The number of adepts of veganism and vegetarianism is growing in the last years. The practice of abstaining from consumption of meat (and in the case of veganism, any product of animal origin) has been questioned by society concerning its health pros and cons. The reasons to adopt the diet vary from health, ethical, environmental, cultural or even personal motivations. But in the end, is it good or bad?
As every abstinence concerning nutrition, it may be prejudicial for the human health if taken to the extreme. Protein is necessary in the human diet, playing many critical roles in the body – including being responsible for regulating, structuring and the function of the body’s tissues and organs – and its main source is meat. Eggs, milk and its derivative products are a good source, but can be also very caloric and fat, not good to be eaten every day in big amounts. So what other options are there? Beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, soya and edible seaweed are an alternative to those who prefer to avoid animal sources.
If the diet is nutritionally balanced, the vegetarianism can be a very interesting way of life. From discovering alternative option of restaurants and recipes to a whole concern about a healthier life, as the diet usually comes hand in hand with regular consumption of water, exercises and mindfulness. The idea involved is bigger than just avoiding meat or animal products, but a better way of living, concerned about the environment, health and the wellbeing of all living creatures. It is essential to highlight the importance of a well-planned diet. Not paying attention to human nutritional needs can lead to poor health and cause serious harm, such as Hyperhomocysteinemia (medical condition characterized by an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood, caused by deficiency of vitamins B6, B9 and B12. It can cause cardiovascular and bones problems). On the good side, studies on health effects of vegetarian diets have observed decreased overall risk of mortality. Vegetarian diets have been shown to prevent and treat gallstones, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, diverticular disease, renal disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. Of course, it cannot be assured that all adepts of vegetarian diets are immune to all diseases, but the diet helps in the prevention and treatment of them. Balance is key: food is both the medicine and the poison of the body; it only depends on the amount.
Many people can seem resistant, claiming that “green taste awful”, “it tastes like cardboard” and other excuses to not eating vegetarian food. As a food lover passionate about gastronomic experiences and studies, I usually have a way to end the discussion: just try it. Always give food a chance as many times as possible. I like to say that every cook is a bit of a scientist and a bit of a witch; and not everyone cooks the same, the seasonings and recipes aren’t all the same, every combinations is chemistry, flavor, magic in a bite.
Try for a week or a month vegetarianism or veganism, or both, and observe how your body reacts. Give it a month of special treatment, exercise, drink water and take 30 minutes of the day to really relax. And to help on this challenge, here’s a little vegetarian recipe to get you in the spirit:
- 150g of champignon
- 100g of shiitake
- 100g of shimeji
- 50g of oyster mushrooms
- 100g unsalted butter
- ½ diced onion
- juice of ½ lemon
- 100ml white wine
- 200ml fresh cream
- 1 table spoon of chopped parsley leaves
- salt and pepper
Method of preparation:
Clean well and cut the mushrooms into even pieces. In a pan, heat the butter and cook the onions. Add the mushrooms and cook them, stirring frequently. Cook over high heat until all the mushroom water loosens and dry. Add the lemon juice and wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the cream, salt and pepper and reduce again until a creamy consistency. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve it with pasta or polenta.