If you are considering the transition to a vegetarian diet, you have many options to get started. But it’s important to understand that being a vegetarian is not only about leaving meat off of your plate—it’s a holistic lifestyle choice that can increase your energy and allow for a deeper connection to body and spirit. This is the main reason it is so often implemented in the yogic lifestyle.
There is a common misconception that a diet devoid of meat is a diet devoid of flavor. This simply is not true! Given enough time and focus, you will develop a palate for the taste of well-spiced grains and vegetables, fresh fruits, and the many creative and delicious combinations a nutritious vegetarian meal has to offer. Not only that, but you will also be given the opportunity to cultivate an appreciation for the healing qualities this yogic diet can provide.
If you have decided you’d like to try going vegetarian, there are a few methods that can help with your transition. One way is to slowly begin substituting meatless main dishes into your meals, as well as increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. (To get you inspired, view some of our favorite recipes.)
Alternatively, you can try going meatless one or two days a week, and then increase the number of days over time as your body (and taste buds!) adjust to your new way of nourishing yourself.
Yet another option is to start by removing all processed food from your diet and then gradually begin to decrease the amount of meat you consume.
And of course, there’s always “cold turkey.” (Or should we say tofurkey?)
The first transition diet practiced by the 3HO community in the early days was a little more immersive: it consisted of eating only fruits, nuts, and vegetables for the first thirty days. After this initial month, grains and dairy were gradually incorporated back into the diet.
In addition to personal values or ethics, there are a plethora of health-based reasons to make the transition to a meatless diet.
Meat is a concentrated animal protein; this means the proteins will coagulate in the digestive system within a few hours of consumption. As the meat breaks down, it releases various toxins into the body. These toxins can initially be absorbed by the liver, but with continued consumption, the liver can become overloaded and the toxins have nowhere to go, but to “stew” inside the body until they can be filtered back out.
On the other hand, vegetable protein does not undergo this process of auto-putrefaction. The main residue produced by vegetable protein is cellulose, a compound that is inert and toxin-free. In other words, it’s cleaner and more easily processed by the body’s digestive and filtration systems.
Meat also releases uric acid (or ammonia) into the bloodstream. This acid makes it harder to reach higher, clearer meditative states because it is an irritant that can impede the proper blood-flow and oxygen absorption that is beneficial to meditative practice. Moreover, animal protein is one of the greatest sources of cholesterol, a bodily compound that contributes to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and senility.
Much of livestock raised for their meat is fed a variety of chemicals and hormones to increase their milk production or bulk them up quicker. It’s possible these growth-inducing hormones can have adverse effects within the human body. No definitive ruling has been made about the impact of these hormones when consumed by humans, however, no evidence has ruled out the possibility that they may pose adverse outcomes, especially for prepubescent children and pregnant or lactating women.
Meat can take up to three whole days to pass through our digestive tract. For optimum health, the yogis recommend that food must be digested within 18-24 hours.
Since we are already exposed to toxins, pollution, and chemicals in our daily environment, making the transition to a vegetarian diet is one way to limit our interaction with elements that can be harmful to our physical and spiritual health.
As humans, we each have unique and individual dietary needs. A major component of this dietary transition is finding the right balance of foods that best serves our metabolism, our bodies, and our overall health. The switch to a vegetarian diet can be a health-enhancing lifestyle adjustment for many people, especially when combined with a consistent yoga practice. But you should always defer to your own body’s wisdom when it comes to making the lifestyle choices that are right for you.
When endeavoring upon the “vegetarian journey,” it’s key to have compassion for your process and avoid “breaking out the whip” if you find yourself struggling with this (very big!) change. Try practicing the Meditation for Change to help combat any negative or self-critical thoughts you may have during this new adventure!
And if you’re looking for even more inspiration, we have plenty of yogic recipes to get you cooking!