Diet of Vegans: Food for Body and Spirit
Eating is typically something we do several times
a day, and it is an activity that gives us great pleasure.
Consequently, food holds an important place in our emotions
and our hearts. It should come as no surprise, then,
that when people shift to a vegan lifestyle they tend
to place their initial focus on their diet. Regardless
of culture, ethnicity, or country of origin, new vegans
are always interested in and fascinated about vegan
cuisine. Learning what is and isn't vegan, determining
how to plan meals, exploring unusual foods, and discovering
new ways of cooking and eating are all part of the adventure.
Many vegans start out as vegetarians, and this is a
great way to transition to a totally plant based diet
and cruelty-free lifestyle. Although veganism and vegetarianism
are closely aligned, there are a number of important
distinctions between them. The primary difference is
motivation. Vegans are drawn to a fully compassionate
lifestyle because it personifies their belief that all
life is precious. Vegetarians, on the other hand, may
have any number of reasons for eliminating meat or other
animal products from their diet. They are not necessarily
prompted by compassion. By definition, vegetarianism
deals only with what one doesn't eat; there is no pervading
philosophy that underscores it. Without a unifying belief
system, there is no impetus for vegetarians to express
compassion (if they are indeed inspired by compassion)
in any way outside of their diet. Nevertheless, diet
is where the majority of people begin their journey
Among the many ways that vegans manifest their reverence
for all life is by choosing foods that are exclusively
plant-based. Both vegans and vegetarians forego the
obvious products of death in their diet - meat (of any
color), fowl, and fish. But vegans and total vegetarians
(people who abstain from animal products in diet only)
go several steps further by avoiding all other foods
of animal origin - such as eggs and animal milk products
-which on the surface are less conspicuously brutal
but in reality are equally as gruesome as meat production.
Vegans also do not consume honey or foods that were
processed with or contain animal by-products. Except
for these additional parameters, the foods that vegans
and vegetarians can choose from are the same.
Some vegans blend their practice of veganism with other
belief systems that may directly influence their food
choices, such as religious or karmic perspectives or
special health strategies. For instance, there are vegans
who do not eat onions, garlic, root vegetables, or other
foods because of prohibitions imposed by their religion.
Other vegans may regard food from the vantage point
of health and therefore elect to follow a dietary plan
expressly designed to improve their physical well-being.
As a result, there are vegans who believe in fasting,
following a "living foods" (mostly uncooked) diet, practicing
a regimen that includes specific foods or food combinations,
or adhering to a fish-free macrobiotic diet, among other
approaches. These diets are merely individual paths
to what some vegans consider to be sacred customs or
healthier ways of eating. They do not reflect any general
guideline to which vegans as a group adhere or with
which they are obliged to comply.
Because veganism's underlying impetus is one of compassion,
not health, it is also possible to find vegans who do
not eat an overly well-balanced or wholesome diet. Nevertheless,
a philosophy of total compassion toward all life must,
of course, include oneself. Thus disregarding one's
health or willfully engaging in poor eating habits does
not harmonize with the tenets of compassionate living.
There is so much flexibility with vegan eating that
there really is no typical vegan meal. Often new vegans
just replace their old animal-based foods with cruelty-free
versions and analogs. Others explore the vast range
of vegan ethnic cuisines and incorporate a variety of
foods from different lands and cultures. Some vegans
eat quite simply, centering meals around nutritious
staples such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables,
while others are attracted to gourmet dishes and exotic
specialty foods. Consequently, vegans exhibit a gamut
of eating styles, and what one vegan does is not necessarily
representative of what other vegans do. Like all groups
of people, vegans have a variety of tastes and preferences,
so the food choices of vegans, although always plant-based,
reflect the diversity of vegan practitioners.
The beauty of vegan eating is that there are no rules
and no need to emulate antiquated meat-centered patterns.
Being vegan can open the door to a world of unlimited
culinary possibilities. Many vegans claim they never
ate so well or with so much pleasure prior to becoming
vegan. With certain foods off limits, vegans tend to
become more creative with their meal planning and more
willing to try new foods. In essence, each meal becomes
an exhilarating quest, an opportunity to experiment
with unusual ingredients and seasonings and a chance
to test out innovative ideas.
Vegans have assorted tales to tell about their favorite
foods and styles of eating because the potential combinations
are endless as well as exciting. All can agree, however,
that vegan eating is a dynamic way to regularly honor
all life. It is a belief that is always planted in one's
heart, but it blossoms in each cook's imagination.
Copyright © 1998-2014 by Jo Stepaniak
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