It is a common misconception that following Ayurvedic lifestyle means saying good bye to your favorite meat dishes. Following Ayurveda does not mean following vegetarian or vegan diet for life.
According to Ayurveda, anything in excess causes "Ama" (toxins) and the build up of toxins is considered poison whereas anything in moderation is considered as medicine. So, while consumption of meat is fine, limit the quantity of meat consumption adding up more veggies as a side. Always prefer having organic, hormone-free, home cooked meat whenever possible. So, always choose quality over quantity.
When to Eat Meat?
The best time of day to eat meat is lunch. Agni, the digestive fire, is strongest between 11am and 2 pm. Your body can handle the heavy nature of meat most efficiently at this time of day.
Any food, vegetarian or non-vegetarian once cooked should be consumed within 24 hours. Cooked food if kept for more than 24 hours and then reheated for consumption is harmful to the body.
How to Eat Meat?
Meat is heavy, so spice it while cooking to aid your body in digestion. Sprinkle your meat with rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, cinnamon while cooking or marinating. Aromatic spices aid protein digestion.
If your meat soup, bone-broth, casserole or meat-ball recipe doesn’t have turmeric in it, just add a little bit to aid digestion – 1/4 tsp should do. Cooking with simple spices or consuming in the form of soup is advocated in Ayurvedic texts.
The trick is to prepare meat in a way that makes it lighter and easier to digest and absorbed well and to prepare it with other sattvic food to help lighten your ‘tamas load’. Meat soups and bone broths are so nourishing and comforting! They are the perfect recovery food.
Slow-cooked meat casseroles are the second best option for digestion-friendly meat eating. The third best choices are tasty morsels cooked with minced meat (think meat balls slowly sautéed in stock). Lighter, more active animals have lighter meats while heavier animals have heavier, fattier meats. From lightest to heaviest: fish, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, beef and finally, pork. Free range animals are lighter than caged animal meats and the lighter the meat, the easier it is to digest. Free range meat will also be slightly less tamasic because the animal has generally lived a more contented life.
Commonly ate meat and their properties according to Ayurveda:
Fish: Hot and heavy, decreases the Vata Dosha and increases the strength. The fish meat can increase the unnecessary Kapha Dosha if cooked with lots of butter or oil so think of having grilled fish instead of fish baked with loads of butter to reduce Kapha.
Goat : Goat meat is said to be the most compatible of human tissues and it is considered best in the form of soup. This is the only type of red meat Ayurveda allows on regular basis or as medicinal diet.
Chicken : The chicken meat increases the strength and the muscle mass. It is helpful to pacify the Vata dosha.
Pork: Pork meat is heavy to digest and the pork fat is highly difficult to digest. Pork meat if digested properly is said to be strengthening one and useful to increase weight.
Beef: Heavy to digest, aphrodisiac, increases the muscle mass and strength. Sleep enhancing is its peculiar property.
Rabbit: heavy to digest, hot and increases strength. Beneficial for Vata dosha and is supposed to be aphrodisiac.
Sheep: Cold in Guna (property) and increases the muscle strength ,heavy to digest.
Avoid eating two types of meat together (for example, chicken and bacon) and never combine with dairy products like cheese or cream sauces. The milk will curdle and the heaviness of this combination will suppress your digestive fire.
Remember, having meat promotes "Tamas" guna instead of "Satva" guna. Tamas (Sanskrit: तमस् tamas "darkness") is one of the three Gunas (tendencies, qualities, attributes). The other two qualities are rajas (passion and activity) and sattva (purity, goodness). Tamas is the quality of inertia, inactivity, dullness, or lethargy.
So, as I mentioned at the beginning of my article, enjoy your meat but in moderation and with spices. Charak Samhita clearly mention the use of meat and meat broth multiple times when describing various treatments (typically with Vata disorders).
Always listen to their body. If you become vegetarian (or vegan) and after a while notice health issues such as hair loss, loss of menstruation, anemia, recurring colds and flu, or chronic exhaustion, these are all indicators that you may need to introduce meat (at least medicinally) back into your life. Alternatively, if one eats meat fairly often and is suffering from slow digestion, slow metabolism and consistent weight gain, this may be an indicator that you need to slow down or limit your meat intake.