Vegetarian by nature

I have been a vegetarian for more than 30 years and one of the things meat-eaters often say to me is that humans are meant to be carnivore.

This argument was well countered by Gandhi, who said: “An examination of the structure of the human body leads to the conclusion that man is intended by nature to live on a vegetable diet. There is the closest affinity between the organs of the human body and those of fruit-eating animals. The monkey, for example, is so similar to man in shape and structure and it is a fruit-eating animal. Its teeth and stomach are just like the teeth and stomach of man, while those of carnivorous animals, as for instance the lion and tiger, are entirely different.”

This list shows that the physiology of humans is like that of herbivores, not meat-eating animals.

Carnivores

Have claws,
don’t have skin pores and perspire through the tongue,
have sharp front teeth for tearing and no molars for grinding,
have an intestinal tract three times the length of their body so meat can pass quickly before rotting,
have very strong hydrochloric acid in the stomach,
have small salivary glands in the mouth, and
have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains.

Herbivores

Have no claws,
perspire through skin pores,
have no sharp front teeth and have flat rear molars for grinding,
have an intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length,
have stomach acid 20 times weaker than meat eaters,
have well-developed salivary glands, needed to pre-digest grains and fruits, and
have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains.

One of the loveliest quotes I have seen about the benefits of vegetarianism is on the wall of the Ananda Bhavan restaurant in Singapore:

The stamina of a camel, the strength of an elephant, and the beauty of a horse are all sustained on a vegetarian diet.

It says it all, really.

Getting your protein

Vegetarians are often asked whether they are getting enough protein. There are many misconception’s about protein (what it is, and how much we need). As long as we eat a varied diet and combine foods intelligently, we are fine.

This information sheet from the Vegetarian Society in Britain is very clear and helpful: Getting enough protein.

Quinoa and amaranth are two very high protein plants, orginally from South America. The protein content of these two foods has a essential amino acid balance that is close to ideal. Protein in the plant world

Recipe ideas

If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of some of my favourite vegetarian cookery books:

Indian Vegetarian Cookery by Jack Santa Maria

The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai

The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Vegetarian Cookbook

The Food for Thought Cookbook, which has recipes from the restaurant of the same name in Covent Garden in London. (A new edition has been produced since I bought mine.)

The Moosewood Cookbook (now The New Moosewood Cookbook) by Mollie Katzen.

(There are a host of other books by Mollie Katzen that I don’t have myself, but are bound to be inspiring, and there are many more published by the Moosewood Collective in Ithaca in the United States).

Another of Katzen’s best-know recipe books is the Enchanted Broccoli Forest (now The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest); I do prefer the Moosewood, but who could resist a book with such a gorgeous name?