Ayurvedic Diet: Veganism & Vata Dosha

I’m often asked if a person who has a vata nature or vata imbalance can be a vegan and be healthy. The short answer is yes!

First, Ayurveda is not a vegetarian system of medicine.

It neither promotes nor forbids the consumption of animals. More accurate would be to state that Ayurveda sees everything in nature as medicine when it is used properly. This includes both animals and plants. Hence, animal-based medicines are prevalent in Ayurveda. Ayurveda also recognizes that most meats pacify (balance) vata dosha.

Ayurveda recognizes that all substances have a dominant quality

Still, Ayurveda recognizes that all substances have a dominant guna (quality) that impacts the mind and consciousness.Meat is tamasic meaning that it interferes with higher awareness. The blood of meat is rajasic meaning that it agitates the mind. Hence, meat is not meant for the person who wishes to attain peace of mind or higher consciousness. Hence, yogis do not eat meat! It is, however, very good for those who are worldly and those who engage in the most strenuous physical activity.

Can you balance Vata dosha without meat?

 Yes, you can. When vata dosha is vitiated (disturbed, out of balance), there is an excess in certain qualities (light, mobile, cold, dry, etc). The opposite qualities restore balance. Hence, the intake of heavy, stable, warm, and moist qualities restores balance and health. These can be consumed on a plant-based diet through the intake of nuts, oils, cooked root vegetables, mung dal, and warm grains, all prepared properly so that they are cooked with warming spices. We could call it “vata comfort food”.

But where will the protein come from?

 A common question. Protein is inherent in many foods and when a variety of foods are consumed, the necessary amino acids are also consumed, and the body uses these to build proteins. Meat is not the only source of protein. When grains are combined with beans or legumes, the full complement of amino acids are consumed. The same is true with many nuts or seeds when combined with beans. There are many other combinations.

The key is preparing the food properly.

Many beans aggravate vata dosha. However, they can be prepared in ways that pacify vata dosha. For instance, chickpeas are too dry, light, and cold for vata dosha. However, hummus pacifies vata dosha! This is because the chickpeas are ground and mixed with sesame butter (tahini), salt, and olive oil. Often garlic or other warming spice is added. The preparation changes the qualities and the doshic effect of food. Hummus is heavy, stable, moist, and warming. It is also a complete protein and a rasayana that builds ojas in the body while pacifying vata dosha.

So, next time someone asks you if they can practice Ayurveda and be a vegan, the correct answer is yes… even if they are vata dosha.

Please note: As a medicine, meat is a powerful pacifier of vata dosha. However, it also needs to be prepared properly or it will promote ama (toxicity in the body).