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Healthy Eating Teachings In Hinduism

As per Hinduism teachings, healthy eating means eating measured, limited or moderate amount of food. The food should be pure, tasty and wholesome – it should be an offering to God residing in the person. A person should not eat too much or too little. Eat only after the previous food has digested. A person should leave one-fourth part of the stomach empty; fill one-half of stomach with food and one-fourth with water.

Gheranda Samhita (V.16) states that if a student practicing yoga without giving due consideration to healthy eating habits may suffer from ailments and no benefit can be derived from Yoga.

The Bhagavad Gita stresses the importance of moderation in all aspects of life. “The practice of Yoga would not do any good to one who eats too much or too little or to one who commits excesses regarding sleeping or waking.” (Gita VI.16).

The Bhagavad Gita further declares: “Yoga can remove pain and sorrow from the life of that person who is moderate and appropriate (yukta) in diet, entertainment, work and play, sleep and waking life.” (VI.17)

Various aspects of health eating habits and food intake are discussed in ancient Hindu texts like overeating, attitude towards a meal, when to eat, what not to eat, the proper time for eating, the things to be included and quantity.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika (I.57), healthy eating or mitahara is mentioned as one of the four essential qualities needed by a student for achieving the final goal of Yoga. The other three qualities are – brahmacharya, freedom from cravings, and complete devotion to the practice of Yoga.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika (I.17) and Darshan Upanishad (I.6) - healthy eating is counted as one of the ten abstinences that a student of Yoga must practice. Eating in moderation is included among the five observances in Markandeya Purana (36.17).

As per Bhagavad Gita, eating is a form of yajna (sacrifice). “Those who eat what is left over after offering the food to the gods in a sacrifice become free from the impacts of wrong acts, whereas those who cook food just for eating and filling the belly, without the idea of offering it in a sacrifice, become wrongdoers.” (III.13)

Similar emphasis on the attitude of considering eating as an act of making an offering to the Lord, rather than as one of satisfying hunger, is found in Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (I.3) and Hatha Yoga Pradipika (I.58). In fact, this attitude is an essential characteristic of health in Hindu religion by definition. Both texts have defined healthy eating as “that meal which is wholesome and tasty, which leaves one-fourth part of the stomach empty, and which is eaten as an obeisance to Shiva, who resides inside the body.”

The fact of leaving one-fourth part of the stomach empty, filling one-half with food and one-fourth with water, is mentioned in several texts apart from Vishnu Purana (VI.7) and Gheranda Samhita (V.22).

In Yoga-Yajnavalkya (I.66-67), the quantity of food is defined in terms of morsels (mouthfuls). It says that eight mouthfuls are good enough for a sage, sixteen for the elderly or who has entered the stage of vanaprastha, 32 mouthfuls for a householder or family people.

Manusmriti is very critical about overeating. “It causes ill health, reduces one’s life, makes one wrong and disliked in society” (Manusmriti II.57).

Manusmriti (IV.62) states that one should avoid eating at sunrise and at sunset, and after a heavy meal during the day, the night meal should be foregone.

In Hatha Yoga Pradipika (I.15), overeating is included in the six ways of behavior harmful to Yoga.

Food available abundantly in a particular region is ideal for the climate of the region.
Eating meat and fish is not considered sin but texts point out that great virtue lie in eating in moderation and having a wholesome meal.

SourceEncyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VII page 169 -170 – IHRF.