...the incredible variety of the planet’s plant life is disappearing. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s plant genetic resources are now extinct. Another third of plant biodiversity is expected to disappear by 2050. This is no small problem--humans eat biological diversity.
One of the more fun things to do when traveling is to taste and eat the local food. There's always the chance that you'll discover and like something new. It turns out that choosing to eat the local ingredients of the culture you visit may help protect biological and plant diversity which is in jeopardy. Because of the global demand for mega crops like wheat, corn, and rice, farmland used to produce many indigenous crops are being converted to grow these staples according to this article which reduces the variety of vegetables grown around the world.
As a result, food security also becomes jeopardized, especially among the poorest nations. In fact, according to the article, "many indigenous crops can be environmentally sustainable, improve food security, help prevent malnutrition, and increase incomes." In addition, since a large portion of the mega crops supply animal agriculture with feed, reducing meat consumption will also reduce the rate of farmland replacement of indigenous agriculture.
Therefore, researchers suggest that food security must involve the continuation and protection of local vegetables and crops and the expansion, not reduction, of plant biodiversity. We can support this by shopping at farmers markets and buying local produce whenever available as well as using a variety of ingredients in our meals. The article lists 15 indigenous crops which have the potential to increase food security in developing nations if protected, including enset, kumara, Lifou Island yam, and Bunya nuts among others!
Americans are eating — make that, demanding — fresh veggies at the one place no one expected them to: the restaurant. Gone are the days when meat 'n' potatoes basked in all the menu glory and an indistinguishable medley of peas, carrots and green beans were pushed to the wee corner of the plate. When Americans go out to eat — when most folks prefer to splurge — they're increasingly splurging with vegetables.
The benefits of plant-based ingredients is changing the way many people approach food now and it's being reflected in the menus of familiar restaurants across the country. According to this article, several national fast casual chain restaurants are seeing demand for veggie dishes increasing dramatically and overtaking previously popular meat based dishes on the menu. Even kale based soups and appetizers are becoming top picks among those who frequent these establishments.
Credit a new generation of eaters — 80 million Millennials with a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion annually — who garner a big hunk of their social media cred by what they eat and what they post about what they eat.
The plant-based trend seems to be influencing the millennial generation among others as cited in the article who are demanding better dining options when they eat out. This demand will benefit all who decide to take a break from the kitchen as restaurants begin to adapt menus to satisfy this healthier eating style!
"To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to Nirvana" - Buddha
I found a nice book during a recent visit to a used bookstore entitled, Eating in the Light - Making the Switch to Vegetarianism on Your Spiritual Path, and found the messages to be very useful and positive. The authors, Doreen Virtue and Becky Prelitz, elaborate on the connection many people feel between becoming vegetarian or vegan as part of their personal spiritual journey while offering methods to make the transition.
I suspect it is a common feeling especially since many religious beliefs throughout history have recommended shunning meat diets as a way to reach a higher level of purity and consciousness. In fact, if one feels that all life was created from a divine being, then bringing harm to any of those creatures for any reason could be perceived as a disrespectful action. Such is one foundation of the connection between diet and spiritualism. Beyond the arguments of logic, many on their spiritual path feel, emotionally or physically, that it is just the best thing to do.
One discussion in the book which was intriguing is the concept that food has a life force that "can be felt as energy that we plug into for our physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal."
When an apple is growing on a tree, drinking in the sunlight, it is filled with the energy of life. That energy is what we call the "life force". Once the apple is picked , it still contains much of ifs life force. The life force keeps the apple firm, juicy, and sweet. However, several variables can affect its life force.
The discussion continues that the life force is diminished by several factors including the time passed after the food is harvested, the temperature at which it is stored and then cooked, its preparation, the type of packaging, the pain the food suffered when produced, and the level of pesticides and additives contained within the food. Based on this premise, high life force foods are plant-based, whole organic foods that are eaten as much in the natural state as soon as they are harvested. Foods with low life force capacity include packaged and processed foods along with meat products which suffered pain to produce, which is believed to be transmitted through the food, impairing the life force of the consumer.
If we consume high life force foods we should reap the reward of higher energy levels and vitality which results in positive forces and progressions in our personal and spiritual lives and a prolonged duration of the life force that makes us who we are!
So don’t be fooled into thinking you are being kind to your body just because the box or packet has a vegetarian label.
Without a doubt, it is nice to see the wide range of vegan packaged food items available in supermarkets these days. First, knowing that the product you are buying is labeled vegan reduces the time to scan the label for any meat or dairy ingredients. Second, it allows those used to buying packaged goods to have a vegan alternative which makes switching to the vegan diet more accommodating. Third, as sales increase, it well pressure the larger consumer packaged goods companies to change their product offering.
However, there is still nothing better than eating whole, unprocessed foods. Regardless of the ingredients, processed foods, vegan or otherwise, usually have more salt, refined sugars, saturated fats, and preservatives than the fresh meals you would cook at home. For example, during a recent trip to the grocery store, I found a can of vegan chili that had 550 mg of sodium per serving! It is always recommended to eat processed foods in moderation or as little as possible and get used to cooking your own food whenever you can. You will feel better and be healthier in the long run as well as reducing the waste created from the packages in which these foods are sold!
November 1st is world vegan day and November is world vegan month! Congratulations to all who are interested in, trying, or actively living the vegan lifestyle! Keep enjoying great food wherever you may be. The Vancouver Sun has listed 30 reasons in support of the vegan diet in this article which highlights many of the benefits gained simply by adopting a plant-based diet. Have a fantastic day!
According to a Forbes food trends article for 2013, the most popular trend is vegan upscale dining. It is nice to see that there is a growing market in fine dining with all plant-based ingredients. It was a movement that started early in the year with many top chefs predicting that vegetables would become the main attraction at top restaurants as discussed in this blog post. It should help make the cuisine even more exciting, flavorful, and desirable especially as top restaurant vie for customers. It will also pressure meat-based restaurants to add more vegan options to their menus to stay competitive. This is a trend with very positive implications!
A 2012 Harvard Medical School study compared results of studies measuring women’s blood levels of carotenoid, colorful plant pigments that can act as antioxidants. The study determined that women with the highest levels of carotenoids had a lower risk of breast cancer..."
It's encouraging to see more research evaluating the ability of plant-based diets to counter chronic illnesses. This study by Harvard suggests that a diet rich in carotenoids is a possible way to prevent a prevalent type of cancer. Vegetables that supply carotenoids include yams, carrots, red bell peppers, and winter squashes along with the dark leafy green vegetables which provide an array of additional body balancing nutrients as well. Plant based food is also low in dietary fat, which has similarly been linked to preventing chronic illness.
The U.S. surgeon general has stated that “a comparison of populations indicates that death rates for cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate are directly proportional to estimated dietary fat intakes.”
As the article points out, no single factor can be directly linked to preventing chronic illness, but the research demonstrates that adopting a plant-based diet can mostly likely give one an advantage over time in staying healthy.
When Arizona's Maricopa County decided to switch to vegetarian food in all of it's county prisons, it was doing more than just saving money which was the main impetus. It was giving inmates a second chance. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been shown to improve behavior and reduce violence in study groups as discussed in this blog post. If the new diet has this affect, then the individuals learning the new way of eating and the community they return to will both benefit. It is hoped that, someday, this becomes the model across the country.
The vegan diet has a lot of data supporting it, especially when it comes to its agricultural efficiency compared to meat production. World demand for food and water is going up and according to these charts from Business Insider, relying on plant-based foods instead of meat-based ones may increase chances of supporting the demand in the future and reducing undernourishment today which affects nearly 1 billion people. Several important comparisons:
1. Cubic meters of water used per kilogram of product: Meat ~ 15.4, most vegetables < 1.8
2. Number of people whose caloric needs can be met on 2.5 acres of land: Beef ~ 1, cabbage ~ 23
3. Relative score of the most nutrient rich foods: Fish and meats <= 15, raw leafy green vegetables ~100
Malaysia, located between Thailand and Singapore, is constantly ranked in the top 10 among countries good for vegan or vegetarian travel. After a short time there its not hard to see why. With a mix of cultures, all known for great cooking, Malaysian cuisine offers so much variety and such an abundance of different flavors that its hard to decide what to eat.
The Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes all have plenty of vegetarian options. What makes them unique is the wide range of curry flavoring with fresh coconut milk and spices, specials sauces from peanut to savory to chili hot which are poured over noodles or tofu, and the pleasant combinations of vegetables over rice. Beyond the main meal, the wide variety of freshly cut tropical fruit makes it easy to eat as a snack, for breakfast, or as a desert.
Now with the growth in popularity of vegetarian food trends globally, many new restaurants are opening across the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and across the country. Even the airports have vegetarian restaurants, so you can start your trip with a quick snack while still in the terminal!
Many fresh ingredients can be found in supermarkets like Tesco and Isetan, road side fruit stands, and smaller corner markets. Fresh coconut water is not hard to find with large coconuts available everywhere. The sellers chop them on site so they are ready to cut open when you get home. Lentils and chilies are a big part of the cooking experience, as well, for dahls and fried rice. My favorite fruit, the jack fruit, is always in supply.
When you travel through Asia, it becomes readily apparent that most of the growth in the world is occurring throughout China and Southeast Asia. During the time I visited Kuala Lumpur, the largest city, I counted more than 50 new buildings being constructed, along with major infrastructure projects in development such as highways, light rail, and subway systems. It is somewhat concerning since SE Asia, especially Malaysia and Indonesia, have dense jungles throughout the country and many old growth rainforest eco-systems that risk deforestation as the country's economy and population grows.
While the Environmental Protection Index (EPI) rates Malaysia at 25 which is considered 'strong', there is much to be worried about. Palm oil plantations continue to replace raw jungle. Palm oil is becoming an ingredient in many processed foods globally. In fact, burning of peat moss in Indonesia to clear land, especially in Borneo and Sumatra, has created such bad air pollution, it has caused international tensions among the countries in that region.
The good news is that there are many national parks created by the government to preserve bio-diversity and natural habitats. Malaysia is a mega-diverse nation when it comes to flora and fauna and has some of the most unique plants and animals on the planet, including the Sumatran tiger, Asian elephants, Malayan tapirs, orangutans, 300 species of stick insects, hornbill birds, and clouded leopards. With exotic wildlife smuggling on the rise, there is a need for greater protection of animals within the parks along with stronger penalties for those caught.
For vegan travelers, visiting Malaysia is worth the experience and it will definitely expand your horizons for culture, nature, and especially food!
Make Simple Vegan Meals