Ayurveda's Perspective on Meat Consumption
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
So many people ask, “Do you have to be vegan or vegetarian to eat in an Ayurvedic way?” And the short answer is no.
Yogis are generally known for cutting animal protein from their diets because of their interpretation of the first yama (or restraints a yogi takes on as part of their practice toward enlightenment), ahimsa, which is commonly translated as “non-harming.” In this perspective, killing and eating an animal is harmful and, therefore, should be avoided. There is some belief that meat carries karmic consequences and is energetically binding to the person who eats it. So if you eat meat, you tack on karma to your life that you’ll have to work on clearing, whether in this life or the next.
But remember, this is just one interpretation, one perspective, and one philosophy. If it’s yours, wonderful. If it’s not yours, no problem. Every body is so different and every religion has their own take on the world, and it’s no one’s place to tell another person what is right or wrong for them.
So if you are vegan or vegetarian, pushing your point of view on someone who eats meat isn’t actually serving anyone. And if you eat meat, trying to get a vegetarian or a vegan to eat a dead animal is not going to go over well.
Live and let live, friends. Self-righteousness doesn’t work on either end of the spectrum.
So what do the Ayurvedic texts actually say about eating meat, though?
Ayurveda itself does not demonize any food group.
In some cases, meat is considered absolutely necessary. Animal protein is technically classified as a “sweet” taste, meaning it tones and nourishes the body. Ayurveda practitioners use animal protein to heal weakness, sickness, and malnourishment, especially in the form of meat stews and bone broths, but not exclusively. Meat can also be eaten cooked and seasoned well with sautéed vegetables, for example.
Meats promote strength and endurance in the human body. The Charaka Samitha, the original and most prominent text on Ayurveda, actually goes into great detail about the health benefits different animal meats can provide us. Vatas and pittas benefit the most from adding nutrient dense meat to their diet, but kaphas are totally welcome to eat it as well, just ideally in smaller amounts since they’re inherently strong and stable anyway.
Of course, too much meat, just like anything, will cause an imbalance and lead to health issues. For the average person, it doesn’t need to be eaten every meal or even every day. As with everything else in Ayurveda, moderation and mindfulness is key. If you eat meat or dairy, commit to sourcing your animal products sustainably. Buy from a local, reliable farmer who cares for the animals properly every single time! Avoid supporting factory farms and the industrial meat production at all costs — that meat is not going to serve you or the planet at all (whereas a farm that has grass-fed, humanely raised animals is actually beneficial for the natural ecosystem).
So to conclude, in Ayurveda, food is medicine, and meat is no exception… unless you want it to be.