What is the best diet?
You can ask a hundred nutritionists and get a hundred different answers. Companies with their own agenda try to market their own products. There's the Paleo Diet™, the keto diet, raw veganism, fruitarianism. In the fitness industry, most people advocate a high protein diet (which usually entails lots of meat eating and drinking super processed protein shakes). Some people advocate a high carb diet. Some even say high fat is the way to go. Some will tell you to eat only meat. Others will tell you to only eat raw fruits and veggies.
The best diet for humans, in my opinion, is the most healthy diet that is the best for vitality and that has proven to be the best for thousands of years: the vaishnav diet. The vaishnav diet involves only eating foods offered to Krishna, who tells us exactly what He prefers in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient philosophical scripture. Eating foods first offered to Krishna will ensure that our food is always blessed and full of spiritual potency.
The Bhagavad Gita mentions three modes of material nature: goodness (sattva), passion (raja), and ignorance (tama). Krishna prefers foods dear to those in the mode of goodness, or sattvik foods. The three modes of material nature, or trigunas, are also used to classify the nutritional value of foods in Ayurveda.
As BG 17:8 reveals, "Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart."
This could include nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Meat, eggs, and alcohol are avoided because they are bad for health and will diminish our life force (pran). Krishna, who is also known as "The Butter Thief" loved eating dairy products such as milk, butter, and yogurt during his childhood as a cowherd boy who helped care for cows. In fact, Krishna is the original protector of cows, a cherished animal in ancient India given the same respect as a mother. (This is a far cry from today's society, wherein cows are mistreated and bred only to be killed for human consumption.)
Tamasic foods should never be eaten. As BG 17.10 states, "Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness."
While fruits and vegetables remain fresh at room temperature for days, untreated meat will spoil in a matter of hours. This is why carnivorous animals have short colons that can digest food in 2 to 4 hours, while humans can easily take half a day.
Basically, if Krishna wouldn't eat it, we shouldn't either.
Krishna also lists some of the foods he specifically enjoys being offered. In BG 9:26, Krishna says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."
There are several delicious dishes that we can prepare from this short list alone. Most of us love to eat fruits and drink water, but leaves and flowers can be a little bit trickier. Even so, there are many creative things that we can make:
- salad (duh)
- boiled spinach, or other leafy greens, with curry powder (shaag)
- breaded leaves, particularly the leaf of the bittermelon--a personal favourite
- breaded flowers
- flower salad
- flowers boiled with vegetables, such as potatoes or cauliflower (subji)
- rose petals blended in a smoothie 😉
My favourite flowers are pumpkin or zucchini flowers, and I like them breaded--coated in a mix of flour, chickpea flour, water, and curry--and fried. Frugal Mama has flower-based recipes, and treehugger lists 42 edible flowers.
Following a vaisnav diet is more balanced, fun, and creative than the all-or-nothing high___/low___ diets pedaled by the fitness industry. The rule is simple: only eat foods suitable for Krishna. Eat only the things that Krishna likes to eat. The diet is easy to follow, good for health, and also spiritually beneficial.
(Note: This post also appears on my personal blog.)