"I'm interested in Ayurveda but I eat meat. Isn't that a conflict?"
Perhaps you or a friend of yours has had this question. After all, Ayurveda comes from India, where there is a history of over two millennia of vegetarianism.
The vegetarian diet, based on respect for all life, comes from India's little-known Jain tradition. Now comparatively obscure, Jainism was the predominant cult of a large portion of India from the fifth to twelfth centuries. During this time, the doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism spread widely. But Ayurveda is much more ancient than this. And the texts of Ayurveda make provision for meat eaters as well as vegetarians. So while there are many good and some compelling reasons to be vegetarian, Ayurveda isn't actually one of them.
As we mentioned in the Ayurvedic Self Care for Winter blog, Ayurveda recommends meat as a warming and strengthening food during the winter. But that doesn't mean you should hurry over to Arby's--what to speak of McDonald's! The meat used at fast food outlets usually comes from CAFO (concentrated feeding operations or feedlots). To find out what's really in your burger, look here. And even a grass fed steak may not be your best choice.
If you have turned to Ayurveda in the hope of healing a chronic illness, fatigue or digestive problems, chances are that your agni or digestive fire is low. And whatever the nutrients in that steak, they won't do you any good if you can't digest and absorb them. In fact, dense and heavy foods tend to make agni even weaker and to build up ama or toxins. So we want to use meat-based foods in ways that support rather than impair your healing process.
Here are some key points:
- Meat soups (including chicken soup) help build muscle and strength
- Bone broths build bone, strengthen the nervous system and improve digestion (especially chicken broth)
- Spices help meat foods to digest
- Stews and curries are more digestible and nutritious than steaks and burgers.
- Ginger, turmeric, cilantro, cinnamon and cumin are super-foods and help you get the most out of meat foods
- If you don't want your food to taste "Indo", try Persian or Moroccan recipes. They also use beneficial spices
- For a more Western taste, you can use garlic, bay, oregano, basil and thyme.
Most Ayurvedic cookbooks are vegetarian focused. However, Alandi's friend Lois Leonhardi has written a great book, Eat Well, Be Well addressing the needs of mainstream society, including recipes for non-vegetarian diets. Some of my patients also like Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions.
Here is a collection of recipe suggestions:
Bone Broth Recipes
Meat Soup Recipes
Meat Curry Recipes
Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is a Certified Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
Enliven your holistic health! Visit Alakananda Ma in Alandi Ashram’s ayurvedic clinic to support the overall rejuvenation of your body, mind, and spirit. In-person and virtual appointments available. Book now!