Kitchen Tips

Is the Buddhist Diet the Way to Culinary Enlightenment?

These days, the health benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well observed in the Western world, but there are other ways the Buddhist culture can bring a sense of wellbeing into your life.

While we’re not suggesting you become a full-blown vegetarian or ditch the garlic and onion from your kitchen repertoire, there are some key Buddhist tenets that can be incorporated into your cooking. Discover why the Buddhist diet may hold the key to dietary enlightenment.

1. Forgo meat once a week

We’re the first to admit that we’re locked in a love affair with pork, chicken and beef, so following a strict vegetarian diet may not work for everyone. Instead, in the interest of your health, the environment and your wallet, why not have a few meat-free days each month? Follow the lead of many practicing Buddhists in Thailand by adhering to a vegetarian diet two days a month. Or, make meat-free Monday your new mantra and embrace vegetarianism on a casual basis. Next Monday, why not skip the steak and try this recipe for stir-fried vegetables with cashews instead?

Stir fried vegetables with cashews
Stir fried vegetables with cashews

2. Seek balance

Korean and Japanese Buddhists aim for a balance of the five colours when preparing a Buddhist meal. By “eating the rainbow” you are ensuring your body gets all the nutrients it needs through a variety of ingredients. There’s a reason that Buddha Bowl at your local health-food shop is so colourful!

Korean Gimbap

3. Ease off the garlic, onion and leeks

Buddhists avoid garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions and chives, known as the “pungent roots”, as they are said to bring distemper when eaten raw, and ignite passions when cooked. Now, this is one we really struggle with, as we love adding these “pungent roots”to pretty much everything. But a magical thing happens when you do omit – or reduce – the amount of garlic and onion in your cooking: the flavour of the more delicate ingredients, such as the vegetables or tofu, is allowed to shine. Try more gentle seasonings such as ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce instead.

4. Be thankful and mindful

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Buddhist diet is the focus on being grateful for what you have been given and being mindful of every bite. Start by shopping for free-range and seasonal ingredients, visiting your local growers’ marketand supporting local farmers where possible. When it’s time to eat, switch off the TV and really think about each ingredient that has been placed in front of you. And rather than mindlessly finishing everything on your plate, consume only what you need – or, even better, follow the Japanese practice of stopping when you are 80% full.

Salmon Steak with Wasabi Sauce and Soba Noodles Recipe

5. Avoid alcohol

As we gear up for party season, why not give your liver a break by taking a week or two off booze. Substitute your after-work glass of wine with a sparkling mineral water flavoured with mint leaves, fresh lime and a splash of elderflower cordial, or whip up a batch of kombucha for improved gut health. Your body, mind and bank account will thank you later.

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