Meat Use In Ayurveda: This Holistic Science Is Not Vegetarian Or Vegan

There is a popular myth that Ayurveda is vegetarianism or vegan. While it is true that in some respects they go hand in hand, eating meat in Ayurveda is totally dependent on the individual constitution and personal health care needs. Eating meat is always a personal decision based on your morals, religious practices, individual needs and health status. So what might be the reason for the popular misconception that Ayurveda is vegan or vegetarian?

It might be because we link Ayurveda and yogic or sattvic diet together. If you check the ancient Indian scriptures or literature like the Vedas and the Puranas, a description and explanation of meat has been given. We’ll cover this and much more in this article. Here’s a list of topics we’ll cover.

The Health Benefits Of Meat + 8 Categories
Properties Of Meat

Type Of Meat Plus Nutritional And Medicinal Benefits 
What To Eat On A Daily Basis
What Not To Eat On A Daily Basis

Meat During Ayurvedic Treatment
When To Eat Meat
Meat Preparations
Eggs And Ayurveda
Fish In Ayurveda
Health Tips For Meat Consumption

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Meat in Ayurveda. Is Ayurveda vegetarian or vegan?The Health Benefits Of Meat + 8 Categories

Do you know what Ayurveda says about food? The ancient classical text Charaka Samhita says this.

“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.”

Like plants and grains, Ayurveda accepts meat also as a form of food. Emphasizing upon this, the ancient Ayurvedic master Charaka says that no other food excels meat in producing nourishing effects in the body (mamsam brimhananam).1

Ayurveda also gives detailed explanations on meat in eight different categories which include animals, birds and fish. These are the eight categories of non-vegetarian food mentioned in the ancient classical texts.

  1. Prasaha (animals and birds who eat by snatching)
  2. Bhumisaya (animals who live in burrows in the earth)
  3. Anupa (animals inhabiting in marshy land)
  4. Varisaya (aquatic animals)
  5. Varicara (birds moving in water)
    6. Jangala (animals dwelling in dry land forests)
  6. Viskira (gallinaceous birds)
  7. Pratuda (pecker birds)

Properties Of Meat

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

  • Those such as peacock for example were commonly used for improving the eyes, voice, intellectual capabilities, complexion, hearing and more, and were commonly used.
  • Goat meat was also well-known for bulking the tissues and often used as a meat-soup or even a basti (Ayurvedic enema). 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.2 Goat also does not cause malas or waste material in the body.3
  • Beef is said to cure dry cough, exhaustion, chronic nasal catarrh, emaciation and excess hunger.4
  • Charaka says that fish is in general heavy, hot in potency, sweet, strength promoting, nourishing, unctuous and aphrodisiac.5
  • 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.6

READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know

Type Of Meat Plus Nutritional And Medicinal Benefits

Mutton

Mutton is homologous with the dhatus (body tissues), it is anabhishyandi (does not obstruct the bodily channels) and is nourishing.

Chicken

Chicken is an aphrodisiac and is nourishing. It clarifies the voice, promotes strength and produces sweating.

Beef

Beef is beneficial for exclusive vitiation of Vata, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue, atyagni (increased appetite) and wasting of muscles.

Fish

Fish is strength promoting, nourishing, unctuous and aphrodisiac. It causes skin diseases and is not recommended for daily use.

Lamb

Lamb is a vermifuge and tonic. It improves intellect, digestion and is a laxative.

What To Eat On A Daily Basis

Keep in mind that Ayurveda doesn’t recommend the intake of certain types of meat on a daily basis. There is a detailed list of food materials that should or should not be included in the diet on a daily basis.

Food For Regular Use
Ghee
Honey
Indian Goose Berry
Fruits like grapes, pomegranate, et cetera
Rice
Barley
Immature Radish
Chebulic Fruit
Leafy Vegetables
Meat of animals in arid or dry land

In short, dishes that are capable of promoting health and curing diseases are suitable for regular use.

What Not To Eat On A Daily Basis

Undesirable Food For Regular Use
Cheese
Yogurt
Alkaline preparations like vinegar
Sprouted seeds
Black gram
Dried meat
Molasses
Tuberous roots
Sweets prepared by grinding cereals
Uncooked radish

This list of undesirable food materials is not because of any religious or spiritual reasons. It is because too much of these substances can result in health problems.

READ MORE: What To Eat For Lunch According To Your Dosha (Ayurveda Lunch Ideas)

Meat During Ayurvedic Treatment

Another popular misbelief is that you are not supposed to take meat items while undergoing Ayurveda 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 apathya are not for the medicines. There are certain disease conditions where Ayurveda advises the intake of meat as medicine. In Tuberculosis, for example, 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.

READ MORE: Ayurveda’s Panchakarma Treatment, Therapy + Cost

Meat soup is an Ayurvedic remedy. Ayurveda is not, as commonly thought, vegetarian or vegan.When To Eat Meat

Another common doubt is whether there is a particular time of the day to eat meat. It is ideal to have meat at mid-day because your digestive fire will be highest during that time. Cook meat properly with clarified butter, curd, sour gruel (Kanjika), acid fruits like pomegranate, and pungent and aromatic condiments like black pepper. Meat prepared like this is considered very wholesome to the diet, though heavy to digest. It possesses relishing, strength-giving and tissue building properties.

READ MORE: When To Eat: The Best Time To Eat Different Foods

Meat Preparations

Varieties of cooked meat are also mentioned in the Ayurvedic classics.

  • Ullupta (minced meat)
  • Bharjita (fried)
  • Pishta (made into balls or cakes)
  • Pratapta (roasted with clarified butter over a charcoal fire)
  • Kandupachita (dipped in mustard oil and powdered aromatic condiments and roasted to a honey color over a charcoal fire.

In addition, the benefits of thin meat soup have also been described in detail.

A thin meat soup is a pleasant tonic, and proves beneficial in cases of dyspnea, cough, and consumption. It subdues the Pitta and Kapha, destroys the Vata, and has an agreeable taste. It is wholesome to persons of 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.7

READ MORE: Indian Spiced Buttermilk Recipe For Strong Digestion

Eggs And Ayurveda

Ayurveda gives an explanation of different types of eggs in the 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.

READ MORE: 7 Day Ayurvedic Breakfast Plan

Is Ayurveda vegan or vegetarian? This is what Ayurveda says about meat (Ayurveda meat).Fish In Ayurveda

Ayurveda also has explanations and details on consuming fish.

Eating fish improves 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.

Shellfish is one of the more common food allergies. This allergy usually is lifelong. Certain descriptions on allergic reactions to fish have been described in Ayurveda as well. Intake of prawns and milk together are considered virudh ahara (incompatible).

There are two groups of shellfish: crustacea (such as shrimp, crab and lobster) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). Crustacea cause most shellfish reactions, and these tend to be severe. Shellfish can cause severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis). Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and even very small amounts of shellfish can cause one.8

Ayurveda considers prawns to be the worst of fish varieties since it aggravates all the three doshas.

READ MORE: What To Eat For Dinner According To Your Dosha (Ayurveda Dinner Ideas)

Health Tips For Meat Consumption

Keep in mind the following things when you consume meat.

  • Do not consume meat on a daily basis. Instead have it moderately, and have more in winter season when you have a strong digestive power.
  • 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.
  • If you consume meat, make sure you exercise to keep the body healthy and fit.
  • Along with meat, include vegetables and grains in your diet. Make sure you receive all the necessary 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, your 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.

READ MORE: Ayurvedic Cold Weather Diet + Lifestyle

References 
1. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) Charakasamhitha, SutraSthana 25/40, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.
2. Ashtanga Hridayam, Sutrasthana, VI.63-64
3. Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, XXVII.61
4. Ashtanga Hridayam, Sutrasthana, VI.65
5. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) Charakasamhitha, SutraSthana 27/81, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.
6. Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana, XXVII, 311
7. Yadavji Thrikamji Acharya (2013) (eds.) SushrutasamhitaSutrasthana 46/351-358, Chowkambha Surabharathi Prakashan.
8. Fare Food Allergy Research & Education – Shell Fish Allergy

Arya Krishna is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, educator, and speaker. She completed her Bachelors in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) from Amrita School of Ayurveda, Kerala, India. She is registered as an Ayurveda doctor (Reg No: 14664) under the Indian Medical Council. She received a Fellowship in Orthopedic Rehabilitation from Apollo group of Institutions, Hyderabad. An editor with the International Ayurvedic Medical Journal, she previously served as the associate editor of the American Ayurvedic Journal of Health. Before moving to the US in 2015, she was Resident Medical Officer (Ayurveda) in AyurVAID hospital, Bangalore and has knowledge and experience in precision and evidence-based Ayurveda. She was an Ayurveda Domain expert with Health Connect 24 – a unique platform to bring together Ayurveda, Yoga and swadeshi. She is efficient in performing all Panchakarma procedures (purification therapies) and has knowledge of Marma Therapy. Other areas of expertise include Ayurveda diet and lifestyle, women’s health, and rasayana (rejuvenation). She works for the promotion and propagation of Ayurveda by offering lectures, webinars and contributing to various journals. She is a resource person for the Council of Ayurveda Research (CAR) and is an Ayurvedic blogger with Mother Earth Living. Currently, she is residing in Danville, Pennsylvania and is listed as a BAMS doctor with AAPNA (Association of Ayurveda Practitioners of North America). She is an Ayurveda Consultant and Educational coordinator with Be Mind Body Skin, New Jersey and Subject Matter Expert at At Home with Ayurveda, UK.

2 comments

  1. Beef means what? Cow or buffalow meat?
    Is this right that Ayurveda mentioned about beef eating or this is something that the write made up?

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