Veganism in India is mainly religious rather than animal-inspired and many consider Ayurveda, the traditional medical treatmentsystem of India, to be vegan. This is nothing but a myth that needs to be burst. If we examine the ancient Indian Ayurveda classics, we can find that there is a lot of mention made about the use of meat, egg, milk and milk products. For example, the use of meat soup (mamsa rasa) is strongly advised for treating emaciation. It is only in the case of persons with a special spiritual inclination that a pure vegetarian diet is recommended.
Below are the eight categories of non-vegetarian food mentioned in the ancient Ayurveda classical texts.
- Prasaha (animals and birds who eat by snatching)
- Bhumisaya (animals who live in burrows in the earth)
- Anupa (animals inhabiting in marshy land)
- Varisaya (aquatic animals)
- Varicara (birds moving in water)
- Jangala (animals dwelling in dry land forests)
- Viskira (gallinaceous birds)
- Pratuda (pecker birds)
Properties of Meat according to Ayurveda
Classical ancient Indian texts have elaborate descriptions on the properties of various meats, especially their Vata-reducing properties.
- Meat of peacock is used for improving eye sight, voice, intellectual capabilities, complexion, hearing and more.
- Goat meat is used for tissue growth and as meat-soup or even a basti (Ayurvedic enema). Goat and mutton are said to be good to strengthen and add tone to the body. They are, therefore, good for Vata people and those with severe debilitated conditions. Goat also does not cause malas or waste material in the body.
- Beef is said to cure dry cough, exhaustion, chronic nasal catarrh, emaciation and excess hunger.
- Charaka says that fish is in general heavy, hot in potency, sweet, strength promoting, nourishing, unctuous and an aphrodisiac.
- Charaka also says that good quality meats are brimhana (strengthening and building) as also balya (promoting strength). He 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), strength (bala) of vayas (age), buddhi (intellect) and indriyas (senses) respectively.
Having Meat During Ayurvedic Treatment
Another popular misbelief is that meat should not be used while undergoingAyurveda treatments or when having Ayurveda medicines. The truth is that, Ayurveda does advise certain pathya-apathya (wholesome and unwholesome foods and regimen) depending on the nature of the disease. This pathya and apathy diet are not for the medicines. There are certain disease conditions where Ayurveda advises the intake of meat as medicine. For example, in the case of Tuberculosis, after correcting the digestion, processed meat with certain herbs are advised as medicine. In certain sexual disorders also, meat is mentioned as a medicine in Ayurveda.
Bone broth has been used for thousands of years to build bone tissue and for those suffering from fractures, dislocation of joints and more.
Another common doubt is whether there is a particular time of the day to eat meat. According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to eat meat at mid-day because the digestive fire is at its peak during this time. Meat should also be cooked properly with clarified butter, curd, sour gruel (Kanjika), acid fruits like pomegranate, and pungent and aromatic condiments like black pepper. Meat prepared thus is considered very wholesome, though it may be heavy to digest. It possesses relishing, strength-giving and tissue building properties.
Health Tips for Meat Consumption
Keep in mind the following while eating meat.
- Do not consume meat on a daily basis. Instead have it moderately and have it more in winter when digestive power is strong.
- 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.
- While consuming meat, it is good to exercise to keep the body healthy and fit.
- Along with meat, include vegetables and grains in your diet so that your diet is a wholesome one with all the essential nutrients.
- Choose organic, hormone-free meat whenever possible.
- 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 process fully.
- According to Charaka, healthy and wholesome food, even if taken even in proper quantity, does not get properly digested when the individual is afflicted with grief, fear, anger, sorrow,excessive sleep and excessive vigil. Therefore, mind matters.
- Food taken in proper quantity provides strength, vigor, good complexion and nurtures the health of the tissues. In order to live healthy, one must live in harmony with his surroundings and follow a diet suitable to one’s own bodily constitution.
Eggs and Ayurveda
Ayurveda gives an explanation of the different types of eggs in its classical texts. Ducks, poultry and quail eggs are effectively used as medicine in various diseases like decreased sperm count, chronic cough, Tuberculosis, heart diseases and more. Eggs are also said to improve growth and development in children.
Modern medicine explains 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 are mono-unsaturated fat. They contain, in varying amounts, almost every essential vitamin and mineral needed by humans as well as several other beneficial food components.
Though eggs are highly nutritious, it is heavy in nature according to Ayurveda. This heaviness makes them hard to digest. People with strong digestive power can definitely include eggs in their diet.
Fish in Ayurveda
Ayurveda also has explanations and details on consuming fish. Eating fish improves the strength and helps in gaining weight. It is Vata pacifying in nature and can be consumed in diseases occurring due to aggravated Vata. It also increases Kapha, due to which fish is not advised for daily use.
Acharya Susruta, the ancient Ayurvedic author and father of surgery, explains in detail about the quality of fish residing in ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. Ayurveda prefers small fish varieties over larger ones. Small fishes like anchovy are light for digestion, provide instant energy, are delicious and pacify all the three doshas.
Fish is a low-fat, high-quality protein. Fish is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet. Fish is packed with protein, vitamins, and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Ayurveda considers prawns to be the worst of fish varieties since it aggravates all the three doshas.
Dr. Arya Krishna (BAMS)
Ayurveda Consulting Physician & Educational Co-ordinator
Subject Matter Expert
At Home With Ayurveda (UK)