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Vegetarian Diet - a better choice

Although Ayurveda has not prohibited meat, it is always better to eat pure vegetarian diet. Fresh vegetarian diet containing dairy and little sweet taste is sattvic in nature. As meat is obtained from dead animals , consuming meat always enhances the chances of violence and decay. It is said that basically all human beings are vegetarians and fruitarians. Vegetarian foods have high roughage contents, all nutritional elements in sufficient quantity, are very cheap and increase body resistance quickly.

Roughage contents
Fiber content in vegetarian food prevents synthesis of VLDL – very low-density lipoproteins, which are bad and can lead to heart diseases. Especially red meat contains high amount of saturated fats, which are bound to increase cholesterol levels leading to heart attacks. This roughage also helps to eliminate fecal matter from large intestine easily. Meat eaters usually suffer from constipation, as it does not contain fiber. This is the reason why diseases like ulcerative colitis and colon cancer are more common in meat eaters.

Food also heals
Raw and uncooked vegetables and fruits have many qualities for curing ailments. Incidence of heart disease, cancer and chronic degenerative diseases is low in persons who are pure vegetarians. Meat also contains more number of bacteria and parasites that can prove harmful to the health of human beings. Majority of the victims of food poisoning due to salmonella is found in meat and fish eaters.

Anatomy and physiology of herbivorous and carnivorous animals
Teeth and intestines of human being are different from that of carnivorous animals. Carnivorous animals have long, sharp, and pointed teeth, small salivary glands as it is not required for digesting vegetables and grains. Meat eating animals secret more hydrochloric acid, which is required for digestion of proteins. They also have proportionately larger liver, which can neutralize 10 to 15% more uric acid than humans. The intestinal tract of these animals is only 3 times body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass out of the body quickly. While humans have intestinal tract which is 10-12 times body length.

Environment and Ecology
Eating meat is against environment. Because to produce one pound of meat lot of grass, cereals and water must be fed to livestock. One acre of land, which will produce one ton of beef, will produce 10 to 20 tons of highly nutritious food. Meat producing industries disturb ecology by throwing lot of waste and washing into river.

Food values
The modern medical system classifieds food differently – proximate principles of food meaning protein, fats, carbohydrates; vitamins and minerals, as well as calories. These are the main consideration according to them.

Protein myth
There is a misconception that, meat has monopoly on protein, and that, larger amounts of protein required for strength and energy is not correct. Many people start eating meat because of fear of protein deficiency.

But the truth is, that the legumes and beans contain lot of proteins. And this protein is lighter for digestion. Various studies have shown that proper balanced vegetarian diet provides more nutritional energy than meat.

When we eat, the body breaks the protein down into its constituent amino acids. There are 22 amino acids. 14 are non-essentials and 8 are essentials. Essential means those we cannot manufacture them in our body and must get them from food. These are lysine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine and phenylalanine. At one time there was belief that all these amino acids are present only in meat. However nutritionists have now proved that many vegetarian diets are equal to meat in terms of these proteins.

Animal flesh contains high amount proteins, which can tax kidneys and can cause diseases of kidney resulting in high blood urea.

Minerals and vitamins
Vegetarian food also contains enough minerals and vitamins. One study in Bantu women of African tribe, who are vegetarians, shows that their diet has enough calcium and other vitamins. Multi-para women in these tribes having 10 children have been found not to be suffering from osteoporosis or any other lack of vitamins. These women were not taking any hormonal contraceptive pills. This may be the reason that although they were vegetarians they had good calcium levels.

Mystery about the oils
Ayurveda has described various types of oils e.g. sesame, mustard, coconut, linseed, castor oil, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed. According to Ayurveda the wholesome oil for cooking is sesame and unwholesome is that of safflower. The proportion of fat and /oils should be 1/3 saturated fatty acid (ghee, butter), 1/3 omega 3 (mustard etc.) and 1/3 omega 6 (sesame, coconut). Hydrogenated oil is harmful for body. It increases pitta. It should not be used for cooking. Ayurveda considers sesame oil as nutritious and wholesome while safflower oil as unwholesome as it increases pitta as well as not nutritious also.

Ayurveda and yoga are both active therapies and efforts from the side of patient is required. Health cannot be brought across the counter of pharmacy. Many people have a notion that if they take regular dose of vitamins and minerals or some tonic they would be healthy. But this is not sufficient according to Ayurveda. Every individual must know his constitution, so that he can use opposite qualities of food, exercise, and environment and if possible job also to achieve perfect health.

Another important factor in food is life force or Prana. Naturally grown and fresh food is full of Prana. While frozen and inorganic or artificially grown food is low in prana. Canned food or refrigerated food for a long time is completely without prana. Freshly cooked and served food is high in prana. Cooking in a clean and sacred area in one's house is good. As far as possible avoid taking footwear in the kitchen.

Satmyais also an important principle in Ayurveda. Satmya means habituation. Our body is used to certain type of food and we must never make an attempt to change our diet suddenly from Non-vegetarian to vegetarian or suddenly jump on to the macrobiotic or any other type of diet. Ayurveda has advised that even if we want to change from bad qualities to good qualities that also must be done in step-by-step manner.

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Michael E. Richardson [Phoenix, AZ, USA]on 1/17/2004 writes -- Yes, this information satifies both the head and heart. I have been aware of this info from macrobiotic teachings, which are Ayurveda based. Good to the read the original. Most helpful to have the 'constitution' mentioned as most articles keep it hidden. I especially like the fact that all staements are self-verifiable with ease.