When I was growing up, I really did not think a great deal about being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian. I was brought up in a household where everybody was welcome. So we too visited homes of friends from various communities and ate food from their lifestyles. Samosas from Buharis and a special place in Secunderabad were specialties that we relished. My brother Ramana introduced me to Chinese food and that was a great addition to favs…chicken corn soup became a permanent addition to dinners eaten out. Then it was burgers in Gaylords in Churchgate and Bade Miyan behind the Taj in Mumbai!!
At home, our mother cooked vegetarian food. She was very innovative, a natural cook and recreated traditional fare and any other dish that caught her eye and interest. We also ate wonderful vegetarian food outside with iconic snacks like Bhel Puri and chaat items, puri and chana, cultlets and chick peas, samosas, kachoris and sandwiches declared ‘something to die for’! Pan Indian food was experimented both in and out of the family kitchen. My paternal uncle lived in the same city and their kitchen was a non-vegetarian one. In fact, the arguments for and against vegetarian and non-vegetarian food between our father and uncle were so hot and spicy, that it created a natural abhorrence for any talk about food
After my marriage, I gave up eating non-veg to bow down to the wishes of my husband. There was an initial resentment that I ‘had’ to do something. Gradually though, with maturity and deeper understanding and reading of the Vedic heritage, I became convinced that vegetarian was the path that I had to follow.
Food is something that occupies our thoughts, our actions, our plans, our memories and a great deal of enterprise. Sathguru Jaggi Vasudev says the kind of food you eat should not depend on what you think about it, or on your values and ethics, but on what the body wants. Food is about the body and it is important that we eat the kind of food that the body is happy with.
Enough reasons, arguments, theories and lectures have been put forward about vegetarian choices in contrast to eating meat and fish. One of the reasons I prefer being a vegetarian is that I am not putting an end to another creature’s life to satisfy my own hunger. There are those who say that plants too are a form of life and we are destroying it. The point that appeals to me is when you eat an animal you totally destroy it. When you eat a plant or its produce, it can still propagate or flourish through its seeds, roots, grafts etc.
Vegetarian food is easier to digest. It does not stay in your system for more than 4 hours minimum and 20 hours maximum. The body is able to absorb important nutrients from the material ingested and the residue too helps in the evacuation process. Vegetables have longer shelf life in natural circumstances when compared to meat and poultry that can be preserved only artificially.
Sathguru advises us to try different foods and then to check how our body feels after eating it. If your body feels agile, energetic and nice, that means the body is happy. If the body feels lethargic and needs to be pumped up with caffeine or nicotine to stay awake, the body is certainly sending signs that it is not happy.
Every creature instinctively knows what to eat and what not to eat. Human beings are considered to be the most intelligent on the planet, but they seem to have forgotten their instincts about the best food and the sustenance it can give our bodies. In the Vedic tradition, different organisms are called Jeevaraasi, a single life in different dimensions, each with its own life energies. The food that we eat is best when it comes from earlier evolution of life like plants. Plants eaten raw especially, says Sathguru, is easier to digest because the cells are still alive when consumed. The human digestive system can process these live cell organisms more easily.
A vegetarian diet includes:
Vegetables, fruits, Whole grains, Legumes, Seeds and Nuts
May include eggs and milk
Types of vegetarian diets:
Vegan: This diet includes only plant-based foods. No animal proteins or animal by-products such as eggs, milk, or honey.
Lacto-vegetarian: This diet includes plant foods and some or all dairy products.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This diet includes plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet
A balanced vegetarian diet can provide good nutrition, better health and prevent many diseases. It also helps to:
- Reduce risk of obesity
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
As we grow older, Vedic thought helps you to reduce the intake of food. A diet with more fruit, easily digested grains, legumes and minimum cooking methods are adopted. The penultimate stage in the Vedic life is that of a Vaanaprastha. When a person has fulfilled all the duties of a householder and as a member of a society, s/he chooses to move towards the North or the Himalayas to lead an austere life as a dweller of forests eating what is available in nature in the form of fruits and roots and leaves. This is an inward journey as much as a physical movement towards salvation and enlightenment when the soul becomes a part of the eternal Divine.
This is a post for LBC. The seven other bloggers who write regularly are Ashok, gaelikaa, Maxi, Rummuser, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Lin at Dun-Na-Sead .