The Unique Sacrifices of the Jain Diet

The Jain diet goes much further than a standard vegetarian one.

You might think that a Jain vegetarian diet would be easy, after all, so many people nowadays are turning vegetarian, prompting restaurants and food manufacturers to offer more options without animal products. However, following a Jain diet presents a unique set of problems which forbids followers from consuming many of the foods that the rest of us simply take for granted.

Jainism goes much further than standard vegetarianism. As well as not eating meat, gelatin, and eggs, those following a Jain diet are also forbidden from eating anything which grows underground. Jainism is founded on a philosophy of non-violence, which extends to not committing violence against plants. Since bulbs have the potential to sprout and grow, Jains see the plucking of such vegetables from the ground as killing the entire plant, and therefore refuse to eat them.

Jains are also very careful about not consuming any insects accidentally. The FDA actually allows a certain (albeit tiny) proportion of bug parts in particular pieces of food- something which prevents those of a Jain diet from eating those types of food. This rule against eating insects also brings with it a longstanding tradition of not eating food outside of daylight hours, where in the days before electricity one would not be able to check properly whether or not any small insects had landed on food which could then be accidentally consumed. While technology has changed, Jains still stick by their tradition, and must therefore be careful about when they consume their food, as well as what is in it.

However, Jains have found many ways around things in order to still get a delicious, healthy diet that conforms to their beliefs. For example, they replace potatoes with plantains in recipes, and use a variety of spices to give their foods some of the flavors that we take for granted in our everyday food. Being Jain isn't easy, but its followers are all determined not to go hungry.

Anyone who has attempted even a regular vegetarian diet can tell you how difficult it can be to find food which fits in with your dietary requirements. With FDA regulations so geared towards the meat industry, Jains in America are finding it incredibly difficult to find food which caters to their requirements. Next time you go to the grocery store, spare a thought for Jains, and think about how you would cope if you had to follow such a diet.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter