Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals

: 2015  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Gandhian nutrition

Sanjay Kalra1, Manash P Baruah2, Banshi Saboo3,  
1 Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and Bharti Research Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Karnal, Haryana, India
2 Department of Endocrinology, Excel Centre Hospitals, Guwahati, Assam, India
3 Department of Medicine, Dia-Care, Ahmedabad, India

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Kalra
Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and Bharti Research Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Karnal, Haryana 132 001

How to cite this article:
Kalra S, Baruah MP, Saboo B. Gandhian nutrition.J Med Nutr Nutraceut 2015;4:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Kalra S, Baruah MP, Saboo B. Gandhian nutrition. J Med Nutr Nutraceut [serial online] 2015 [cited 2024 Mar 3 ];4:1-2
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Full Text

Mahatma Gandhi, known as Father of the Indian Nation, was a multifaceted personality. A lawyer, human rights campaigner, philosopher, as well as an activist. Mahatma Gandhi wrote and spoke upon a multitude of social, political, and economic issues: His contribution to Indian polity cannot be over emphasized. These achievements overshadow his equally important thoughts on health and nutrition. In 1906, Mahatma Gandhi penned a series of articles entitled "Guide to Health." In 1942, he wrote a booklet called "Key to Health," in which he propounded his thoughts on health and nutrition. [1]

Earlier commentators mention that "Gandhiji looks upon the problem of health from a novel point of view, which is very different from the view held by the modern medical science." In fact, Gandhiji's definition of health, and the public health message, that he spread, have been echoed by modern medical science in recent decades. The definition of health propounded by him in 1906 for example, is uncannily similar to the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition, proposed 50 years later.

"In health, means body ease. He is a healthy man whose body is free from all diseases: He carries on his normal activities without fatigue- His mind and his senses are in a state of harmony and poise". [1]

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." [2]

Similarly, Gandhi thoughts precede the supposedly "modern" bio-psychosocial model by half a century. "A happy working of the human machine depends upon harmonious activity of the various component parts."

In this editorial, we focus upon Mahatma Gandhi's views related to nutrition. We analyze the current relevance of Gandhian nutrition, keeping in mind the pandemic of metabolic disease that the world is facing.


Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged that water is a necessity of life, and recommended a daily intake of 5 lbs (2000 ml) of "water or other liquid food." He reiterated the need for pure drinking water, and proposed boiling as a means of water purification. This was, and is important for hot climates such as India, where dehydration, heat exhaustion, and water-borne diseases are endemic.


Supporting the notion "food is life," Mahatma Gandhi made significant effort to describe a healthy diet. He classified egg as a vegetarian food, as they are sterile, and clearly categorized milk as an animal product. He suggested milk as an alternative to flesh foods: "It serves the purpose of meat to a very large extent."

Though clearly in favor of "pure vegetarian diet," he quoted his experience to suggest that milk and milk products must be included in vegetarian diet. At the same time, he expressed the hope researchers would be able to find in the "vast vegetable kingdom," a suitable substitute for milk and meat.

Mahatma Gandhi differentiated between various protein rich foods. He claimed that animal proteins are more easily digestible and assimilable, and suggested that milk and eggs are superior to meat. He supported the use of skimmed milk to reduce cost, while maintaining food quality. Mahatma Gandhi highlighted the importance of a high "roughage" diet, and mentioned the need to avoid "sieving of the flour" or removal of pericarp (bhusi) of cereals. He encouraged the use of "pericarp of rice" or "rice polishing," which we now appreciate as rice bran. He encouraged use of vegetables and seasonal fruits, including raw salads.

Mahatma Gandhi strongly recommended a limited quantity of fat and sugar. He recommended judicious use of ghee, followed by fresh, hand pressed "sweet oil," groundnut oil, or cocoa-nut oil. At the same time, he cautioned against excessive consumption of ghee and sweet meats.

The use of "small quantities" of common salt is supported in Gandhian nutrition, but consumption of condiments such as chillies, pepper, turmeric, coriander, caraway, mustard, methi, and asafoetida is discouraged. Mahatma Gandhi mentioned that "all condiments even salt, destroy the natural flavor of vegetable and cereals."

Mahatma Gandhi frowned upon the use of tea, coffee, and cocoa, as they have no proven health benefits. Similarly, he criticized the use of intoxicants such as alcohol, bhang, ganja, tobacco, and opium.

All these thoughts are similar to those expressed by modern evidence-based medicine. The need to have balanced diet, rich in proteins, roughage, and minerals, with limited fats, free sugars, and salt has always been important for human health. Neglect of basic principles of Gandhian nutritional thought has been a major contributor to modern epidemics of obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

Calorie requirement

Mahatma Gandhi quoted a Sanskrit text which mentions "a man becomes what he eats." (1) He proposed "control or self-discipline of the palate" as a gateway to control of the other senses, while strongly supporting a healthy well-balanced diet, in quantity enough to fulfill the body's requirements.

"The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin holding the foods that palate demands," said Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhian nutrition suggested that "food should be taken as a matter of duty- even as a medicine to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of the palate."

Mahatma Gandhi, reminded us that "mastication is an important step in the process of digestion, especially that of starch." He recommends chewing starchy foods (such as chapatti) in a relatively dry form, without dipping them in vegetable or lentil gravy, to produce greater salivary flow and better digestion.

Mahatma Gandhi suggested the following dietary intake for sedentary adult men and women, in a three meal pattern. The caloric, carbohydrate and protein content is based upon modern food tables [3] [Table 1].{Table 1}


Dietetics is a dynamic science today, its dynamism borne out of rapid advances in knowledge. Certain basics of nutrition, however, remain the same. This is echoed in the thoughts propounded by Mahatma Gandhi not less than a century ago.

As we gear up to face the modern challenge of metabolic and nutrition based pandemics such as diabetes and obesity, Gandhian nutrition provides a practical method for both prevention and treatment. It has universal applicability, albeit with minor adaptations for local culinary habits. The Gandhian framework, can serve as a strong motivational tool for health care professionals, patients, and the public, to promote healthy dietary habits. Gandhian nutrition must be studied, discussed and analyzed by modern health care professionals who manage obesity and related metabolic disorders. Properly conducted trials must be carried out to establish the cross-cultural applicability of Gandhian nutrition.


1Gandhi MK. Key to Health. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 01].
2WHO definition of Health. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 01].
3Sri Lakshmi B. Dietetics. Revised. 5 th ed. New Age International Publishers Chennai; 2008. p. 6.