Those following the Yoga Diet more strictly also insist on only eating organic produce. This is based on the idea that food ought to be grown naturally and harmoniously with nature.
Ghee (clarified butter, with the milk and water removed from butter leaving only the butter fat) is highly valued in the Yoga Diet, with claims to improve digestion and inflammation.
Sattvic foods are encouraged and these include: whole grain bread, fresh produce, pure juice, milk, butter, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, herb teas, and honey.
Chemicals and stimulants are strongly discouraged, so caffeine, tobacco, and artificial sweeteners are all no-nos. Alcohol is also discouraged. The idea with these off-limit items is that they are unhealthy for one’s body and mind, especially the mind’s ability to concentrate.
Craving a downward hot dog? Think again. Fresh, unprocessed foods are also not part of the Yoga Diet. So frozen, boxed, and canned foods are not used. Leftovers are even frowned upon by some yogi dieters.
Some sources say that timing is also a feature of the Yoga Diet, with an emphasis on eating away from exercise or sleep by two hours. Yogis following this principle site the body’s need for digestive rest before engaging in movement or rest. A more drastic yoga practice that some incorporate is fasting for an entire day. The idea here is that yoga as that the mental clarity (supposedly) achieved with fasting brings balance to one’s mental and physical experience of yoga.
Why is it called the Yoga Diet?
While some of the yoga diet concepts are pretty universal and things we have heard before (e.g. focus on whole grains, fresh produce, nuts and seeds), some of the ideas are very yoga specific using yogi language (Ayurvedic, Raja, Tama, and Sattva).
Is it a weight loss plan?
The answer to this depends on where you look. Some sources claim the diet is more of a lifestyle aimed at improving health, separate from weight. Other sources claim that the yoga diet will help you shed pounds.
The most valuable aspect of the Yoga Diet separating it from other diets is the way it addresses the whole person, body and mind. The flexibility described in most versions of the Yoga Diet is a feature that may allow for something no other diet has: potential for success. By encouraging yogis to modify the Yoga Diet principles to accommodate the individual, the Yoga Diet creates a gray in what is otherwise a very black-and-white diet world. It’s the black-and-white rigidity present in other diets that sets people up for failure. With the flexibility described in the Yoga Diet, there is less room for failure and more room for sustainability.
The “non-harm” or ahimsa piece of yoga can be applied in various ways, not just by avoiding animal products. The ahimsa also encompasses the earth, environmental awareness, and striving to avoid harming nature.
Yoga Diet concepts you can ditch
Fasting. Don’t do it. Period. There is nothing gained physically by putting your body through a period of semi-starvation. If your body has a physical response it will be nervousness – nervous that a famine has arrived, and when our bodies have famine anxiety they respond by conserving (burning less) energy by lowering the metabolism.
Using ghee as your primary cooking fat isn’t a great idea. It is a saturated fat and in moderation it’s fine, but for heart health you want to rely on olive oil for cooking when possible.