Question: What type of food habits should one adopt to purify oneself?

First, one should eat only those foods which are in the mode of goodness (sattva-guna), and avoid those foods in the modes of passion (rajo-guna) and ignorance (tamo-guna).These are described briefly in the Bhagavad Gita by Lord Krishna as follows:

rasyah snigdhah sthira hrdya
aharah sattvika-priyah
(Bhagavad Gita 17.8)

“Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.”

ahara rajasasyesta
(Bhagavad Gita 17.9)

“Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.”

yata-yamam gata-rasam
puti paryusitam ca yat
ucchistam api camedhyam
bhojanam tamasa-priyam
(Bhagavad Gita 17.10)

“Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.”

In simple terms, one should avoid eating non-vegetarian foods, including meat, fish and eggs. In addition to this one should not eat onion and garlic, as they increase the rajo-guna and disturb the mind.

One should not eat food that has been prepared several hours before – ideally only fresh food should be eaten. This is not always possible. If food is sanctified (prasadam), it may be eaten even if it is old.

Prior to eating all food should be offered to the Lord to remove karmic influences.

One should also regulate the amount of food one eats. Lord Krishna states:

naty-asatas ‘tu yogo ‘sti
na caikantam anashnatah
(Bhagavad Gita 6.16)

“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little.”

One must know how much food is sufficient to keep one healthy. One should not eat more, nor less. It is also important to regulate the time one eats. As much as possible, meals should be taken at the same time everyday.

The most important thing is to meditate on the Lord prior to eating. We must understand from whom our maintenance is ultimately coming. Before taking any food, recite “Sri Vishnu, Sri Vishnu, Sri Vishnu”, and think of the Lord.