“Let food be your medicine.”  Hippocrates

Meals that Heal

Theories abound about the best way to lose weight, prevent disease and stay healthy. One fad diet after another appears on the scene, and some with a “have your bacon and eat it, too,” philosophy, but the facts are in, and proof positive evidence says that the best way to stay fit and healthy is the combination of a total vegetarian diet and plenty of exercise. Why does this simple, back-to-basics approach seem so difficult?

I believe it is a combination of two misconceptions about food. Number one, we develop preferences for certain foods and think only these can satisfy our taste, and two, we tend to believe that certain foods are nutritionally essential for health. Dr. Agatha Thrash is quoted as saying, “There are no essential foods, only essential nutrients.” These nutrients may be obtained from many different foods, and if open-minded and willing to develop a palate that appreciates healthier nutritional sources, we can significantly lower our health risks, and I believe enjoy our food even more. When a sense of enhancing one’s health status and contributing to the world’s conservation efforts accompanies the partaking of delicious food, satisfaction is multiplied. The blessing of becoming informed, exercising self-control and making healthy food choices pays large dividends.

A total vegetarian (vegan) dietary plan is said to consist of four food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. I like to divide the vegetable category in two, distinguishing legumes from other vegetables since they are higher in protein and are a ready substitute for meat and animal products, thus creating a fifth food group. The legume category consists of beans, lentils and peas, and includes tofu as well. Legumes are high in protein and other valuable nutrients, and are simply overlooked by many consumers in this country though their wonderful flavors and nutrient value are enjoyed by millions in other cultures around the world. Simple recipes in The Total Vegetarian Cookbook will help to reintroduce this valuable nutrient source through simple recipes that are absolutely delicious.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians, while avoiding all flesh foods, include eggs and dairy products in their diet. While some insist that animal products are essential to good nutrition, too much evidence points to the mounting risks of bacterial contamination, harmful viruses, and antibiotic and hormone use in the production of these products. In addition to these risks, many have discovered they are lactose-intolerant or otherwise allergic to animal products, and avoid them for these reasons.

The Question of Vitamin B-12

It has been well established through numerous clinical trials that greater benefit and fewer health risks are associated with a vegan diet. In fact, with the possible exception of vitamin B-12, all nutrients are much more plentiful in a total vegetarian diet, especially the powerful phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that are simply not present in meat and animal products. Some individuals may develop B-12 deficiencies because of poor absorption; therefore a supplement or fortified foods are recommended for all. In countries where supplements or fortified foods are not available, the inclusion of small amounts of eggs and/or dairy products is recommended.

[For the purpose of discussion on this website, the term “vegan” refers only to a total vegetarian diet and does not refer to employing or avoiding animal products for other uses.
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