The market for meatless products, according to this article in the LA Times, such as soy burgers is start to grow, up 2.4% to $636M. It's a positive trend and reflects the rising number of consumers who have meatless meals some of the time or all of the time. Some fast food chains, such as Subway and Burger King, have even added veggie meat options. As a result, consumers who want meatless meals have more options now than ever before making it easier to enjoy the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
Author Camille Lamb in this article, "Veganism is My Health Insurance," advocates a vegan diet as a way to stay healthy and even avoid catching colds. She also writes about people who avoid chronic disease even though they are predisposed to it through family history and genetics. This is a motivating testimonial for a plant-based diet.
I am a big fan of preventative health care. It's not very time consuming, costs much less than treatment, and makes one focus on long term good health. One of the best preventative health practices, next to regular screenings, is to eat a good diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A plant-based diet can aid the body in fighting the onset of chronic disease.
One of the biggest health risks for Americans is colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it's the third most diagnosed form of cancer and a high cause of cancer death among men and women. According to this article on the anti colon cancer diet, it is largely preventable through diet. It offers eight dietary ways to prevent this disease including eating less red meat and consuming a variety of plant antioxidants.
In cultures where vegetables are the main course, colon cancer rates are lower compared to the U.S. It's not hard to add a few more vegetable meals to the routine and preserve good health for the long term. Lentil soup, cabbage salad, and a vegetable stew are great meals any time of the week!
I have long felt that vegetarian and vegan diets not only improve physical health, but also improve mental health. In fact, the area of research that intrigues me the most regarding food is the relationship between diet and behavior. Being in a good state of mind enhances how one feels about oneself which leads to increased mental and physical activity and eventually better physical health.
While many physical and dietary factors are linked to chronic disease, some research indicates that stress is one of the highest factors linked to bad health. By eating well, I believe that mental health improves and one is able to cope with life better, reducing stress. I also feel that vegetarian and vegan diets reduce anger and violent tendencies in people leading to a more peaceful and cooperative world.
A recent study published in the Nutrition Journal and summarized in this article indicates that a vegetarian diet improved mood within the study group over a fish and fish and meat diet. In fact, mood improved significantly. The results also indicated that the vegetarian group was better able to handle stress. This is a useful finding since both results point to better mental health and happier, more peaceful people which is central to healthy living and a healthy community.
The empowering effect of vegan diets is proclaimed earnestly in this brilliant article by James McWilliams in the Atlantic. Evidence includes having tremendous vitality among vegans at more senior ages, conquering chronic illness, appearing much younger than one's age, and the ability to change and impact giant food companies which can lead to less damage to the environment.
All of this is possible by eating a wide range of veggies, fruit, and whole grains during the day which will supply the full amount of nutrition the body needs. The author starts the article with a long list of the vegetables and fruit he ate the day he wrote it. It's the most important message to consider - there is so much great food to eat and it doesn't have to include meat. Once you adopt a vegan diet, it's amazing how many different foods you'll start including in your meals which leads to more enjoyment, nutrients, energy, and the transformation to a more powerful life!
This article gives a nice overview of the vegan trend and highlights that, what was once an obscure diet regimen, is now reaching mainstream status. Being vegan or eating a vegan meal means eating vegetables which are healthy and less destructive to the environment to produce on a large scale. It also means expanding the reach of one's compassion and reducing, as much as possible, one's footprint on the environment. It's a positive way of life and it's nice to see more people learning about it. The article also discusses nutrition topics relevant to vegan diets.
It's nice to see vegan cooking becoming more mainstream. If it helps people include a few more vegetable meals during the week, then it's a good thing. Here is a segment from NBC's Today Show where Mark Bittman of the NY Times demonstrates how to make vegan meals including bean burgers. It gives the recipe details as well.
Mr. Bittman also wrote a nice editorial on why meat consumption is dropping in the U.S. He covers a lot of points and statistics including a recent survey which reported that 50% of Americans are aware of the Meatless Monday campaign. He also mentions flexitarian diets which are semi vegetarian as an example of people reducing meat consumption. Here is the link to the article.
My website and book advocates going green by reducing the amount of meat in the meals people eat. However, it's only one way to make an impact. This article lists eleven other ways that may fit your lifestyle better. All twelve are useful and effective at sustaining the environment.
The process to becoming vegetarian or vegan is gradual and the pace is determined somewhat by how much you enjoy and appreciate the cuisine. Learning to enjoy a satisfying meal without meat or even dairy products is the first step recognizing that living off such food is feasible and pleasurable. So the question is where do you start? What is your first meal and what is going to be your comfort food?
If you are not used to a vegetable and whole grain based diet, then these are difficult questions for sure. Changing your eating habits is one of the hardest things to do, especially if fantastic alternatives are not identifiable and immediately available. One technique that I used and that many vegetarians have followed is to start eating more Asian and Mediterranean foods. Asian foods include Chinese stir-fries, Japanese tofu dishes, Thai noodle dishes, and Indian curries. Mediterranean foods include Greek salads and lentil soups, meatless Italian pastas and eggplant dishes, Middle Eastern grain dishes made with couscous, and Spanish vegetarian paellas. Ethiopian cuisine also offers many vegetarian options. In fact, the more you explore, the more great meals you can find from cultures around the world.
I started the transition by learning to enjoy vegetables from a mixture or Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian dishes. The food tasted so good, I didn’t even care that meat was not an ingredient. It was the flavor from the spices that won me over. The food was also filling and gave me great energy. Once you starting trying new flavors and cooking styles, the vegetables almost become a secondary concern. They are just a vehicle and foundation to try the different flavors. They also absorb the flavors better in my opinion increasing the enjoyment of the dish.
As you start to eat more types of food from around the world, it starts to give you perspectives on your own local cuisine and how vegetables are cooked and prepared. It also begins the process of learning to enjoy the veggies for their own flavor. You learn to pick and choose the ones you like and create ways of eating them based on all of the recipes that you’ve tried previously. Finally, it becomes apparent that it’s not hard to duplicate the flavors simply in your own kitchen and before long you’re developing uniquely personal recipes for food that you love and can eat any time.
This is the transition that I went through and it was very expansive and transformational. I came to realize how many flavors there are to try and I learned to like so many new ingredients. The world became a more interesting place and it started by simply trying new food. I hope you can enjoy a similar experience!
The latest statistics indicate that the consumption of beef in the U.S. has dropped 13% since 1980, in part due to more people eating leaner meats and switching to a vegetarian diet according to this article.
Make Simple Vegan Meals