Why Eat Vegetarian Food?

Some people, concerned about techniques of factory farming, are turning to vegetarian food on purely moral grounds. Probably the main reason, however, is the current awareness that food affects our health.

Books and doctors tell us that we should be eating less fat, salt, and sugar and more fibre. A whole food vegetarian diet can help us to achieve these aims. With no meat in the diet and more of such vegetable protein foods as pulses and nuts, we automatically cut down on saturated animal fats. We still include cheese and eggs, but very often they are added to a mixture of other low fat, high fibre ingredients; rarely do we eat them in too great a quantity. Many vegetarians also give up buying baked products such as pies, which also contain saturated fats; they frequently substitute vegetable oils in place of butter for cooking.

If you cook vegetarian food well, with plenty of cleverly used herbs and spices for flavour, you find that only a few dishes need salt for flavouring. Taste the dish when you have completed it and only add salt if you think it absolutely necessary. Salt is necessary for successful bread making, and it gives pasta and plainly boiled rice a better flavour; but even so, there is no need to add too much.

Because sugar is not an animal product, giving it up is not, in theory, essential to a vegetarian diet however, you should use it only in moderation. Most vegetarians prefer to make as much of their own food as possible and as a result are not eating the hidden sugar that is in so many commercial products from baked beans to so-called savoury biscuits. But if you must buy prepared food, look in health shops to find products such as sugar-free jam and tomato ketchup that will help you avoid it.

And what about fibre? A healthy vegetarian diet includes nuts and pulses, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and-most importantly-whole grains such as whole wheat bread or brown rice. If you eat a variety of all these products you need never worry about whether you are getting enough fibre.

A vegetarian diet also contributes to good health because it includes a wide range of ingredients. Each type of food contains different vitamins and minerals in varying proportions, providing your body with a little of everything it needs rather than too much of one type of nutrient,

Yet another advantage of vegetarian cookery is the matter of economy. Meals made with pulses, grains, nuts, cheese and eggs tend to be cheaper than many based on meat and fish. They are therefore a boon to the budgeting housewife, whether she chooses to serve them all all the time or several times a week.

Lastly there is the question of enjoyment. Because you will be using fresh, natural ingredients, you will find the flavour of whatever you make superb: from the simple salads and plain brown rice to the more complicated main meals. If you have ever eaten meals based only on the “meat-and-two-veg” theme, you will find that vegetarian ingredients and mixed main meals adds variety to your daily menus. A whole range of new foods can be added to the old favourites in your store-cupboard, and your palate will be tempted by new and delicious flavours and textures.

Even if you would like to become completely vegetarian, follow the same “easy-does-it” rule; otherwise you may find the sudden change too much of a shock to your system. Begin by making sure that every ingredient you use is whole food. That is, always use whole wheat flour, bread and pasta, other whole grains such as brown rice, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, little sugar, and no processed foods. The next step is to eat meat only once a day and after that, gradually replace meat meals with vegetarian ones. That way, your digestive system will find the new food easier to absorb; meanwhile you will gradually come to enjoy all the new flavours, textures and cooking methods.

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