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Why Do Some Vegetarians Avoid Garlic and Onions?


Reading Time: 7 minutes

In many countries, onion and garlic are essential in staple dishes. But not everyone eats onion and garlic. For example, vegetarians avoid alliaceous plants such as garlic, onion, shallots, and shives for various reasons.

Yet, according to India’s classic medicinal science, these root vegetables have several medicinal properties. Moreover, modern medicine has corroborated these findings, alluding to the importance of alliaceous plants.

But if onions and garlic are beneficial, why do vegetarians avoid eating them? This article explains why practitioners of the Hindu Religion and other faiths avoid alliaceous plants in their diet.

Medicinal Properties of Onion and Garlic

Onions and garlic are beneficial vegetables with chemical compounds that help maintain good health in the human body. The following are some of the health benefits of onion and garlic:

How Garlic Promotes Good Health

Reducing Blood Cholesterol: When eaten raw, garlic reduces the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. In addition, it stops the liver from producing cholesterol.

Boosting Immunity: Garlic promotes good health by boosting the immune system. Therefore, it prevents the common cold and other health problems.

Promoting Heart Health: Garlic contains chemicals that thin the blood, remove blood clots, and regulate blood pressure.

Anti-Inflammation: Garlic contains antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress, helping fight the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

How Onion Promotes Good Health?

  • Contains useful antioxidants
  • It has high nutritional value and minimum calories
  • Contains anti-cancer compounds
  • Controls and regulates high blood pressure
  • It has chemicals that help increase bone density
  • Onion has anti-bacterial properties

Religions That Don’t Allow Onion and Garlic

Most people avoid consuming pungent vegetables because of their religious beliefs and traditional medical practice. A spiritual diet system forbids practitioners from eating root vegetables. So, there’s a specific diet that you can take based on the following:

  • You’re striving to meet specific spiritual goals
  • People practicing meditation and other spiritual rituals
  • You follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc.
  • You’re a practicing bhakti yogi

People have reasons not to eat onion and garlic in each of these categories. The following are the religious and traditional belief systems that forbid people from eating onion and garlic:

1. Hindu Religion

One of the beliefs of the Hindu Religion is that the body consists of natural elements like earth, water, air, and fire. Therefore, from the food to other practices, Hindus must maintain a perfect balance of these elements in all four aspects.

Besides, Hindus believe that humans should show compassion and respect to all of the creatures of God. That includes humans and animals. The following are the reasons why Hindus don’t consider onion and garlic part of vegetarian food:

Both Onions and Garlic are Tamasic Foods

Hindus consider onions and garlic tamasic foods. Hindus should eat only sattvic foods of the three categories – tamasic, sattvic, and rajasic. Foods in the sattvic category not only create balance bus are spiritually significant.

Unlike tamasic foods, which increase anger, dullness, laziness, and disease, sattvic foods have a balancing effect. However, rajasic food has similar products to their tamasic counterparts. Therefore, they avoid rajasic and tamasic foods.

Increase Passion

When eaten raw or cooked, onions and garlic increase passion and sexual desire. Moreover, when consumed, the ingredients produce excessive heat in the body, taking people away from the prescribed spiritual path. So, savory vegetables are forbidden from the line-up of foods the Hindu Religion allows.

Foul Smell

Eating raw onion and garlic causes a foul odor in the mouth and body by sweating. An essential part of Hindu spirituality has to do with how you smell. So, when Hindus go out to meet sadhus and other people with spiritual authority, they must be mindful of their body odor.

That’s why they consider onion and garlic to be non-veg. Also, Hindus offer their gods perfume, flowers, and burning incense sticks to neutralize any foul odors.

Preventing the Mind from Focusing

Besides animal products, the Hindu Religion also forbids onion and garlic because these ingredients are considered impure. Onions and garlic irritate and constrain the mind, preventing one from focusing on their spirituality.

This is not just an ancient recommendation of Hinduism. Even today, before taking a flight, airplane captains are advised not to eat foods from the allium family at least 72 hours before. It can diminish the captain’s decision-making power in emergencies, endangering the lives of passengers.

2. Ayurveda

Ayurveda is India’s classic medical science. The word Ayurveda consists of two parts ‘Ayush,’ meaning life, and ‘Veda,’ meaning science. So, Ayurveda means the ‘science of life.’

The practice of Ayurveda is over 5,000 years old. It seeks to promote healthy living right from the food you consume.

According to Ayurveda, onions and garlic have various medicinal properties. But every food is therapeutic, according to Ayurveda. Therefore, people should eat garlic and onions in moderate quantities.

Contrary to modern medicine, which prescribes treatment for diseases, Ayurveda advises people to eat food as medicine. So, it defines what to eat, when to eat, with who to eat, and how much to eat.

For example, according to ayurvedic practice, eating a mixture of honey and garlic in winter keeps the body warm. It also protects from fever and the common cold.

However, the same combination in the summer can arouse feelings of discomfort by making the gut heated up. So, onions and garlic aren’t explicitly forbidden in Ayurveda.

3. Buddhism

Buddhists believe in the central role of nature in human life. The ultimate goal is to balance yin and yang – two opposing energy systems.

According to the Buddhist faith, selecting the food you eat carefully is critical. That’s because the choice of food correlates with the energy levels within the body. As a result, it impacts the power you need to climb the spiritual ladder.

Buddhists have strict vegetarianism in which people do not eat root vegetables like onions and garlic. This is because these ingredients are integral to the five pungent foods Buddhists consider taboo.

Why Buddhists Don’t Consume Onions and Garlic

In Buddhism, eating alliaceous vegetables negatively affects the body and can increase passion and sinful desires. Besides, those who eat onions kill ground creatures like grubs and worms, which live in the vegetables.

The following are some of the beliefs advanced by Buddhists in their advice not to eat plants in the allium family:

  • Eating onions and garlic raw increases anger, promoting unnecessary arguments.
  • When eaten cooked, onions and garlic arouse sinful desires
  • Eating onion and garlic increases an individual’s sexual desire and libido
  • A person who has consumed garlic and onions may have a foul smell, driving away the good spirits
  • Both onions and garlic can disturb the peacefulness one requires during meditation

What Are the Five Pungent Foods?

Other foods that belong to the alliaceous family and which are considered non-veg and not consumed by Jains include garlic, onions, scallions, chives, and leeks

4. Jainism

Jainism is a religion that seeks to promote respect for all life. According to Jainism, all living things should exist in peace and harmony. Therefore, harming any living thing is equivalent to harming humans since all are interconnected.

Diet in the Jain Religion promotes non-violence towards all living creatures. All living things, animals, or plants deserve protection against physical, verbal, and mental abuse.

Why Jainism Forbids Eating Onions and Garlic

Jains are lacto-vegetarians and consume dairy products. Jainism forbids root vegetables such as onion and garlic due to the likelihood of injuring and harming microorganisms and insects living in the veggies.

Other forbidden alliaceous plants and root vegetables include radishes, scallions, ginger, onions, garlic, leeks, rutabagas, turnips, beets, carrots, and yams. Therefore the diet is vegan-friendly.

Other Foods Forbidden by Jainism

There are many other foods that Jains eliminate from their vegetarian diet due to possible adverse effects on some living creatures. The following are the foods you may not include in your vegetarian diet if you have Jain beliefs:

  • Meat
  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Seafood
  • Decaying foods
  • Green vegetables at certain times
  • Limited water consumption

Types of Vegetarian Diets

Vegetarianism is a popular diet that people worldwide observe because of religious, environmental, and health reasons.

The vegetarian diet has many variations based on the foods it or not allow. On one extreme are diets that would enable some animal products. However, on the other end are diets that eliminate all animal products.

Here are some of the most common vegetarian diets practiced around the world:

1. Veganism

Veganism is the strictest variation of the vegetarian diet since it requires the total elimination of all animal products, whether or not their production leads to animal slaughter. Thus, it limits the consumption of meat, seafood, honey, dairy, eggs, and gelatin.

It is more of a lifestyle and not a diet in the strict sense. Veganism condemns all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation and includes elements like entertainment, science, fashion, etc.

The vegan diet includes legumes, grains, tempeh, and tofu for protein. Although these foods contain high-quality protein, they may not adequately supply all the protein you need.

2. Lacto-Vegetarianism

Lacto-vegetarians forbid meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry from their diets. However, they include butter, yogurt, cheese, and milk. With this diet, practitioners seek to maintain a healthy diet and protect the environment.

By consuming dairy, they benefit from more vitamin B12, protein, and calcium. However, they might not get enough iron. Therefore, they should be mindful of their veggies and other foods.

3. Ovo-Vegetarianism

Ovo-vegetarians eliminate meat, seafood, dairy, and poultry from their diet. However, they eat eggs and other foods prepared using eggs.

Eggs provide high-quality protein, vitamin B12, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. However, due to the elimination of dairy from their diet, ovo-vegetarians miss out on one of the best sources of calcium. Therefore, they should consider supplementing it.

4. Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarianism

The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet eliminates meat, seafood, poultry, and their by-products. In addition, it prohibits people from eating any food resulting from animal slaughter. In the strictest sense, this is the standard vegetarian diet.

After eliminating animal products, the diet promotes the consumption of legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, eggs, and dairy.

Therefore, lacto-ovo-vegetarians do not condone animal slaughter for food. However, they eat eggs and dairy if the producing animals receive good treatment.

5. Pescatarianism

The vegetarian diet involves a lot of pick-and-mix, with plant-based products being a constant. Even though they do not eat meat and poultry, pescatarians eat fish and other types of seafood. They may also eat eggs and dairy.

Apart from seafood, pescatarians eat plant foods like veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Therefore, pescatarians can quickly meet their iodine and protein requirements by including seafood in their diet.

6. Flexitarianism

You’ll predominantly find plant-based foods and some meat and animal products in a flexitarian diet. However, these vegetarians eat meat in moderation. Compared to the other forms of vegetarianism, this is the most flexible.

Therefore, a flexitarian diet is based on the following principles:

  • gives priority to vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables
  • most of the protein comes from plants instead of animals
  • maintain flexibility by occasionally eating some animal products
  • limiting added sweeteners and sugar
  • aims at eating as few processed foods as possible

So Why Are Onion and Garlic Non-Vegetarian?

The short answer is that both have the same properties, falling under tamasic foods since their effect is similar to that of meat, fish, and eggs. However, according to the Hindu Religion, a story advances the view that garlic is derived from a cow’s meat and bones.

Garlic and onion grew due to a blood drop from the neck of the Hindu demon, Swarbhanu. Therefore, onion and garlic have the same properties as nectar and shouldn’t be consumed.


Why Do Some Vegetarians Not Eat Onion and Garlic?

Some vegetarians do not eat onion and garlic because of their religious beliefs. For example, many conform to Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism. Also, some practitioners of traditional Indian medicine do not eat onion and garlic.

Why Can’t Some Indian Vegetarians Eat Onions and Garlic?

Some Indian vegetarians cannot eat onions and garlic because the two vegetables are considered tamasic foods with the effects of meat, eggs, poultry, and fish.

Why Are Onion and Garlic Not Allowed?

Onion and garlic are not allowed in the vegetarian diet due to their effects on the body. In addition, the two vegetables increase sexual desire and may cause anger. In many eastern religions, these effects draw one away from their religious goals.