Vegetables are good for us, right? So what’s wrong with onions, garlic, and mushrooms? Why are these vegetables excluded from the daily yogic diet? Also for the Jains, Hare Krishnas, and devotees of other religions? To eat or not to eat?
Let’s find out.
As far as onions and garlic go, we have been told there are numerous health benefits. Garlic, for example, is used for cholesterol, immunity building and is rich in vitamins like Vitamin C. The allium oils in onions and garlic are believed to be potent medicine. Mushrooms, a fungus (not a vegetable), have long been used in Asian traditions, a good source of protein. Reishi, cordyceps, and shiitake are some of the thousands of mushroom species out there.
The primary reason these three foods are not eaten is because they stimulate the lower organs and chakras of the body, promoting the base nature of Man. Onions and garlic heat the body and for those who meditate and are seeking a higher consciousness, it is better to keep a calm nervous system and cultivate greater sensitivity to subtle energies. Food does not only affect the body but the mind itself. Body-mind-spirit.
Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic
According to Ayurveda there are three bodily constitutions – pitta, vata, and kappa. There are also three mental constitutions – sattva, rajas, and tamas, described as essence (subtle), activity, and inertia (gross). Food can also be classified as sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic, which are incorporated by the yogic diet.
Sattvic foods are fresh, light, and nourishing and support higher consciousness. Rajasic foods promote excitement, activity, and movement. Tamasic foods increase inertia, confusion, and inner darkness. These are fast food, alcohol, pork and other meats, shellfish, soy bean, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Tamasic foods may be consumed to balance an excess of rajas. Do note that even sattvic foods can become rajasic or tamasic, depending on freshness and method of preparation.
We need a mix of all three energies and states of mind depending on what is needed. Sattva for creativity and clarity of thought. Rajas for putting solutions into motion. Tamas for ending the plan when the goal has been reached. An imbalance through activity and food can lead to depression, aggression, and suffering.
The Dark Side of Onions, Garlic, and Mushrooms
As much as these three foods are touted as health foods in the West, Eastern traditions have additional insight.
The Taoists believe that the alliaceous family has a negative effect on the human body and affect five organs – lungs by onions, heart by garlic, spleen by leeks, liver by chives, and kidneys by spring onions.1
In the 1980s, Dr Bob Beck discovered in his research the effect garlic has on the human brain due to the blood-brain barrier penetration of sulphone hydroxyl ions that are poison to brain cells. In a lecture he gave in 1996 at the Whole Life Expo in Seattle, Dr Beck also shared that garlic has been known since the 1950s to decrease reaction time in pilots (during test flights) by two or three times.2
The reason some people do not consume mushrooms is because it is a fungus and uses decomposing materials to grow. Unlike plants that use chlorophyll to photosynthesize light, mushrooms are considered tamasic and lack light and life force.
For these reasons, the Yogic diet does not normally include onions, garlic, and mushrooms. While not taken as food, onions and garlic are taken as medicine. Food definitely affects the body and mind and it is important to be aware of the effect of the foods we choose to consume and to adjust our diet accordingly.
1Diet for Health and Higher Consciousness by Dada Shiilabhadrananda. Ananda Marga Publications. 2009. p14.