Eating Like A Yogi

In the Indian village of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga.  The diet is simple- no meat and no alcohol. Villagers make their meal choices with the health of their bodies and their spirits in mind. As discussed in chapter 2, yoga philosophy is based on the Yama Ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence and not harming. A vegetarian diet is part of this philosophy.

The traditional yogic diet is vegetarian, promoting nonviolence to ourselves as well as all other living creatures. Yogis believe that our diets should nourish our bodies with foods containing prana, such as pure fruits, grains, and vegetables, while avoiding foods that overstimulate the digestive system. This approach to nutrition is called sattvic and involves choosing a diet that’s wholesome and pure to promote good health, lightness, and higher consciousness.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) acknowledges what traditional yogis have known for centuries. Based on medical research, the ADA states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease . . . lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer,” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese. Clearly, excess meat eating can be detrimental to our overall health.

Many Westerners begin yoga with no interest in adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. If that’s the case with you, there remain many ways for you to alter your current diet to increase your health and take inches off your waistline. Below are some simple tips from the ADA to get you started on creating a pure and wholesome diet (for more information, see

  1. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in meals and snacks.

  2. Choose proteins such as peanut butter, fish, beans, free-range eggs, and nuts.

  3. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fats, sodium, and sugar.

  4. Vary your veggies. Eat more orange and dark green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and dark leafy greens. Include pinto beans, kidney beans, split peas, and lentils.

  5. Get your calcium-rich foods. Have broccoli, salmon, or the equivalent in yogurt or cheese (a half-ounce of cheese equals one cup of milk). If you choose not to consume milk, choose soy, almond, or rice milk, or eat calcium-fortified foods and beverages.

  6. Eat at least half of your daily grains as whole foods.

  7. Go lean with protein. Bake it, broil it, or grill it. Don’t fry it.

  8. Focus on fresh, frozen, or dried fruits.

  9. Avoid – white flour, sugar, packaged or canned food.

  10. Get tested to see if you are gluten intolerant

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