It’s one of the most controversial topics in the history of yoga: to vegan or not to vegan? Some say that you’re not a true yogi if you eat meat; others say not all body types can thrive on a purely vegetarian diet. But is there a definitive answer for this?
Ahisma, or the yoga practice of non-violence prevents one from eating animals because it’s violent to take the life of another being. Some vegetarians and yogis swear by this but while it might work for some individuals, running on a diet that’s lacking in iodine and other crucial vitamins and minerals could result in serious thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies and other harmful effects.
It’s not nice to feel physical exhaustion or shallowness of breath while doing simple poses such as a downward facing dog or the gentlest of asana. For women especially, irregular menstrual cycles could also occur if there’s a lack of iodine and let’s not get started on the emotional discomfort when we experience that.
As an avid yogi, I believe in listening to your body and adopting a primal diet. The great thing about this diet is that it applies to vegans, vegetarians and even meat lovers. If you’re wondering what’s a primal diet, here’s a quick summary. Created by Mark Sisson in 2009, the primal diet allows us to consume foods that our primal ancestors would have access to. Not only does this eliminate processed foods, it also limits your intake of sugar, grains, industrial and polyunsaturated oils and beans or legumes. It’s also about limiting your processed carb intake, and obtaining sufficient protein and fat to fuel and rebuild.
It is so manageable and after 3 weeks you will never go back! And if you’re a yogi or an individual who can’t live without your glass of wine, here’s the best part. You can still enjoy certain sensible indulgences – dark chocolate, moderate alcohol and high-fat treats. Still not convinced?
Here’s some useful tips to get you yogis started on a primal diet.
Keep it real
If you’re a vegetarian who wants to take care of your body, avoid eating all kinds of mock meat – mock chicken nuggets, Torfurky, boca burgers, fried soya patties that look like a beef patty. They’re processed and unhealthy, plus you’ll never actually know what ingredients you’re really putting into your body. If you’re willing to consume mock meat, perhaps you should start listening to your body and opting for actual meat.
Ditch pasta and love your greens
A primal diet is all about eating what your ancestors ate. If you’re a yogi who believes in the forces of nature, I’m sure you’ll realise that our ancestors didn’t have access to pasta and boxed foods. For the vegetarians and vegans who pretty much almost last entirely on loads of carbs from rice, pastas, boxed foods, pre-prepared foods, bread, crackers, and crispy grain-based foods, it’s time to make the switch to voluminous salads. Ditch the easiest, most refined junk food that qualifies as “plant-based” because by right, to be a vegetarian or vegan, you should eat actual plants packed with nutrients that are highly beneficial to your overall well-being and health.
Say NO to refined seed oils
Cooking food in sunflower oils, canola oil, corn oil or soybean oil? These oils are heavily refined, high in omega-6 fats that promotes inflammation, easily oxidised and stripped of their precious nutrients. Instead of opting for these processed oils, try cooking with oils that don’t oxidate when heated like coconut oil (lower temperatures), ghee (if you’re a lacto vegetarian) and avocado oil.
Love grains? Go for sprouted grains
Grains maybe tasty for you right now but they are absolutely unsatisfying! The increased reliance on grains to get your daily dose of calories and nutrients can increase the harmful loads of anti-nutrients you consume. But is there an alternative? Luckily for us, there’s sprouted grains. They increase your nutrient content such as soluble fibre, folate, Vitamins C and E, and other anti-oxidant compounds. Sprouting reduces the anti-nutrient content, including gluten and tannins.
Eat eggs and dairy
If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, or if you’re a yogi who is willing to try consuming eggs and dairy products, you’ll be absorbing nutrients that you might have been missing. Pastured eggs have omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, protein, choline, Vitamin B-12 and many other vital nutrients that other strict vegans and vegetarians lack. If you’re afraid that eggs cause cardiovascular risk, eggs don’t so you’re in the green. For other vegans, I know you might be against eating eggs and dairy. But do try getting fresh dairy and eggs from someone you know and trust to be a faithful and ethical steward.
Written by Ali Watts - AliFitness founder and Kapuhala Brand Ambassador