Various Veggie Diets
—the lingo and the basics
© 1996 by Nenah Sylver
This article originally appeared in the September-
Ask the average person what a diet is, and she’ll wrinkle up her nose at the thought of starving and counting—be it calories, ounces of protein or grams of fat. But what if you were told that a diet means not deprivation and starvation, but innovation and enervation?
Of the many types of diets, four will be described. Keep in mind that just as there is never one correct color to wear always, there is never one optimal diet to follow. People have different body types, metabolisms and nutritional needs. Your tofu might be another woman’s baked potato. And the same person may find that what works for her at one point in her life will need to be changed to another plan sometime else. Flexibility is the key; needs change. Learn to listen to your body to determine what suits your needs now. There are many ways to enjoy a healthful diet.
In the beginning, before pesticides and herbicides, all the Earth's bounty was organic. The trees that grew next to the raspberry bushes dropped their leaves in the fall, and those leaves, instead of being raked and burned, decomposed to become the food for the bushes from which our ancestors ate the following summer. Earth had organic gardening down to a T. Nothing was ever wasted. Any fruit, nut or seed that fell to the ground, even if it was not eaten by an animal or human, always became food for another plant.
In this hi-
The soil that is the plant’s home must not only be free of contaminants, it must contain adequate levels of all the nutrients the plant needs. That berry bush mentioned earlier got what it needed from the mulch that was created from the tree’s dropped leaves. But factory farms, where each crop is grown in huge plots and isolated from other crops, do not contain the variety of growing vegetation that would ordinary replenish the soil. That is why farmers who grow organic rotate their crops. Alfalfa, for example, will replace the nitrogen in the soil that the corn depletes. Some organic growers plant different crops right next to each other. After all, what is a weed? Simply a flower or other green growing thing in the "wrong" place. But to an organic farmer, a "weed" (as well as earthworms) might be just what is needed to keep the soil alive and healthy with wonderful microorganisms. Hence the second law of organic farming: Give the plant everything it needs, and it will give us everything we need.
Anyone who regularly consumes organic food knows what a joy it is simply to eat. The flavor and energy from organic food is unmatched. Carrots and acorn squashes are amazingly sweet, tomatoes are mellow and flavorful, and plain old vegetables that seemed boring and tired when you purchased them at the supermarket suddenly come alive when you bite into their organic versions.
Eating organic is so—well, organic. The health benefits are unsurpassed, as is the taste. Whether you choose to steam the vegetables or eat them raw, whether tonight’s meal is Italian or Indian, and should you decide to follow one of the diets listed below or your own intuition, you can’t go wrong with organic.
***Resource: Organic Food & Farming, from Natural Food Associates, P.O. Box 210, Atlanta, Texas 75551. Tel: (214) 796-
Before there were planes and fast freighters to ship mangoes and pineapples to gourmands living in Alaska, people ate what grew locally. Their vegetables were seasonal. Although people did can and freeze some of their produce, what they ate was circumscribed by the cycles of nature. If you lived in North America, during the winter you ate root vegetables. In the spring you could start eating green things. Summer produced the most abundance, including a variety of fruits. And autumn’s menu was similarly varied.
There is sound logic behind eating seasonally, and eating only those plants that are indigenous to one’s region. Just as dark-
Thus, the plants that adapt to the region in which you are living are the best suited to nourish and protect you.
It is from this natural order that the system of macrobiotics developed and expanded. George Ohsawa, Lima Ohsawa, Michio Kushi and Aveline Kushi are credited with bringing this system to the United States from Japan. With a strong foundation in Oriental healing philosophy (which also birthed acupuncture), eating macrobiotically means balancing the forces of Yin and Yang, or contraction and expansion. Other balancing factors are warmth and coolness, the moist and the dry. Macrobiotics adherents avoid red meat and poultry, which are considered too yang, and alcohol, sugar, refined (de-
When most people think of macrobiotics, brown rice and beans come to mind. However, for the Inuit of Alaska, who can’t grow rice or beans underneath the ice floes, seal meat is perfect for them. Ultimately, macrobiotics is not a rigid collection of "dos" and "don’ts," but a way of harmonizing best with Nature. As long as you remember to eat what grows in your region, and if possible to eat organically, you will be following the essence of this Divine plan.
Everybody knows that vegetarians don’t eat meat. A vegan diet might be regarded as vegetarianism without the frills of animal by-
Some vegans avoid eggs and dairy products for ethical reasons. Even though no living animal is being consumed with the ingestion of dairy products and eggs, many vegans feel that because these substances are so intimately related to the animal’s life cycle and come directly from animals, they should be avoided. Naturally, the omission of dairy also means no cheese, yogurt, sour cream or ice cream.
Another reason for a vegan to avoid eggs and dairy pertains to health. A vegan diet works well for people with tendencies toward allergies, whose bodies produce lots of mucous. Because dairy and even eggs can often cause mucous in sensitive individuals, a vegan diet can help take the burden off one’s over-
A vegan diet, though simplified in the amount of ingredients one might use for a meal, is far from dull or simple. Delicious meals can be made if the ingredients are fresh, and especially if they are fresh and organic: pasta with spicy sauces; carrots, zucchini and peppers rubbed in virgin olive oil and oven roasted; soup made from puree of carrots and winter squash spiced with cinnamon and cardamon. The gustatory delights are limited only by one’s imagination. There are many excellent vegan cookbooks to help you plan your meals, and even vegetarian recipes can be modified to vegan if you follow several simple rules of substitution. First, nut milk is a good substitute for cow or goat milk. Next, for foods that require a flavor less strong than olive oil, coconut oil can always replace butter. Or, for baking, some people avoid oil entirely with the use of applesauce, concentrated fruits and/or fruit juice, which add a nice flavor and sweetness to the dessert. Finally, what to do about a replacement for those eggs in your cake or muffins, which are used to bind the ingredients together in baking? Flax seeds. In your coffee/spice grinder, pulverize the flax seeds to a powder and use about one-
On the clothing front, in keeping with the vegan philosophy, many adherents do not wear leather. Fortunately, the twentieth century has given us a wonderful invention called sneakers, and for special occasions, one can find dressy and comfortable shoes that do not contain leather. The same goes for pocketbooks.
The name of this diet might sound too obvious, since all of the foods we eat were once living, but adherents of this system mean "Living until the point at which it enters your mouth—and even then, it’s alive in your stomach."
One thing that distinguishes a living system from a non-
The good news is that everyone can have a properly functioning digestive system. The best way is to ingest enzyme-
Those who are used to cooking food might be at a loss to think what a tasty, well-
Not all living foods are totally raw. Because some foods can be exposed to varying amounts of heat before their enzymes become broken down, some living foods preparers use a food drier to make sliced carrots, strawberries and bananas. And a very good, still-
It is easy to see who would benefit from such a diet. The staff at the Hippocrates Institute in Boston, which specializes in helping people restore their bodies to a naturally high state of functioning, says they have helped people with hardening of the arteries, arthritis and emphysema. Even if you do not have a major ailment you wish to eliminate, eating some living foods in your diet every day makes good sense. After all, your hard-
Other good books: Annemarie Colbin. Food and Healing (New York: Ballantine Books, 1986) and The Book of Whole Meals (New York: Ballantine Books, 1983).
Also, my favorite cookbook Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig (ProMotion Publishing, 3368 F Governor Drive, Suite 144, San Diego, California 92122; 2001)
Eating to live, not living to eat. One potential hazard of a strictly vegetarian diet is the overuse of carbohydrates, especially refined carbs. In the past, I have known many vegetarians who didn't eat meat and instead of supplementing their diet with high-
Telling you sweetly (I hope). In my book, The Rife Handbook of Frequency Therapy and Holistic Health, I devote considerable space to Food because it's true that "You are what you eat"—and that "You are what what you eat, ate." This Food section also extensively discusses the often problematic topic of sweeteners—including that category of non-