Food is a basic requirement for the body to function, without food the human body will perish in only a couple of months. Proper diet is key to ensure optimal functioning of the body. Many people on the yoga path will choose to maintain a vegan diet. Veganism calls for removal of any animal products from life, mostly relating to food consumption. 

In Hatha yoga there is an 8 limbed path to self realization. The first of these limbs are the yamas, of which there are 5, the first yama being ahimsa, or non-harming. The vegan diet aligns with this guidance by removing any meat, dairy, or other animal derived products and foods from the lifestyle. 

Yogic Food

Many will fear that following a vegan diet will restrict them from necessary nutrients. With care and attention this lifestyle choice can provide everything needed for optimal health. A vegan diet can include a wide variety of foods such as:

  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Jackfruit
  • Eggplant
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Alternative dairy products

Protein can be found in nuts, soy and beans. Calcium rich foods include broccoli, kale, almonds and some tofu. Omega-3, a fat necessary for brain functioning, is available in hemp and flax seeds. Iron is found in tofu, spinach and peanut butter. Vitamin B-12, which helps create red blood cells, can be supplemented or is available from fortified foods like nutritional yeast and cereals. 

There are many benefits from following a vegan diet:

Improved Heart Health

One of the significant contributing elements to heart disease is your diet. The vegan diet prioritizes a wealth of natural, nutrient-dense plant-based foods that promote heart health. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc., all have excellent health properties.

Lowered Risk of cancers, especially that of the breasts, ovaries and uterus

This health benefit may be due to the fact that plant foods are high in fiber, vitamins, and compounds found in plants that protect against cancers.

Aids in Healthy Weight Loss

The vegan diet typically reduces the caloric intake which can lower the overall BMI (body mass index) and reduce the possibility of obesity. This is good in the long term for joint health, heart and lung health, and many other bodily functions. 

Lowered risk of type-2 diabetes

Reduces the intake of poor quality processed foods over consumed in typical Western diets which contribute to type 2 diabetes.

While many foods are now labeled as “vegan”, if they are highly processed or contain sugar they will not contribute to the above mentioned health benefits. To gain all the benefits of a vegan diet, food should be fresh and light, consisting of all the essential nutrients for body and mind functionality. It might be tempting to indulge in “vegan” desserts or even fast food items but the nutritional value will be low, ultimately leaving you more hungry than before and without any positive aspects. 

Additional benefits are a reduced environmental impact. Those who follow a vegan diet have a smaller footprint related to greenhouse gasses and other factors which cause climate change. Most of the plants grown for consumption are produced to feed the livestock which is raised for slaughter. Following a vegan diet can reduce the amount of resources and land used to produce this vegetation.

Overall a vegan diet benefits the self and society both. Through awareness one can assure that all dietary needs are met. The ideal vegan diet will be prepared fresh and leave you feeling satisfied. The positive aspects will be visible over time, as long as the diet is followed regularly.