Most Hindus follow a strict vegetarian diet and abstain from meat, eggs, poultry and other food considered intoxicating, such as alcoholic beverages and caffeine. In addition to maintaining a vegetarian diet, many Hindus refrain from eating food that is spicy or sour. Some practitioners, usually the most devout, eliminate onions, mushrooms and leeks from their diets as well.
The consumption of acceptable food is a key component to the Hindu religion as it is for many other faiths as well. Hindus typically strive to eat only food considered sattvic, or pure, which excludes food derived from animals. The Hindu religion ascribes to the belief that eating animals and other impure substances leads to people becoming impure, and may result in the development of animalistic qualities. The act of killing animals for food is also considered bad karma, and may cause health problems to the individuals killing the animals and those consuming the meat products. There is some variation in dietary strictness, however, among practitioners. Some Hindus eat certain types of meat, such as fish and poultry, but nearly all Hindus avoid eating beef. Although animals are considered to be sacred beings by Hindus, cows are at the top of the list, and their meat is avoided.