Vegan Or Vegetarian
Following a vegan or vegetarian diet is very much a personal choice, and there are many varied reasons why people choose this diet – animal welfare, environmental concerns or simply texture and flavour. Whatever your opinion of these arguments, one thing that is indisputable is that there are many health advantages to removing meat and fish from the diet.
First, though, back to basics. Vegan and vegetarian – what’s the difference? Well, traditionally, a vegetarian diet is one that eliminates meat, poultry and fish, but usually includes eggs and dairy. A vegan diet goes a step further and rules out all foods that derive from animals in any form, including dairy products, eggs and, for some really strict vegans, honey.
This means that fruit and vegetables form the foundation of any plant-based diet, particularly one followed by vegans, but with such a huge range of both ingredients now available, this needn’t be a boring way to eat. Mixing it up on a daily basis and ‘eating the rainbow’ means plates packed with colour and flavour, which is what this book is all about.
What’s the Benefit to My Health?
Eating a primarily plant-based diet isn’t all about aesthetics and keeping it interesting, fruit and veg are also very rich in nutrients, and the various colours represent different antioxidants and phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, flavonoids and carotenoids. These compounds protect against modern-day diseases, but each in a slightly different way, which is why we need to eat a good selection of them. Following a vegan diet with a greater quantity of fruit and veg is also thought to help reduce the risk of certain cancers
. Limiting the intake of animal-based foods, including dairy, in addition to following the other recommended dietary advice – such as reducing the number of refined sugars, salt, hydrogenated and saturated fats you eat – also reduces your risk. Most vegetarians base their diets on cereals, pulses. nuts, seeds – in addition to fruit and vegetables – to make sure they can get all the essential nutrients that their bodies require. Vegans, of course, have to eat a more diverse range of foods to compensate for their more restrictive diet.
However, this is not a disadvantage – quite the reverse, there is much evidence to support the idea that people following a vegan or mostly vegan, diet enjoy a lower Body Mass Index which contributes to better general health. In addition, their markers for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, two of the most common modern-day diseases, are improved with lower serum cholesterol, reduced blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure because of their diet.
Specifically, these health benefits are thanks to the high fibre content of the diet, and the fact that vegans have higher intakes of vitamin B6 and folate than their meat-eating counterparts. What’s more, vegan diets are lower in calories, have a lower glycaemic load, are richer in protective phytochemicals and lower in fat, with a preference towards the healthier unsaturated variety. Whole grains and legumes are another cornerstones of a vegan diet; their inclusion improves blood sugar control by slowing the rate of carbohydrate absorption and cutting your risk of diabetes.
What Might you be Missing Out on?
Although a plant-based diet has clear advantages, eliminating all animal foods does increase the likelihood of some nutritional shortfalls, notably protein and some essential minerals. In order to ensure a balanced and healthy diet, these nutrients must be sought elsewhere. On average, vegans eat less protein than meat-eaters, but whole grains and legumes are key sources of protein, so diets should include lentils, peas, soy and beans as well as quinoa to help maintain a sufficient intake.
In addition to protein, of most concern for this way of eating is making sure the daily diet includes vitamins B12 and D, calcium, as well as the long-chain omega-3 fats. In some cases, iron and zinc levels may also be low because they’re less absorbable from plant foods. If you don’t include animal-derived foods you may need to consider supplementation, or at the very least including appropriate fortified foods. For example, only a few leafy greens have high levels of absorbable calcium – good inclusions are kale, cabbage and watercress – but if you, as a vegan, are not eating 2-3 portions of these a day then you need to include calcium-fortified foods such as plant milk or tofu, or consider taking a supplement.
Following a flexible approach to a plant-based diet like Nick’s can be beneficial in making sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet and ensures that you are not missing out on any important nutrients. Of course, cooking from scratch is an ideal way to monitor your intake of all healthy – and unhealthy – ingredients and means you know exactly what you are putting into your body. So, whatever your reasons for following a vegan or vegetarian diet, armed with this book you can be sure of a healthy, happy you.
NICK’S STORE CUPBOARD
With the right ingredients in your cupboards, you can turn any bunch of vegetables into something yummy. Here’s what I always keep handy.
Spices And Seasoning
Spices – cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, mustard powder, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric and saffron.
Herbs – oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, parsley dill and chives.
Seasonings – garlic, ginger (ground and fresh), lemons, limes, salt and pepper, fresh red and green chillies, mustard (English, Dijon, wholegrain), miso paste, vegetable stock cubes, Marmite or Vegemite.
My essentials are Tabasco, Worcestershire, soy, sriracha and fish sauce. Do note that Worcestershire, oyster and fish sauces are all made with fish and seafood essences, so are not vegetarian/vegan. A good deli will find you vegan versions of most sauces and a quick search on the Internet will help you out.
Cashews, peanuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts. chickpeas, chestnuts, breadcrumbs, polenta, pearl barley, couscous, olives and chickpea flour.
ALL DAY BREAKFAST OMELETTE
Eggs. Definitely the toughest thing for me to give up on the vegan trail, as well as cheese. So when I’m feeling the call of the omelette, this is my go-to recipe. To make it extra light, whisk the eggs until they’re all bubbly and full of air.
If you can’t get your omelette under the grill, just stick a lid or plate over the pan while you cook it on the hob.
PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
COOKING TIME: 15 MINUTES
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 chestnut or wiped and sliced
- 6 whole cherry tomatoes
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
- 50g Cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 large eggs, lightly whisked
- 1 tbsp milk
- 4 tbsp ricotta cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a small ovenproof frying pan, add the mushrooms and tomatoes and fry gently for 5 minutes, then add the spinach and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the Cheddar, eggs and milk. Season to taste.
- Pour the egg mixture over the veg, dot over nuggets of the ricotta, sprinkle over the thyme and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to a grill heated to medium-high and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until the top of the omelette is just cooked, with a slight wobble. Serve immediately. out of the pan.