Holistic Recipes - VEGGIE POWER: GO GET IT!
by Swati Chopra
You may be a non-vegetarian without knowing it! It is shocking but true. If you are serious about turning vegetarian, avoid consuming the following products or check up on the
IS MILK REALLY GOOD FOR YOU?
Recent remarks by certain animal lovers in the national press branding milk as non-vegetarian has made traditional vegetarians see red. This is because a bulk of Indian vegetarians
ARGUE WITH A MEAT-EATER...AND WIN!If you belong to the vegetarian-by-choice species, you must be immune by now to the varied reactions to your culinary preferences. For those neophytes who are yet to develop a thick skin to
MANNA FROM NATURE'S KITCHEN
The Jews, liberated at last from the Egyptian pharaoh's captivity, had been seeking the Promised Land for days without success. Desperate for nourishment, they turned their eyes, and
The twelve pigs were huddled together at the far end of the pen, standing quietly, looking apprehensive. One of the men in rubber boots pulled a metal chain down from the wall and advanced upon the nearest animal, approaching it from the rear. Then he bent down and quickly looped one end of the chain around one of the animal's hind legs. The other end he attached to a hook on the moving cable as it went by. The cable kept moving. The chain tightened. The pig's leg was pulled up and back, and then the pig itself began to be dragged backwards... the creature was suddenly jerked off its feet and borne aloft. Shrill protests filled the air.
"Truly a fascinating process," Lexington said. "But what was the funny cracking noise it made as it went up?"
"Probably the leg," the guide answered. "Either that or the pelvis."
"But doesn't that matter?"
"Why should it matter?" the guide asked. "You don't eat the bones..."
At this point, while Lexington was gazing skyward at the last pig to go up, a man in rubber boots approached him quietly from behind and looped one end of a chain around the youth's own ankle, hooking the other end to the moving belt. The next moment, before he had time to realize what was happening, our hero was jerked off his feet and dragged backwards along the concrete floor of the shackling-pen.
"Stop!" he cried. "Hold everything! My leg is caught!" But nobody seemed to hear him, and five seconds later, the unhappy young man was jerked off the floor and hoisted vertically upward through the open roof of the pen, dangling upside down by one ankle, and wriggling like a fish...
"Hi there," the sticker said, smiling.
"Quick! Save me!" our hero cried.
"With pleasure," the sticker said, and taking Lexington gently by one ear with his left hand, he raised his right hand and deftly slit open the boy's jugular vein with a knife.
The belt moved on. Lexington went with it. Everything was still upside down and the blood was pouring out of his throat and getting into his eyes, but he could still see and he had a blurred impression of being in an enormously long room, and at the far end of the room there was a great smoking cauldron of water, and there were dark figures, half hidden in the steam, dancing around the edge of it, brandishing long poles. The conveyor-belt seemed to be traveling right over the top of the cauldron, and the pigs seemed to be dropping one by one into the boiling water...
Suddenly our hero started to feel very sleepy, but it wasn't until his good strong heart had pumped the last drop of blood from his body that he passed on out of this, the best of all possible worlds, into the next.
In Pig, a grotesque tale by Roald Dahl, a youth brought up in idyllic bliss by a fanatically vegetarian aunt undergoes the horrors of slaughter in a high-tech city abattoir. Think for a moment, what if fiction was transmuted into reality? What if we, who never think twice before digging into succulent seekh kebabs or toothsome tandoori
chickens, were to experience firsthand the agony of being a chicken/pig/cow under the knife? What then? Or is it possible for us to empathize with all sentient beings by turning vegetarian without resorting to such drastic measures?
Dietary preferences might be an individual's sole prerogative, but do you ever wonder how your body copes with food once it's down your gullet after having been savored to the maximum by your taste buds? Well, if you haven't, then do it now. For not only is your favorite chicken dish an invitation to serious health hazards; by consuming it, you also become party to the cruelty being inflicted on fellow living beings in the name of satiating perverse human appetites.
Perverse? I can almost see eyebrows forming question marks and lips curving into sneers as a barrage of arguments are readied to counter the ghaas phoos brigade (a sarcastic epithet for vegetarians in India). But wait! Let me present my case and so, rest the poisoned chalice awhile.
Contrary to popular perception, there are no 'merciful' ways of killing animals. At least not in India. Chickens, exploited for both their eggs and flesh, are being brutalized and killed daily in sophisticated hatcheries and farms equipped with state-of-the-art machinery that aim to squeeze the best out of them at minimum cost. And that almost sounds good when compared to what a pig goes through in order to be incarnated as your breakfast bacon or the salami sandwich that you lovingly pack for your kid's lunch.
Maneka Gandhi, Union cabinet minister of India and longtime animal rights activist, cites the findings of an international organization, WSPA in her book Heads and Tails. In Delhi, the pigs were burnt after having their necks sliced open. In Mumbai, they were stunned with electric shocks; in Tamil Nadu and Mizoram, an iron prong was shoved into the pig's anus until it came out through the mouth, having sliced through its internal organs.
The 'holy cow' meets with a worse fate in this, the country where no devout Hindu can go through life without paying obeisance to au mata (literally, the cow mother) and where the Prime Minister does not file his election nomination without the mandatory gau poojan (cow worship). And yet appalling cruelty is meted out to this gentle animal in our country to cater to a flourishing (often illegal) beef and leather trade for overseas markets in the Middle East, Australia, Europe and the USA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international animal rights organization, has spearheaded a campaign to put an end to the brutal slaughter of cows in India, a cause that has found a vociferous champion in Hollywood action star Jackie Chan.
PETA's president Ingrid Newkirk shares her horror at what she was confronted with during a recent visit to India. "The cows were beaten in order to force them from the truck, then all four feet were tied together and they were thrown on their sides on the filthy floor. Workers sawed back and forth with dull knives, often leaving fully conscious animals to bleed slowly to death. Other cows looked on as their companions died in pools of their own blood," she says. Dr Ted Dappner, veterinarian of the Washington Humane Society, who traveled to India with Ingrid, says: "The extent of cruelty toward these animals is truly astonishing. I have nightmares to last me quite some time."
It is perhaps time that we declare what the malevolent Old Testament God did in The Book of Isaiah (1:11, 1:15-16): "I have had enough of the roasted carcasses of rams and of the fat of fattened beasts. I take no pleasure in the blood of calves, lambs and goats... I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Put away your misdeeds from before My eyes and stop doing evil."
Is there a connection between what we eat and who we are? Dr Jasraj Singh has been conducting experiments at Gwalior Jail to determine the interrelation, if any, between our diet and personality traits. During the course of one such experiment, the prisoners were kept on a strictly vegetarian diet. Over six months, they developed a tendency to refrain from violent confrontations; some even denounced the life of crime that they had led. When they were reverted to a non-vegetarian diet, there was again a behavioral change, this time for the worse.
Endorsement for this comes from Georges Ohsawa who, in his book Zen Macrobiotics, prescribes vegetarianism for purely physiological reasons. Says he: "People who eat hemoglobin foods may become murderers, liars, cowards as a result and may not realize that their unhappiness is caused by wrong eating. This is because they are depending for sustenance on animals. Animal meat has the ideal composition of an animal; animal glands produce hormones fit for creatures that act instinctively and are unaccustomed to thinking."
Ohsawa goes to the extent of maintaining that if Mahatma Gandhi had not eschewed all animal products in his youth, he would have become a cruel revolutionary instead of an apostle of nonviolence.
Explains Dr D.C. Jain, head of the department of neurology at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, India: "When an animal is slaughtered, its body secretes large quantities of certain neuro-excitatory hormones. These are retained in their meat and possibly trigger traits like aggression and ill-temper in meat eaters." Moreover, kinesiology (an alternative system of diagnosis) believes that all events and emotions are recorded in cellular memory. So, when you tuck into animal food, you are unknowingly absorbing the animal's pain which is stored in its cells.
What's more, you also end up consuming a deadly cocktail of drugs that are regularly fed to the 'factory farmed' animal. For instance, to increase their weight as much as possible, chickens are fed a mixture of cheap fat-producing carbohydrates, antibiotics, sulpha drugs, hormones and nitrofurans. Egg-laying hens are made to consume arsenic compounds (carcinogenic to humans) to make their egg-yolks more yellow. Pigs, who fall sick in their unhygienic surroundings, are constantly fed tetracycline antibiotics.
Most of these animals are kept alive on drugs, or they would perish otherwise in the barbaric conditions that they are kept in.
Traditionally, an Indian's caste or religion governed every aspect of his life, including what he could or could not eat. But the rapid rise of cities—those melting pots fostering a cross-cultural milieu—in recent decades has encouraged a movement away from parochial food habits. While this might be valuable for the existence of an unfragmented society, the cosmopolitanization of cuisine has also meant discarding simple vegetarian diets in favor of unhealthy, meat-based ones. Says Ed Ayres, editorial director of the Worldwatch Institute, in Will we still eat meat?: "Throughout the developing world today, one of the first thing people do as they climb out of poverty is to shift from their peasant diet of mainly grains and beans to one that is rich in pork or beef."
If we shift our focus to man's Darwinian origins, we are faced with the accumulated evolutionary history of a few million years. In those wild, prehistoric times before the dawn of civilization, on what did man (or his ancestral primates) survive?
Vegetarian Naturalism has consistently been of the view that man's 'original diet' was plant-based. Palaeoanthropologists tell us that man embarked upon his evolutionary journey as an insectivorous primate over sixty million years ago. A few million years down the line and he had graduated to a largely herbivorous-cum-frugivorous (fruit-based) diet.
Homo erectus (the erect man) had to adapt himself to the onset of the glacial age and the consequent thinning of the Savannah 9,00,000 years ago by alternating between animal and plant foods. For Homo erectus to Cro-Magnon man, consuming animals became a way of coping with the vagaries of the earth's environment that was constantly in flux. During the Ice Ages, the last of which was from 25,000 to 15,000 BC, vegetation all but disappeared, forcing man to hunt large mammals like mammoths, bison and caribou to survive. He was also a nomad, constantly moving in pursuit of animal herds. The Agricultural Revolution in the Neolithic Age (circa 10,000 BC) not only brought about a settled lifestyle but also made cereals and cultivable vegetation the main source of nourishment. Many animals, now domesticated, had become valuable for activities other than consumption. The plant vs. animal ratio in man's food reached a high of 90:10 at this time.
As is obvious from the evidence of evolution, adaptability to natural circumstances has been the hallmark of humankind. It has always been a matter of survival, and not that of culinary taste, that drove animalistic man to an 'omnivorous' diet. Plant-based foods have always been his first and instinctive preference. The proof for this is inbuilt in our bodies in the form of our quasi-herbivoric digestive system.
Quite plainly, our digestive system is unfit for a carnivorous diet. We have teeth like blades and grinders meant for chewing plant food. There are no claws to tear flesh. The tongue is soft and the saliva, blood and stomach are alkaline to digest starches and carbohydrates, unlike carnivores who have acidic saliva to act on meat. Human intestines are long (26 feet) and convoluted—a feature diametrically opposed to carnivore intestines, which are smooth to allow easy passage to digested flesh.
Carnivorous food in herbivorous intestines spells disaster as the flesh might get trapped in the bowel pouches and putrefy. Smaller human livers are also unable to metabolize the large amounts of uric acid produced during meat digestion and, as a result, the uric acid ends up getting deposited in the joints leading to the onset of arthritis.
That is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the very least of what you, as a flesh-eater, inflict on your body. According to Dr Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), there are five main health hazards that meat consumers expose themselves to:
Cholesterol conundrum: Animal products are high in cholesterol that enters the blood stream and coats arterial walls. The cholesterol-coated arteries begin to cause progressively less amounts of oxygen to reach the heart. Replacing animal protein with plant protein lowers blood cholesterol levels even if amount and type of fat in the diet remains the same.
High blood pressure: Studies since the 1920s have shown lower BP in vegetarians. When patients with high BP begin a vegetarian diet, many are able to eliminate their need for medication.
Diabetes: A diet high in complex carbohydrates (found only in plants) and low in fat controls diabetes.
Cancer: Death rates from cancer are about only one-half to three-quarters in a vegetarian population as compared to the meat-eating populace. Instances of breast and colon cancer are higher in non-vegetarians. This is due to their diet that has a high fat content but is low in fiber. Natural sugars in dairy products increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women. Conversely, the intake of plant pigment beta-carotene, higher among vegetarians, prevents lung cancer. Vegetarians also have more of 'natural killer cells' to fight cancer cells.
Calcium loss: A high intake of animal protein causes an excessive excretion of calcium through the urine, thereby encouraging the loss of calcium from bones, which in turn increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, kidney and gallbladder stones.
Dr Bimal Chhajer, a leading cardiologist and chairperson of SAAOL, agrees that the high-on-cholesterol, low-on-fiber non-vegetarian food is a major contributor to heart disease. "While researching various foods and their effects on the heart, I found meat and eggs to be the main culprits. All kinds of flesh foods are rich sources of cholesterol and triglycerides. Moreover, a lot more oil and ghee is required to prepare meat-based dishes," he says.
However, merely quitting meat may not automatically guarantee good health. Most neo-vegetarians make the switch without adequate planning and end up substituting meat products with vast quantities of paneer (cottage cheese). According to health columnist and nutritionist Anjali Mukherjee: "Ironically, most vegetarians do not eat vegetables. Most Indians prefer mish-mashed, refined, low fiber, predominantly grain-based vegetarian food like dal chawal, chhole bhature, dhokla, vegetable biryani, cutlets and baked dishes. In this situation, we need to focus on developing nutritious food habits more than on turning vegetarian."
To counter such nutritional faux pas, Dr Neal Barnard has devised four food groups to be included in every vegetarian meal. These are:
Vegetables: Dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium and fiber. Dark yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin provide extra beta-carotene. One cup raw or half a cup of cooked vegetables must be eaten at least thrice a day.
Grains: This includes cereals like wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, rotis and bread. Grains are rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamin B and zinc. The bran layer of rice with the embryo of the seed is removed during the milling of white polished rice. So brown rice is better and is also an excellent source of niacin, magnesium and iron. At least five servings of cereal must be had everyday.
Fruit: Whenever you can, choose whole fruit over fruit juice, as juice does not have fiber, an important source of roughage. Have at least one medium piece of fruit or four ounces of juice thrice a day. Legumes: These include beans, peas and lentils and are good sources of protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B. You need to have two or more servings per day.
Ultimately, the creed of vegetarianism is about the consumption of live, nutritious food involving as little violence as possible. Food that erupts from the bosom of the earth is thought to integrate the elements—air, water, fire, earth, ether in their purest form and is suffused with prana (life energy).
Advocates of the raw food diet refuse to cook their food, for heat is believed to destroy natural enzymes and the sun energy trapped in plant foods as cellulose.
Says Dr Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute and a foremost proponent of raw food vegetarianism in the West:
"The easiest way to add living enzymes to the digestive tract is to eat ripe fruit, uncooked organically grown vegetables, sprouts and wheatgrass that have the ability to strengthen our bodies through their electrical impulses, enzymes and nutrients.
So where does the debate end? Horror stories of mutilation and slaughter have been recounted. Appeals to your conscientious self have been ardently made. The comparative healthiness of vegetarian vis-ŕ-vis non-vegetarian food has been maintained. The ultimate decision as to what you deem fit to nourish yourself with obviously rests with you. Decide, but try to keep this Vedic invocation in mind.
To the heavens be peace, to the sky and the earth; to the waters be peace, to plants and all trees; to the gods be peace, to Brahman be peace, to all men be peace… peace also to me! May all beings regard me with friendly eyes! May I look upon all creatures with friendly eyes!
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