Mahatma Gandhi: the original nutrition guru

'Gandhi's Search for the Perfect Diet' is an engaging book that focuses on the icon's obsessive preoccupation with diet reform and food in general

23 July 2019 - 13:46
Nico Slate's book is an engaging foray into the details of Gandhi’s dietary obsessions.
Nico Slate's book is an engaging foray into the details of Gandhi’s dietary obsessions.
Image: Wits University Press

Mahatma Gandhi redefined nutrition as a holistic approach to building a more just world. What he chose to eat was intimately tied to his beliefs.

His key values of nonviolence, religious tolerance, and rural sustainability developed in co-ordination with his dietary experiments. His repudiation of sugar, chocolate, and salt expressed his opposition to economies based on slavery, indentured labour, and imperialism.

Gandhi’s Search for the Perfect Diet sheds new light on important periods in Gandhi's life as they relate to his developing food ethic: his student years in London, his politicisation as a young lawyer in SA, the 1930 Salt March challenging British colonialism, and his fasting as a means of self-purification and social protest during India's struggle for independence.

What became the pillars of Gandhi's diet – vegetarianism, limiting salt and sweets, avoiding processed food, and fasting – anticipated many of the debates in 21st-century food studies, and presaged the necessity of building healthier and more equitable food systems.

A wonderful book that focuses on the issue of Gandhi's obsessive preoccupation with diet reform and food in general, pointing out how intricately meshed were the Mahatma's ideas and practices concerning eating, morality, ethics, and political activism.
— Joseph Alter, author of Gandhi's Body: Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism

Slate makes many significant contributions to the study of Gandhian embodied ethics as well as to studies of food justice and alimentary politics.
— Parama Roy, author of Alimentary Tracts: Appetites, Aversions, and the Postcolonial

Nico Slate’s fascinating account reveals Gandhi as an evidence-based, self-experimenting nutrition guru who tried one diet after another - vegan, raw, calorie restriction - in his quest for physical and spiritual health. Above all, Slate explains Gandhi's use of fasting as a political means to inspire India to achieve independence.
— Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat

Slate's book is an engaging foray into the details of Gandhi's dietary obsessions, leaving readers to judge for themselves whether a 'perfect diet' is attainable or even desirable.
— Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism


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