Dietitian Melissa Meier explains why the Buddhist diet is a “sensible” option for your body.
This might sound contradictory, but as a dietitian, I’m not a fan of diets. They’re typically restrictive, unsustainable and counterproductive. So, when I was asked to write about the Buddhist diet, I naturally rolled my eyes and thought ‘here we go again…’.
But, to my surprise, the Buddhist diet is rather sensible – and for the most part, I wouldn’t be mad if you tried to follow it.
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What is the Buddhist diet, and is it healthy?
There are a few different schools of Buddhism, and each approach their diet a little differently. Nonetheless, the main features are…
A healthy vegetarian diet is a smart diet in my books. That’s because it’s rich in plants (think: fruit, veg, legumes, whole grains), which are oh-so-good for you. These foods are scientifically proven to improve your health and protect you from disease, partly due to their high content of gut-loving fibre and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying eating meat and seafood is unhealthy (it’s certainly not). The message I want to convey is that a diet rich in plants is much better for you than the typical Western diet full of processed rubbish, lots of meats and little fresh produce.
Abstaining from alcohol
I love a glass of vino or a cocktail (or two) just as much as the next person, but the truth is, alcohol isn’t the best news for your health – so going without it, as some Buddhists do, is actually a pretty good thing.
You see, alcohol is packed with calories. Drinking a lot can easily cause weight gain, so if weight loss is your goal, minimising your consumption will be a key tactic.
What might surprise you is that alcohol consumption is linked to a raft of conditions, too, including bowel cancer, breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and mental ill-health. It’s pretty serious stuff, so if you can go without (or at least cut down), your health will thank you for it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF) – one of the latest and greatest fad diets around. Rather than a traditional diet that dictates what you can and can’t eat, IF is concerned with when you eat, and research has linked it to weight loss and improved metabolic health.
In Buddhism, some monks and nuns fast from noon until dawn the next day. That’s a pretty lengthy period of time to go without food, and I’m sure most people would be seriously #hangry if they tried to do it (me included).
If fasting works for you, then go for it – but don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all when it comes to weight loss. Yes, it might help with weight loss, but it’s no more effective than a traditional calorie-controlled diet. Not to mention, fasting is outright unsafe for certain groups of people.
The Buddhist diet is a pretty sensible diet, much of which would be do-able in the long term (give or take the fasting element). For most lay Buddhists, diet, alcohol consumption and eating patterns are a personal choice, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a few lessons from the traditional Buddhist diet if you’re trying to improve your health.
For me, the main drawcard of the Buddhist Diet is the fact that it is plant-based. Whether your goal is weight loss, increasing your energy levels or just feeling better – a plant-based diet is where it’s at.
Fill your diet with mostly fruit, veg, whole grains and legumes and I’m one happy dietitian. Remember, though, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean a plant-only diet, and if you wish to include meat, seafood, eggs and dairy on top of your foundation of plants, that’s perfectly fine by me.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. Connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.