Vegetarianism – Is it really a big problem?
I have been a vegetarian since I was born, if I may say so, and so are thousands of people who were born into the Brahmin community like me. In Hinduism, we are divided into different groups originally based on profession. Brahmins were typically the educated ones and were expected to teach others and were also priests. As the society evolved, Brahmins took up broader professions such as minister, banker, businessman, etc. Some say that in the Vedic period Brahmins were allowed to eat the meat of slaughtered animals. Then with the spread of Buddhism and Jainism, in order to curb conversions to these religions, Ahimsa or non-violence was also spread as the key message of Hinduism. After this a number of Hindus, especially Brahmins, became vegetarians and this was not a particularly difficult change because they were only allowed to have sacrificial meat and no other meat anyway, so it was not a big part of their life. . This is also not to say that all Brahmins are vegetarians as some continued to eat meat/fish. As for me, I don’t want to harm animals and I am a vegetarian. Now why am I talking about Hinduism, Brahmins and Vegetarians? The reason is that it’s a bit surprising to me to see people warned about the ‘dangers’ of becoming a vegetarian, whereas that has been the way of life for me and my ancestors without question. Also a quick look at my background may help you understand why I’m surprised. If you’ve ever been to India, especially South India, you’ll find more vegetarian than non-vegetarian restaurants, and usually the non-vegetarians will say so explicitly on their name board. Conversely, I have yet to come across a vegetarian restaurant in the Western world where I live.
Having spent some time in a western country, I understand that meat is an important part of the diet and hard to give up. So for some it’s probably a big problem. People are often warned against a vegetarian diet mainly because it is said to be lacking in protein. Proteins contain chains of amino acids that are converted to different types of amino acids during digestion and absorption. The body can secrete some amino acids, but some are required from food. Plant foods are said to lack at least one of these essential amino acids. However, it does not mean that one cannot get enough protein by being a vegetarian. It’s simply a matter of combining foods, such as combining grains with lentils and vegetables. It was interesting to read that some findings show that excessive protein intake can lead to osteoporosis and kidney problems (remember that your kidney has to work harder to absorb amino acids). A well-balanced vegetarian diet in this way is said to provide sufficient protein. Even if you can’t balance yourself in one meal, you can always achieve your balance in one day. For example, let’s say you couldn’t get enough protein in your lunch, you can always snack on some lentils and strike the balance. On a vegetarian diet you obviously don’t get the fat from meat and also because most plants are fibrous, vegetarian diets are said to be more helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.
Now if the problem of not getting enough protein is out of your way, what else could keep one from being a vegetarian? Could it be a ‘limited’ choice because most restaurants offer mac and cheese and salad as a vegetarian on their menu, or could it be the fear of not treating the palate because vegetarian is bland? If it is one or both, I can assure you that it is a myth. While I can’t put more items on restaurant menus because I have no control over them, I can certainly assure you that your menu list at home can be very long. When it comes to taste and flavor, who said spices don’t work on vegetables, grains, and fruits? There is no limit to the type of dishes you can prepare with even just a few ingredients.
By making healthy choices, you may very well be a vegetarian and enjoy eating. If you need help or inspiration to create great vegetarian dishes, please visit my blog http://www.tastefullyveggie.blogspot.com/