Sunday, December 31, 2006

Vegetarian Food versus Raw Food

Is there a difference between vegetarian dietsand raw food diets?

A raw foodist is a vegetarian, but one who generally is not going to cook his vegetables or fruits. A vegetarian is someone who simply doesn’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but only consumes vegetables, pasta, and rice. A vegetarian might eat meatless spaghetti sauce or order onion rings in a restaurant. (Not the healthiest choice, but sometimes it’s hard to find something to eat in a restaurant if you’re vegetarian – even harder if you’re a raw foodist.)

There are different categories of vegetarians, like vegans, or fruitarians, and raw foodist is a category of vegetarianism. We haven’t seen anything about sushi being considered a raw food, but it is. Raw food, though, generally means eating raw, uncooked fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, seaweeds, etc.

But to be a raw food purist means raw broccoli, not steamed. To a vegetarian, someone committed to not eat meat or fish or animal products, steamed vegetables are just as good, although everyone would agree that steaming can take out nutrients from foods, rendering them less nutritious. A vegetarian might consume dairy or egg products; however a vegan will not consume any animal products at all. And a raw foodist is a vegan who consumes only uncooked, unprocessed raw foods.

Proponents of the raw diet believe that enzymes are the life force of a food and that every food contains its own perfect mix. These enzymes help us digest foods completely, without relying on our body to produce its own cocktail of digestive enzymes.

It is also thought that the cooking process destroys vitamins and minerals and that cooked foods not only take longer to digest, but they also allow partially digested fats, proteins and carbohydrates to clog up our gut and arteries.
Followers of a raw diet cite numerous health benefits, including:

• increased energy levels
• improved appearance of skin
• improved digestion
• weight loss
• reduced risk of heart disease

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Does being Vegetarian Make a Difference?

Many nonvegetarians and some vegetarians alike question
whether being a vegetarian really makes any difference
at all. Some bring up blurry ethical situations to make it
impossible to see a vegetarian lifestyle as ethical.

If you are a prospective vegetarian for ethical reasons,
but aren't sure whether or not a vegetarian lifestyle is
truly a more ethical choice, here are some statistics
from EarthSave to help you make your choice (for
or against):

1. Over 1.3 billion human beings could be fed each year
from the grain and soybeans that go to livestock in the
United States.

This means that the entire population of the United States
could be fed (without losing any nutritional value) and there
would still be enough food left over to feed one billion
people.

In a world where millions of people die each year of
starvation, that type of food excess and inefficiency
could be considered unethical.

2. Livestock in the US produces roughly 30 times more
excrement than human beings. While humans in the US have
complex sewage systems to collect and treat human waste,
there are no such systems on feedlots. As a result, most
of this waste leeches into water.

This means that large-scale, massive production and
slaughter of animals is not only unethical, but it also
causes serious environmental degradation.

3. It takes 7.5 pounds of protein feed to create 1 pound of
consumable hog protein; and it takes 5 pounds of protein
feed to create 1 pound of consumable chicken protein. Close
to 90% of protein from wheat and beans is lost to feed
cycling.

This means that an enormous amount of resources are
dedicated to producing wheat and soy just for the purpose
of feeding it to animals, which will be slaughtered as "a
source of protein"--even though they only provide about
1/5 of the amount they consume.

Not only can the production of meat be considered an
injustice against animals, but it can also be considered an
injustice against human beings, as well as the environment
in general.

A Tasty Vegetarian Holiday Season

Planning a lovely, yet nutrient-dense, delicious holiday meal for both your meat eating and vegetarian guests can be quite daunting at first, but it can also bring out your creativity! Many side dishes you make can be easily made vegetarian, with little difference in taste.

The first step in planning would be to find out which of your guests are vegetarian, and what kind of vegetarian they are. Do they eat eggs or cheese? If so, you’ll have a few more possibilities. If they don’t, no problem, you’ll still have plenty of options to work with.

If you’re new to the vegetarian lifestyle and aren’t quite sure where to start, just ask for some input or help from your vegetarian guests. They will probably have some great recipe ideas, shortcuts, or simple tricks of the trade they can share with you to make your holiday meal preparation go smoothly.

For instance, you can substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth, or simply leave the meat or meat drippings out of vegetables and soups. This will also cut down on the fat content. It’s also very simple to divide some of the dishes, making one portion meatless, using the same vegetarian ingredients just mentioned.

Most importantly, keep in mind that the holidays are about peace, love, and understanding. With this in mind, please try not to be judgmental of what people you love choose to eat if you are not vegetarian yourself. Support your family member or friend’s choice to eat vegetarian. Seize the opportunity to learn from them. Incorporate ideas from a vegetarian lifestyle into your own to ensure your family is eating a variety nutrient-dense, delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts at every meal.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Be Careful to Choose the Right Kind of Carbs

We’ve all been there. We’ve just come in from a long day at work and the last thing on our minds taking the time to prepare a healthy, nutritionally sound vegetarian meal. But choosing a refined or enriched carbohydrate over the beneficial carbohydrates that a solid, well-balanced vegetarian diet offers defeats the purpose of your decision to live a vegetarian lifestyle, and that’s for optimal health. Consuming refined carbohydrates presents different hazards to your health.

The over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars can result in excess insulin in the bloodstream. In the presence of excess insulin, glucose, the blood sugar, is converted to triglycerides and stored in the fat cells of the body.

According to one study, consuming refined grains may also increase your risk of getting stomach cancer. The research found that a high intake of refined grains could increase a patient's risk of stomach cancer.

In addition, refined sugars and carbohydrates have been implicated as a contributing factor in increased gallbladder disease, according to a recent study. It showed a direct link between the amount of sugars eaten and the incidence of gallbladder disease. Another study looked at the role carbohydrates play in the incidence of heart disease. The researchers noted that as carbohydrate consumption increased, so did the level of triglycerides in the blood of the participants. Diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates not only dramatically raised triglyceride levels but significantly reduced levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

And lastly, refined white sugars increase the rate at which your body excretes calcium, which is directly connected to your skeletal health. Simply put, as your sugary and refined carbohydrate intake increases, your bone density decreases.

So don’t be lazy! Do your body right and take the time to prepare a nutrient-dense and delicious vegetarian meal. Your body, and your conscience, will thank you for it in the long run.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A vegetarian diet during Pregnancy

Now that you’re pregnant, you’re wondering if your decision to become vegetarian can still be carried out successfully during your pregnancy. And while it is possible for you to obtain all the nutrients your body will need during pregnancy through a well-planned, nutrient-dense vegetarian diet, careful planning and observation will be crucial to your overall success transitioning to vegetarianism during your pregnancy.

A good vegetarian diet has a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, and nuts and some eggs and dairy or their equivalent if you so choose. Fast food, highly processed junk foods, and canned fruits and vegetables are eaten rarely if at all. It’s imperative that you make wise food choices at this crucial time, since a pregnant woman only needs approximately 300 more calories per day and about 10-16 extra grams of protein; however, the body's need for certain nutrients increases significantly. Every bite you take is important when you're pregnant.

While the RDAs (recommended daily allowances) for almost all nutrients increase, especially important are folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12. Attention to adequate amounts of vitamin B-12 is crucial for vegetarians who choose not to eat eggs and dairy.

Work closely with your healthcare professional during this transition. The changeover from a meat-eating to a vegetarian diet can be rough on your body as it actually goes through a detoxification process during the transition. So, you want to ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients it needs at this time, and is growing and developing at a healthy rate. Start very slowly; perhaps only one or two days per week eating a vegetarian diet.

Gradually work soy and other plant-based proteins into your diet, and little by little use them to replace proteins obtained from eating meat products. Be sure to adequately supplement your diet with a quality prenatal supplement, and get adequate amounts of exercise and exposure to sunlight to promote your body to naturally produce vitamin D.

With careful planning, observation, and your healthcare professional’s guidance, the transition to vegetarianism during your pregnancy can be a cleansing and healthy start for both you and your baby to a lifetime of optimal health.