Ayurveda, Food & Your Brain

The complexities of the brain are beyond most people’s ability to comprehend – including modern medicine. Saturated with cocktails of prescriptions, mental illness is often treated without ever being understood. But the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda, often called the sister science to the ever-popular yoga, is pretty adamant about one correlation we seem to lack out west: Diet. Perhaps taking a good, hard look at what we consume could shed some light… on most things.

As far as the principles of Ayurveda are concerned, everything is made up of energy (and modern science can corroborate that!). In line with this, food carries particular energetic qualities, and Ayurveda places our grub in one of three categories known as the gunas. Some foods leave us feeling tired, sluggish and lethargic, called the tamasic effect. Other foods leave us feeling agitated or over-stimulated, the rajasic effect. And lastly, other foods leave us feeling calm, alert and refreshed, the sattvic effect.

Ayurveda (and yoga!) recommends a sattvic diet to keep your brain in balance. Eating too much of rajasic or tamasic foods is said to create a chemical imbalance in the brain. Instead, eat those foods in moderation and aim for a more sattvic lifestyle that will lead you into purity and balance. Take a look at what foods fall under which guna and how you can start bringing balance back into your body and your brain, from the most basic level. 


  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Hot peppers
  • Coffee and caffeinated tea
  • Refined sugar
  • Soda
  • Chocolate


  • Meat
  • Alcohol
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Fried foods
  • Stale or overripe foods
  • Junk food
  • Fast food
  • Canned, processed and packaged food
  • Picked foods
  • Salted foods


  • Honey (raw)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Milk, butter and clarified butter (ghee)
  • Fresh herbs and herbal teas

image: tienvijftien