The cow is considered sacred in Hinduism and may not be killed for meat.
The cow is considered sacred in Hinduism and may not be killed for meat.

The Hinduism dietary code is defined more by what is not eaten rather than labeling any particular foods as holy. The dietary restrictions that devout Hindus follow are outlined in the Vedas, the holy texts of Hinduism that date from the 15th century in Indian subcontinent. The Vedas detail the "dharma" as holy law by which Hindus should live their life, including certain foods to be avoided and instructions on blessing food before eating. Yet with more than 900 million Hindus worldwide, much variation exists within these guidelines among observers.

Vegetarianism

Most Hindus are vegetarians, as the Vedas clearly state that Hindus must not use their "God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever." Hinduism encompasses a wide range and intensity of religious beliefs, and not all Hindus are strict vegetarians. But "Ahimsa," or the reverence for the living in all forms, is extremely important to Hinduism, and many believers find vegetarianism to be the best way to adhere to this principle.

Meat and Hindu Ethics

Most strictly observant Hindus do not eat meat as they are forbidden by the Vedas from killing another living creature. Those Hindus who are not strict vegetarians may eat some meat, although never beef or pork as they are both forbidden by the Vedas. Cows are considered especially sacred in Hinduism; and in India where more than 80 percent of people are Hindus, killing a cow is against the law.

Butter and Sattvic

The holiest of Hindu foods is one that many Hindus do not actually eat, but instead offer to the gods in sacrifice. Butter is described by Hindu epics as being essential to any sacrifice. Meanwhile, "sattvic" is the Hindu term for a diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains. A Sattvic diet is supposed to purify the person and calm the soul; and as such, it is dictated by the Vedas as highly desirable.

Blessing Food

Finally, without being first offered to the Hindu gods for a blessing, no meal can be considered truly holy. In order to be considered "prasada," or blessed, food must be placed before a figure of a Hindu deity before eating. Other Hindu customs for blessing food include sprinkling water over a meal and placing five offerings of food on the edge of the table in exchange for the protection of the divine forces.