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Why is Garlic Not Considered Vegetarian?


Reading Time: 7 minutes

Garlic is a vegetable belonging to the alliaceous family. Other alliaceous plants include onions, chives, leeks, and shallots. But despite being plants, the five pungent roots are not considered vegetarian.

People base strict vegetarian diets on their cultural, spiritual, and religious beliefs. The beliefs tie onions and garlic to negative actions and feelings and consider them harmful to man as a living creature.

Even though considered non-vegetarian, root vegetables have multiple medicinal properties. So, traditional vegetarians value garlic for its ability to treat diseases in the body but not as a food.

So, why are onions and garlic considered non-vegetarian? This article discusses why these root vegetables are forbidden in a vegetarian diet.

What are the Medicinal Properties of Onion and Garlic?

Alliaceous plants in the onion and garlic category are great for keeping the human body in good health. Raw or cooked food supplies the body with specific active ingredients that fight disease, just like modern medicine. Here is a breakdown of some of the health benefits of plants in the onion and garlic category.

Health Benefits of Garlic

  • When eaten raw, garlic reduces blood cholesterol levels by curtailing its production in the liver.
  • Garlic thins the blood and reduces blood pressure.
  • Eating garlic cloves boots the immune system and prevents ailments such as the common cold.
  • Garlic has active ingredients that help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Pungent roots in the onion and garlic category have antioxidants, which fight brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • It fights heart disease by thinning the blood and reducing the likelihood of blood clots.

Onion Health Benefits

  • A nutrient-packed superfood
  • Contains cancer-fighting compounds
  • Controls blood sugar levels
  • A good source of antioxidants
  • Feature useful antibacterial properties
  • Great for increasing bone density

Religions That Forbid Onions and Garlic in Their Diets

Several religions forbid onions and garlic because the two vegetables interfere with their spiritual goals. Spiritual diets consist only of foods in the sattvic category to which onions and garlic do not belong. The following are the religions that forbid the onion and garlic diet:

1. Buddhism

Those who conform to the Buddhist diet avoid onions and garlic like the plague. Life in this religion revolves around nature, with human beings trying to gain self-realization by balancing ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ – two opposite energy systems.

The ideal Buddhist diet consists of foods that correlate closely with the amount of energy once they enter the body. However, onions and garlic interfere with the power required by adherents to ascend the spiritual ladder.

Since they aren’t allowed to consume meat, Buddhists are lacto egetarians. They eat dairy products but avoid meat, poultry, and eggs in their diets. However, some less-restrictive forms of the Buddhist diet allow people to eat meat, poultry, and eggs.

There are several reasons why Buddhists don’t include onions in their diet, including the following:

  • Eating raw garlic increases anger and pushes one into unnecessary arguments
  • When ingested raw or cooked, garlic arouses sinful desires
  • Both raw and cooked garlic is an aphrodisiac that increases libido
  • Onions and garlic may interfere with an individual’s intentions to pursue peaceful meditation
  • Bad breath due to consuming onion and garlic can drive away from the good spirits

Foods to Eat or Avoid

Even though a Buddhist diet may not necessarily be vegetarian, adherents are mostly lacto vegetarians. Here are the foods to eat:

Legumes: Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas

  • Dairy: Milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • Grains: Rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and bread
  • Vegetables: Peppers, asparagus, zucchini, cucumber, green beans, tomatoes, broccoli
  • Nuts: Pistachios, pecans, walnuts, and almonds
  • Starchy Vegetables: Cassava, peas, corn, and potatoes
  • Oils: Canola oil, flaxseed oil, and olive oil

However, there are several foods which you must avoid. They include the following:

  • Alcohol: Spirits, wine, and beer
  • Fish: Tuna, trout, tilapia, cod, herring, and salmon
  • Spices and Pungent Spices: Leeks, chives, scallions, garlic, and onions
  • Meat: Lamb, pork, veal, and beef
  • Poultry and Eggs: Chicken, eggs, duck, turkey, pheasant, and quail

2. Hinduism

According to the Hindu tradition, four elements (air, earth, fire, and water) make up the human body. Balancing these elements helps individuals keep healthy lives. In the Hindu religion, people should only eat sattvic foods, which helps maintain balance in the body.

Hindus believe that all creatures deserve respect and compassion regardless of whether they are animals or humans. Therefore, it is one of the religions that encourage the observance of a strict vegetarian diet. Hinduism is practiced in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

There are many reasons why Hindus don’t eat onion and garlic vegetables in their diet. Here is a look at some of the most common reasons:

Tamasic Food

Hindus avoid onion and garlic because they consider them tamasic. Ayurveda groups foods into three main categories – tamasic, sattvic, and rajasic. Tamasic food is hated because it increases disease, dullness, laziness, and anger. Yet Hinduism seeks to promote non-violence.

Foul Smell

Have you ever eaten the two pungent roots raw? They cause a foul smell in the mouth and the rest of the body when you sweat. Hinduism places a premium on how one smells, especially when meeting with sadhus. So, Hindus avoid garlic because they want to maintain a good smell.

Increase Libido

Hindus consider anger, greed, and sex as humanity’s main enemies. Garlic may increase passion and sexual desire and make humans angry. Therefore, most Hindu adherents avoid eating onions and garlic.

Distracting the Mind

Hindu devotees avoid anything that can sway their focus from spiritual goals. A good example is a practicing bhakti yogi who wants to prevent increased sexual desire or too much bodily heat. Even when eaten cooked, onions and garlic tend to dull the mind and decrease decision-making power.

3. Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian healing practice that involves the use of food as medicine. It is a 5000-year-old practice that seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle. Like any other food, garlic is a source of treatment in Ayurveda.

According to the ayurvedic practice, people can avoid medicine by using food as medicine. It focuses on one’s diet, quality of food, time of eating, and eating companions. For example, eating a mixture of garlic and honey in winter keeps the body warm and wards off the common cold.

However, eating the same combination of foods in summer can create extra heat in the gut and make you uncomfortable. Therefore, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of garlic in summer while encouraging it in winter.

4. Jainism

Jainists believe in respecting all living things. Its proponents seek to promote all living things’ peaceful and harmonious existence. To them, all things are interconnected.

In Jainism, the ideal diet discourages non-violence toward all forms of creatures. As humans, we should avoid all verbal, mental, and physical actions against other living things.

In the Jain vegetarian diet, adherents are discouraged from consuming root vegetables to avoid injuring the microorganisms and insects living among the vegetables. However, since onions and garlic fall in that category, they should not be destroyed.

Other forbidden root vegetables include potatoes, beets, carrots, rutabagas, yams, leeks, turnips, ginger, radishes, and scallions. There are also other foods that Jains eliminate from their diet due to the need to avoid harming other creatures and the planet. They include the following:

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

Why Is Onion and Garlic Non-Vegetarian?

Various religious groups do not eat onion and garlic. But is that the reason for it not being vegetarian. Onion and garlic have similar properties, given that they come from the allium family of plants.

In Hinduism, non-vegetarian foods like poultry, fish, eggs, and meat are tamasic bhajan. On the other hand, earth-growing foods like garlic and onions affect the body the same way. That’s why they’re called tamasic.

However, there are additional reasons why garlic is not vegetarian. The story advanced by Rahu Ketu about onion and garlic being grown from cow meat and bones must have had an enormous effect. However, people may have their reasons not to eat garlic.

In the Samudra Manthan era, venom was the first thing to come out. Lord Shiva consumed the venom and changed his name to Neel Kanth.

Amrit was the last thing to come out. Soon, a fight broke out between Asur and Dev over Amrit. In his wisdom, lord Vishnu decided to divide the Amrat between Asur and Dev. Lord Vishnu used a Mohini avatar to give wine to Asur and Amrit to Dev.

An Asur called Swarbhanu had doubts, so he changed his form and hid between the Chandrama and Surya. However, once he drank the Amrit, he became recognizable to Chandra, and Surya recognized him and informed lord Vishnu about it.

Lord Vishnu used Sudarshan Chakra to slit his throat. Once nectar reached his throat, both pairs of the cut body regained life. Rahu is the head, while Ketu is the part with the body.

So, how does this relate to onions and garlic not being considered vegetarian? Legend has it that the origin of garlic onion is the blood dripping from Swarbhanu’s neck. Therefore, garlic contains a demon’s blood. So, if you eat onions and garlic, you might end up with demonic tendencies.

What Constitutes a Vegetarian Diet?

Eating vegetarian food results in much more than environmental and ethical benefits. Instead, it can also result in a reduced risk of chronic disease. People eat vegetarian diets for many reasons, including adherence to religion and personal reasons.

The following are the most common types of vegetarian diets:

  • Lacto-Vegetarian Diet: The diet eliminates poultry, meat, fish, and eggs. However, people can still eat dairy products.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: An ovo-vegetarian diet removes poultry, fish, meat, and dairy products but allows the consumption of eggs.
  • Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: It eliminates poultry, fish, and meat. However, people can eat eggs and dairy products.
  • Vegan Diet: It eliminates poultry, eggs, meat, and dairy products. It also doesn’t allow animal-derived products like honey.
  • Pescatarian Diet: It removes meat and poultry but may allow fish. Sometimes it may allow eggs and dairy products.
  • Flexitarian Diet: This is primarily a vegetarian diet incorporating occasional poultry, meat, and fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Onion and Garlic Vegan?

Onions and garlic belong to the allium family. So even though they are non-vegetarian, they’re part of the vegan diet.

Does Climate Make Some People Avoid Onions and Garlic?

Yes. Some people avoid garlic due to harsh weather conditions such as the monsoon, making it challenging to prevent stored onions and garlic from rotting.

Can Onions and Garlic Interfere With Concentration?

People avoid eating onions and garlic because they can make it difficult to concentrate. So likewise, religious people seek to avoid all things that can cause disturbance and make it difficult for them not to focus. That way, they can fast, meditate, and study scripture unhindered.

Does Ayurveda Allow the Consumption of Onions and Garlic?

According to the ayurvedic practice, garlic and onions are tamasic and should not be consumed. Instead, they encourage the consumption of sattvic foods.

Why Do Hindus Prohibit Onions and Garlic?

Hindus do not allow the consumption of onions, garlic, and mushrooms. They consider these foods impure for being grown in impure settings. Besides, onions and garlic can cause a change of behavior and can potentially increase one’s libido.

Final Thoughts

Onions and garlic have lots of medicinal benefits. However, if you’re on a vegetarian diet, these allium plants are not for you. Avoiding these vegetables can help you meet your spiritual goals, especially if you’re Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. However, you can eat onions and garlic freely if you’re on a vegan diet.