Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Vegetarian easy

Pie with Mediterranean vegetables and Quorn, a meat substitute

Easy vegetarian

Becoming vegetarian is one of the choices you can make that are most beneficial for your health.

And, believe me, it is easy to be vegetarian.

Many people are worried that it can be difficult to give up their favourite foods.

But in reality food is an “acquired taste” literally. Mostly, we like what we are used to. That, for instance, explains why people of different cultures and culinary traditions have diverse palate and appreciate widely dissimilar dishes.

Most emphatically, the idea that meat and fish are tastier than vegetarian meals is a myth. In many cases it is the herbs, spices and vegetables that give flavour to meat-based dishes.

Have you ever wondered why we humans can eat many vegetables raw, but very few, if any, kinds of animal flesh without first cooking them? Does that not point to a certain instinctive difficulty for our digestive system in dealing with meat and fish?

I have been a vegetarian for almost all my adult life. If I now should have meat in any form, very likely I would feel sick. This (which would probably apply to the generality of vegetarians and vegans) shows that it is not something inherent in a vegetarian diet which makes it difficult to introduce, but rather a general principle of our eating patterns: sudden change is disruptive at first and needs time to adjust.

This is often the case in matters of the senses. Think of music. How many times, upon hearing it the first time, did you have an immediate rejection for a pop song or a classical piece of music which later became a joy for your ears?

It may take time to love good music, and it may take time to love good food.

Easy steps to vegetarianism

My first piece of advice, therefore, is: take it easy, make the change gradually. Let your taste buds get acquainted with and used to the new flavours.

My second piece of advice: do not think in terms of renunciations, but of replacements. Next time you are thinking of having a burger, choose a vegeburger instead. Or have a delicious fresh sandwich with plenty of fresh salad vegetables and succulent but not fat sauces like those sold by Subway, for instance. You don’t have to do this every time at first, but you can start by opting for a healthier alternative, say, half of the times, and then gradually increase the frequency.

Just to realize how alien meat-eating is to our nature, and we believe that it is natural only because we have become accustomed to it, think of how food poisoning is almost invariably associated with meat or, more infrequently, with other animal products but extremely rarely with foods of vegetable origin.

Even touching raw meat, poultry or fish without washing your hands can spread bacteria and lead to food poisoning. And even reusing the same utensils, plates, dishcloths, teatowels and sponges that have come into contact with raw meat, fish or poultry (even indirectly, for instance by cleaning a surface which has touched them) is dangerous, because bacteria from the raw juices will contaminate other food.

This could help explain why meat workers, people involved in the meat industry, are the unhealthiest workers: in the USA about 25 percent of all employees of meatpacking plants have job-related injuries or illnesses, that is as many as 4 times the national average for all private industry sectors.

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