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Vegetarianism

TOFU or not to tofu

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A plant-based lifestyle can be easy on the pocket and the planet.

Many nutritionists, biologists and physiologists offer convincing evidence that humans are, in fact, not meant to eat flesh. Are we built like the carnivores? Do we stick out our tongue and sweat when we are hot? Do we use our tongues to lap liquids? Do we have long teeth and claws for holding our prey? Do our stomachs secrete huge quantities of hydrochloric acid needed to digest flesh? And most importantly are our intestines short to allow quick elimination of flesh which putrefies quickly? The answer to all the above is "no".

Medical studies too prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider range of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body. Plenty of studies document the rising risk of cancer and heart disease caused by excessively non-vegetarian diets. There is also the question of ecological issues. In large measure, the destruction of ancient rain forests, the loss of top soil and consequent increase in water impurities have all been traced to the creation of pastures for livestock being reared for meat.

And who says veggies are mental or physical weaklings? The long-lived herbivorous elephant has a very large brain and an excellent memory. Ever admired those shining flanks with muscles rippling as that magnificent horse strides ahead with coordinated ease and speed? Well, that's another vegetarian species.

I have so far taken the rational path in my arguments. But I grew up in a home full of many staunch vegetarians and believers in ahimsa. My naanima's voice warning me about carrying a shamshan (cremation ground) in my stomach echoes in my ears even now. I still went on to become a food critic and do travel across continents for my books and TV shows and eat everything from kangaroo to crocodile but I find that vegetarianism is becoming very popular, having made its first impact in India and Greece around 500 BC, during the lifetimes of Buddha and Pythagoras.

Interestingly, the word "vegetarianism" was not coined until the 1840s and now it is accepted all over to denote a diet which excludes meat and seafood (veganism excludes dairy products too). Vegetarianism is not about condemning the other half of the world. It is about becoming aware of what you put into your mouth, keeping an open mind and adding power to your plate. Help yourself to it.

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