Have you ever considered switching to a Buddhist diet? While the Buddhist monk diet is not as popular as the keto, vegan, or paleo diets, it is still an eating plan that may help you to finally achieve those body goals that you have set for yourself. In this article we are going to look into what is a Buddhist diet plan, what it consists of, the Buddhist diet restrictions as well as what benefits the Buddhist diet could potentially offer to your body.
Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the world today and it is mostly practiced in East and Southeast Asia. To those who do not practice the religion, they may mostly recognize it through its beautiful temples, teachings of enlightenment, its monks who are always dressed in robes, or through the tales of its founder Siddhartha Gautama aka ‘The Buddha’. Today, centuries after the founder of this religion passed on, it has spread throughout the world. The three main known forms of Buddhism include (3):
1. Theravada Buddhism
It is practiced in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Cambodia. This is the more conservative and older version of Buddhism and is mostly practiced by monks and nuns.
2. Mahayana Buddhism
It is mostly practiced in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
3. Tibetan Buddhism
Also known as Vajrayana Buddhism (15), it is mostly practiced in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of Russia and northern India.
What Type Of Diet Do Buddhist Follow?
Monks and all other people who follow teachings of Buddha and are part of the Buddhism religion follow the Buddhist diet.
What Is A Buddhist Diet?
This eating plan is essentially a vegetarian eating plan. However, it is best to realize that not all vegetarian diets are made the same. The four known types of a vegetarian diet include (16):
This is a popular diet that is famed for its many benefits, including but not limited to weight loss. It is a branch of vegetarianism that excludes the consumption of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.
This diet excludes meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allows fish.
Anyone who practices this branch of a vegetarian diet consumes dairy products and eggs but excludes meat, fish, and poultry.
People who follow this version exclude meat, poultry, dairy products, fish and other seafood from their diet. They are only allowed to consume eggs.
This version excludes meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them but allows its followers to consume milk and all other dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt and more.
In light of this, the Buddhist diet is essentially a lacto-vegetarian eating plan.
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What Are The Rules Of The Buddhist Vegetarian Diet?
As we have seen above the Buddhist diet can be classified under lacto-vegetarianism. However, why is milk and dairy products allowed but meat, fish, poultry and eggs are excluded? This can be traced back to Dharma aka, Buddha’s teachings (3). From his many lessons, his followers came up with five main rules by which to live by. These rules are known as the Five Precepts of Buddhism. They are:
- Refrain from taking a life. This does not just apply to human lives but those of animals as well.
- Refrain from taking what is not given. Which essentially means that you should not steal.
- Refrain from sexual misconduct. Lustful actions are frowned upon as are prohibited from experiencing too much sensual pleasure.
- Refrain from wrong speech. People are discouraged from lying and gossiping.
- Refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind. Buddhism prohibits its followers from indulging in alcohol and other drugs since they keep you from thinking clearly.
Buddhist diet restrictions are based on the moral precept that consuming meat, eggs, fish or poultry results in having to take the life of the animal in question. They also believe that even if you did not kill the animal, bird, or fish yourself, consuming its flesh (or eggs) results in second-hand responsibility for a death. Milk and dairy do not break this rule because you do not have to kill an animal to milk it.
What Other Buddhist Diet Restrictions Are There?
Animal products (processed or fresh) – other than milk and dairy products – are not the only things that the Buddhist diet is against.
As stated above alcohol – wine, beer, and spirits – and other drugs are forbidden on this eating plan. According to Buddha, intoxication can lead to loss of wealth, increased confrontations, illness, disrepute, and weakening of wisdom and thus one should stay away from alcohol and other intoxicants to avoid heedlessness (17).
Onions, garlic, scallions, chives, and leeks are the five pungent vegetables that are not allowed on the Buddhist diet. This is because Buddhists believe that when cooked, these vegetables increase sexual desire (which goes against one of the five precepts) and can cause irritability and anger when eaten raw (5). If you choose to follow this eating plan to the letter, then none of your Buddhist diet recipes should contain these veggies.
You should also try and avoid fast food, refined grains, added sugars and candy, as well as packaged and convenience foods. While they are not specifically restricted on the Buddhist diet, they will interfere with your plans for using this eating plan for weight loss.
What Does A Buddhist Diet Consist Of?
Here are all the foods that you can consume of the Buddhist diet without breaking the rules. All these foods should be included in your Buddhist diet for weight loss for the best results:
1. Leafy Greens
They are an important part of any healthy diet and should also be part of your Buddhist diet for weight loss. Leafy greens such as collard greens, kale, bok choy, spinach Romaine lettuce, and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in dark green leafy vegetables also help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, and the development of several types of cancer (7).
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Such as broccoli, cauliflower, radish, kale, brussels sprouts, watercress and cabbage should be part of your Buddhist eating plan, not only because they are low in calories, but also because they are rich in minerals and nutrients such as in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and fiber. These help keep you fuller for longer and may help lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer (6).
3. Starchy Vegetables
Like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, starchy vegetables provide your body with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. When trying to lose weight, it is advisable to watch how much of them you eat since they are high in calories. It is advisable to either bake, roast, or steam them. Examples of starchy carbs include plantain, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, and yams, among others (13).
4. Legumes And Lentils
While beans and lentils are high in calories and carbohydrates, they should not be cut out of your Buddhist monk diet plan. These foods provide your body with protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus. They are also cholesterol free which makes them perfect foods for your heart health. They also lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, may help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, and help manage your blood pressure. In terms of weight loss, lentils and legumes help with weight loss because of their high amount of protein and fiber which help keep you fuller for longer (10).
5. Whole Grains
Such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, millet, barley, and whole wheat bread and pasta should be part of your Buddhist diet. They are rich in fiber and this will help keep you full preventing snacking which eventually leads to weight gain. They also have other important nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium. Other benefits of whole grains include reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer (18).
Fruits should always be included in your diet because they are healthy and help satisfy your sugar cravings. They are full of essential vitamins and minerals, and are high in fiber. They also have a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants which reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes (8). Fruits such as grapes, berries, watermelon, kiwi, and pears are good weight loss.
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7. Nuts And Seeds
They are good sources of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Their health benefits include helping with satiety, which means they keep you from snacking and going over your recommended calorie intake; prevent arrhythmias, relax blood vessels to help with the ease of blood flow, and reduce blood clotting. Nuts and seeds also improve cholesterol profiles as they lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raise your good (HDL) cholesterol (12). Your Buddhist diet plan should include almonds, chia seeds, cashews, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
Since the Buddhist diet does not allow meat, eggs, fish, and poultry, it can lead to lack of enough protein in your diet. Protein is very important in any weight loss journey as it (9):
- Boosts your metabolism. Your body has to use more energy to break down and digest proteins. When you eat protein, your body will burn 80 to 100 more calories a day.
- Positively impacts your hunger and satiety hormones. Once consumed, this macronutrient increases your satiety hormone – leptin – and reduces the levels of the hunger hormone – ghrelin.
- It also prevents muscle loss and metabolic slowdown which happens when you do not consume enough protein.
To prevent a lack of enough protein in your diet, the following foods should be included in your Buddhist vegetarian diet:
- Nutritional yeast
- Soy milk
- Teff, e.t.c. (14)
Sample Of A Buddhist Diet Plan For Weight Loss
Remember that this eating plan does not allow vegetables such as onions, garlic, scallions, chives, and leeks. This means that if you would like to follow it to the letter, none of these ingredients should be included in your Buddhist diet recipes.
Meal 1 – Smoothie Bowl
1 medium-sized banana, 1.5 cups strawberry halves, 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tbsp almond butter.
Cals: 291. Fats: 11 g. Proteins: 6 g. Carbs: 48 g.
Meal 2 – Meal 2 – Mango and Black Bean Tacos
2 tomatoes, 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, 1 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 15 ounce can black beans, 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 6 gluten-free corn tortillas, 1 ripe mango, 1 avocado
The above ingredients are enough for 3 servings. One serving = 2 tacos
Calories for one serving: 420. Fats: 12 g. Protein: 14 g. Carbs: 70 g.
Meal 3 – Mushroom Soup and a Sandwich
For the soup – 0.25 olive oil, 0.5 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 100 g white button mushrooms, 100 g brown button mushrooms
For the sandwich – 2 slices protein bread, 2 cups arugula, 0.5 cups sliced radishes, 0.5 cup sliced yellow bell pepper, 0.5 cup sliced red bell pepper, 0.5 cup cherry tomatoes, 0.5 medium-sized avocado
Calories: 543. Fats: 21 g. Protein: 27 g. Carbs: 71 g.
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1254. Fats: 44 g. Protein: 47 g. Carbs: 189 g.
Meal 1 – Pineapple-blueberry smoothie
1 cup pineapple chunks, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 tbsp peanut butter
Calories: 289. Fats: 10 g, Protein: 7 g, Carbs: 44 g
Meal 2 – Tofu scramble with kale and sweet potatoes
1 medium-sized cubed sweet potato, 1 tbsp canola oil, 85 g firm tofu, 7 cherry tomatoes, 2 cups kale
Calories: 399. Fats: 20 g, Protein: 16 g, Carbs: 45 g.
Meal 3 – ‘Tuna Sushi’ Bowl
For the ‘tuna’ – 1.5 tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 0.5 tbsp fresh grated ginger, 0.5 tbsp toasted sesame oil, 0.5 tbsp sriracha, 0.5 tsp lime juice
For the rice – 120 g uncooked sushi rice, 15 ml rice vinegar, 0.5 tbsp sugar, a pinch salt
The fillings – 1/2 avocado, 1/4 cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 tbsp vegan mayonnaise, 1 tsp sriracha
Calories: 798. Fats: 32.6 g, Protein: 12.5 g, Carbs: 115.1 g.
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1486. Fats: 62.6 g, Protein: 35.5 g, Carbs: 204.1 g.
Meal 1 – Acai smoothie bowl
1 acai packet, 1 cup skim milk, 1 medium-sized banana, 0.5 cup strawberries, 0.5 cup blueberries, 15 g walnuts, 1 tbsp chia seeds
Calories: 489. Fats: 20 g. Protein: 16 g. Carbs: 66 g.
Meal 2 – Black bean spaghetti
170 g firm tofu, 2 cups green beans, 100 g mixed peppers, 51 g dry black bean spaghetti, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp sesame seeds
Calories: 496. Fats: 20 g, Protein: 45 g, Carbs: 40 g
Meal 3 – Buddha Bowl
Juice of half a large lemon, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp maple syrup, 0.5 tsp oregano, 2 cups kale, 3 tbsp chickpeas, 0.5 cups couscous, 7 cherry tomatoes
Calories: 414. Fats: 11 g, Protein: 19 g, Carbs: 66 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1399. Fats: 51 g, Protein: 80 g, Carbs: 172 g.
Meal 1 – Avocado Toast
2 slices sourdough bread, 4 tbsp refried beans, 0.5 medium-sized avocado, 5 cherry tomatoes, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Calories: 385. Fats: 14 g, Protein: 11 g, Carbs: 59 g
Meal 2 – Matar paneer (11)
1 tbsp sunflower oil, 225 g cubed paneer, small piece of ginger, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 finely sliced green chilli, 4 large ripe tomatoes, 150 g frozen peas, 1 tsp garam masala, small pack roughly chopped coriander
This recipe makes 2 servings
Calories for one serving: 544. Fats: 35 g, Protein: 35 g, Carbs: 18 g
Meal 3 – Salad
1 container plain yogurt, 1 medium-sized tomato, 2 large cucumbers, 1 large carrot, 7 small radishes, 1 tsp olive oil
Calories: 242. Fats: 6 g, Protein: 20 g, Carbs: 29 g
Meal 4 – Cheese and berries
3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup black berries
Calories: 171. Fats: 3 g, Protein: 22 g, Carbs: 15 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1342. Fats: 58 g, Protein: 88 g, Carbs: 121 g.
What Are The Pros Of A Buddhist Diet?
As seen above, this eating plan is made up of mostly vegetables, fruits and whole grains. All these foods are great for your body as they provide you with multiple vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, all which keep your body healthy and prevent you from catching many chronic illnesses. These foods are also great for preventing obesity.
This diet also frowns upon the use of alcohol and other recreational intoxicating drugs. Apart from leading to reckless behaviour, alcohol has more dangerous side effects. The consumption of alcohol, especially in excessive amounts can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. It could also lead to different types of cancer such as breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon cancer (2).
Are There Any Cons To The Buddhist Diet?
Yes, there are. As seen above, this eating plan discourages the consumption of meat, fish, poultry and eggs. This could lead to a deficiency in protein, zinc, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids (5) and iron if not carefully managed (1).
The Bottom Line: Is The Buddhist Diet Worth It For Weight Loss?
Yes, the Buddhist monk diet, if done right could help you lose weight. It is a plant-based eating plan that encourages its followers to eat much healthier food. However, you should take note that this eating plan does cut off some major protein sources.
To prevent this, you must replace these options with vegan and vegetarian friendly options. You could also consult your doctor for advice on dietary supplements to add the missing nutrients to your diet. As usual, please be sure to consult your doctor or dietitian before changing your eating plan.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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- What Can a Buddhist Drink? (n.d., buddhismzone.org)
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