Why Doesn’t Ayurveda Recommend a Vegan or a Vegetarian Diet? Myth Debunked!

Why Doesn’t Ayurveda Recommend a Vegan or a Vegetarian Diet? Myth Debunked!

Kunal Mathur August 17, 2022

“The life of all living things is food; the entire world seeks food. Complexion, clarity, good voice, long life, understanding, happiness, satisfaction, growth, intelligence are all because of food” ~ says the ancient classical Ayurveda text, Charaka Samhita!

What is it that Ayurveda recommends? A strictly vegan diet? Or is consumption of meat allowed? What is Ayurveda’s take on maintaining and attaining a healthy state of mind and body?

It's time that we debunk the popular myth that Ayurveda is strictly vegan or vegetarian. Just like plants and grains, Ayurveda accepts meat as a form of food!

Infact, no other food excels meat in producing nourishing effects in the body (mamsam brahmananam),says the ancient Ayurvedic master Charaka.

We have been consuming meat longer than we think or imagine. Evidence of humans consuming meat dates back to over 2.6 million years.We evolved into and became what we are because of this dietary choice that we made millions of years ago.

4 Types of Meats: Nutritional and Medicinal Benefits

The classical texts impart elaborate descriptions of the properties of various meats, especially their Vata-reducing properties.

Here are some!

1.Goat meat, mutton, and lamb

  • Goat meat is well-known for bulking tissues and is often used as a meat soup or even a basti (Ayurvedic enema).
  • Goat meat does not cause malas or waste material in the body.3
  • Goat and mutton are said to be strengthening or tonifying for the body, and so they are good for Vata people, and those with severe debilitated conditions.4
  • Mutton is homologous with the dhatus (body tissues), it is anabhishyandi (does not obstruct the bodily channels) and is nourishing.
  • Lamb is a vermifuge and tonic. It improves intellect, digestion, and is a laxative.

2. Chicken

  • Chicken is an aphrodisiac as well as nourishing to the body. It clarifies the voice, promotes strength, and produces sweat.
  • Peacock for example, was commonly used for improving the eyes, voice, intellectual capabilities, complexion, hearing abilities, and more.

3. Beef

  • Beef is said to cure dry cough, exhaustion, chronic nasal catarrh, emaciation, and excess hunger.5
  • Beef is beneficial for exclusive vitiation of Vata, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue, atyagni (increased appetite), and wasting of muscles.

4. Fish

  • Charaka says that fish is in general heavy, hot in potency, sweet, strength promoting, nourishing, unctuous, and aphrodisiac.6
  • However, it might cause skin diseases, and is not recommended for daily consumption.

Charaka also says that good quality meats are brimhana (strengthening and building) as well as balya (promoting strength).

It further states that meat soups (mamsarasa) are one of the best for the body. They are sarvarogaprashamanam (alleviates all diseases) and promote vidyam (wisdom), swarya (good voice), bala (strength) of vayas (age), buddhi (intellect), and indriyas (senses).7

With a laundry list of so many health benefits, it might just be about time for us to get that good ol’ bone broth in our systems!

Read MoreVata Diet: Everything You Need To Know

Is it okay to consume meat while undergoing an ayurvedic treatment?

Another popular misbelief is that you are not supposed to have meat or related products while undergoing Ayurveda treatments or when having Ayurveda medicines.

This statement cannot be more misleading or untrue!

The truth is that Ayurveda does advise certain pathya-apathya (wholesome and unwholesome foods and regimens) depending on the nature of the disease.

Infact there are certain conditions & diseases for which Ayurveda advises the intake of meat and bone broth as medicine.

  • In Tuberculosis, for example, after correcting the digestion, intake of processed meat with certain herbs is advised as an effective medicine.
  • In the case of certain sexual disorders too, Ayurveda mentions meat as a medicine.
  • Bone broth has been used for thousands of years to build bone tissue.
  • For those suffering from fractures, dislocation of joints, and more, bone broth is proven to be effective.

READ MOREAyurveda’s Panchakarma Treatment, Therapy + Cost

Is there a particular recommended time in the day to eat meat?

It is ideal to have meat at midday because your digestive fire will be the highest during that time!

Pro tip: Cook meat properly with clarified butter, curd, sour gruel (Kanjika), acid fruits like pomegranate, and pungent and aromatic condiments like black pepper.

Though heavy to digest, meat prepared like this is considered quite wholesome... It possesses relishing, strength-giving, and tissue-building properties.

Thin meat soup: its far-ranging or extensive benefits

  • Thin meat soup is a pleasant tonic and proves beneficial in cases of dyspnea, cough, and consumption (Tuberculosis).
  • It subdues the Pitta and Kapha, destroys the Vata, and has an agreeable taste.
  • It is healthful and nourishing for people with weak memory and reduced semen. Meat soup prepared with the juice of the pomegranate and seasoned with pungent condiments, increases the quantity of semen and tends to subdue the action of all the three deranged humors, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.8

    What does the Ayurveda say about the consumption of eggs? Or Ayurveda’s take on consumption of eggs

    Ayurveda has explained the different types of eggs in classical texts. Ducks, poultry, and quail eggs are effectively used as medicine in various diseases like chronic cough, Tuberculosis, heart diseases, decreased sperm count, and among others.

    Eggs are also said to improve the growth and development of children. Modern medicine states that an egg has 9 essential fatty acids along with omega-3 fatty acids. A large egg contains over six grams of protein. It has 4.5 grams of fat which is only 7 percent of the daily value. Only one-third (1.5) grams is saturated fat and 2 grams is mono-unsaturated fat.

    Eggs are packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and other necessary food components, that a human body requires.

    Though eggs are highly nutritious, they are heavy in nature. Their heaviness makes digestion difficult. So, people with good metabolism can definitely include eggs in their diet.

    Fish in Ayurveda

    Let's look at Fish through the Ayurvedic Lens!

    • Fish is a low-fat, high-quality protein. It is filled with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and B2 (riboflavin).
    • Rich in calcium and phosphorus, it is a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
    • Eating fish improves strength and even helps in gaining healthy weight.
    • It is Vata pacifying in nature and can be consumed when dealing with diseases due to aggravated Vata.
    • Fish tends to increase Kapha and is not advised for daily consumption.

    Acharya Susruta, the ancient Ayurvedic author and father of surgery talks about the nutritional benefits of including fish in the diet. He even explains in detail the quality of fish residing in ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers.

    Fun Fact: Ayurveda prefers small fish varieties over larger ones because small fishes like anchovy are light for digestion, provide instant energy, are delicious, and pacify all the three doshas.

    Also, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times in a week, as part of a healthy diet and for a healthier heart!

    Fish is packed with protein, vitamins, and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and aid in reducing the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.

    What about shellfish allergy?

    Shellfish allergy is one of the most common food allergies, and Ayurveda has spoken about it in certain texts!

    There are two groups of shellfish: Crustacea (such as shrimp, crab, prawns, and lobster) and Mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops).

    Crustacea cause most shellfish reactions, and these tend to be severe, unpredictable, and potentially life-threatening. An example is anaphylaxis, even a very small amount of shellfish can cause one.9

    Ayurveda considers prawns to be the worst of fish varieties since it aggravates all the three doshas. Intake of prawns and milk together is considered virudh ahara (incompatible), so it is best avoided.

    READ MOREWhat To Eat For Lunch According To Your Dosha (Ayurveda Lunch Ideas)

    Here are 6 Ayurveda approved Health Tips for Meat Consumption

    Keep in mind the following things when you consume meat.

    1. Do not consume meat on a daily basis. Instead, have it moderately and maybe more during the winter season when you have a strong digestive power or good metabolism.
    2. Keep in mind your digestive power and constitution while consuming meat. A Kapha predominant person must consume less meat compared to a Vata predominant person.
    3. If you consume meat, make sure you exercise to keep the body healthy and fit.
    4. Along with meat, include vegetables and grains in your diet. Make sure you receive all the necessary nutrients.
    5. Choose organic, hormone-free meat whenever possible.
    6. Choose quality over quantity. A meatball-sized portion of meat (1/4c) eaten daily with vegetables and grains is an appropriate amount that your body can fully process.

    According to Charaka, healthy and wholesome food, even if taken in proper quantity, does not get properly digested when the individual is afflicted with grief, fear, anger, sorrow, excessive sleep, or excessive vigil.

    Therefore, taking care of your mental health is all the more important!

    Food taken in proper quantity provides strength, vigor, good complexion, and nurtures the health of the tissues. In order to live healthily, one must live in harmony and follow a diet suitable as per the bodily constitution.

    READ MOREIndian Spiced Buttermilk Recipe For Strong Digestion

    How do you prefer to cook a scrumptious meal of meat that pleases both your health and your taste buds? Share in the comments below.

    References:

    1. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) Charakasamhitha, SutraSthana 25/40, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.

    2. Evidence for Meat-Eating by Early Humans- https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/evidence-for-meat-eating-by-early-humans-103874273/#:~:text=The%20first%20major%20evolutionary%20change,least%202.6%20million%20years%20ago

    3. Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, XXVII.61

    4. Ashtanga Hridayam, Sutrasthana, VI.63-64

    5. Ashtanga Hridayam, Sutrasthana, VI.65

    6. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) Charakasamhitha, SutraSthana 27/81, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.

    7. Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana, XXVII, 311

    8. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) Sushrutasamhita Sutrasthana 46/351-358, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.

    9. Fare Food Allergy Research & Education – Shellfish Allergy


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