Gandhijis Experiments with Food


If a person's behaviour is dependent on the food he eats, what did Mahatma Gandhi eat to make him the person he was? Radhika Patil sheds some light


Truth, ahimsa and non-violence have become synonymous with the name of the father of our nation. When we reminisce about Gandhiji, we tend to think only of these factors and ignore the other facets of his persona. But one facet of his life that has fascinated many is his adherence to a strict diet and controlled food intake. Gandhiji was capable of fasting over long periods of time and simultaneously managed to undertake long marches to protest British diktats or show disobedience.

Doesn't it make you wonder where he drew energy from? Most people are aware of the fact that Gandhiji was a strict vegetarian, but a lesser-known fact is that as a child, young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did experiment with non-vegetarian food at the persistence of his childhood friend, only to give it up completely over time.

He turned to vegetarianism and also experimented with a fruitarian diet (a diet consisting of only fruit). His autobiography has mentioned how he decided to live on a pure fruit diet, that too one composed of the cheapest fruits possible - those which could be purchased by poor Indians. His diet consisted of raw groundnuts, bananas, dates and lemons. He also abhorred milk and milk products and lived for six years without consuming any dairy products. However, this changed when doctors forced him to consume milk and milk products after a prolonged illness. Gandhiji began drinking milk again, but only goat's milk.

We probably have something to learn from Gandhiji's choice. Available data suggests that over 440 million goats worldwide produce an estimated 4.8 million tons of milk, which gets consumed or converted into cheese. Nutritionists and dieticians who have been studying dietary habits have been warning people about the damaging effects of some chemicals like xanthine oxidase found in cow's milk, which may cause damage to the heart and arteries. On the other hand, chemicals like glycerol ethers are found in higher concentration in goat's milk and this is an important source of nutrition for infants. Goat's milk also has greater amounts of vitamin A, as well as minerals, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine and manganese.

Just like Gandhism or Gandhigiri, is there a possibility of a 'Gandhian Diet' being followed in the years to come? A diet which would be environmentally acceptable and based on economical (low-cost) products, which would not pinch the pockets of the poor person and lead him to good health.

Here is one interpretation of Gandhiji's daily diet, which is believed to have been his source of strength and noble thoughts. It is the diet on which he worked for 35 years, constantly reevaluating and improving it for himself to make him the man that he was and the man that he is known to be:

- 1litre goat's or cow's milk

- 170gms cereals

- 85gms leafy vegetables

- 140gms other vegetables

- 30gms raw vegetables

- 40gms clarified butter or ghee

- 60gms butter

- 40gms jaggery or sugar

- fruits according to one's taste

- 2 sour limes (juice taken with vegetables or in water, cold or hot)

- salt according to taste



- Gandhiji's body mass index (BMI) was 17.7. BMI is the ratio of a person's weight to his height. Though it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat, it is used to estimate a healthy body weight in relation to a person's height. With a BMI of 17.7, Gandhiji fell into the underweight bracket.

- Non-vegetarian food causes many diseases such as constipation, piles, gall bladder stones, colon cancer, indigestion, ulcers and kidney failure.

- Sugar goes directly into the blood and raises the sugar level. Excess sugar gets converted into calories or fat. Jaggery, however, takes more time to process, thus resulting in a slower rise in the body's sugar level.

- Scientific experiments conducted on prisoners have proved that inmates who were put on a vegetarian diet over a period of six months began to refrain from aggressive behaviour. On reverting to a non-vegetarian diet, they showed a behaviour change for the worse.