Why Total Vegetarian?
It's been said before, that vegetarians not only eat a plant-based
diet, they want to convince everybody else that they should follow
their example. And I confess that I'm one of those! We all know
it's not good to talk with food in your mouth, but over the past
fifteen years, I've learned that in some cases, it's not good
to talk about food either. But why wouldn't I want to share the
incredible advantages of adopting a total vegetarian diet, that
benefits the individual, the planet, and of course, the animals!
Someone recently asked me to explain why I am a vegetarian. And
the probing went further, "Is it to protect the environment .
. . for personal health reasons . . . for spiritual reasons?"
Of course, I was delighted that to address the question and my
answer was, "It is all of these." Time didn't allow for much
explanation then, so I'd like to elaborate now, and add two more
reasons: ethical concerns and my pocketbook.
reasons are valid and important, but none affects us so directly
as that of personal health benefits, so that's where I'll begin.
And allow me to quickly say that the benefits of a vegetarian
lifestyle impact both mental and physical health.
The message has never been more clear. Meat and animal products play
a direct role in determining the health we enjoy and the onset
of degenerative diseases, including the #1 killer in America,
heart disease. The risks of developing other diseases such as
diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and a host of others including
obesity, now considered a medical disease, are potentially avoidable
when we choose a plant-based diet. A total vegetarian or vegan
diet, contrary to popular belief, is interesting, flavorful and
usually includes a much wider variety of foods than those consumed
by the average omnivore. By adopting a vegetarian diet, not only
do we avoid the risks presented by consuming animal products,
we enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and
legumes provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant
packages that go to work to help protect our cells against heart
disease and invading cancers. Additionally, plant foods contain
more of the nutrients needed to ward off depression and anxiety
disorders, a growing problem in our fast-paced society. So, the
ideal diet means ideal weight, increased energy, disease prevention
and a brighter outlook. What could make more sense than to enjoy
these benefits while delving into delicious vegetarian cuisine!
Producing animal protein is costly and places a drain on
our natural resources. It takes approximately 50 times as much
fossil fuel, and 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal
protein as compared to plant protein. Our agricultural process
takes up to 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce one pound
of beef, and about five pounds to produce one pound of turkey
or eggs. Bypassing the animal and eating plant foods directly
translates into a significant conservation of resources. Even
small changes in meat consumption can make a significant global
impact on grain stores and food available to feed the poor. Cited
in Dr. Neil Nedley's book, Proof Positive, is a calculation from
Worldwatch, one of the most respected organizations dealing with
environmental issues. They state that the worldwide annual consumption
of grain by livestock is 630 million tons. By reducing meat eating
by 10%, a corresponding 10% reduction of grain consumption would
occur, conserving 63 million tons of grain, which if made available
for human consumption, would feed the growth in the world population
for more than two years. Unfortunately, as nations become more
affluent, meat eating increases and steps up the demand for its
production, and they are soon faced with the same health and
environmental issues we deal with in our culture. However, if
education and awareness accompany this rise in the standard of
living, consumers can choose to live responsibly, protecting
their health and conserving valuable resources. As you can see
even with this brief look at dietary choices and the environment,
the best diet for individual health is also the optimal diet
from the standpoint of compassion for others and social consciousness.
Okay. Here's a shocking "in your face" figure you may never have considered.
The average meat eater is responsible for the deaths of
some 2,400 animals during his or her lifetime. Because meat is
something ordered in a restaurant or picked up at the grocery
store, no one really thinks about the carnage that occurs in
order to make this provision. And if the death of animals is
not sobering enough, we must understand that the existence of
livestock in factory farms is so miserable that death is a blessing.
The conditions often produce hotbeds of disease that endanger
the lives of the animals. I realize that seems like a moot point,
but the diseases may also be passed on to the consumer. Ten years
ago, who could have predicted the far-reaching and deadly effects
of mad cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans), and
the potential likelihood that these effects will escalate in
the future? I love to relax when serving guests, resting assured
that using no animal products, a meal at my table will not include
viruses, antibiotics or prions as ingredients!
One objection often raised about a vegetarian diet is that it is
expensive. While commercially prepared total vegetarian food
items may be somewhat more expensive than similar products that
contain animal products, most of these items are unnecessary.
In many cases these products are highly refined and high in fat,
sugar and/or sodium, and most products lack the quality and flavor
of food prepared from scratch.
That is not
to say that some commercial vegan products could not be used
in moderation occasionally. Some contain high quality ingredients
and make meal preparation more convenient. One of my favorites
is SoyCurls, a very economical meat substitute. Made from whole
soybeans, when rehydrated these little morsels have a texture
similar to chicken and can be used in scores of recipes. Quite
a variety of meat substitutes is available in health food stores
today, but reading labels to check for excessive sodium is important.
Sometimes, a commercial product may contain all plant-based
ingredients, but may offer few health benefits. For an example,
take non-dairy ice cream made from soy or rice and a welcomed
treat from time to time. One-half cup of many brands contains
15-19 grams of sugar, over 10 grams of fat and costs about 75
cents per serving. For half that price, you could enjoy an entire
cup of thick Strawberry Smoothie with all natural sugar, valuable
nutrients and virtually no fat.
When counting the
cost of going vegetarian, be sure to consider that meat, cheese
and eggs will no longer take up a portion of your grocery bill.
You will likely find a surplus in your budget after purchasing
the simpler ingredients needed for total vegetarian recipes.
Some specialty items are called for in a few of the recipes in
Total Vegetarian, but every attempt has been made to keep them
to a minimum.
Let's take a look at the product price of protein sources:
Clearly, when considering
your pocketbook, the price of animal protein far exceeds the
cost of plant-based protein. Factoring in the potential expense
of healthcare costs for lifestyle-related illnesses is something
else to consider in this equation as well. Take a look at the
bottom line: a low-fat, nutrient-dense vegetarian diet allows
you to eat more, weigh less and pay less! Now that makes good
Not only do we need to consider the proper use of personal finances
and the earth's resources, the humane treatment of animals and
our own health and wellness when making food choices, I believe
our spiritual health should be considered, two aspects of which
I would like to address.
The first is our call to stewardship.
When we realize that we are created beings, designed to reflect
the image of God, and called to be faithful stewards of our minds
and bodies, a natural result is to desire to live responsibly.
Scripture enjoins us in I Corinthians 10:31 that "Whether, then,
you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
(NIV) Once we become enlightened regarding the optimum
diet to promote health, conserve resources and show compassion
to animals, how is it Christ-like to serve our flesh with an
expensive diet that involves extensive carnage and by design
promotes the premature death of God's creatures.
considering your personal health, what a blessing to enjoy the
bounties God has provided in the plant kingdom and reduce the
need for medication and the risk of lifestyle related diseases.
How awesome to witness the miracle of health and healing when
we demonstrate good stewardship of our bodies as well as our
planet, and cooperate with God's plan for life and health!
The second consideration I want to discuss is regarding the clarity
of thought and mental health that we experience and our availability
for communion with our Creator. The health of the brain, the
organ through which we communicate with God, is dependent upon
what we feed it. While this includes what we see, what we read,
as well as what we breathe, our diet plays a significant role
in the health of the brain.
The temple of God's Spirit, the human mind is where we invite Him
to dwell within us. Preparing a dwelling place that is not burdened
by mental dullness because of poor lifestyle choices should be
a major consideration for the Christian. Many realize that a
high fat diet can decrease alertness and mental acuity, but we
have also learned that excessive amounts of sugar can cloud the
mind as well. In addition, optimum functioning of the brain is
dependent upon the inclusion of many other nutrients including
B vitamins, omega-3 essential fatty acid and tryptophan, to name
just a few. Physical exercise, adequate water and proper rest
are also important habits to establish in order to encourage
optimum brain function, in order for our minds to be a ready
dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God.
So, there you
have it. My philosophy and convictions regarding diet, health,
responsibility and spirituality, and others must be in agreement
because vegetarians are cropping up all over! If you are beginning
to share this philosophy, but wonder if you really possess the
power to live according to it, there's good news. The beauty
of God's plan is that He doesn't leave us alone to make difficult
lifestyle choices. As we invite God to dwell within us, He makes
His power available to us to provide the resolve we need to live
by our convictions. Jesus said, "I have come that ye might have
life, and that you might have it more abundantly." Each
day it will get easier to take charge of your health as your
human efforts are combined with Divine power and new tastes are
developed and healthy habits formed. Ask, and you shall receive!
Total Vegetarian Solves Two Common Dilemmas
Upwards of 10 million people
have become vegetarians, depending upon whom you ask. It may
depend upon when a person is asked as well. Recently a
woman told me that she's a "flexitarian!" I believe people lose
their resolve to truly adopt a vegetarian diet for several reasons,
but two stand out in my mind. First, people find they lack enjoyable
food choices. And second, they do not have the resources to easily
learn the necessary techniques to prepare delicious, healthful
meals. No one would argue that we need to enjoy our food! For
the StepFast Lifestyle Series and now for
The Total Vegetarian Cookbook, I have designed and
collected recipes that solve these two dilemmas: they are incredibly
delicious, are easy to prepare and can be made with readily available
ingredients. These vegan recipes have been developed in response
to palates hungering for favorite and familiar food without animal
products. They have been tested with vegetarians as well as die-hard
meat eaters and both have responded with a cook's favorite comment,
"May I have more please?" You will find that Total Vegetarian
contains a broad variety of over 150 superb recipes, with easy
and concise preparation instructions and flavors and textures
bold enough to suppress anyone's desire to look back! I now invite
you to "taste and see" that the Lord wants you to eat well and
So, Happy Cooking and Bon Appetit!