Some studies have shown that people eating a plant-based diet tend to live longer and healthier lives than meat-eaters. In fact vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer, especially colon, stomach, mouth, oesophagus, lung, prostate, bladder, and breast cancers. It’s reckoned that this is probably attributed to the phytonutrients present in plant foods, as well as the amount of fibre consumed. Sufficient fibre is also the reason they suffer less constipation and diverticulosis. (Obviously this is all true as long as they don’t also go loading up on cakes, chips, biscuits, bread pasta and other carbs.)
National Vegetarian Week 18th-24th May 2015
In addition, some studies show that vegetarians are less likely to have cardiovascular disease or diabetes. So, having a longer, healthier life? Surely that’s worth swapping beef burgers for bean burgers once in a while? The Vegetarian Society certainly seems to think so. And to encourage more people to try a vegetarian diet, the theme for this year’s National Vegetarian Week (18th -24th May) is sharing.
Visit www.nationalvegetarianweek.org and you can download a sharing toolkit, which gives you plenty of ideas and tips to make your vegetarian food sharing event a success. Even the most seasoned meat-eater can’t fail to be tempted by some of the colourful and tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes in the toolkit and on the website; and as they mention, whilst some of the more unusual vegetables can be pricey, the building blocks of a good vegetarian diet are inexpensive. We’re pleased to see that they’ve also included a section on food hygiene.
They’ve also included a number of interesting facts. For instance did you know:
- Around 2.5 million animals are killed in the UK every day for food
- All livestock on the planet produce more greenhouse gases than the world’s entire transport system
- Swapping lean minced beef for a meatless alternative or some beans or lentils can reduce the fat content of your meal by a whopping 75%
But don’t I need to eat meat for iron and protein?
It’s a common misconception that vegetarians don’t get enough iron or protein. You don’t need to eat meat to make muscle or make red blood cells. Instead you can get all the protein required by eating eggs and dairy products, grains, nuts, legumes etc.
As for iron, there’s plenty of iron in cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate, nuts, sunflower seeds, tofu etc. Even though the iron in plant foods is not as well absorbed as the iron in animal foods, vegetarians usually eat a higher volume of iron-containing foods. Also, many plant foods naturally contain vitamin C, which aids the absorption of the iron. So, go on – throw caution to the wind and try out some vegetarian recipes – we like the ones below from the Vegetarian Society.
Thai Mushroom Soup with Crispy Wontons
For the soup:
- 125g shiitake mushrooms
- 1½ litre vegetable stock
- 2 stalks lemon grass, finely chopped
- 4 cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1½ tbsp lime juice
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1½ tbsp shoyu sauce
- 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1½ tbsp sweet chilli sauce
For the wontons: These wontons are quite small and delicate. Make sure all of your filling ingredients are finally chopped to make sure you get a good mix of flavours in each wonton.
- 60g shiitake mushroom tops, diced (use stalks in soup stock)
- 75g pressed tofu, (e.g. hazelnut or smoked with sesame seeds), finely diced
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1½ tsp red chilli, very finely chopped
- 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tsp shoyu sauce
- 30g vegan margarine, melted
- 100g ‘Jus-Rol’ filo pastry (Leave the filo in its packet until ready to use as it may dry and be difficult to use without cracking.)
- For the garnish:
- Sprigs of coriander, red chilli, chopped
To make soup:
1. Take stalks out of shiitake mushrooms and reserve caps.
2. Put stock into a saucepan together with the shiitake stalks (add stalks from shiitake mushrooms used in wontons), lemon grass, ginger, lime juice, lime leaves and shoyu.
3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and discarding vegetables. Return liquid to pan and reheat.
4. Add sliced shiitake mushroom caps to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile sauté the garlic and sliced chestnut mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of oil, stirring all the time, until the mushrooms are softened. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan together with sweet chilli sauce.
To make the wontons:
5. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
6. Mix first six wonton ingredients together. Melt the vegan margarine. Cut filo into twelve 10cm squares. Make an 8 pointed filo star – by placing one square of filo on your work surface brush with a little melted margarine then place a second square on top rotated 45° to create your star. Brush with a little more margarine.
7. Put 1 tbsp wonton mixture in the centre of the filo star and draw up edges and twist to make a money bag. Brush the outside with more margarine. Place on baking tray lined with baking parchment. Repeat until you have 6 wontons.
8 Bake in oven for about 7-10 minutes until golden and crisp.
9 To serve: Reheat soup and pour into 6 warmed small soup bowls. Just before eating, place a wonton in the centre of each and garnish with coriander sprigs and red chilli.
- 50g butter
- 225g onions, skinned and finely chopped
- 225g leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
- 1 level tsp dried sage
- 125g fresh breadcrumbs
- 125g medium oatmeal
- 125g ground mixed nuts
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil for cooking
- Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the onions and leeks, and cook over a low heat until softened. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the oil, and mix thoroughly. Leave until cool.
- Shape the mixture into 6 large fat sausages.
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan, add the sausages and cook until browned on all sides. Alternatively, place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 25 minutes or until brown. Serve hot.