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Ayurveda - In Depth Vegetarianism

Suresh Chaturvedi

Taking care of one's body is every man's primary duty. That is the reason why it is said in Ayurveda—'Only a person with a healthy body can accomplish the four basic principles of life, namely: Dharma (religion), Artha (money), Kama (sexual desires), Moksha (salvation). To attain good health it is essential to follow the rules of good nutrition, regular exercise and regulation in sexual activity. These are said to be the four pillars that keep the body in perfect harmony. Thus a nutritious diet, proper lifestyle, adequate sleep and exercise are instrumental in keeping the body free of all ailments. Human beings have four instincts i.e. appetite, sleep, fear and sexual desire. In life these instincts have played a prominent role.'

In Ayurveda, it is believed that all living beings are a composite of the five basic elements i.e. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky. In order to keep life going, it is important to replenish these elements through natural foods which are the sources of these elements. Natural foods, which are vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals and other foodstuffs are essential to obtain these ingredients and these foods are all classed as vegetarian food sources. Grains like rice, wheat, pulses have been given a very special place in Ayurvedic literature as the main foods for man.

It is said in the Sanskrit literature that within grains there is life and it is with grains only that life persists. It is only within the vegetarian diet that you find all these components of food. Similarly the milk obtained from buffalos, cows, goats and other animals and milk products like curd, butter, ghee, etc. are also obtainable within a vegetarian diet. These vegetarian foods supply nutrients in adequate quantity and quality right through life. Regular intake of these vegetarian foods ensures appropriate development, both mental and physical, and also protects the consumer from various diseases. Given below is a brief discussion on the values of individual food items:



In a vegetarian diet the various products made from wheat flour play an important role. Wheat strengthens the body and its use increases all the elements of the body. Wheat products like roti, broken wheat (dalia), sheera (halwa), bread, biscuits, etc. not only taste good but are also easy to digest.


Rice forms an important component of our diet. Rice, too, is light and easy to digest. The use of rice increases the enzymes, components of blood, muscles and other elements of the body. It is owing to rice that the body remains light and energetic. Rice and its products are useful in the treatment of constipation, fever, diarrhoea, dysentery, abdominal complaints and emaciation.


Barley helps to stimulate the digestive system and increases vitality and makes you alert. Barley is useful in the treatment of common colds, fever, asthma, sore throat, urinary tract infection and skin diseases. Barley water is used in various diseases.


Bajra is useful for body building. Its consumption strengthens the body and forms all the elements of the body in the right proportions.


Jawar reduces the heat in the body and is useful in pitha and Pitha-related diseases. This is easy to digest and is also used in curing abdominal diseases. Jawar increases strength and sexual potency.


Bengal Gram (Chana)

It is Bengal Gram dal and Gram flour (besan) that also improves health, gives strength and stimulates sexual potency. A fistful of gram soaked overnight and tied in a cloth will stimulate sprouting of gram. The use of these sprouts is very nourishing.

Red Gram Dal (Toor Dal/Arhar)

Toor dal is easy to digest, helps in the formation of stools, and is usefuL in piths and pitha-related diseases. Similarly green gram (moong) is also easy to digest and is useful in eliminating pitha and helps to ease burning sensations of the body anti stomach. It can also be consumed in diseases of bones and diarrhoea.

Black Gram (Udad); Black Gram Dal (Udad Dal)

Black Gram is useful in treating the various diseases caused by vata. It increases the muscle strength and sexual potency of the consumer.

Lentil (Masoor and Masoor Dal)

Masoor is light to digest and helps in the formation of well formed stools. It is also helpful in blood and skin diseases.


White and Black Gingelly Seeds (Til Seeds)

Both white and black gingelly seeds are useful. Consumption of these increases strength, eliminates worm infestation from the intestine, strengthens the roots of hair thereby making them healthy. They are useful in increasing the milk production in lactating mothers and is also used in treating complaints like polyuria.

The presence of some sort of oil/fat in our diet is also essential. This can be obtained from milk and various oilseeds. Different types of oils are used in different regions of our country.

Gingelly Oil (Til Oil)

It strengthens the body and stimulates and improves the digestive system. A massage with this oil is beneficial to the skin and eyes.

Mustard Oil (Sarso or Rai Oil)

This oil is mainly consumed in the north-eastern region.Consumption of this brings about the elimination of Kapha and vata-related disorders. It also eliminates worm infestations from the intestine. A massage of the body with this oil removes dryness of the skin, makes it soft and smooth and strengthens the muscles.


These nuts are predominantly used in the western coast of India and are useful in the elimination of abdominal and body vata.



Potatoes are a very common constituent of our diet and they can be served in combination with many other vegetables. They are available in all seasons. Potatoes stimulate the formation of all the elements of the body and impart strength to the body.


Beetroots destroy vata and diseases arising from the formation of vata. They are also useful in kappa diseases. They increase the muscle and fat content of the body and thereby make it strong.

Mustard (Sarson)

Mustard is good for constipation and other abdominal diseases.


Cabbage is a sweet vegetable useful in kapha and pitha diseases. It helps in the treatment of diabetes, diseases of the urinary system, skin diseases, leucoderma, leprosy, asthma, bronchitis, infections of the skin like boils, cellulitis etc.

Bitter Gourd (Karela)

Karela is useful in the treatment of fever, diabetes and jaundice. In addition it is also useful in the treatment of intestinal worms, dysentery and some skin diseases.

Amorphophallus (Jimikand Suran)

Suran is useful in the treatment of piles and diseases related to an enlarged spleen.

Brinjal (Baingan)

Brinjal relieves diseases related to vata and kapha. It is a sexual stimulant and increases fertility.

Beans (Same Phalli)

Beans increase strength and are useful in diseases related to Vats and Pitha.

White Gourd (Dudhi)

Dudhi improves vision and is useful for all loose constipation, diseases of the female reproductive organs, fevers, bronchitis, asthma, dysentery and urinary infections.

Snake Gourd (Padwal)

Snake gourd is good for abdominal disorders like constipation and dysentery. It is good for fevers, liver and spleen disorders.

Spinach (Palak)

Spinach is a mild laxative. Thereby it serves to stimulate the appetite also. It stimulates the production of many enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract and also helps to enrich the blood with many minerals especially iron. Various abdominal problems, mild to moderate fever, swelling of the eyes and long-standing constipation are all the other indications for the use of spinach.

Amaranth (Chaulai)

Amaranth stimulates digestion, improves urinary flow and eases bowel movements It improves appetite and enriches the blood. This vegetable is very useful in constipation, some kinds of dysentery, liver disorders, enlarged spleen, eye diseases and long standing fevers.

Fenugreek (Methi)

Fenugreek improves the digestive power. It also helps in conditions where there is loss of appetite, bowel disorders (like dysentery) intestinal worm infestation, fever, swelling of the eyes, pain in the joints, distension of the abdomen and other vata-related disorders. (Its role in reducing blood sugar is acclaimed by some researchers).

Ghosala (Turia)

Turia increases milk production in lactating mothers. It is a sexual stimulant. Abdominal pain, distension, flatulence, fever and diseases of the uterus are relieved by the use of this vegetable. It also destroys intestinal worms and helps cure piles.

Coriander (Dhania) and Mint Leaves (Phudina)

Coriander improves the taste of food. They are useful in conditions like indigestion, piles, emaciation, intestinal worms and dysentery.

Cucumber (Kakdi)

Cucumber is beneficial in Pltha and various diseases related to it. It helps to cleanse the urine and is also useful in cases of renal stones. It has also been proved to be very useful in leprosy, burning paresthesiae and burning in the urine.

Radish (Mulah /Muli)

Radishes cure various abdominal disorders like stomach aches, abdominal distension, flatulence or gas formation, loss of appetite and constipation. They are also used in the treatment of piles, obstruction in urinary flow and renal stones. Chewing on a radish instantly cures hiccups. It is also used in skin diseases and leprosy.

Onions (Pyaz / Kanda)

Onions stimulate the digestive systems. They are nourishing and increase the elements of the body. Consumption of onions causes reduction in fever. They are used in epilepsy and in cases of hysterical unconsciousness where, if a person is made to smell it, he awakens. It is also helpful in the treatment of sun-stroke.

Garlic (Lasoon)

The daily consumption of garlic chutney cures abdominal pain, formation of flatulence/gas, abdominal cramps and other vata-related diseases. Consumption of garlic juice frequently in small amounts is useful in cholera. It is used in disorders of the spleen, high blood-pressure, epilepsy, old wounds, scabies, persistent cough, boils in the ear and syphilis too.


Grapes (Angur)

Grapes are consumed in various diseases as they are considered to protect health. They alleviate sour eructation, burning ulcers, heaviness in the stomach, constipation, head-ache, fever, weakness and giddiness.

Mango (Aam, Amba)

Mango increases strength and sexual potency and cleans and improves the colour of the skin. Besides carbohydrates, it also contains vitamin B and E in adequate amounts. It is beneficial in chronic abdominal disorders, diarrhoea, bowel disorders, tuberculosis, cough and deficiencies.in the blood. A beverage called Hannah which is made from raw mangoes helps in the prevention of sun-stroke.


Banana is a good source of energy. It finds use in the treatment of dysentery, burning in the stomach, piles and intestinal problems. Due to its 'cold' nature it finds use in bilious disorders and problems related to heat. It is useful in urinary disturbances. It is considered to be a complete food.

Orange (Santra)

Oranges are useful in the treatment of fever and constipation.

Custard-Apple (Sitaphal)

Custard Apple is beneficial in the treatment of nausea, vomiting and apathy.

Sapota (Chikoo)

Chikoo is used as an ideal food during an illness as it promotes strength and gives energy.

Guava (Amrud, Peru)

Guava is strengthening as well as it helps to increase the elements of the body. It is useful in treating abdominal pain, unconsciousness and worm infestation.

Apple (Sev)

Apples are useful in the formation of enzymes, blood, muscle and fat. They are also useful in the treatment of bowel disorders like constipation, dysentery and piles.

Figs (Anjeer)

Figs are beneficial in the treatment of constipation, piles, heart problems, jaundice and various diseases of the urinary tract. They also purify the blood.

Musk Melon (Kharbooja)

Musk Melon stops burning sensation of the skin and reduces excessive thirst. It has been proved to be useful in insanity and for development of neurons of the brain.


Lichies are very nourishing. They are beneficial in overcoming weakness that follows an illness. They also purify the blood. They strengthen the digestive system. Lichi juice is useful in urinary disturbances. They have also been proved to be beneficial in regulating heart beats and improve the general resistance of the body.

Pomegranate (Anar)

Pomegranate is useful in the treatment of bowel disturbances, dysentery, nausea, vomiting, eructations and disorders of the stomach. It is very beneficial for the heart. It is useful in the treatment of burning sensation of the eyes, worm infestation in the intestine, fever and burning rnicturition.

Water Melon (Tarbuj / Kalingad)

Water Melon destroys various disorders caused by pitha and reduces the body heat. It tranquilizes the mind.

Pear (Nashpati)

Regular consumption of Pears has an aphrodisiac effect. Its use is beneficial in loss of appetite, excessive thirst, vomiting and chronic constipation.

Plum (Aloobokhara)

Plums are useful in the treatment of piles, body-ache, pain in the joints and in vata-related diseases. It is especially useful in jaundice.

Wood-Apple (Kaith)

Wood Apple is highly beneficial in the treatment of bowel disorders, hiccups, asthma, ear-ache, and in abdominal disorders of children.

Pineapple (Ananas)

Pineapple is very beneficial for the heart and in the treatment of worm infestation in the intestine, fever, diphtheria, swelling in the body, excess heat in the body, excessive thirst, giddiness and weakness.

Dates (Khajur)

Dates enrich the blood. They are also useful in the treatment of nausea, stomach-ache, fever, influenza, urinary obstruction, constipation and headache. Drinking milk after consuming dates makes the body healthy and strong. Dates are also sexual stimulants.

Dried Dates (Chooara)

Dried dates are beneficial in various abdominal disorders and also stimulate the digestive system. They also increase sexual potency.

Bael Fruit (Bel Phal)

Bael Fruit is beneficial in various abdominal disorders and it stimulates the digestive system.

Zizyphus (Ber)

Zizyphus is useful in fever, bowel disturbances, burning sensation of the body, burning sensation while urinating and urinary obstruction. It also helps in reducing excessive thirst and acts as a sexual stimulant.

Almond (Badam)

Almonds increase kapha and all the elements in the body, and are also essentially very nourishing. They also increase the memory.


Consumption of makhana reduces the body heat, and is also ideal in bowel disturbances. It is very beneficial for the heart and is very nutritious and acts as a stimulant.


Milk (Dudh)

Milk increases the elements of the body and their resistance power. It is a laxative. It is taken as a complete food by all animals. Its consumption is beneficial in the treatment of chronic fever, dizziness, weak-mindedness, tuberculosis, anaemia, fatigue and tiredness, leprosy, piles and complaints of the urinary organs.

Curd / Yogurt (Dahi)

Curd can be used as lassi and its use is beneficial in chronic fever, dizziness, weak-mindedness, tuberculosis, anaemia, when the body elements decrease, fatigue and tiredness, leprosy, piles and complaints of the urinary organs.

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Consumption of ghee rids the body of dryness and the skin becomes soft and the face glows. It also strengthens the bones. It is useful in the treatment of body-ache, pain in the joints and various other vata-related disorders. Regular consumption of ghee wards off mental disorders. However, excessive consumption, too, is not advisable.


In our diet we also use small quantities of spices which play a protective role.

Salt (Nimak)

It stimulates the digestive system and thus also improves the appetite. In cases of chest congestion, stomach-aches, abdominal distension and abdominal cramps and in other such discomforts, relief can be obtained by sucking on a pinch of salt.

Turmeric (Haldi)

Turmeric is useful in conditions of vats, pitha, and kapha. It has been proved to be beneficial in the treatment of cough, syphilis, fever, influenza, polyuria and worm infestation of the intestine.

Asafoetida (Hing)

Asafoetida has been proved to be beneficial in the treatment of flatulence / gas formation, high fever, hysteria, stomach-ache in children, indigestion, distension and toothache.

Cumin Seeds (Jeera)

They have been proved to be beneficial in loose motions, heart - burn, chronic fever and eructations.

Omum (Ajwain)

Ajwain is used in the treatment of stomach-ache, loss of appetite, indigestion, distension, constipation, worm infestation of the intestine, asthma, for proper digestion of food and diseases of the uterus.

Aniseeds (Saunf)

Aniseeds are useful in the treatment of stomach-ache, piles, constipation, nausea ancvomltmg.

Cloves (Lavang / Long)

Cloves have been proved to help in the treatment of slight fever, influenza, chronic cold, vomiting during pregnancy and toothache.

Cardamom (Elaichi)

Cardamom is useful in fever, flatulence / gas formation, weak eyesight, aphthous ulcers, nausea and cough with mucus.

Ginger (Adrak)

Ginger should be regularly used to avoid flatulence/gas formation, stomach ache, indigestion, vata-related disorders and loss of appetite. It stimulates the digestive system. It is useful in the treatment of gout, pain in the joints, swelling, abdominal distension, diarrhoea, headache, earache, chronic bowel disorders, excess mucus, cold with a sore throat and cough.

Black Pepper (Kali Mirch/Miri)

Black Pepper is beneficial in the treatment of heart diseases, flatulence / gas disturbances, stomach-ache, abdominal distension, piles, bowel disturbances, diarrhoea and worm infestation of intestine, cholera, cold, cough, hiccups, pitha-related disorders, weak memory, sore throat and stammering.

Nutmeg (Jaiphal)

Nutrneg has been proved to be beneficial in treating headaches in children, cough, pain in the chest, influenzas pneumonia, bowel disturbances and vomiting. It is also helpful in the treatment of toothache and worm infestation.

Cinnaznon (Dalchini)

This helps in the digestion of food. It destroys flatulence. It is useful in bowel disturbances like diarrhoea.

Bay Leaf (Tej Parta)

Bay Leaf is beneficial in cold, cough, asthma, chronic cold, bodyache, pain in the joints, stomach ache and disorders of the uterus.

Tarnarind (Imli)

It is beneficial in the treatment of Pitha in the body, nausea, bleeding piles and tendency towards sun-stroke.

Sugarcane (Ganna):

Sugarcane is a good source of energy. It promotes the flow of urine,hence it is useful in urinary stones and urinary infections. It is also useful in jaundice, anaemia and constipation. It strengthens the heart muscle, it is a good source of minerals and it also is a mild sexual stimulant. It is also useful in the treatment of nasal bleeding, hiccups, headache and helps to quench thirst.

Sugar (Shakkar)

Sugar is a good source of energy and it provides relief in fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Honey (Shahad)

It provides energy and is versatile in its qualities. It enhances the value of the food it is consumed with (e.g. milk). It is useful for treating sore throats, it also improves digestion and is useful in the treatment of cough, asthma, piles, leprosy, tuberculosis, blood disorders, urinary disorders, nausea, vomiting, hiccups, constipation. It is also food for the complexion. It helps in weight reduction when taken with water. It is very nutritious in combination with milk.

Jaggery (Gur/Gud)

If jaggery is regularly consumed along with the meals, it is highly beneficial to the heart and also helps to prevent various kinds of heart diseases. It also acts as a sex stimulant. Consumption of jaggery with dry fruits is very strengthening. It is beneficial in various vata-related disorders, gout and body ache. Jaggery water cleanses the urinary system and ensures a good flow of urine.

From the above observations it is apparent that the vegetarian cuisine promotes quality of life. Vegetarian foods can also play a role in healing diseases, In fact in Ayurveda the medicine itself is vegetarian food.