The concept of pranic foods is likely based on the ancient Indian yogic diet culture of consuming foods to nurture your mind, body, and soul.
Pranic foods comprise the pranic diet, an eating pattern that categorizes foods based on how they supposedly affect your vital energy, or prana.
To understand how these foods purportedly function, you must first know what prana is.
This article explains what prana is, examines various types of pranic foods, and reviews the scientific evidence behind these concepts.
In the Hindu practice of yoga, prana is considered a cosmic form of energy that exists everywhere. When present within you, prana becomes life — and when it leaves the body, that marks death (
The energy of a particular food and how it affects your life force is the basic principle behind pranic foods.
In Hinduism, prana is one’s vital energy or life force. How foods affect this life force is the foundation of pranic foods.
Pranic food shouldn’t be confused with pranic healing, which is an entirely different concept. Pranic healing is a type of energy healing based on the belief that the body has self-healing powers and that energy can be used to speed this healing process.
Rather, the concept of pranic foods bears many similarities with yogic diets described in Ayurvedic texts. Ayurveda is a traditional Indian healing practice that takes a holistic approach to health, including diet.
Yet, according to Dr. Pankaj Bhaskar Ingawale, Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS), a renowned Ayurvedic practitioner, there’s no specific mention of pranic foods in the Ayurvedic scriptures.
Pranic food and pranic healing are two distinct concepts. The notion of pranic food seems to resemble some aspects of yogic diets.
Pranic foods are classified into three categories based on how they affect your prana, or energy.
Positive pranic foods
Positive pranic foods are thought to kindle one’s life forces. This category includes fresh, whole, minimally processed, locally grown, and organic foods.
Positive pranic foods are mild in taste. They’re not supposed to be eaten in excess.
These foods include:
- ash gourd
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds
- fruits (fresh and dried)
- fresh vegetables
- sprouted mung beans
- beans and lentils
Negative pranic foods
Negative pranic foods are believed to deprive you of vital energy. These include stimulants that give you instant energy but may lead to a subsequent crash.
Foods that are too salty, spicy, sour, or pungent — essentially anything that is over-flavored — are said to harm your prana.
Here’s a list of foods that many pranic food practitioners say negatively affect your prana:
- eggplant (brinjal)
- stimulants, such as caffeine
- intoxicating substances, such as alcohol
Some sources also include meats, eggs, fish, and poultry on the negative pranic food list, while others claim that these foods are fine as long as they’re cooked well and consumed in moderation.
Neutral pranic foods
Neutral pranic foods neither increase nor decrease your prana. Still, they may make you somewhat sluggish.
Neutral pranic foods include:
Pranic foods are generally categorized as positive, negative, or neutral depending on how they affect your vital energy, or prana.
It’s unknown who coined the term “pranic foods,” and no documented history of the concept or the diet exists.
Yet, while there’s no mention of pranic foods in Ayurveda, yoga, or any ancient Indian scriptures, the concept bears similarities to principles espoused by Ayurvedic and yogic dietary traditions.
Ayurveda is a robust medicinal system that instructs you to eat according to your constitution, lifestyle, and medical needs. It doesn’t discourage onion or garlic consumption, nor does it prohibit meats (
Ascetic monks and practitioners of yoga — or yogis — of the Indian subcontinent follow certain dietary precepts called the yogic diet principles.
The yogic diet is documented in scriptures that date back around 5,000 years. There are three types of yogic diets — Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic (
- Sattvic diet. Foods are closest to their natural form, lightly cooked and mildly seasoned. This diet is believed to increase calmness and focus. It’s most suitable for anyone seeking a quiet and peaceful existence.
- Rajasic diet. Sour, bitter, salty, spicy, hot, and pungent foods are common in this diet, which allows onion, garlic, asafoetida, and other strongly flavored foods. This diet, which is best suited for fighters, leaders, artists, etc., is stimulating and incites various emotions.
- Tamasic diet. This diet includes meat, stimulants, and alcohol, as well as stale, contaminated, fermented, fried, highly processed, and over- or undercooked foods. This eating pattern causes tiredness and weakness and is said to be bad for health.
There are many similarities between positive pranic foods and the Sattvic diet, as well as negative pranic foods and the Rajasic and Tamasic diets.
While there’s no documentation of or historical references about pranic foods, its basic concepts may be ancient in origin.
While there’s no documented history of pranic foods, its fundamental principles are very similar to those of yogic diets, which include the Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic dietary patterns.
There’s no way of testing or measuring how a certain food affects your prana, or life force. However, scientific evidence has demonstrated how certain foods affect your energy levels.
Positive pranic foods include whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, and beans, all of which are considered nutritious based on modern nutrition science and promoted by the US Dietary Guidelines.
May reduce fatigue
Foods that are regarded as positively pranic may help combat fatigue.
In a 3-month study among 30 cancer survivors, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3s from nuts and seeds led to a 44% improvement in fatigue, compared with an 8% improvement among those in the control group (
Similarly, in a study among 770 breast cancer survivors, women with high quality diets (defined as being high in fruits, veggies, beans, fish, and whole grains and low in refined grains, sodium, and empty calories) had an 8–20% lower fatigue score than women with poor quality diets (
Other health benefits
Most vegetables from the gourd family, such as ash gourd and bottle gourd, have been used in traditional Indian medicine for their therapeutic properties.
Gourds are high in prebiotic soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both types are associated with a range of positive health outcomes including gut health, weight management, blood sugar control, and heart health (8,
Furthermore, research has linked a whole-foods, plant-based diet to various benefits, including increased weight loss and a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline, and diabetes (
Positive pranic foods, which consist of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and ash gourd, are associated with improved fatigue and overall good health. Also, a whole-foods, plant-based diet has been linked to a number of health benefits.
Negative pranic foods are said to diminish your life force. Proponents of the pranic diet claim that you should limit or avoid garlic, onion, chili, tea, and coffee.
Yet, you may wonder whether any of these claims are backed by evidence.
Garlic and onions
Studies demonstrate that onions and garlic have numerous medicinal properties.
Still, these foods may have negative effects in certain circumstances, which may be one reason why they’re considered negatively pranic.
If applied to the skin, garlic is known to cause irritation. Yet, when eaten, it has been shown to fight intestinal ulcers and bacteria like Helicobacter pylori, which cause stomach cancer (
Coffee and tea
Similarly, tea and coffee both are shown to benefit health when consumed in moderation.
Tea is the second most consumed beverage worldwide after water. People in Asian countries have been drinking it for centuries.
All types of tea — black, green, and oolong — are rich in plant compounds called polyphenols, which may protect against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (
But while tea and coffee are relatively safe for healthy adults in moderation, they may be addictive due to their caffeine contents. They may also interfere with your body’s absorption of iron from food, which could increase your risk of iron deficiency (
The pranic food system considers chili, eggplant, tomato, and potato either negative or neutral. Coincidentally, all of these vegetables belong to the nightshade family.
Despite recent myths about nightshades, no evidence suggests that nightshades harm your health or impair your energy levels.
Likewise, eggplants are a powerhouse of antioxidants like quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, and zeaxanthin. Due to these compounds, consuming eggplants may protect against oxidative damage to cells and DNA (
Meanwhile, tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant that’s been shown to decrease your risk of inflammatory conditions like type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease (
No concrete evidence
There can never be any hard evidence to prove that these foods deplete prana, as prana isn’t measurable and this dietary pattern has not been documented.
All the same, onions, garlic, tea, coffee, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes are certainly not “bad” food choices. If anything, they’re beneficial for health in various ways.
Although prana isn’t measurable in scientific terms, no objective evidence suggests that negative pranic foods, including garlic, onions, tea, coffee, and nightshade vegetables, deplete your energy levels or should be avoided.
The concept of pranic foods relies on long-established dietary principles from Ayurvedic and yogic traditions in India.
Eating positive pranic foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, aligns with modern nutrition science guidelines and will undoubtedly benefit your health.
However, no studies suggest that you should avoid negative pranic foods. In fact, many negative pranic foods are nutrient-rich, and restricting them could end up negatively affecting your health.
Still, you can benefit from following some of the guiding principles behind the diet, such as:
- eating a diet rich in whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables
- favoring minimally processed, fresh, organic, and locally grown foods
- avoiding excessively fried or salty foods
- moderating your intake of caffeine and other stimulants
- limiting or avoiding the intake of alcohol and other intoxicating substances
If you’re pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition, always consult a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your eating pattern, including following the pranic food diet.