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Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarianism in India

India, the world’s second most populous country, with a population of over 1.2 billion has around 500 million vegetarians.

Hindu scripture speaks in favor of vegetarianism.  The roots of  vegetarianism in India are found in the Vedas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Yoga Sutras and most sacred texts of Hindus.India contains more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined—roughly half a billion people. This is mostly driven by class and religious systems. Unlike Western religions where practitioners are claimed to hold ‘dominion’ over the animals, most religious paths in India hold vegetarianism as an ideal. The principal of ahimsa applies to animals—a term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence—himsa). Ahimsa encourages kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence produce negative karmic reactions. With so many vegetarians living in one country, and a culture that has embraced vegetarianism for centuries, India has the most sophisticated and ancient vegetarian cuisine of any country .(o)

Vegetarianism is so ingrained in Indian society that there are laws requiring all packaged products to be labeled with a mandatory mark showing if the product is vegetarian or non-vegetarian. In some regions the slaughter of cattle is prohibited, for instance if you slaughter a cow in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh you could be jailed for up to seven-years. Cows are revered in Hindu religious rituals and are allowed to roam free on the streets, a familiar scene that we see in India.

Saatvik Food: Indians particularly Hindu’s believe that Saatvik food is good for body and mind. Sattvic foods are rich and abundant in Prana, the universal life force. Onion, garlic and caffeine are taboo in a sattvic diet as they cause denseness in the body. According to the Vedas, sattvic foods are juicy, wholesome and pleasing to the heart, providing subtle nourishment for positive vitality. What makes sattvic food so unique and pleasurable is that all dishes are prepared and served fresh. (p)

What other reasons that drives Indian population to be vegetarians?

The negative impact of animal foods on health, the damage associated with animal foods and the environment, religious beliefs, and the desire to protect and respect animals are some of the reasons for the increase in the number of people consuming vegetarian diets. Many people express an interest in consuming a vegetarian diet but don’t do so because they are unsure of how to do it or are not ready to give up meat. Fortunately, there are options and lots of great resources available to help. The key to making this diet work for you is to understand what nutrients you are The basics: Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, and poultry. Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian are health, environmental, and ethical concerns; dislike of meat; non-violent beliefs; compassion for animals; and economics.

Vegeterianism in Epics Mahabharata,  Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavatha

The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing: he who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells or cooks flesh and eats it -all of these are to be considered meat-eaters.

He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth.

Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.
~ Shrimad Bhagavatam

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.

Those high souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, mental &  physical strength and memory should abstain from any acts of injury.

Making the change to a vegetarian diet

If you are new to Vegetarian diet  and want to become a vegetarian, then several questions arise in your mind. The change is tough. Many people become vegetarian instantly. They totally give up meat, fish, and poultry overnight. Others make the change gradually. Do what works best for you. Being a vegetarian or vegan is as hard or as easy as you choose to make it. Some people enjoy planning and preparing elaborate meals, while others opt for quick and easy vegetarian dishes.

What about nutrition?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has affirmed that a vegetarian diet can meet all known nutrient needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Limit your intake of sweets and fatty foods.

Protein Vegetarians easily meet their protein needs by eating a varied diet, as long as they consume enough calories to maintain their weight. It is not necessary to plan combinations of foods. A mixture of proteins throughout the day will provide enough essential amino acids.

Sources of protein Beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, chickpeas, peas… Many common foods, such as whole grain bread, greens, potatoes, and corn, quickly add to protein intake.

Sources of iron Dried beans, tofu, tempeh, spinach, chard, baked potatoes, cashews, dried fruits, bulgur, and iron-fortified foods (such as cereals, instant oatmeal, and veggie “meats”) are all good sources of iron. To increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal, eat a food containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli. Using iron cookware also adds to iron intake.

Sources of calcium Good sources include broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, tofu prepared with calcium, fortified soymilk, and fortified orange juice.

Vitamin B12 The adult recommended intake for vitamin B12 is very low, but this is an essential nutrient so vegetarians should be aware of good sources. Fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soymilk, or veggie “meats,” are good non-animal sources. Check labels to discover other products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Tempeh and sea vegetables are not reliable sources of vitamin B12. To be on the safe side, if you do not consume dairy products, eggs, or fortified foods regularly, you should take a non-animal derived supplement.

Children According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarian and vegan diets can meet all nutrient needs for infants and children. Diets for infants and children should contain enough calories to support growth and have reliable sources of key nutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

What Can I Use Instead of Animal Products?

Meat substitutes in soups or stews 

Tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture)

Tofu (freezing and then thawing gives tofu a meaty texture; the tofu will turn slightly off-white in color)

Wheat gluten or seitan (made from wheat and has the texture of meat; available in natural foods or Asian stores)

Egg replacers (binders)

Ener-G Egg Replacer (or similar product available in natural foods stores or by mail order)

1 small banana for 1 egg (great for cakes & pancakes)

2 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch for 1 egg

¼ cup tofu for 1 egg (Blend tofu smooth with the liquid ingredients before they are added to the dry)

Dairy substitutes in cooking


Rice, coconut, almond, and other nut milks

Soy margarine

Soy or almond yogurt (found in natural foods stores)

Soy sour cream

Adding Omega-3’s to Your Diet

To maximize production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and made by our bodies), include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in your diet. Alpha-linolenic acid is found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts. You can also obtain DHA directly from foods fortified with DHA from microalgae (in some brands of soymilk) and supplements containing microalgae-derived DHA.

Cholesterol & Saturated Fat

When compared to animal products vegetable products do not contain any significant amount of cholesterol. However, some vegetable products, such as coconut and palm oil, are high in saturated fat and may raise blood cholesterol levels. Full-fat dairy products and eggs also contain significant amounts of saturated fat. Understand what is missing from the foods that you are not consuming and to learn how to balance your meals without these foods.

Types of vegetarian diets

Type of vegetarian diet Foods that you do consume Foods that are not consumed
Vegan Only plant-based foods Meat
*Also avoid: leather, fur, silk, wool, soaps, and cosmetics derived from animal product
Lacto-vegetarian Plant-based foods
Milk products

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
Lacto-ovo vegetarian Plant-based foods
Milk products

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
Flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) Plant-based foods
Occasionally consume or consume in limited quantity any or all of the following:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
Animals foods consumed in limited quantity and/or frequency

Facts about Vegetarians Diet:

  1. Several studies show that a plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism, causing the body to burn calories up to 16% faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first 3 hours after meals. (j)
  2. A number of researchers argue that while the human body is capable of digesting meat, our bodies are actually designed to be herbivores. For example, the human molars are similar to those of an herbivore, flat and blunt, which make them good for grinding, not gnashing and tearing. (k)
  3. Vegetarianism in India India has more vegetarians than any other country in the world
  4. Vegetarianism has roots in ancient India. In fact, currently 70% of the world’s vegetarians are Indians and there are more vegetarians in India than in any other country in the world. (l)
  5. The first Vegetarian Society was formed in England in 1847. The society’s goal was to teach people that it is possible to be healthy without eating meat. (k)
  6. In 2012, the Los Angeles city council unanimously approved a resolution that all Mondays in the City of Angels will be meatless. The measure is part of an international campaign to reduce the consumption of meat for health and environmental reason. (g)
  7. Several researchers argue that a vegetarian diet can feed more people than a meat-based diet. For example, approximately 20,000 pounds of potatoes can be grown on one acre of land. Comparatively, only around 165 pounds of beef can be produced on 1 acre of land. (i)
  8. There are several types of vegetarians. The strictest type is vegans. Vegans avoid not only meat but also all animal products. There is a debate within the vegan community about whether honey is appropriate for a vegan diet. For example, the Vegan Society and the American Vegan Society do not consider honey appropriate because it comes from an animal. (j)
  9. Studies show that a vegetarian diet could feed more people than a meat-based diet. For example, only around 20% of the corn grown in the United States is eaten by people, with about 80% of the corn eaten by livestock. Additionally, approximately 95% of the oats grown in the U.S are eaten by livestock. Studies show that the number of people who could be fed by the grain and soybeans that are currently fed to U.S. livestock is approximate 1,300,000,000. (i)
  10. A fruitarian is a type of vegetarian in which a person eats just fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant material that can be harvested without killing the plant. (j)
  11. The total production of excrement by the U.S. population is 12,000 pounds per second. The total production of excrement by U.S. livestock is 250,000 pounds per second, which would be greatly reduced if humans ate a more plant-based diet and had little or no need for domesticated livestock. Less livestock would also greatly reduce Earth’s trapped greenhouse gases. (i & e)
  12. cows The grain fed to the 7 billion livestock in the U.S. could feed 800 million people
  13. Approximately 25 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of wheat. Around 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of meat. Many vegetarians argue that more people eating a meat-free diet would lower the strain that meat production puts on the environment. (i)
  14. A British study revealed that a child’s IQ could help predict his or her chance for becoming a vegetarian. The higher the IQ, the more likely the child will become a vegetarian. (j)
  15. Research reveals that if a man avoids red meats, it improves the sex appeal of his body odor. j
  16. Famous vegetarians include Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, Brad Pitt, Albert Einstein, Ozzy Osborne, and (debatably) Hitler. (k)
  17. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) concludes that a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than one that includes meat. They note that vegetarians have lower body mass indices, lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and less prostate and colon cancer. b
  18. Plants yield 10 times more protein per acre than meat. (a)
  19. Many vegetarians avoid meat because they ethically object to animal cruelty. For example, when stunners aren’t effective on hogs, they are sometimes sent to the scalding tanks, meant to soften the skin of dead pigs, while they are still alive and conscious. (b)
  20. Vegan diet A variety of plant sources can provide a vegetarian/vegan diet with enough protein
  21. Vegetarians have only slightly lower protein intake than those with a meat diet. Various studies around the world confirm that vegetarian diets provide enough protein if they include a variety of plant sources. (j)
  22. Vegetarians often chose to avoid meat based on ethical objections against animal cruelty. For example, poultry is not included in the Human Slaughter Act, so it is not required to stun them before they are shackled on a moving rail to have their throats slit. Some are still alive when they are submerged in the scalding tank. Those that are still alive are called “redskins.” (b)
  23. People become vegetarians for several reason, including ethical, health, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, and economic concerns. (l)
  24. An ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but not other dairy products. (j)
  25. A lacto-vegetarian will eat dairy products but not eggs.  (j)
  26. An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. j
  27. Some vegetarians may not know that rennet is often used to make cheese and, therefore, unknowingly eat it. Rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber of slaughtered young, unweaned calves. (j)
  28. Ironically, the original actor who played Ronald McDonald, Jeff Juliano, is now a vegetarian. a
  29. The number of animals killed for meat every hour in the U.S. is 500,000. (a)
  30. B12 deficiency Vitamin B12 is one of the few nutrients that comes only from animal sources
  31. Vegetarians can be deficient in Vitamin B12, which only comes from animal sources (though it can also be in fortified yeast extract products). Research suggests that a Vitamin B12 deficiency may be tied to the weakening of bones. (j)
  32. A pescetarian is a vegetarian who eats fish. Similar to a vegetarian diet, a pescetarian diet includes vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, beans, and eggs. Unlike a vegetarian diet, a pescetarian diet also includes fish and shell fish. The term first originated in 1993 and is a blend of the Italian word pesce (fish) and the English word vegetarian. (j)
  33. Vegetarianism is based in the ancient Indian and Greek philosophies. India, vegetarianism was based on the philosophy of ahimsa or nonviolence toward animals. For the Hellenes and Egyptians, it had ritual or medical purposes. After Rome became Christianized, vegetarianism largely disappeared from Europe. It remerged in the Renaissance. (k)
  34. A Buddhist vegetarian (su vegetarianism) will not eat any animal products nor vegetables in the Allium family—such as onion, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots—because the smell of these fetid vegetables is offensive and “angers up the blood.” (l)
  35. Jain vegetarians will eat dairy but not eggs, honey, or root vegetables. (k)
  36. The only vegetables with all eight types of essential amino acids in sufficient amounts are lupin beans, soy, hempseed, chia seed, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. However, the essential amino acids can be achieved by eating other vegetables if they are in a variety. (j)
  37. Food, especially eating meat, has been a central question of Christian history. Many theologians argue that the vegetarian diet is the most compatible with Christian values, such as mercy and compassion. (l)
  38. China Study The China Study links eating animals to chronic disease
  39. The China Study was a 20-year study that compared the mortality rates of meat eaters and plant eaters. They found that countries that ate more animal-based food were more likely to have higher death rates from “Western diseases,” while countries that ate more plant food were healthier. (j)
  40. The China Study makes several arguments, including that a plant-based diet 1) plays a critical role in determining how genes are expressed, either good or bad; 2) controls the negative effects of unhealthy chemicals, 3) can help resolve chronic diseases, and 4) will create health in all areas of our lives. The China Study also argues that there are no nutrients in animal proteins that are better than plant-based proteins. (j)
  41. Ethical vegans are vegans who reject the commodity status of animals or animals that are used for shelter, food, or clothing. (a)
  42. The vegetarian movement has been influenced by ancient ethics of abstinence, early medical science that noted similarities between humans and animals, and Indian philosophy that promotes kindness to animals. (k)
  43. One of the first famous vegetarians was the Greek philosopher Pythagoras who lived at the end of the 6th century B.C. In fact, the term “Pythagorean diet” was commonly used for a plant-based diet until the term “vegetarian” was coined in the 19th century. (l)
  44. Vegetarians such as the Manicheans and Cathars were considered heretics and persecuted during the medieval Inquisition. (k,l)
  45. The word “vegan” is derived from the word “vegetarian.” It was first used in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson thought that the word “vegetarian” included too many types of animal by-products and did not encompass a completely plant-based diet. (j)
  46. An Oxford, England, study concluded that meat eaters were two and half times more likely to develop gallstones than non-meat eaters. Scientists concluded that the low-fat, high-fiber diet of vegetarians decreased the risk of developing gallstones. (a)
  47. Vegetarianism is still required for yogis in Hatha Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Eating meat is said to lead to ignorance, sloth, and an undesirable mental state known as tamas. A vegetarian diet, on the other hand, leads to saattvic qualities that are associated with spiritual progress. (l)
  48. While vegetarian diets tend to be lower in calories and higher in fiber (which makes a person feel more full), some vegetarian diets can cause higher caloric intake than a meat diet if they include a lot of cheese and nuts. (i)
  49. A 2008 study by Time Magazine approximates the number of U.S. vegetarians at 7.3 million adults or 3.2% of the population. Of these, 0.5 % or 1 million are vegans. (f)
  50. Leonardo da Vinci argued that humans do not have a God-given right to eat animals
  51. The first Renaissance figure to advocate vegetarianism was Leonardo da Vinci. However, other influential figures, such as Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes, did not believe humans had any ethical obligations toward animals. (k)
  52. Benjamin Franklin was an early American vegetarian (though he later became a meat-eater again). He introduced tofu to America in 1770. (n)
  53. Russian author Leo Tolstoy gave up meat because he was concerned about animal cruelty. He claims that eating meat is unnecessary, leads to animalistic feelings, excites human desires, and encourages “fornication and drunkenness.” (n)
  54. In the 20th century, English schoolmasters recommended that students become vegetarians as a way to curb their “appetites for self-abuse.” (n)
  55. A recent study argues that people who eat tofu and other plant-based foods have a better sex life than meat-eaters It claims that certain plants influence hormone levels and sexual activity. n
  56. According to one study, while women view vegetarian men as more principled, they also considered them “wimps” and “less macho” than those who eat meat. (d)
  57. While Hitler wasn’t willing to institute the policy during World War II, he did believe that vegetarianism could be key to Germany’s military success. He claimed that Caesar’s soldiers lived entirely on vegetables and the Vikings wouldn’t have been able to undertake their expeditions if they depended on a meat diet. (k)
  58. Several studies indicate that it would have been biologically impossible for humans to evolve large brains on a raw vegan diet. They conclude that meat-eating was crucial in human evolution. (m)
  59. A 2006 survey reveals that 6% of people in England are vegetarian, making the UK the European country with the largest proportion of its population that is vegetarian.


a Cox, Peter. 2002. You Don’t Need Meat. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books.

b Foer, Jonathan Safran. 2009. Eating Animals. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

c Hellmich, Nanci. “USDA: Eggs’ Cholesterol Level Better Than Cracked Up to Be.” USA Today. February 8, 2011. Accessed: February 23, 2013.

d MacRae, Fiona. “Real Men Must Eat Meat, Say Women as They Turn up Their Noses at Vegetarians.” Daily Mail. February 1, 2011. Accessed: February 17, 2013.

e Nelson, Dean. “India Tells West to Stop Eating Beef.” The Telegraph. November 20, 2009. Accessed: February 17, 2013.

f “The Number of Vegetarians in the World.” Raw Food Health. Accessed: February 23, 2013.

g Pamer, Melissa. “‘Meatless Mondays’: LA Urges Residents to Turn Vegetarian One Day a Week.” U.S. News. November 10, 2012. Accessed: November 26, 2012.

h “Plant-based Protein Sources.” SoyStache. 2012. Accessed: November 26, 2012.

i Robbins, John. 1987. Diet for a New America. Tiburon, CA: Stillpoint Publishing.

j Saunders, Kerrie K. 2003. The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention. New York, NY: Lantern Books.

k Spencer, Colin. 2000. Vegetarianism: A History. New York, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows.

l Stuart, Tristram. 2006. The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

m Wanjek, Christopher. “Sorry Vegans, Eating Meat and Cooking Food Is How Humans Got Their Big Brains.” The Washington Post. November 26, 2012. Accessed: February 17, 2013.

n Williams, Amanda. “‘Vegetarians Have a Better Sex Life’: Eating Tofu Can Boost You in the Bedroom, New Study Claims.” Daily Mail. November 23, 2012. Accessed: February 17, 2013.