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“An invitation to look over the fence”
Vegetarianism is a more natural life style. People eat food only of plant origin, and thus health benefits arise on all levels. Vegan people not only do not consume food of animal origin, but also do not use any by-product of animal origin like cloths, honey, fish products. They do not tolerate animal abuse, neither any kind of exploitation and they respect the environment. There are many sub groups in both identities, but for the purpose of this short article, we will stick to the two main groups.
In this article we will briefly highlight the health and wellbeing consequences of either choice. For more info, please consult your Naturopath or Therapist and specialised shops and literature.
The earliest evidence of vegetarianism comes from a tribe who inhabited present day Serbia and Bulgaria; they fed on milk, honey and cheese. India and Greece had vegetarian practice before the 5th century BC. With the fall of the Roman Empire, vegetarianism almost disappeared, but it continued in India where the two main types of Hinduism encourages a vegetarian diet. Hence, the Indian kitchen has the longest vegetarian tradition. Vegetarianism re-emerged in Europe during the Renaissance and from then on, it spread out and in 1908 the International Vegetarian Union was founded. Veganism became more mainstream as from the 21st Century. World Vegan Day is 1st Nov.
Generally spoken, vegetarians and vegans have a lower overall mortality rate and more specific do have less problems with heart disease (20-30% lower), type 2 diabetes (30-50% lower) and stroke by cholesterol, hypertension, etc. Reduced risk of cancer has been reported. However, an unbalanced vegetarian diet can lead to certain disorders due to insufficient intake of Vitamin B12 and of some fatty acids.
A well planned vegetarian or vegan diet will provide all necessary nutrients as in a meat-eater’s diet.
Proteins: intake is lower in vegetarian and vegan diets but can meet daily requirements as long as a variety of plant sources are consumed which provide significant amounts of all eight necessary types of amino acids.
Iron: vegetarian and vegan diets provide a similar amount of iron, however its bioavailability can be lower. To overcome this, one can some components.
Vit.B12: Due to lack of presence of Vit.B12 in plants, vegetarians and certainly vegans have to compensate by the intake of Vit.B12 fortified foods.
Fatty Acids: there are many plant based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, so daily intake of these nutrients is readily available.
Calcium: intake and absorption can be sufficient for vegetarians and vegans when consuming plant-based drinks.
Vit.D: upon normal exposure to sunrays, the body makes sufficient amounts of it. If necessary, Vit.D supplements can be taken.
Longevity and quality of life.
Adhering to a vegetarian lifestyle for min. 2 decades is estimated to prolong life expectancy with about 4-5 years. Besides this finding, the aspect of quality of life has to be added: less incurrence of overweight and painful joints in legs and feet. Less incurrence of short breathing due to better blood circulation. Less incurrence of liver and kidney insufficiencies, less stomach acidity and better transit thanks to the increased fibre component.
Besides the apparent benefits of a complete or even a partial vegetarian or vegan diet, many vegetarians and certainly vegans refuse eating animals based on the fact that killing animals is not morally tolerated, unless in extreme circumstances. Additionally the industrial farming of those animals is regarded as immoral. Vegans do not use any kind of animal by-product due to the immoral and disrespectful approach towards the animals and their life.
The path from Carnivore to Vegetarian.
The first and most important step to change to a vegetarian-based food behaviour is the goal to improve your health and quality of life, to respect the life of animals and to preserve the environment.
There are different types of focus to natural food:
Ovo-lactea vegetarian: they do not eat dead animals in any kind but accept milk-and egg-based products, mostly of ecologic production.
Lacto vegetarian: only consume vegetables and milk-based products.
Ovo vegetarian: only consume vegetables and eggs.
Crudivegan: based on raw food with the understanding to not heat the ingredients over 40ºC, the heating temperature of the sun which means to feed oneself with natural and ecological nutrients. All refined products like flour, sugar, synthetic additives, as well as transgenetics and food improvers are banned. It is also called “Living” food as it is consumed in its natural state like nature provided it.
Vegan: as described before, no food product of animal origin is used, neither any derivate of it like clothing, bags and footwear or silk and wool. The basic principle is a deep respect and love for the animals. No tolerance to animal experiments, nor their exploitation and only products that not have been tested on animals are accepted (cosmetics, medicine, …). In the same way the environment and nature are respected. There is no risk of nutrient deficiencies – contrary to some beliefs – when following a well-balanced diet, but one has to know what to do. Ask your Naturopath.
Macrobiotics: is also a life style that will provide an excellent path to physical, emotional and spiritual balance by food intake. Basis is the energy study and balance of nutrients which refers to the 2 polarities Yin and Yang (day-night, cold-warm).All food has its own energy and it can change and transform the way we prepare it. In this way, depending on how one feels, you know what is appropriate to eat. It is healing. It is expected to solve most of the current health problems, illnesses, including cancer. The idea of macrobiotic food is to avoid toxic food or food with toxic components, although there are different types and levels of it. The most important idea is to nourish oneself with integral cereals in the form of grain – the natural form which is the source of energy and life. Not in the form of flour, nor treated for daily use. It is somewhat a return-to-basics, like the way our ancestors used to feed themselves: simple but powerful at the same time. Fermented nutrients are take to regenerate our intestinal flora and to improve digestion. Fruits are taken with moderation and preferentially in the form of cooked compote. Molasses and syrups of cereals are used to sweeten up as they are the most energetically balanced. Sea vegetables like algae, vegetal proteins, vegetal soups with algae, cereals or vegetables can be taken on a daily basis and tea infusions (3-year old) or cereal coffee for drinks.
Whatever change you choose for, please do it step by step. It is not advisable to change things rapidly after an almost entire life of eating anything, because your body will be stressed. Permanent changes take time. Eliminate old habits and replace them with new ones, mentioned above. You will feel the difference!
Advice: to start in an easy way, just visit a specialised restaurant and ask for some simple dishes or consult a health shop to help you on your first steps.
Like Hippocrates said:
“That your food become your medicine and your medicine your food”.
This article has been written in co-operation with Montse from the Health Shop Pachamama, Corralejo.
Tasteful vegetarian and/or vegan dishes or ingredients can be tried or purchased at:
Corralejo & North: Bombay, Jaipur, Sanus, Baobab, Obvio, Herbolario Pachamama
Costa Calma, Jandía/Morro Jable & South: Tente en Pie