Having attended and been part of our Cypriot Wine Festival over the weekend, I was not only looking forward to the great Cypriot wine, entertainment and traditional food, but I personally, couldn’t wait to have my usual body building food of chicken, in this case, chicken souvlakia.
It was interesting to discover that I was surrounded by some colleagues who are vegetarian and this got me thinking. The Cypriot cuisine does of course contain some traditional food recipes that are great for the vegetarian, though not always suitable for a vegan. Vegans avoid meat, poultry and seafood. They take it a step further by eliminating all animal products from their diet, including milk and eggs, as well as honey.
I know I am fussy and very selective in what I eat, as well as how it is cooked, what ingredients are used etc but I definitely do not feel deprived of any food type because I always choose to eat what I crave including cakes and ice cream. If I cannot find the product made with the ingredients I like, then I make it myself. I avoid sugar because it slows me down. So if I want that sweet cake or dessert, I will make it but I will use fructose, a sugar found in fruit. This ensures my energy levels remain constant and will not cause me to feel tired or fatigued throughout the day.
From an early age I was health conscious as I was brought up that way. I would opt for skimmed milk because it was advised to be better for you. However, constantly tired and in agony at seventeen, I ended up in hospital and was diagnosed with ‘A Lactosia’, a form of lactose intolerance with severe, unfavourable, damaging effects. I do have to be careful with milk products as the milk needs to be lactose free; I was told I may also possibly be ok with goat’s milk. This can get tiring when going out for a meal and asking if the halloumi or feta is made with goat’s or cow’s milk or the chances of it being entirely lactose free. So I have to just read the packages myself thoroughly when buying anything. Obviously once you identify what is safe, you then always look for that safe brand.
We have come a long way within the food industry, with so many traditional Greek foods and beverages that can be purchased made with Stevia, a sweetener made from a leaf. Even like that of a Nut Brittle or our traditional Rose cordial. So whether someone is worried about sugar because of teeth or dietary purposes, there is no need to miss out. There is always an alternative.
If you choose to be vegetarian or vegan, it is your own choice and your choices or beliefs should not be enforced on others. We should however just respect other peoples’ choices. I did once try to go vegetarian but it wasn’t for me. I craved chicken like crazy after a month or so.
I am a fairly active person and try to be sensible in approach, so when the big scare came of red meats linked to particular health disorders, it was clear that red meat was not flavour of the month and many of us either cut it out or cut down as much as possible. Why was it meant to be so bad for us? Well it could be down to the saturated fat content, the chemicals used during the processing with the effect of haem iron (the type of iron found in animal products) increased free radical activity.
The digestion of meat is another factor that has been raised. Meat can make a contribution to our diet because it is a low calorie protein delivering nutrients that are lacking in many peoples’ diet, like the B vitamins required for energy release, vitamin D and Zinc. So if you fancy that steak, your body may be telling you it needs those vitamins and nutrients. Listen to your body. Other foods can provide this but you may need more to get your fill. Remember that it has been said the average man requires 55g of protein a day, while a woman requires 45g.
The fact is, whatever your choices are, you need to still be sensible as a meat eater, vegetarian or vegan, and make sure you have a healthy balanced intake to absorb the nutritional requirements.
How to be a healthy meat eater:
- Avoid eating too much red meat; it is suggested 500gm in total a week as a guideline.
- Choose the leanest cuts and remove any excess fat.
- Shallow fry in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a non-stick pan, otherwise grill or bake.
- Avoid overcooking, charring or burning.
- Limit intake of processed meats if you are not avoiding them altogether.
How to be a healthy vegetarian:
- Get required protein from a variety source in that of dairy, eggs, pulses and nuts, soya Tofu, temple grains like quinoa, tempeh.
- Ensure plenty of essential fatty acids EFA found in seeds and nuts are included in the diet.
- Include probiotic supplements which help with release of calcium, magnesium and iron from food.
- If dairy is avoided, ensure another source of vitamin D and B12 are supplemented.
Whatever your choice, be sensible!
Love and Sparkles