Monday, January 11, 2016

For the love of vegetables!

When I was about 4 years old I announced that I wasn't going to eat certain meats ever again. My memory of that day is that I'd had something very chewy, possibly a bit gristly, and that put me off. I don't ever remember liking the taste or texture of a lot of meat, so I made my announcement and became known as the picky eater in the family!

50+ years on I still don't eat a lot of meat, in fact I eat even less now than I did then. But I'm not  an out and out vegetarian, at least not yet. I say not yet because I keep thinking about it, not on moral grounds, but on health grounds. The book I've been reading (The China Study) presents a lot of data that points to a vegetarian diet as being the healthiest option for addressing many of the issues that arise from a modern Western diet. The data seems to be strongly in favour of a move to a more heavily plant based diet, but then the interpretation of the data may need to be questioned. That is a job for the scientific community to do, which I'm sure they have done but I have not.

Anyway, I like vegetables (with the exception of a few including the worst of them all-the brussel sprout!), so eating mainly veg is not an issue for either Anne or myself. Working out how to make it different and tasty is a bit more of a challenge, but there are lots of options, it just take a bit of time and effort. On the hand, the same could be said of anything you cook from scratch.

The other issue with a vegetarian diet is that there are very few plant based protein sources that are complete proteins (i.e. containing all the essential amino acids). That means you have to combine plant proteins in a meal in order to get the amino acids you need. It's fairly easy to do, you just combine foods from different groups that contain the missing proteins. Or, if all you re trying to do is to cut down the amount of animal protein in your diet, then you might choose to have chicken of fish just once a week and eat vegetarian the rest of the time. That would probably ensure you get what you need in your diet although it would be wise to give that a bit more thought and research.

And cooking vegetarian need not be hard or uninteresting. We made a really nice vegetable risotto using butternut squash, sweet potato, leek and yellow pepper. Add a bit of white wine, vegetable stock and sage, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and it was very tasty!

If The China Study is right, making a shift away from animal protein could help reduce the risk of many serious conditions. The current recommendation for a balanced diet is that you eat around 15% protein, most of which comes from meat in our western diet. But if you reduced that to around 5% from animal products (which would include diary as well as meat) and the rest from plant protein, then from my reading of the book you could see some positive benefits.

If you belong to that small group of people who profess not to like vegetables the perhaps you just haven't found the right combination or maybe you haven't discovered how best to cook them for your palette. Mind you, you might say the same thing to me about meat and even sprouts!

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