Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not Allowed

My Chocolate-Banana Shake!

Now here's something that gets said to me quite frequently, which doesn't bother me, but does bother me a bit when it is directed at my daughter, "Oh.... you're not allowed to eat that are you?" or, "Oh, sorry, you can't have this, can you?" This is nearly always said with kindest regard; certainly I don't miss that. And I don't take offense. More, I wish I could properly educate on the way we see things.

First, when the statement or question is put to my daughter, it is usually said with such sympathy and a tone which says, "The poor dear, missing out on so much in life." Second, the way we look at it is this: Well, yes, we aren't "allowed" to have that cheese pizza or hamburger in the same way you are not "allowed" to eat that dog they enjoy in some parts of Asia or the grasshoppers they eat in some parts of Africa. We are not "allowed" to have the shrimp in our salad the same way you perhaps do not "allow" yourself to enjoy escargot (snails) or caviar (fish eggs) or monkey brains for that matter. We simply do not like them.

Of course, we do not like them based upon matters more than taste. That fact alone seems to lose a bit of ground with folks, as if it is really taste that matters when it comes to eating. Or is it? I mean, how about cat? Have you ever tried kitten? You might really like it if you taste it. Oh, but kittens are cute and sweet and they have personalities... unlike something like, say... a lamb? or a piglet? But kittens are smart! As smart as a dog? Or a pig?... which is as smart as or smarter than a dog or at least as smart as a two or three year old child.

But, I usually don't go into all of that.

What I do wish I could do, if I had the time, was to explain all the freedom I experience in making vegan choices. So many people immediately think of a vegan diet as limiting and restricting. Well, if you are looking at the Standard American Diet (SAD) as your model of good living than, yes I suppose it is. :)

But what has all this good living gotten us? Children with what used to be called "Adult-onset Diabetes," now simply referred to as "Type II Diabetes." Heart disease that is the #1 killer of women in America and cancer that is second. These diseases are conclusively linked to eating animal products.

Even Oprah's famed Dr. Oz spent some time talking with Dr. Neal Barnard about reversing diabetes with a vegan diet. Learn more about that here. In the introduction to that particular discussion it states,

"Having a high-carbohydrate diet didn't cause problems, but Dr. Barnard suspects the meat and dairy-heavy American-style diet may be the bigger culprit. To test his theory, Dr. Barnard says he put patients on a vegan diet, meaning no meat or dairy products, as well as small amounts of oils and sugar. He says that his patients lost weight, lowered their cholesterol and saw more improvement in their diabetes symptoms than with any common oral medication. 'People liked it because there was no limit on calories or portions—they weren't ever hungry,' he explains. Because they were eating plenty of beans, vegetables and fruit, the patients were getting a lot of fiber. '[Fiber] fills you up and tricks you into thinking you're eating as much as before, when you're actually eating maybe 10 percent less,' Dr. Barnard says."

When I eat, I don't worry about these things, because nothing I am eating contributes to disease. Have you had your chocolate shake today? No? I have one every day if I want. You say you're watching your cholesterol or your weight? Perhaps your doctor has recommended that you're not allowed to have them daily? Oh, well, I am "allowed," because my shake is made with frozen bananas and almond milk, a dash of vanilla, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two of cocoa. A bit of agave nectar to taste. Agave has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so essentially, my shake is actually good. for. me.

I live in freedom, because I don't worry about over-indulging with cream sauces or artery-clogging, fatty foods. Does this mean I eat salads all the time or miss out on cream sauces? Well, how do these recipes sound?

Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus
Hazelnut-Pear Pancakes
Breakfast Crepes with Fresh Fruit and Celestial Cream
Tomato Basil Breakfast Quesadilla with Smoky Avocado Sauce
Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto on Pasta
Coconut-Lime Basmati Rice
Seared Portobello Mushrooms

All of these recipes are in the new cookbook I just got for my birthday (thanks for the Amazon coupon, sis!), Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. Now, you don't have to buy vegan cookbooks to eat vegan. You can certainly find many, MANY amazing recipes at vegan blogs (a number of them are listed in my sidebar) and at VegWeb. But really, don't those meals sound fantastic? Believe me, a vegan diet is far from one of deprivation by any stretch of the imagination.

Finally, there is freedom in knowing that what I eat aligns with my values.

I am concerned about world hunger. I know that enormous amounts of land, water, and other resources are used for raising cows, pigs, and chickens rather than growing food for people. Making vegan choices means I use fewer resources.

I have long considered myself an environmentalist. Raising animals for food contributes also to global warming/climate change. A study by the United Nations found that raising animals for human consumption contributes 40 % more to global warming than all the cars, planes and trucks on the planet combined. You don't need to buy a hybrid to help the planet. Save money and go vegan instead!

I have long been committed to non-violence. A vegan diet aligns with this value too. Not only do the animals not need to suffer for my palate, but I am not asking someone to kill for me either. VeganVideo.org has a beautiful, beautiful video out that reports that "95 % of Americans feel that it's wrong to unnecessarily hurt and kill helpless animals, yet 95 % of Americans continue to unnecessarily hurt and kill helpless animals... so they can eat them."

Far from being restricted and "not allowed," making plant-based, whole food, vegan choices gives me true freedom: freedom that aligns with my values, freedom that lowers my health risks from unfortunately too common diseases, and freedom to experience a wide, wide variety of food choices and world cuisines. This has been one choice that was easy to make in the beginning and has been easier with each vibrant, new day.
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