What Is It To Be A Vegetarian?
Vegetarian, or ‘veggie’, is a term that has made it into our dictionary over the course of the years, but do you truly understand what being a vegetarian is, the reasons people choose to become ‘veggies’ and how and when vegetarianism came about?
Are you interested to know which celebrities are vegetarians, how ‘veggies’ interact with one another through the Internet and find useful tips on how you yourself can have a healthy yet easy vegetarian diet?
The Vegetarian Society, a global organisation set up to spread the message about the benefits of vegetarianism, is a great place to start if you want to learn more about vegetarian movements.
There is a lot to take in when it comes to dietetics and nutrition concerning a meatless diet, so keep reading for all of the facts that you will need (and want) to know before committing to a meat-free diet.
The History Of Vegetarianism
You would half expect vegetarianism to be a new phenomenon, what with our ancestors having hunted for food and not being in a position to be picky about what they ate. And the human instinct to hunt dates back far more years than previously thought, according to an article in The Guardian.
Until recently, evidence showed that early humans were eating meat 400,000 years ago, but a newly discovered butcher site in Tanzania shows that man was capable of sourcing meat up to 1.6 million years earlier than that.
It was this protein-rich diet that developed our species into the Homo sapiens that we are today, and allowed our brains to grow into such intellectual organs. Ironically, it is this power to think and to empathise with others, even other species than our own, that led some of the first ever vegetarians to come up with their ideology of being on equal terms with animals and to think harder about the animal products we use.
Mathematician Pythagoras (580 BCE) was one of the first to show independent thinking, and argued that all species on the planet should have equal rights. But before him, ancient Egyptians and Babylonians had practised a vegetarian ideology as part of their religious beliefs, abstaining from flesh and wearing animal-derived products since 3,200 BCE.
But it was Pythagoras who championed the health benefits of a vegetarian way of life, viewing a meat-free life not only as a way to co-exist peacefully on Earth, but as a way to keep the human soul pure.
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Those who opposed this view were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, who all firmly believed that animals were like slaves to us, and thus had limited sympathy for the butchering of them for meat.
While kindness to animals has long been a part of Eastern religious beliefs, Christianity saw humans as the superior living species and thus promoters of non-violent vegetarianism were seen as deviants or fanatics and were often persecuted for their opinions.
When it came to the Renaissance, vegetarianism was still a rare ideology.
Food was short and meat was a luxury for the rich, so famine and disease shook the world.
Leonardo Da Vinci, famous painter and inventor, was repulsed by the idea of animal slaughter, as were many classical writers of the time who went on to write about animals’ susceptibility to pain.
With the Enlightenment period of the 18th century, came more opposing views on the place of humans and animals in the order of creation, with some arguing that animals were soulless machines and others debating that they were intelligent, feeling creatures. At this time, slaughter methods were horrific.
In the 19th century, romance prevailed and in 1809, a noteworthy move towards vegetarianism as part of Christian faith was established. From this day on, many began to appeal against meat eating, using biblical references to back up their theories.
In 1847, in the UK, The Vegetarian Society was formed and by the 1880s, vegetarian restaurants had began to pop up across the capital.
Finally, with British health still not adequate in the most part, The Vegetarian Society sent food to deprived communities, as humanitarianism was central to the group. The food shortages that resulted from WWII meant that humans were encouraged to dig to source food, and many therefore lived on a near-vegetarian diet throughout the remainder of the war.
In 1945, approximately 100,000 Britons were vegetarian.
Today, the society believes that this number has reached almost 2million. It was during the 50s and 60s that people became much more aware of their health and how they could control it with their diet and life choices.
Meanwhile, the 80s and 90s revealed the true devastation that humanity was having on the Earth, and so vegetarianism rose once again.
Vegetarians today are continuing to campaign for a change in the way that animals are treated, with animal experimentation and factory farming having already been brought to light.
You can read more the history of vegetarianism in this related blog.
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10 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes
Check out these truly unique vegetarian recipes that your veggie pals won't have seen before! Even a meat eater will be tempted by these hearty, comforting meatless meals.
Mushroom, spinach and blue cheese lasagne
For the full list of ingredients and cooking method, visit the Telegraph.
The New Vegetarian's Sauerkraut filo parcels
Find the full list of ingredients and cooking method here.
Deliciously Ella's spring quinoa and pomegranate salad
120g of quinoa with 500ml of boiling water
100g of hazelnuts
1 small cucumber
A small handful of coriander
For the dressing
1 tbsp of tahini
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of sesame oil
Salt and pepper
1. Place the quinoa in a pan with the boiling water and a little salt.
2. Let the quinoa boil for a minute or two, then place the lid on the pan and let it simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, until all the water has been evaporated and the quinoa is fluffy but not mushy.
3. While the quinoa cooks put the hazelnuts in a baking tray and let them bake for about 10 minutes until they’re crunchy.
4. Then slice the cucumber lengthways into quarters, then into eights. Slice out the seedy central part of the cucumber and then slice the eights into thin pieces.
5. Take the pomegranates seeds out of the pomegranate – I like squeezing all the juice out too and adding this to the dressing.
6. Finely chop the coriander. Mix the dressing together in a mug. Once the quinoa has cooked and cooled place it in a bowl with the hazelnuts, pomegranates, coriander and cucumber, pour the dressing on the top and then mix it all together with a little salt and pepper.
Recipe courtesy of the Telegraph.
The New Vegetarian's Risotto cake with ratatouille
For the risotto
1-1.2 litres (1¾-2 pints) vegetable stock
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 generous knobs butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
400g (14oz) risotto rice
250ml (9fl oz) white wine
100g (3½oz) finely grated parmesan, plus 3 tbsp*
olive oil, to grease
2 tbsp semolina
large handful of basil leaves,
300g (10½oz) taleggio or 2 balls smoked mozzarella
For the roast vegetables
1 aubergine, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 small courgettes, trimmed and sliced
1 large red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
150g (5½oz) cherry tomatoes
1 large red pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
4 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1. Bring the stock to the boil and keep at a simmer. In a large pan, soften the shallots in a knob of butter until soft, stirring in the garlic after five minutes. Add the rice and stir for a minute. Turn up the heat and add the wine, stirring until it evaporates. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until the liquid has all but gone, then adding another. Continue for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked. If you run out of stock, use boiling water. Take off the heat, stir in another knob of butter and the 100g (3½oz) parmesan, season then leave to cool. Chill overnight or for at least three hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Spread out the vegetables in a large roasting-tin with the thyme. Drizzle with vinegar and oil, season and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and charred (this can be done the day before).
Recipe courtesy of the Telegraph.
Meatless meatloaf with mushroom gravy
1 lb(s) Japanese eggplant (about 3)
½ cup walnuts
1 lb(s) firm tofu
8 oz shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup old-fashioned oats
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 large egg, plus 1 egg white
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp red chile flakes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz shiitake, cremini or button mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ Tbsp Marsala or sherry
1 cup vegetable broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
2 sprigs fresh thyme + 1 tsp leaves
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Over a gas burner or under an electric broiler, char the eggplants until the skin is black, turning as needed to cook all sides evenly. Wrap in foil and set aside to steam for 20 minutes. Remove from the foil and gently brush the skin off or rinse under warm water.
2. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
3. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Pulse the eggplant, tofu, and mushrooms into small pieces. Add mixture to the walnuts along with the remaining loaf ingredients. Mix together until evenly combined. Transfer the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart loaf pan or casserole dish and bake for 1 hour.
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1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the flour over the mushrooms and stir until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the marsala and broth and bring to a boil, cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and fresh thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.
2. Unmold the meatless loaf, slice, and serve with the mushroom gravy.
Palestinian matfoul salad
80ml Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil
3 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
250g maftoul, rinsed and drained
600ml vegetable stock
3 roasted red peppers (from a jar), rinsed, patted dry and finely sliced
1 cucumber, seeds removed, chopped into small cubes 3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 handfuls fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
Handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
Juice 2 lemons
2 tbsp Fairtrade Palestinian za’atar or sumac (find both of these in larger supermarkets
or speciality shops)100g Fairtrade almonds, skin on, roughly chopped
1. Put a large, wide saucepan over a medium heat with half the olive oil. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking) add the onions and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add the garlic and chillies and cook for 5-7 minutes more until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise.
2. Add the maftoul, increase the heat and stir well – the maftoul should be coated in the oil and fried for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, add the raisins and a couple of pinches of salt, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until the maftoul is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
3. Once cooked, spread out the maftoul mixture on a tray to cool – don’t add any of the vegetables/greenery until it’s room temperature. In a big bowl, mix the cooled maftoul with the peppers, cucumber, spring onions and herbs, then stir in the rest of the olive oil, the lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature, scattered with za’atar and chopped almonds.
You can easily find many more free recipes online, with some examples being: vegetarian chili (which sometimes becomes a bean chili), vegetarian soup, vegetarian lasagna, macaroni and cheese, chickpea curry, bean burgers and many more.
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The Health Benefits Of Vegetarian Food
As you will see from its long-standing history, the vegetarian ideology has sustained the human race throughout hard times like famine and disease, which highlights one very important fact: that a vegetarian lifestyle is enough to keep us alive and healthy.
So, with this in mind, why are so many of us still eating meat almost every day of the week?
There are many scientific health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which I will go on to list below, but one of the main and perhaps most important is the good it has on the soul. By not playing a part in the slaughter of animals, whether brutal or sensitive, our consciences can remain clear.
If a guilt-free life isn’t enough to sway you, then here are some facts on how a meat-free diet can benefit you physically, too.
Eating food that is naturally low in saturated fat has been proven to protect our bodies from debilitating or worse, terminal, illnesses and diseases such as heart disease, gall stones, hypertension, coronary heart attack and some diet-related cancers.
Just as you’d expect, this low-fat diet also helps to keep our bodies in shape, resulting in a leaner and more toned figure.
The cause of this is fewer calories entering our stomach, coming from good foods like grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, providing a good source of fibre and calcium in place of heavy proteins and carbohydrates (did you know that a fibre-rich meal keeps you feeling fuller for for longer?).
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With so many great effects on the body, it is no wonder that athletes often choose to adopt a strict vegetarian diet, either permanently or to get them for before a game, race, match or other competition.
What people may not realise, however, is that it is not only the muscles and bones that benefit from vegetarianism. Experts say that vegetarian living often results in better vision and less skin degeneration – which effectively means that by going vegetarian, you could be winding back the years!
Of course, there is one other very important part of the body that benefits: the brain. Balanced eating, a healthy body and feeling good in oneself are very important factors in supporting the health of your brain.
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World Vegetarian Week
National Vegetarian Week 2018 will run from 14-20 May and is all about eating delicious and exciting plant-based food.
Anyone can join, even if they don't plan to continue with a meat-free diet afterwards. The idea is to highlight the benefits of vegetarianism by encouraging others to try it out.
If this interests you, or you want to invite a friend to join you eating meat-free food, then you can sign up for the campaign's newsletters which will be packed full of fantastic recipes, helpful information and competitions throughout the course of the week.
Yet, if you don't think you can manage a whole week of eating just vegetarian meals, then why not give Meatless Monday a go instead to ease yourself out of your carnivorous diet?
If you are looking to become a vegetarian to better yourself and lose weight for your own self-confidence, then you might be interested to know that Slimming World offer vegetarian meal plans as well, which can be followed any time of the year (as can those provided by the National Vegetarian Week campaign, if you so wish!).
Their 7-day recipe ideas will take all the hard work out of meal planning, so all you need to do is cook and enjoy the amazing, guilt-free food.
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The Best UK Vegetarian Bloggers
The Veg Space
Kate Ford, a Hertfordshire-based vegetarian of more than 20 years, set up this food blog and has contributed in making it a varied, interesting and exciting blog for meat-free eaters. It was awarded best veggie blog by Vegetarian Living.
After her father suffered a heart attack at a young age, Erin (whose initials spell out her pseudonym, Ella), embarked on a mission to eat healthily and brought out a blog dedicated to refreshing vegetarian cooking. A bit like a diary, the blog is personal but not preachy.
The Scottish Vegetarian, as she’s known in her native country offers some great sweet vegetarian recipes suitable for children and adults alike. She also plays on Scottish and British traditions with vegetable haggis and pies.
While Fearne’s recently dabbled in publishing cookbooks, she cannot exactly be described as a food blogger by profession.
That said, I am including her in this list because, as one of her followers on Instagram, I am a real champion of her wonderful, family-driven cooking recipes which are often meat-free.
Just check out her tofu and red pepper spicy balls she posted earlier this month! Or her carrot and white miso soup with cumin quinoa… Go visit her page or, even better, buy one of her cookbooks.
What I like about her food-related social media posts is that she proves that it is possible to cook vegan or vegetarian heartwarming meals for a family of four or five that everyone will enjoy.
There is nothing worse than having to cook a few different dishes every night just to please everyone under your roof!
Read this article for more detailed information on food bloggers in the vegetarian food discipline.
Tips On How To Be A Healthy Vegetarian
The key to successfully eating a vegetarian diet is to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need, which means replacing the protein from meat with other sources like egg, tofu or soy, for example.
Alongside protein, which helps your metabolism and keeps your organs, muscles and skin healthy, you must ensure that you ingest enough iron in your diet to help red blood cells carry oxygen through your body. Sources of this nutrient include beans, raisins, broccoli, tofu and wheat.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be taken from flaxseed and other plant sources, improve the health of your heart and brain.
Finally, zinc is important to your body because it is fundamental to the immune system. Try eating cheeses, beans, soy products and nuts to successfully get your allocation of zinc (cheese is obviously a higher-calorie product).
Vegetarianism is not be confused with veganism, whose practitioners abstain from meeting eat as well as any animal-derived products, like eggs and dairy products. That said, strict vegetarians have strong views about only eating eggs and dairy sourced in an entirely cruelty-free way.
With all this in mind, here are some tips on how to be a healthy vegetarian and switch your old meaty favourites with vegetarian alternatives.
|Ham and pineapple pizza||Olives and artichoke pizza|
|Beef lasagne||Vegetable lasagne|
|Pork stir fry||Tofu stir fry|
|Lamb kebab||Vegetable and halloumi kebab|
|Beef burger||Bean burger|
|Sausage sandwich||Soy-based patties|