se, does not say much about diet, except that we
should be 'Mitahari' (Mita-Ahar-ee), 'Mita'
meaning 'proportionate' or 'enough to nourish',
and 'Ahar' meaning 'food'. 'Mitahar therefore,
has come to mean 'moderation in eating'. But, we
know, it is not enough to be moderate in intake
of pebulum. It is not enough to mind the quantity
of food; quality of food ingested is of even
greater importance. In Yoga shastras, Mitahar has
been described as diet that is
various 'Dhatu' (literally meaning
dairy produce such as milk, yogurt,
butter or butter-milk,
in moderation, and
in a spirit of dedication to the Divine.
The last aspect is akin to the saying of
grace at the dinner table by devout
shastras also speak about the three 'Guna'
of food, 'Guns' meaning quality.
'Sattwic' food is variously
understood as 'contributing to serenity',
'providing the essentials', Keeping the human
organism sweet and clean', etc. 'Rajasic'
food contributes to dynamism and other requisite
qualities needed by a householder or housewife. 'Tamasic'
food is strong in taste or smell and can be
'heaty' or 'exciting passions'.
light of modern nutritional researches, we have
to find out the ideal diet which is both 'Mita
and Sattwic, so that the Yoga practitioner
benefits therefrom both physically and mentally.
Let us find out whether Yoga should favour the
intake of flesh, fish or fowl. What does human
anatomy and physiology tell us? It may be news to
many that structurally and functionally, we are
vegetarian animals in the same class as the
primates, the higher apes, such as gorilla,
chimpanzee or orangutan. Here are some of the
hands are like these apes', meant for
plucking food such as fruits, vegetables,
leaves, flowers, barks, shoots, etc., and
not for tearing flesh: we do not have
the primates', our lower jaw or mandible
can move both up and down and side to
side, whereas the carnivore's moves only
up and down.
the higher species of apes, our saliva is
alkaline, containing ptyalin to digest
carbohydrates, whereas in carnivores it
- We do
not have fangs which carnivores have, for
biting into flesh. our so-called canine
teeth are not truly canine (like dogs);
they are not longer than other teeth.
Apparently, we are not constituted to
prey upon animals' bite into their flesh,
or rip apart their bodies. We are made
for gentler manoeuvres in gathering our
gastric secretions are acidic; so are
carnivores'. But the carnivores' stomachs
have four times as much acid; this strong
acidic milieu is needed to digest the
highly proteinous flesh diet.
the primates' our small and large
intestines measure four times as long as
our own height, whereas, in case of
carnivores, it is about the same as their
and kidneys of carnivores are
proportionately larger to handle the
excessive nitrogenous waste. which is a
residue from the flesh diet.
carnivore's liver secretes a much larger
quantity of bile into the gut to deal
with the high-fat meat diet.
are convincingly in favour of vegetarianism for
all of us. But just any type of vegetarian diet
is not alright for our systems. For example, we
do not have several stomachs that a ruminating
cow has, and we do not chew the cud as she does;
therefore, we cannot live off pasture-lands. We
are frugivores like gorilla (diet 15% fruits), or
chimps (67% fruits), or orang (50% fruits), who
besides fruits eat some vegetables, shoots,
flowers, seeds, etc.
of the Human System
the human system does adapt itself to
non-vegetarian foods, but this is not without
certain drawbacks. Eskimos, for example may live
on reindeer and seal meat, but they die early,
their average life span being about thirty years.
What our human system can easily and profitably
utilise, digest, absorb and assirnilate, is a
diet consisting of fresh fruits, leafy and other
vegetables, seeds, nuts, cereals and legumes.
domesticated certain animals whose milk we
use and justify the use. However we should
bear in mind that no adult drinks other animal's
milk and no animal continues to drink milk after
it is weaned ! In this discussion, we have
included dairy products in vegetarian diet,
though it must be pointed out that there are
vegans who maintain excellent health on a
vegetarian diet excluding dairy produce. Chinese
and Japanese vegetarians too, do not take dairy
flesh diet is increasingly incriminated by
discerning medical men for creating pathological
disturbances in the human body.
are a well-known cause of increase in cholesterol
in our blood. This increase may result in the
narrowing of the lumen of arteries by fatty
deposits; if this happens in coronary arteries,
the blood supply to heart muscle itself may be
affected, thus causing a heart attack. When
several major arteries and arterioles develop
atherosclerosis, blood pressure may increase; and
with high blood pressure, several pathological
conditions may develop in various organs.
Cerebral haemorrhage, too, can occur, resulting
of the fat in all meats is saturated and
cholesterol producing, and since even the most
lean part of meat also has some fat in it, all
types of meat should be prohibited in persons
suffering from cardiovascular disorders.
Non-flesh foods except eggs, hydrogenated oils
and dairy products have no cholesterol producing
fats. Coconut oil has no cholesterol, though it
is high in saturated fats.
now increasingly advise their patients against
meat. As early as 1961, the Journal ofAmerican
Medical Association conceded that a strict
vegetarzan diet could prevent ninety seven per
cent of coronary occlusions ! Dr. Donald Ross,
Director of Surgery in the National Heart
Hospital, London, advocates a study of vegetarian
communities, since the incidence of heart disease
in them is much lower than non-vegetarian
communities. He advises his patients to halve
their meat intake, and double their vegetable
intake, also cautioning at the same time to
restrict dairy fats. He also moots the
possibility that the human race has not yet
adapted to meat protein; in fact, he believes
that atheroma could be a process of the body's
rejection of meat proteins taken over a long
period of time.
It is also
to be noted that gall-stones are usually composed
of cholesterol; hence, the less one takes of
animal fat, the less one is likely to suffer from
stone formation in the gall-bladder
(cholelithiasis ) .
Cure dietetic injunction is on sound footings;
Nature Cure suggests that chlorophyll which is
present in leafy and other greens, be eaten in
large enough quantities to keep the blood stream
free of cholesterol deposits, so that neither the
clots, known as thrombi, form in the blood, nor
are the arteries affected. Vitamins C and E
derived from uncooked (really speaking
sun-cooked) fruits and vegetables, including the
inner rind of citrus fruits, are also Nature's
is important for inter-cellular respiration,
fighting infections and healing inflammations.
Dr. Linus Pauling, the champion advocate of
Vitamin C in mega doses, avers that man once
lived mainly on vegetables and fruits, consuming
up to three grams of vitamin C daily. Later, with
the inventions of fire, and cooking of food, and
also with man becoming a hunter and flesh eater
his intake of vitamin C was greatly reduced; the
aftermath was loss of health and vigour. Flesh
eaters should note that meat mostly lacks vitamin
diet Spares Kidneys
drawback of the meat diet is that it has a high
uric acid content. In the last throes of death,
all animals produce acids in their tissues; these
are not drained offwith blood. Mutton, beef,
pork, etc. contain fourteen to sixteen grains (1
grain=60 grams) of uric acid per pound of meat.
Human kidneys not being made for excretion of
fleshy toxins, cannot easily cope with excretion
of more than seven grains of uric acid per day.
No wonder then, that large flesh eaters who
consume more than half a pound of meat daily,
over-load their kidneys. Result may be kidney
stones or inflammation in kidney tissue, to start
with; and kidney failure in the long run.
Dialysers and surgical transplants do not solve
the problem of increase in kidney diseases.
has shown that the flesh-eater has also to
eliminate tissue wastes in the meat, which the
animal's kidneys would have excreted if it had
not been slaughtered. Nephritis is often the
result of these excess fleshy wastes. Seventh Day
Adventist doctors who advocate vegetarianism,
rightly feel that the meatless diet spares the
kidneys, for they have seen quite often that meat
acts like a poison to Bright's disease or
nephritis patients. In cases that show albumin in
appreciable amount in their urine, they advise a
diet free of all meat, fish, fowl and eggs; the
result is clear urine in a week or two. Uric acid
also leads to troubles such as gout and to a
lesser extent, all types of fibrositis, neuritis
and neuralgia, including what are called lumbago
and sciatica, besides arthritis or inflammation
of the joints.
drawback of meat is that it has no fibre content;
it lacks cellulose or roughage, which is a must
in the human diet; without roughage, bowels
cannot move properly, and we suffer from
constipation. Unfortunately, most medical men
believe that constipation is not a health
problem; they think it is alright even if stools
are voided once in two or three days or even a
week ! But those who know better, lift a
cautionary finger against constipation, calling
it 'the fertile mother of many diseases'.
Comparing our system again to the organism of our
arboreal ancestors, the apes, we find that they
eliminate faeces at least twice a day; so should
however, the orthodox medical view is also
changing. Bowel cancer is on the rise in
countries which are traditionally non-vegetarian,
and where, therefore, constipation is rife.
Australia which consumes 130 kilograms of beef
per year per head, suffers more from bowel cancer
than other countries; no other country eats so
much of flesh food, though Scotland, Finland and
USA are very near the mark. Incidence of cancer
of colon is high in these countries too.
Lorg, writing for 'The Vegetarian' magazine of
U.K. says "Intestinal flora of vegetarians
differ from flesh-eaters; they contain more
aerobic bacteria. The flesheaters' anaerobic
bacteria include bacteroides containing the
enzyme 7-alphadehydroxylase, which converts
components in the bile juices into deoxycholates,
known to be carcinogenic in animals.
Concentration of deoxycholates in the faeces is
related to the prevalence of colonic cancer. A
survey published in 1973 in the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute compared the faeces of
people on a normal high-protein-high-fat U. S.
diet with those from vegetarians, Seventh Day
Adventists and recent Chinese and Japanese
immigrants. Excretion of the degradation products
of cholesterol and of total and degraded bile
acid was higher in the flesh-eating group, which
bore out earlier contentions. Low-residue diets
(deficient in fibre) with correspondingly
prolonged transit-tirnes (constipation) and
greater opportunities for the action of
7-alpha-dehydroxylases were incriminated in 1971
by Dr. Burkitt. Reports in the 'Gut' Journal in
1969, and in the British Journal of Cancer in
1973, remark that rates of mortality from cancer
of the colon relate with consumption of animal
the fell disease cancer, the less serious
conditions of appendicitis and
haemorrhoidscommonly called pilesare
always due to constipation, whether latent or
generally associated with too much intake of
refined carbohydrates, i.e. starches and sugars.
In Bombay, the incidence of diabetes is twice as
high among vegetarians than among
non-vegetarians. Medical men recommend a
high-protein meat diet to their diabetic
patients, under the notion that this would not
tax the pancreas to secrete insulin, because,
with increase in meat intake, carbohydrate intake
would ipso facto decrease. Here, the surmise is
correct, but it is a very myopic view of total
A study by
a medical team led by Prof. N.S.P. Verma,
Associate Professor of Medicine at the Maulana
Azad Medical College, New Delhi, has found that
the fibre content of vegetables acts as a
protection against diabetes in many cases. Dr.
Verma said at a seminar on 'Diabetes and
Cardio-vascular Diseases' on 23rd October, 1975,
that the best way to reduce chances of 'catching'
diabetes was to eat more vegetables and
constipates, it dams excretion, throwing extra
burden on kidneys and liver, the two important
depurative organs, which often are involved in
the genesis of diabetes. A better plan is to keep
the diabetic on a vegetarian diet, induding
whole-grain cereals, sprouted legumes and plenty
of non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens and
fruits. Papaya, oranges, grape-fruits, amalas,
apples, peaches, plums and pears are especially
study of diabetes reveals that it is not only an
excess carbohydrate disease; it can be a
high-protein or even high-fat disease.
is too much fat in some meatsmutton has 13%
fat though it may look all muscle; beef meat has
10% fatit can result in obesity. Dr. O.S.
Parrett, M.D., has pointed out that in fat
people, some fat infiltrates the liver tissues.
The liver is the store-house of glycogen (liver
carbohydrate), but in the obese, the extra
useless fat cells in the liver impede the
function of the healthy liver cells; this results
in poor storage of sugar and starch in liver,
thereby the blood being over-loaded with sugar.
The kidneys have to do the job of eliminating
this sweet burden of the blood; thus sugar makes
its appearance in the urine. It will be seen,
then, that in obese diabetics, the fault may not
lie with the pancreas, but with the liver. The
cure results when the sufferer reduces weight.
the prescription of a meat diet by medical men to
their diabetic patient, Dr. Parrett explains:
"Foods to be avoided in diabetes are starch
and sugar in excess. When the blood which
normally carries a maximum of 120 mg of sugar,
reaches 175 mg or so, there is spill-over of
sugar into the urine through the kidneys. We then
seek a diet for the patient that yields its
carbohydrates as slowly as possible, lest the
blood stream too quickly reach the spill-over
level, and it appears in the urine .... Meat
which is mostly protein with little
carbohydrateglycogen would seem to
answer this diet need admirably, except for two
important reasons. "
important reasons are:
diabetic has to get rid of nitrogen and
sulphur wastes of meat protein
meat are the tissue toxins of the
slaughtered animal; they are ingested by
the diabetic when he eats meat.
As it is,
even the vegetarian diabetic's system is usually
burdened with toxins; the non-vegetarian's would
be all the more loaded, increasing the risk of
acidosis. Dr. Parett suggests a diet programme of
low proteins for the diabetic. He also suggests
low starch vegetables which add carbohydrates
slowly to the blood stream. He considers tomatoes
as ideal because of their low starch and high
vitamin and mineral content. Dr. Andrew Gold in
his book 'Diabetes: Its Causes and Treatment'
suggests vegetarian diet, because he also has
noticed that "the ingestion of butcher meat
increases the toxaemic condition underlying the
diabetic state and reduces sugar tolerances On
the other hand, the non flesh, non-stimulating
and especially unfried vegetarian diet promotes
and increases sugar tolerance, "
Now if we
revert to the definitions of Mita and Sattwic
diet, we find meat totally contra-indicated in
is not palatable. Whatever taste it
seemingly has, is that of salt and
- It is
not nutritious in the sense that
whole-wheat bread or apple is nutritious.
Meat does have protein and fat but we
have seen that it also has harmful acids,
may provide some iron, calcium and
phosphorus, but there are better
vegetarian sources to obtain these
minerals, besides the other minerals
which meat lacks.
dairy produce have animal proteins and
animal fats, these in moderation, do no
harm. They definitely contribute to
growth especially in children. Adults can
take cream-free milk or yogurt or
buttermilk. Skimmed cow's milk or yogurt
contains only 3.2 per cent protein, and 2
per cent fat, unlike mutton which is 19
per cent protein and 13 per cent fat.
Again, uric acid is absent in milk. Some
research being done at present actually
attributes anti-cholesterolaemia virtues
to yogurt and buttermilk.
The diet of Masai tribesmen is
preponderantly animal blood and fat, and
yet these people are remarkably immune to
heart disease. This is attributed to
their open-air living and walking long
distances but the inclusion of home-made
curds i.e. yogurt in their diet also
perhaps is a factor in this immunity. As
per a study conducted by Dr. Mann and Dr.
Anna Spoerry of the African Research
Foundation, the Masais' cholesterol level
dropped more if they ate more of curds.
Dr. Mann opines that some of the bacteria
in yogurt produce a substance which
blocks or inhibits liver's own
Taking these facts into consideration,
therefore, milk and primary milk products
with lessened fat content are 'passe' for
skip the fifth point of moderation, for
that is applicable to vegetarians and
flesh eaters alike.
- It is
irreverence of the highest order to thank
God for 'our daily bread', if the 'bread'
includes the mangled limbs and organs of
a once-living creaturea creation of
the same Creator that is being worshipped
! It is doubtful if God's grace would
descend on the table laid out with
camouflaged corpses of the butchered
pieces of the same. Would not the name of
the Lord be a sacrilege at such a table ?
We conclude from the above that meat does
not qualify as Mita-Ahar. We cannot help
coming to the conclusion also that meat
is not Sattwic; it is disease-producing
and can only be branded as Tamasic.
VegetarianBut Eat Wisely
is wrong; but vegetarian diet can also be wrong.
It is good to be a vegetarian, but not enough.
Many vegetarian items are Tamasic, unhealthy,
even poisonous to the system. We know alcohol is
not Sattwic; we ought to know also that tea,
coffee and cocoa, containing harmful alkaloids
such as theine, caffeine and theobromine, are
also not Sattwic, Chocolate made out of cocoa,
and Coca which contains caffeine, and therefore
can be addictive, are also not for Yoga
Practitioners. Tobacco is unhealthy on all
counts, whichever way it is used. All these are
proscribed items, though there is nothing
nonvegetarian about them.
however, even among vegetarians know about the
harm of refined carbohydrates, i.e. sugars and
starches. Refined sugar, which is, chemically
speaking 99 per cent sugar, and is devoid of all
vitamins and minerals originally contained in
sugarcane from which it is made, is a very
harmful substance. Not only does it contribute to
dental cavities and diabetes, but also to
osteoporosis and arthritis. Though by chemical
reaction it is neutral, it is acidic in our
system, and may cause hyperacidity and peptic
ulcers. According to Prof. John Yudkin, it also
leads to heart disease, as much as animal fats
do. Moreover, a research project in USA has
traced the connection between anterior
poliomyelitis and much sugar intake. Links
between hypersucrophagy (too much eating of
sugar) and psychological disturbances also have
been established. For some years of his life,
Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian under medical
advice but he was too fond of sugar, putting
sugar in everything he ate or drank.
Nutritionists are of the opinion that he was
sugar-drunk, time and again, which affected his
children, it is observed that hyper-sucrophagy
tends to make them peevish or cantankerous. We
all need sugar, but it has to come from naturally
sweet fruits; if these are not easily available,
dry fruits are a good substitute.
also need to avoid fried items. Boiling, baking
and steaming are conservative modes of cooking to
about strong spices and condiments. Yoga
tradition is to avoid onion and garlic, as these
are strong smelling and therefore in the category
of Tamasic; chillies and pepper though a greater
irritant to the mucous lining of the
gastrointestinal tract, get a clean chit from
Yoga practitioners because they do not have a
strong odour. In the light of new discoveries,
however we may have to include onions and garlic
in a health promoting Yogic diet, as these two
have been variously ascribed the virtues of
lowering high blood pressure, disinfecting bowels
and curbing tuberculosis. On the other hand,
chillies have no such merits, though they are
high in vitamin C if taken fresh. The demerit is
that chillies cannot only set the so-called
delicate but in reality tough inner walls of the
alimentary canal aflame, their irritating factor
can similarly cauterise or scorch the cells of
the liver and the kidneys. Indians in England are
said to suffer from 'Curry Kidneys' due to an
excess of chillies.
plea for onions and garlic is only as herbs and
to add flavour and taste to other dishes; these
need not be taken to the extent that one smells
Shalt not Kill
of a non-vegetarian diet is made from a medical
n~e. However, since Hatha Yoga cons sts of eight
facets (Ashes Anga), one of which is Yama which
again includes Ahimsa, Yogic diet may be studied
from the angle of Ahimsa also.
means non-violence, or non-killing. It is wrongly
believed that the intention not to kill implies
not killing other human beings. This is a very
narrow view. Non-killing means not killing any
animal, whether for food, clothing or sport.
Under this broad definition of Ahimsa therefore,
Yoga indirectly proscribes and prohibits meat
Rishis may have partaken of meat under some dire
circumstances, but these do not exist for us in
modern times. From the humanitarian angle, the
spiritual angle, the nutritional angle as well as
the ecological angle, meat diet has no locus
standi; it had better be eschewed.