Happy vegetarians

MariaHow do different diets affect meditation? While people with widely different diets may profit from daily meditation, many also reckon that what you eat has an influence on the effects you get. In particular, although some meditative cultures are meat-eating, a vegetarian diet is often considered helpful.

Better mood
From a completely different point of view, and without regard to meditative effects, a pilot study by two American nutritional experts indicates that avoiding meat and fish may improve your general mood. Thirty-nine healthy omnivores (people who eat “anything”) were randomly assigned to one of the following three groups for two weeks:

  1. a group consuming meat, fish, and poultry daily
  2. a group consuming fish 3-4 times weekly, but avoiding meat and poultry
  3. a group avoiding meat, fish, and poultry

At the beginning of the study and after two weeks, the participants filled in various questionnaires assessing their mood, including anxiety, stress, and depression levels. It turned out that after two weeks, mood scores were unchanged for the first two groups, while they improved significantly for the third group. Changing to a lacto-vegetarian diet produced almost immediate results.

Less omega 6
Other studies have suggested that changing from a meat-based diet to one based on fish would also have a positive effect on mood. In this study, however, neither the meat-eaters nor the fish-eaters saw any significant change in their basic mood – the changes only came in those who avoided meat and fish altogether.

One explanation may lie in the higher levels of arachidonic acid (AA, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) in both meat- and fish-based diets, since high intakes of AA are known to promote changes in the brain that can disturb mood. People who eat fish regularly increase their intakes of two other substances that oppose the negative effects of AA, called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This may explain why some studies have shown fish-eaters to be happier than meat-eaters. In this study, however, what counted seemed to be the lower concentrations of AA itself. At the end of the two-week session, the vegetarian group had lower concentrations of AA as well as EPA and DHA than the two other groups. The fish group had the highest levels of EPA and DHA, but apparently that was not enough to improve their mood.

It is not known, of course, whether there is a connection between the positive mood changes resulting from a lactovegetarian diet to its supposed suitability for meditative processes. It is also not known – at least not scientifically – what long-term changes would result from such a change of diet.

*Bonnie L Beezhold and Carol S Johnston: “Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: A pilot randomized controlled trial”. Nutrition Journal 2012; 11:9.


  1. Kaif

    Interesting! Having turned vegetarian in my teens, I would say that what one eats does have an effect on one’s meditation practice, but I doubt if vegetarian food can, by itself, be a decisive factor for one’s ‘happiness’ levels. Factors like work stress, the degree of family and community support, the availability of beliefs and customs that one can relate to may be far more decisive.

  2. Halvor

    I agree that other factors are more decisive, especially in the long run. But the interesting thing about this research is how it suggests that at least over a two-week period, not eating meat and fish does seem to affect one’s mood in a positive direction. It sure doesn’t mean all veggies are happy, but perhaps a little happier (or less unhappy) than they would have been if they ate meat and fish as well.

  3. Hey Themeditationblog,
    Thanks for that, In my previous article titled, “Happiness – Anxiety and Your Dire Need to Be Loved, Approved, and Accepted,” we came to the conclusion that in order for us to spare ourselves from feeling oppressive doses of anxiety, we would better understand the various meanings of the word “need” and draw specific distinctions between these different meanings.

  4. Per S.P.

    One can suggest that a perception of living more ethical makes for a greater sensation of happiness. I for one, is under the perception that a vegetarian is a more ethical lifestyle which causes less suffering to world around us( even though I don’t practice it myself). However, people who have another set of ethics and believe in them might experience the same. A farmer for example who has farm animals who is sent to the slaughter after he has provided them with a good life as possible under the circumstances, might feel very much inline with good ethics eating his easter lamb. My point is, ethics differ, but living accourding to those ones ethics might give perhaps provide happiness for the ones that believe in them even.

    Personally, I also believe that the physiological difference caused by a vegetarian diet affects the body in a positive way in terms of feeling more happy.

  5. Carina

    Interesting indeed! This reminds me of something that happened to me 5 years ago or so. I told a classmate that I was vegetarian, and he immediately said: “AH, that is why you are so calm and don´t get angry. I know that eating red meat makes one more aggressive.” Hm…

  6. Hey There Themeditationblog,
    In addition to your post I was wondering, I know that sounds indicate, but it looks to me that non-vegetarians lack compassion, information of foodstuff and farming techniques and complete appear thrilled to be oblivious and ignorant, for the reason that it does not serve their unique requirements (getting that they will free out on food items they like). Most non-vegetarians that I talk to will not confess that a cow adores its calf, or that animals benefit from their lives. This helps make me consider that non-vegetarians are significantly less smart considering that they do not believe that of these details. What do you ponder?

  7. You are doing a very good job by making people about the side effect of non vegetarian.Because I think a person who rely on vegetarian food is more healthy.

  8. I am a vegetarian too. I don’t eat meat for 3 or 4 years. And i am 15. My parents say that i should eat meat if i wont to be halthy. But anywey i don’t do this couse i think it is to bad to kill animals. Sorrry for mistakes but i am from moldova and i don’t know english very good.

  9. Jacqualine Simmelink

    I always like the vegetarian diet because it makes my body even healthier. .””*,

    Our blog

  10. Amado Propper

    Veterians seems to have healther and longer lives. –

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  11. Piedad Ratana

    One question often asked by those considering a vegetarian diet is; “Will I get enough protein? This is certainly a valid question, as protein is necessary for the building, maintenance and function of all body cells. In fact, a varied and well-balanced vegetarian diet actually provides all the protein the body needs, obtained by eating such things as whole grains, beans, nuts and soy products…

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