Understanding the Yogic Perspective and Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

When it comes to diet and nutrition, different trends come and go. In recent years, veganism has emerged as a significant movement, along with other dietary practices such as keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting. This growing interest in veganism reflects a wider shift towards mindful eating habits. This trend appears to be driven by a combination of ethical considerations and health benefits. Let’s explore this trend and also find out more about the yogic perspective on diet and nutrition.

The rise

Avoiding animal cruelty: One of the main reasons people choose to go vegan is the desire to avoid contributing to animal cruelty. The commercialization of animal products often involves practices that are ethically unacceptable to many, such as factory farming, including cramped living conditions, inhumane treatment, and painful procedures without anesthesia. Choosing a vegan lifestyle helps people who want to stand against these practices and reduces the demand for animal-based products.

Health issues: Health concerns are a major contributor to the vegan trend. Many people suffer from lactose intolerance, which makes it difficult for them to digest dairy products, leading to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. There are also other health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and certain allergies that can be managed more effectively with a plant-based diet.

A yogic perspective

In the yogic tradition, food habits are based on the principles laid down in the shastras or traditional texts such as the Srimad Bhagavadgita, Hathayoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.

After the Shastras: According to the traditional texts, food should be chosen carefully, taking into account its source and the effect on the human mind and body. The IS shastras often advocate for a diet that supports spiritual growth and physical health.

Importance of milk products: Traditional yogic diets place great importance on milk products such as ghee which is valued for its ability to support digestion and lubricate the joints. Buttermilk is considered as Amrit or nectar because of its nutritional properties. Despite the growing trend of veganism, these traditional foods are respected by those who practice yoga.

Animal cruelty and food sourcing: Although animal cruelty is not supported in yoga philosophy, there is an emphasis on being mindful of how food is sourced. Yogic teachings encourage eating dairy products from sources where animals are treated with respect and care. This is consistent with the broader principle of ahimsa or non-violence, is one of the fundamental values ​​of Yoga.

Health benefits: Foods like honey and milk are considered healthy and beneficial in yoga practice. Nature provides these foods in abundance, and eating them ethically is considered in harmony with natural laws. These foods are believed to promote strength and vitality.

Other plant-based options

For those who follow a vegan lifestyle while practicing yoga, there are many plant-based alternatives that perfectly align with the ethical and health-conscious values ​​of both veganism and yoga.

Alternative Milk Options

Almond milk: Rich in vitamin E, calcium, and healthy fats, almond milk serves as a nutritious alternative to cow’s milk. It is also low in calories and suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

Coconut milk: High in healthy saturated fats (medium-chain triglycerides), coconut milk is a great source of energy and can improve the body’s metabolism. It is also rich in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6.

Alternatives to Ghee

Coconut oil: Known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, coconut oil can be used in cooking and baking as a substitute for ghee. It supports digestion and improves nutrient absorption.

Olive oil: High in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, olive oil is heart-healthy and can be used in cooking or as a dressing for salads and vegetables.

Yogurt Alternatives

Soy Yoghurt: High in protein and containing probiotics, soy yogurt supports digestive health and provides essential amino acids.

Almond yogurt: Contains beneficial nutrients such as vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. Almond yogurt is a good choice for those looking for a dairy-free alternative with a mild taste.

Let’s not forget, our body builds on the food we provide it and we will only be healthy on the outside if we are healthy on the inside. It is important to listen to your body’s needs, adjusting food choices accordingly, rather than following a restrictive plan. Moderation is important when it comes to food. So respect your body and eat well to be healthy and happy.

(Dr Hansaji Yogendra is the director of The Yoga Institute. She is also the president of the Indian Yoga Association and the International Yoga Board)

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