05 August 2009

Eat More Greens

Eat More Greens

In recipes that people talk about and write about, there always seems a big focus on the extravagant meat dishes, a bit about fish and almost never that much about vegetables.  We certainly eat far too much meat for the balanced human diet and should think more about fish.

But we also neglect our vegetables – they’re simply that boring addition to meals that kids (and adults) need to be forced to eat.  Don’t forget your greens; eat 5 a day.  Perhaps it’s simply that the way vegetables are prepared is just so boring.

In Frances More Lappé’s classic book “Diet for a Small Planet”, which I am currently reading, she writes a chapter entitled “The Meat Mystique” and states that “All that I have said so far might gives the impression that the shift toward a meat-centered diet is an American craze.  It is not.  Throughout the world, more and more grain is being fed to livestock and people are eating more meat – at least, those that can afford it.”  She also has a number of myths about meat:

“Myth No. 1: Meat contains more protein than any other food”

“Myth No. 3: Meat is the sole source for certain essential vitamins and minerals”

“Myth No.8: Our meat-centered cuisine provides us with a more nutritious diet overall than that eaten in underdeveloped countries”

Importantly, you don’t need to become vegetarian to eat more “greens”.  You can just reduce the amount of meat that you eat and up the level of fish, shellfish, vegetables and fruit that you eat.

Currently, I feel that I am not getting enough fruit and veg.  I think it’s the weather; my body is saying it is summer but the weather is relatively cold and wet, so we are eating more wintry cuisine than perhaps is normal.

There is even some evidence that eating a vegetarian diet is better for your health than our meat-centric diet.  However, I must admit here that I am a failed vegetarian.  I was a vegetarian when I was younger for several years, largely for welfare reasons, but I missed the taste of roast lamb, so eventually I cracked.  My taste buds were more powerful than my conscience, so like most of us in the world I am very flawed.  But ever since then I have had a much reduced meat consumption compared to others and enjoy many meat-free days.

So why not try and have at least 1 day a week where you just eat vegetarian food?

Why not make a simple tomato salad for lunch and eat it with bread and cheese?  More like a ploughmans.  Or change your lasagne to a vegetarian lasagne.  Lasagne probably had much less meat in it than it currently has, even no meat.

Another thing we do not eat enough of is pulses.  Heart attacks are lower amongst the French than their fatty diet implies.  This is because they eat a healthier diet than the rest of the world during the winter months.  They include a lot of pulses within their wintry stews.  This is another thing that you should add to your diet.

It’s easy to add pulses to your diet.  There really is no more delicious vegetable dish than dhal and which true Brit doesn’t enjoy a curry once in a while.  Try and eat dhal within your normal diet.

Interestingly, I was once told that the reason that Indian Indians had a more nutritious vegetarian diet than British Indians is that they were able to digest their pulses better and take up a greater variety of nutrients from their pulses; the quack who told me this suggested this was because British Indians exclude asafoetida from their diet which he postulated actually helped in the take up of vital trace chemicals.  It certainly does help with digestion of pulses, but I feel that his views were highly speculative but harmless.

I’ll rustle up some vegetarian meals over the next couple of days and post them.  If anyone has any thoughts on good simple vegetarian dishes, please tell me.