The dietary restrictions of Hindus vary among practitioners: nearly all abstain from eating beef, and some follow a predominantly vegetarian diet, while others, such as Shaktas, consume meat, provided it comes from animals sacrificed in rituals. Among Hindus, Shaivites and Shaktas have the most lenient diets and may include meat products in their meals, while more conservative Hindu branches such as Vaishna abide by theological rules that dictate permissible and impermissible foods.
The foods deemed suitable or unsuitable for consumption by Hindus are listed in a theological system called guna. There are three gunas that contain a broad list of foods, and rank food products based on their level of acceptability. Meats generally rank at the lowest level of acceptable foods for Hindus, as meat is considered to be influenced by negative forces such as darkness. Since many Hindu practitioners consume primarily vegetarian foods, the vegetarian cuisine in areas with large Hindu populations, such as India, are quite diverse. Dairy products, particularly those derived from milk, are among the most prevalent and popular foods for many Indians. Indian Hindus incorporate large quantities of milk in their foods, as well as ghee, which is a type of clarified butter used to fry food. Hindus add flavor to their meals with spices, and consume large quantities of bread, rice and legumes such as lentils.