Is Vegan Food Better for You Than Meditation?

Is Vegan Food Better for You Than Mediation?
image via vegan body building and fitness/Intagram

What makes you happier: sitting completely still and focusing on your breath or gorging on a plate full of (vegan) nachos? If you’re like most people, it’s certainly the latter, even though we’ve been told time and again that meditation is the key to happiness. But according to one Tibetan monk, eating vegan food may be the better of the two choices when it comes to sustaining your happiness. Really. (And pass the vegan nachos.)

According to the Evening Standard, Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who lives at a monastery in Nepal, is considered the happiest man in the world. Like, scientifically.

Ricard participated in a 12-year study observing how meditation affects his brain. For monks, meditation is a daily practice–hours more than those few minutes you sit still at the end of a yoga sesh.

Over the course of the study, the researchers noted spikes in Ricard’s brain waves, namely elevated levels of gamma waves linked to consciousness, attention, learning, and memory, “that had never before been reported in scientific studies,” reports the Standard.

This discovery led the scientists to dub him the “happiest man in the world”—a moniker you’d think would be enough to stop his search for things to boost his happiness. But, no, Ricard did not stop there.

While most Tibetan monks avoid gorging on chicken wings and ribs, they’re not exclusively vegetarian or vegan, if for no other reason, at least in Ricard’s case, because Nepal isn’t exactly the Beyond Burger capital of the world. But the food is largely plant-based–think a delicious mix of Asian (Chinese) and Indian cuisines, heavy on the rice and dal, etc.

But despite his already clean and conscious diet, Ricard says choosing to go full vegan is his number one recommendation for finding true peace and happiness. He even wrote a book about it.

“I am extremely concerned by the fate of the 8 million other species who share this world with us, and who, like us, wish to avoid suffering and live out their lives,” Ricard reportedly  told PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

And since most of us in the West can’t meditate for hours every day while breathing in the fresh Nepalese mountain air, cleaning up our diets is a logical next best step–or, if Ricard is right, the first, most crucial step before we even tackle meditation.

“True happiness can only be attained when we avoid causing pain to others,” he said. And vegan nachos. I’m sure he said that, too.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.