Vegetarians Explained

A vegetarian is usually defined as someone who doesn’t eat meat. But someone who is vegetarian could conceivably eat dairy products such as milk, eggs and cheese. A ovo-lacto vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but does, in fact, consume eggs, milk and cheese. Likewise, a lacto vegetarian consumes milk and cheese products, but won’t consume egg products.

Many people think of vegetarians as homogeneous group that simply doesn’t eat any kind of meat. Frankly, it’s just not the case here.  There’s different categories of vegetarians, as diverse as the reasons for going vegetarian in the first place.

Within the vegetarian community, there’s an array of opinions, differences, preferences and ethics. Fruitarians, for example, will only eat fruit. Their rationale is that fruits, including tomatoes, are self-perpetuating and do not need to be planted in order to generate the food which they source. This type of vegetarians think about this as a way of eating what is most in balance and harmony with the earth, the most natural; taking what nature offers.

A vegan is someone who does not consume any kind of animal product or by-product, including dairy food (and dairy by-products).   Vegans, strictly eat only vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and legumes. They also refrain from using animal products, such as leather, silk and wool. Most strict and sincere vegans will also not consume white or refined sugar because it’s mostly processed and filtered with charred animal bones (which makes the sugar white).

The more restrictive you choose to be with your diet, most times, the more educated you are required to become to be about what you’re putting into your body.  This results in a  positive realization about getting all the necessary proteins and vitamins that you require to maintain optimal nutrition, muscle and heart health.

All of the above will eat any cooked vegetables, fruits and legumes. There is also a growing movement towards eating only raw or living foods. This diet is based on the assumption that cooking food tend to process most of the nutrients out of it.  In order to get all of the full nutritional value, vitamins and amino acids from food,  it’s best consumed raw, or juiced. If cooked at all, it ought to only be cooked to slightly over 100 degrees, so the nutrients are still retained.

Whichever you choose, it’s a good idea to be keenly aware of what you’re putting into your body; being aware of the ethical and nutritional implications.  A healthy diet always consists of an array of color and variation is important.  Be sure to include proteins, antioxidants, simple carbohydrates.  When in doubt, it’s always best to do further research, find a local nutritionist, or health professional.

Detoxification

 When people talk about detoxification and cleansing the body of harmful toxins, it’s often seen as a fringe element of vegetarians. People really don’t like to think about harmful toxins building up in their colons or in their arteries, but it’s often a by-product of a carnivorous diet. A diet that’s high in fat and processed foods tends to slow down our digestive systems, and our elimination processes are also interrupted.

This can allow harmful bacteria and toxins to accumulate and can create a general feeling of sluggishness, as well as a host of digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or colitis. When we begin eating a more healthy vegetarian diet, we start to get more dietary fiber into our systems, and all of a sudden, our digestive systems start to work better,

When you eliminate high-fat meat and processed foods from your diet, then much of your body’s energy is freed from the intense work of digesting these foods. Everything becomes clearer – your blood, your organs, your mind. You start to become more aware of the toxic nature of the food you’d been eating before.

Toxicity is of much greater concern in the twentieth century than ever before. There are many new and stronger chemicals, air and water pollution, radiation and nuclear power. We ingest new chemicals, use more drugs of all kinds, eat more sugar and refined foods, and daily abuse ourselves with various stimulants and sedatives. The incidence of many toxicity diseases has increased as well. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are two of the main ones. Arthritis, allergies, obesity, and many skin problems are others. In addition, a wide range of symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, pains, coughs, gastrointestinal problems, and problems from immune weakness, can all be related to toxicity. When you start a vegetarian eating plan, your body eventually cleanses itself of the harmful effects of these toxic foods.

Kyle Noble Quandel

Variety Adds Vitality to Vegetarian Meals

Probably one of the most perplexing thoughts a person has when they transition to vegetarianism is keeping their diet filled with a variety of fun, diverse, and nutrient-dense foods. It can sometimes feel like you’re cutting many options out since you’re no longer consuming meat, and it may seem you’re losing even more options if you’ve also decided to cut dairy and eggs from your diet as well. With a little creativity, planning, and forethought, you might be surprised how much variety you can achieve with your new vegetarian diet – perhaps even more than your meat-eating days!

There are some simple substitutions you can experiment with and use as substitutions in your favorite meat recipes. Tempeh, which is cultured soybeans with a chewy texture; tofu (freezing and then thawing gives tofu a meaty texture; the tofu will turn slightly off white in color); and wheat gluten or seitan (made from wheat and has the texture of meat; available in health food or Oriental stores) are all great items to start with.

Milk and other dairy products can also be easily replaced with vegetarian-friendly items. Try soy milk, soy margarine, and soy yogurts, which can be found in health food or Oriental food stores. You can also make nut milks by blending nuts with water and straining, or rice milks by blending cooked rice with water.

A good way to introduce beans to the diet is to use them instead of meat in favorite dishes, like casseroles and chili. Because of their many health benefits, beans should be eaten often. Some great examples are chickpeas, split peas, haricot, lentils (red, green or brown), and kidney beans.

Many nuts and seeds are available both in and out of the shell, whole, halved, sliced, chopped, raw, or roasted. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds are some easy-to-find favorites. Sunflower and sesame seeds are excellent choices for spicing up salads and other vegetable dishes.

And don’t worry that you’ll have to give up your favorite Mexican, Italian, or other favorite dishes now that you’re vegetarian. Many of them can still be enjoyed and only require slight variations. Some popular and easily convertible dishes include: pasta with tomato sauce, bean burritos, tacos, tostadas, pizza, baked potatoes, vegetable soups, whole grain bread and muffins, sandwiches, macaroni, stir-fry, all types of salad, veggie burgers with French fries, beans and rice, bagels, breakfast cereals, pancakes, and waffles just to name a few. The freezer sections of most big grocery stores carry an assortment of vegetarian convenience foods such as veggie bacon, burgers, and breakfast sausages.

So get in the kitchen and let your creativity lead the way! You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised just how much more variety your diet will have as a result.

No Holiday for the Turkeys

The consumption of turkeys in the U.S. has escalated through the years. It’s no longer eaten primarily at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but throughout the year. The process of mass-producing turkeys for human consumption is as barbaric, if not more so, than the process of mass-producing chickens.

Turkeys are kept in cramped, dark spaces to discourage the naturally aggressive behaviors that occur when an animal is kept confined without space to roam and feed freely. They’re overfed to the point where their legs can’t support the weight of the breast tissue. And this animal which normally has a 10-years life span is generally slaughtered at about 2 years of age.

Unhealthy and overcrowded conditions mean that disease amongst commercial turkeys is widespread, resulting in approximately 2.7 million turkeys dying in their sheds every year. Foot and leg deformities, heat stress and starvation caused by the inability of immature birds to find the feed and water troughs are commonplace. Ulcerated feet and hock burns are common – caused by continual contact with litter contaminated by urine and feces.

Can you really sit at dinner on your next holiday and look at a roasted turkey the same way? Turkeys come with the same recommendations for cleanliness and cooking that chickens do. You have to be sure they’re cooked to a specific temperature to ensure that any disease-causing bacteria are completely killed. You should clean up any counter space with bleach, again to kill all bacteria.

It makes a compelling case for switching to a vegetarian diet, doesn’t it? Suddenly, the jokes about vegetarian dinners, with nut loaves and vegetables, instead of meat, seem to make more sense, not only from a health standpoint, but from a humane issue as well. Why do we persist in eating in such a way that makes us unhealthy and is inherently bad for us? For you next holiday dinner, consider the possibilities of an all-vegetarian menu. So much of the dinner is vegetable-based to begin with; it’s a small change to replace turkey with a plant-based main course as well.

Vegetarian Buddhists; A Closer Look

Contrary to common perception, Buddhists are not absolute vegetarians. To set the facts straight, some Buddhists are practicing vegetarians while others are not. The stand on vegetarianism differs from sect to sect and from one Buddhist to another. When you are wondering if there is a necessity to observe vegetarianism when one wants to become a Buddhist, you will most likely get a conditional answer.

Records will show that historical Buddha was not a vegetarian. Based on some of his earliest teachings, he did not make any categorical prohibition of meat consumption to his disciples. The truth is that if meat is served to a Buddhist monk, he is supposed to partake it. The disciples of Buddha are supposed to receive and eat the graces served them, and these include meat.

Not All Buddhists are Vegetarians

The First Precept of Buddhism commands its disciples not to commit any killing. However, meat consumption has never been explicitly considered as a consequence of killing. In fact, there is no mention in the scriptures prohibiting meat eating. This is what can be gleaned from the Pali scriptures and it is clear that Buddha did not make any prohibition on meat consumption and this applies even to monks.

In fact, there was even a clear opposition by Buddha to the suggestion from Devadatta to abstain from meat eating. In the modern societies of Theravada, a bhikkhu who practices vegetarianism with the sole intention of obtaining positive impression of their ascendant spiritual superiority are deemed infringing on several monastic rules.

However, Buddha has clearly manifested his opposition to the consumption of the flesh of an animal that is deemed butchered mainly for the monks’ benefit. This particular rule specifically applies to monastics, although it can also be applied and followed by those who are considered devout Buddhists.

Buddhism and Vegetarianism

There are 2 schools of thought about vegetarianism in Buddhism – those who subscribe to it and those who do not.

Vegetarianism was considered a part of the early traditions of Buddhism. In fact, scholars and devout followers of Buddhism agree that Buddha was not a vegetarian. Buddha subsisted on the alms that he received or graces served to him after getting invited to the homes of his believers. In both instances, he consumed whatever is given or served to him. Prior to his enlightenment, Buddha actually experimented with different diets and these included dishes that are meat-free. However, Buddha eventually gave up the idea of meatless diet primarily because of his belief that it does not have any positive effect on his spiritual development.

This is what is being emphasized by Nipata Sutta, when it declared that impurity is caused by immorality and not by meat consumption. The Buddha was in fact mentioned in several instances to be consuming meat broth in order to treat various illnesses. In some cases, however, he even went to the point of advising monks to refrain from consuming meat for practical reasons. This could only mean that other types of diets are also acceptable.

Kyle Quandel is a student of Buddhism and spirituality, as well as lifelong vegetarian. Read more articles and publications of Kyle Noble Quandel.

You Really Are What You Eat

Recent dietary research has uncovered 14 different nutrient-dense foods that time and again promote good overall health.  Coined “superfoods,” they tend to have fewer calories, higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and many disease-fighting antioxidants.

Beans (legumes), berries (especially blueberries), broccoli, green tea, nuts (especially walnuts), oranges, pumpkin, salmon. soy, spinach, tomatoes, turkey, whole grains and oats, and yogurt can all help stop and even reverse diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer. And where one might have an effect on a certain part of the body, it can also affect the health of other body functions and performance, since the whole body is connected.  With these 14 foods as the base of a balanced, solid diet, weight loss gimmicks and other fly-by-night programs can become a thing of the past in your life.

Conversely, the ill-effects of an unbalanced diet are several and varied. Low energy levels, mood swings, tired all the time, weight change, uncomfortable with body are just a few signs that your diet is unbalanced.  An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of body tissues, growth and development, brain and nervous system function, as well as problems with bone and muscle systems.

Symptoms of malnutrition include lack of energy, irritability, a weakened immune system leading to frequent colds or allergies, and mineral depletion that can trigger a variety of health concerns including anemia.

And since the body is connected, realizing that an unhealthy body will result in an unhealthy spirit only makes sense.  When we nourish our body with these superfoods and complement them with other nutrient-dense and healthy fresh foods, our spirit will be vitalized and healthy as a direct result.

Many modern diets based on prepackaged convenience foods are sorely lacking in many vitamins and minerals, which can affect our mental capacities as well, and cause irritability, confusion, and the feeling of ‘being in a fog’ all the time.

Superfoods can be the basis of a sound, healthy, nutritious solution to curing many of these ailments and more.
Edited:  Kyle Quandel