For a calm mind and a healthy body, eating fresh, nourishing food is essential.
A well-balanced vegetarian diet consisting of grains, vegetables, fruit, herbs, milk, ghee, and vegetable oils provides all the nourishment required.
Vegetarianism has a positive impact on both the health of the individual and the world.
According to Ayurveda, one should lead a life close to nature if he/she wants to avoid an unhealthy lifestyle. Not only healthy and vegetarian food but Ayurvedic cooking methods like steamed and raw foods is a natural and healthy way of living.
The non-vegetarian diet is not banned in Ayurveda but if you are susceptible to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high BP or a heart disease then opting vegetarian diet is more beneficial.
Four reasons Ayurveda suggests a vegetarian diet:
The farther away from the original source of energy—the sun—your food is, the less nourishing it is. Plant based foods are lighter and easier to digest than meat, which is a burden on the digestive tract.
Sattva is the energy of harmony and clarity. A balanced vegetarian diet made up of pure foods that are delicious and wholesome is considered sattvic and helps create happiness of mind. Sattvic food promotes alertness and evenness while tamasic and rajasic aggravates anger, aggressive behavior and all bad energies. Non-vegetarian food is also considered ‘Rajasic’, that is it promotes anger and other negative emotions in a person consuming them.
This is something that has been touted by modern science as well. Those with a balanced vegetarian diet have fewer chronic diseases— most notably, they have lower cholesterol, are less obese, and have a lower risk of heart disease. Researchers have found association of many non vegetarian foods with certain diseases like excessive fish eating with stomach cancer, animal fats with multiple sclerosis and meat with colon cancer. All this foods lack prana which leads to low digestive fire and diseases.
An important aspect of Ayurveda is kindness towards all living beings on earth, especially animals. Wishing good to all beings on earth purifies the mind, according to the old Indian science. Thinking about the conditions that animals have to endure in the factories or areas they are kept for slaughtering may be enough to feel compassion for them. Compassion can help a person to remain vegetarian for long term.
Busting the myth
It is totally a myth that vegetarian food does not provide sufficient nutrition to the body. A vegetarian diet is rich with amino acids, proteins and vitamins which a human body requires for healthy functioning. It also allows a higher intake of important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium.
Research has shown that a plant-based diet can be a healthier way to eat with fewer reported cases of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Typically, a varied vegetarian diet contains less saturated fat and more folate, fibre and antioxidants, plus as a vegetarian you’re more likely to exceed the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
To get the most out of a vegetarian diet, choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains. At the same time, cut back on less healthy choices, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and refined grains.
In order to preserve all the minerals and vitamins of the food, in typical Ayurveda preparation, food and vegetables are not cooked for too long.
Types of vegetarianism
There are several forms of vegetarianism, each of which differs in their restrictions.
The most common types include:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and eggs but allows dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but allows eggs.
Pescetarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
Vegan diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish or poultry.
‘We are what we eat’
This is the basic concept behind Ayurveda’s advocacy of vegetarianism along with the ease of digestion.
Vegetarian food is lighter than non vegetarian food and requires much less energy and time to get digested.
The simple formula for health is to form and conserve energy in the body with little required to digest the food. If the digestive fire needs more energy and time to get digested, it slowly results in indigestion.
Eating heavy foods and overeating are like putting wet wood or too much wood on the fire. It will be extinguished. If your agni is strong, you will feel light, nourished, and clear after a meal, and without fatigue, heaviness, fullness, or indigestion.
Changing eating habits suddenly can be really difficult for a person and challenging too. Ayurveda also doesn’t suggest sudden withdrawal but gradual shift is advised. Shift to foods which have less karmic reaction and are soft and calm. If you are non-vegetarian then first restrict yourself to sea food like fish and then curd, cheese, finally plant foods. Ayurvedic principles and philosophy support dairy and plant products.
Maintaining the balance is key
A simple formula is to include the six Ayurvedic tastes or Rasas: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent in every meal. It is believed that including all six tastes in every meal will ensure a balanced meal and a feeling of satisfaction preventing snacking and overeating.
Here are some of the tips on how to consume food, according to Ayurveda:
1)Eat mindfully and with concentration. Avoid talking, laughter, and other distractions to fully appreciate your meal and the wholesome benefits it provides.
2) Eat slowly enough that you can savor the taste of the food.
3)Eat quickly enough to prevent the food from getting cold.
4) Eat the proper quantity of food. Be aware of hunger signals and signs of fullness to avoid overeating.
5) Eat only when your previous meal has been digested. Ideally you do not eat within three hours of your previous meal or snack, but should not go without food for longer than six hours.
6) Focus on breakfast and lunch. A modest breakfast and a satisfying lunch and keeping dinner optional based on your hunger levels is considered excellent practice..