This is a question often asked and more often mistakenly assumed by patients. Unlike what many believe, Ayurveda neither endorses not denounces vegetarianism as the best dietary style for everyone. But then, what exactly does Ayurveda recommend? Today we explore in better detail.
As our regular readers know by now, personalization is the essence of Ayurveda. It considers each person as unique, and so advises a different diet style for everybody based on their unique constitution and physical/mental status. We explain the general principles.
It is described as more ‘sattvic‘ (promoting tranquil and focused thoughts) than non-veg foods. As a rule of thumb, veg is better for people who do more work with their brains than physical labor. So if you are a professor in a college, a writer writing love stories, or a research scientist in a lab, for example, veg is the thing for you.
From Dosha point of view, Kapha people being more prone to obesity and the likes of it, vegetarian food, with its generally lesser fat content and higher fibre content is more likely to suit them; though healthy Kapha people can digest any type of food, be it veg or non-veg.
Yoga specifically instructs aspiring Yogis to eat sattvic food, even limiting it to specific veg foods that include only milk, rice, sugar, limited salt and a prescribed list of veggies/roots/tubers that cause minimal Dosha disturbances. It can be said to be somewhat an Indian counterpart of veganism in terms of restrictions. These foods are supposed to enable the Yogi to attain the ultimate stable and calm mind that is needed to master Yoga. A big exception however, is the lesser practised Tantric school of Yoga, where ritual meat-eating is actually a part of the indoctrination process; but then, such obscurities are far out of the scope of general masses and better left unexplored.
“Okay, I am a vegetarian, but I want to build muscles too!”
Who said you can’t build muscle while remaining a vegetarian? Just check out our earlier article, ‘The vegetarian diet plan for bodybuilding‘.
Meat/fish/eggs are all described to increase ‘Tamas‘, the mental Dosha that corresponds to dark thoughts, laziness and maligned moral. However, they are also excellent for developing muscle tissue (‘Mamsa‘), and hence advisable for people whose work involves more physical labor and lesser moral judgement. So if you are a marine corps soldier, a construction worker or a footballer, non-veg is for you. Still, that’s not the only group of people benefitting from it.
Another interesting aspect of meat eating is that, meat being much heavier to digest, serves as a good dosha balancer for people with a high Pitta (Fire bio-element) constitution by using up the excessive Pitta for digestive work.
There’s a principle of Ayurveda known as ‘Samanya-Vishesh Siddhant‘ (literally, the congruency-differentiation principle) which states that foods/medicine having similar properties improvise the tissue having those properties in the body, and vice versa. So eating meat increases your muscles, bonemeals improve your bones, marrow soup (called ‘faya’ in Hindi) improves a depressed bone marrow function, and so on. To put it in a simpler but limited meaning contemporary line, ‘You are what you eat’. So, meat is also a good food for those who are emaciated from illness/malnutrition, suffering from muscle wasting, but have their digestive fire in good condition nevertheless.
Thus, we saw the pros and cons, advisability and otherwise of both veg and non-veg diet in short. How do we sum it up ideally? I would say, having a mixed diet that is best suited for your body’s and environment’s *immediate* requirements is the best way to go. So if you are generally a sedentary worker but have recently done too much travelling and laborious work causing you to be thinned up quite a bit, or if you are convalescing from a major illness that caused major muscle wasting, it can be a good idea to set aside your vegetarianism a bit, and get a good meat soup for yourself to recover. On the other hand, if you are finding yourself too violent or not able to concentrate at your workplace, or fantasizing about your beautiful colleague in the back of your mind too often, it’s time to give a break to those meatburgers and chicken curries, and follow a veg diet for few weeks.
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About the Author –
Dr. Harshad Rajandekar is an Ayurvedic physician based out of Nasik (MH), India, and is passionate about combining the best of old and new knowledge to create holistic healthcare solutions for all. His online/offline consultation booking info is available here.