to modern recipes are a hit on our social media channels. The preference for healthier food choices is increasing. People look for innovation in their everyday meals without compromising on health. Our chefs and experts are trying to bring this balance to the table through sattvic food since health is a top priority for everybody now,” he adds.
RoundGlass Thali’s ‘Connect’ programme allows members to follow the finest chefs and experts worldwide, get their wellness and nutritional advice, and explore the latest food trends. Among their family of 27 celebrity chefs is food and wine consultant Shagun Mehra. Named as one of the top five craftspeople in India, in the Luxury edition of Fortune magazine, she fine-tuned her culinary skills at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu. The idea is to help people learn sattvic cooking from such accomplished chefs.
Among the organisations that have made sattvic food its mission is satvicmovement.org, an online community that conducts workshops.
They recently published the Satvic Food Book, which contains over 45 plant-based sattvic healing recipes collected by author Subah Saraf. From detox salads, healing soups, and classic Indian cuisines such as sattvic chapati, khichdi and sabzi, the recipes are free of refined oil, sugar, pungent spices, milk and milk products, and processed foods. They are made using ingredients taken straight from Nature, the way they are found. Her recent Instagram reel about the two-minute dessert idea ‘Date Bites’ made of dates, peanut butter, crushed pistachios, and dried rose petals is a hit with over 34K views.
Pilibhit House, IHCL SeleQtions, Haridwar, has taken sattvic food a notch up with Haridwar’s regional flora and can be seen in various aspects of their menu. “A popular drink among our guests is the ‘Buransh Sharbat’, which is essentially a juice that we extract from the Rhododendron flower found locally in the region. More of such influencers can be found in our menu’s segment called ‘Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan’, which translates to ‘Food of the Gods’ and consists of ancient Indian, vegetarian holy dishes from across the country,” says Amit Kumar, GM – Pilibhit House, Haridwar.
The melting pot effect
The rise of restaurants dedicated to sattvic gourmet cuisine shows the growing popularity of the genre. The Higher Taste, which is ostensibly Bengaluru’s first sattvic cuisine restaurant chain with three outlets in the city, claims to combine the wisdom of the Vedas, with the flair of modern-day cooking to create signature sattvic meals—pure, wholesome meals prepared without the use of ingredients such as garlic, onion, eggs, caffeine and never over-spiced. The website of the restaurant states that every dish cooked there is first offered to Lord Krishna and thus in effect, what you consume at the Higher Taste is prasadam. Many of The Higher Taste dishes date as far back as the Chola dynasty, claims the brand that also serves sattvic delicacies such as Chilman Kabulistan Biryani.
With biryani, an invention of Islamic cooking occupying a star position on the menu, sattvic cuisine has proved its acclimatisation power to the Indian palate. Like all other food trends, fusion and reinvention are sattvic too. With biryani on the plate, can dessert be far behind? Annakoot in ISKCON Bengaluru is known for its artisanal sweets with gur rasgulla setting the cash registers ringing. According to food blogger Vindhya Raman, its recipe took 25 years of research. “It takes a lot of knowledge, plus trial and error, to take a food classic such as rasgulla and replace the sugar with jaggery and still get the consistency and texture right.
Most importantly, it ticks off the sattvic food parameters,” she says. Sattvic food events are picking up. Author and sattvic food expert Saraf held The Sathvik Fest in August at Zorba Entertainment on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road. A few hundred recipes were cooked and shared during the workshop. Radhika Iyer Talati, Founder, Food by Anahata, an organic and sustainable lifestyle wellness-based beauty and food product brand, says, “Sattvic food is a high fibre, low-fat vegetarian diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts that are abundant in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Referred to nowadays as a yogic diet, millennials are leaning towards eating the sattvic way.” Restaurants are tapping this opportunity. Simple ingredients are being customised and presented glamorously to keep up with healthy lifestyle trends.
Rues Talati, “Unfortunately, we hear of sattvic food only during festivals, and then we forget about it. On the contrary, our diet should be based on this through the year.” Talati grew up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family where all the preparations were sattvic. “The meals had fresh natural ingredients and were elaborate, delicious and nutritious,” she recalls.There is undeniably a spiritual angle to sattvic cuisine for many people who adopt it.
Life need not be joyless. Sattvic options are many. The buttermilk-based Morukuzzambu curry, sarson ka saag and kala chana pulao are sattvic, if you are hungry. Then there is emmer wheat upma, black sesame wholewheat pancakes and barnyard millet crepes, gluten-free. As the sattvic food story unfolds, Indian gastronomy is doing what it does the best—take Indian to the world and bring the tables of the world to us.
✥ Water, fruits (all varieties), most vegetables, cereals, bread, pulses, nuts, oilseeds, dairy foods, and honey
✥ Cow’s milk (considered the most sattvic of all foods)
✥ Spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, fennel (saunf) and cardamom
✥ Land and sea vegetables like spinach, carrots, celery, potatoes, broccoli, kelp, lettuce, peas, cauliflower, etc.
✥ Fruits and fruit juices like apple, banana, papaya, mango, cherries, melons, peaches, guava etc.
✥ Sprouted grains such as barley, amaranth, bulgur, barley, millet, quinoa, wild rice, etc
✥ Pungent vegetables like hot peppers, leek, garlic and onion, and gas-forming foods such as mushrooms (tamasic, as they are all fungi)
✥ Food that comes out of a box, packet, or tin
✥ Food that comes from living things. So vegetables, fruits, grains and millets, but not processed food
✥ Eat locally-grown healthy plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, etc with minimum processing. It’s suggested to avoid sugar and refined oil.
✥ Lead an active and happy life, and spread happiness.
✥ Lead a simple life with simple thinking and a calm mind.
✥ Keep cool at all times and use polite language. Develop self-respect and respect for everything, and see the interconnectedness in everything.
✥ Think of the good of every living being on this earth.
✥ Abstain from indulgence and control carnal desires.
✥ Don’t eat animals in the form of meat, fowl or fish or any products derived from them or eggs or milk, or any products derived from milk like curd, buttermilk, butter, ghee, cheese, etc.
✥ Don’t eat any food made to imitate animal foods or highly processed foods that may have harmful effects on health; don’t consume any intoxicating products like alcohol.
✥ Don’t have any bad habits which
may harm the self and others around us, like smoking.
✥ Don’t use any dead animal products like leather, silk, etc or live animal products, live honey and live animal services like rides, circus, zoo, animal sports, etc, or any products like medicines experimented upon animals.
✥ Don’t use any products or services obtained using child labour or slave employees.
✥ Don’t tell lies with an intention to harm others and help the self unduly.
✥ Don’t steal, bribe or accumulate wealth beyond one’s reasonable needs.
✥ Don’t lead a luxurious life having a huge environmental foot-print and depriving others of a basic life.
✥ Don’t confine any animal or human and take away their freedom.
✥ Follow the rules of the land and respect the nation and the administration, like we respect elders in our family and society.
“It is a misconception that sattvic food is a Hindu entitlement. The diet works as well on Hindus as it does on Christians. After all, an amla will offer the same benefit for everybody. It won’t see religion as a deciding factor.” – Dr Partap Chauhan, Director, Jiva Ayurveda
“A bunch of health and spiritual reasons made my husband, my children and I turn to sattvic food. It is all about incorporating good thoughts into the food while cooking. We are living a stress-free life now.” – Mayuri Aavula, Clinical and Holistic Dietician, Hyderabad
“A popular drink among our guests is the ‘Buransh Sharbat’, which is essentially a juice extracted from the rhododendron flower found in Haridwar. More of such unique influencers can now be found within sattvic food.” – Amit Kumar, GM, Pilibhit House, Haridwar
“Before the pandemic, the market size of sattvic food was limited as it was considered to be a yogic diet. However, after it, more people have become conscious about their diet with health becoming a top priority.” – Shrawan Daga, Founder, Krishna’s Herbal and Ayurveda