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Vegetarian Journal Excerpts -- January 1995


A sampling from the January/February, 1995, issue of The Vegetarian Journal, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group.
CONTENTS:

Scientific Updates: A Review of Recent Scientific Papers Related to Vegetarianism

by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN NUTRITION DURING PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING

A recent report of a symposium on maternal nutrition presented some interesting considerations for vegetarians. The discussions of calcium and vitamin D needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding were especially intriguing.

Dr. Ann Prentice, a British nutrition researcher, questioned the conventional wisdom that calcium supplements are necessary during pregnancy, especially for women who do not use dairy products. When she examined the scientific literature, she found little evidence of problems associated with low dietary calcium intakes during pregnancy and breastfeeding. She hypothesized that women adapt to low intakes and increased needs by increasing calcium absorption and reducing calcium losses.

Worldwide, recommendations for calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding vary by more than twofold. In part, differences in recommendations among countries are due to differences in actual calcium intakes. There is some evidence that people adapt to lower calcium intakes; so in countries where intakes are generally low, recommendations for calcium may also be lower than in countries with typically higher dietary calcium levels such as the U.S. These differences in recommendations may be relevant for vegans since calcium intakes of vegans tend to be lower than non-vegans.

Dr. Prentice concluded that additional research is needed before women are advised to increase their calcium intake during pregnancy and lactation.

Dr. Bonnie Specker, a researcher who has studied vegetarians, reviewed the recommendations for vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Vitamin D is obtained mainly from fortified dairy products and from sunlight. Human milk is relatively low in vitamin D; so the vitamin D status of breastfed infants not receiving vitamin D supplements is mainly influenced by sunlight exposure. Dr. Specker stated that an exclusively breastfed infant needs 30 minutes per week of sunlight exposure if the infant is wearing only a diaper, or 2 hours per week if fully clothed without a hat. This will vary depending on the season; less vitamin D is produced in the winter. Sunscreen blocks the sun rays which activate vitamin D.

Along with others, Specker concluded that supplemental vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not necessary if sunlight exposure is adequate. However, she is concerned that it is difficult to define adequate sunlight exposure. She reiterated the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, namely that vitamin D supplementation should be considered for pregnant women who avoid milk, eggs, and fish.

For more information see: Prentice A. Maternal calcium requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl):477S-83S; Specker BL. Do North American women need supplemental vitamin D during pregnancy or lactation? Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 484S-91S.

HIGHER PROTEIN INTAKE ASSOCIATED WITH EARLIER DEATH IN WHITE MEN WITH KIDNEY DISEASE

NHANES I was a large study of health and nutrition conducted in the United States in the 1970s. Over 2500 older persons were identified from this study. One hundred seventy-five of them appeared to have kidney disease based either on their own report or laboratory values. Death rates were determined for these people. In men with kidney disease indicators, a 15-gram increase in protein intake (the equivalent of about 2 ounces of meat) was associated with a 25% higher risk of death compared to those without kidney disease. Those with higher protein intakes also tended to consume the largest number of servings of animal protein. Protein intake did not appear to affect women's risk of death. While the authors state that further study is needed, these results suggest that a moderate limitation of protein could help reduce risk of death in white males with some symptoms of kidney disease.

For further information see: Dwyer JT, Madans JH, Turnbull B, et al. Diet, indicators of kidney disease, and later mortality among older persons in the NHANES I epidemiologic follow-up study. Am J Public Health 1994; 84:1299-2011.

SOY PROTEIN MAY PLAY A ROLE IN REDUCING BREAST CANCER RISK

Nutrition researchers have asked why breast cancer occurs much less in Asian countries than in the West. One dietary difference between these countries is the amount of soy protein which is eaten in the Far East. A study conducted in the United Kingdom investigated the effect of a diet containing soy protein on hormone levels and the length of the menstrual cycle. They found that when six young women were fed 2 ounces per day of textured vegetable (soy) protein for a month, the length of their menstrual cycles increased.

Shorter menstrual cycles (26.2 vs 28.6 days) have been associated with increased risk of breast cancer in at least one study. This may be because shorter menstrual cycles could lead to a greater lifetime exposure to estrogen. Higher levels of estrogen have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

The effects of soy products on the menstrual cycle are believed to be due to isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds found in soy. Isoflavones are partial estrogen antagonists, which can blunt the effects of estrogen.

The authors suggest that a diet rich in soy products containing isoflavones may help to reduce risk of breast cancer.

For more details see: Cassidy A, Bingham S, Setchell KDR. Biological effects of a diet of soy protein rich in isoflavones on the menstrual cycle of premenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 60:333-40.

For more information about soy and cancer prevention, see The Simple Soybean and Your Health, by Mark and Virginia Messina, $15, available from The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.


Carrot Cuisine

by Jacqueline Dunnington

The extended carrot family (Daucus carota) includes such edibles as celery, fennel, all parsnips, parsley, dill, caraway, coriander and other herbs. There are dozens of varieties and hybrids of the common orange carrot with which we are most familiar (Daucus carota satvia) ranging from long and thin to short and stubby. Carrot culture most probably started in the western reaches of Asia near the Kyber Pass and Afghanistan. Socrates met his end by being forced to drink hemlock, a poisonous plant in the carrot family. Also, the pretty plant, Queen Anne's Lace, is now considered to have been the recent parent to our nutritious vegetable.

In addition to being crunchy, colorful, and inexpensive, carrots are an outstanding source of natural fiber and a valuable source of vitamin A.

CARROT, LEEK, AND OLIVE STEW
(Serves 4)

Serve this unique stew with whole wheat crackers.

3 cups leeks, scrubbed and chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups raw carrots, scrubbed and finely diced
1 cup raw red potato, finely diced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
Large pinch dried thyme
Large pinch dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup ripe olives, pitted and chopped

Saute leek and garlic in oil in a 4-quart stew pot. When leeks are soft, add all other vegetables and seasonings. Add broth, cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer at least 45 minutes. During last five minutes of cooking, stir in olives. (Note: Thicken with 1 Tablespoon whole wheat or rice flour if desired.)

Total Calories Per Serving: 235
Fat: 10 grams

CARROT-STUFFED CABBAGE LEAVES
(Serves 4)

Serve this dish with rye bread.

1 head green cabbage, about 2-1/2 lbs.
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon oil
1-1/2 cups raw carrots, scrubbed and finely grated
2 cups cooked mashed potatoes
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt or salt substitute and pepper to taste
3 cups carrot or tomato juice

Remove cabbage core, plunge cabbage in pot of boiling water, cover, bring to full boil, and then remove from heat. Allow cabbage to stay in covered pot about 20 minutes, drain, and allow cabbage to cool. (Reserve a bit of cooking water.) Peel off 16 large leaves, trim coarse center ribs and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in oil until clear but not brown. Pour into deep bowl and add grated carrots, potatoes, raisins, and seasonings and combine well. Spoon mixture into center of each leaf, fold leaf edges over stuffing (envelope style), roll into cigar-shapes fastened with wooden toothpicks (plastic ones will melt). Arrange in two layers at bottom of deep, flame-proof dish. Pour juice over stuffed leaves, cover, and simmer for half an hour. Add more liquid if needed.

Total Calories Per Serving: 363
Fat: 5 grams

CARROT-STUFFED BAKED POTATOES
(Serves 4)

Accompany with a steamed green vegetable.

4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups raw carrots, scrubbed and finely diced
1 cup onions, finely diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
Pinch of dried crumbled basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, freshly snipped
Salt or salt substitute and pepper to taste
Fresh chives, finely chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes well, dry, and pierce with fork in several places (prevents bursting). Set potatoes in 400 degree oven to bake. Meanwhile, scrub (don't peel) carrots, dice, and simmer in water until tender. While carrots cook, saut_ onion in oil in skillet. When clear, pour onions into deep bowl, set aside. Remove carrots from heat when tender, drain very well (save a bit of liquid), and mash. Pour into bowl with onions. When potatoes are soft to squeeze, remove from oven (don't turn off heat), slice off a length of top skin, scrape flesh into bowl with vegetables, add basil, and fork mix. If mix is too dry, add a little carrot juice or soy milk. Season to taste and add parsley. Refill potato shells, set on cookie sheet and reheat. Served topped with chives if desired.

Total Calories Per Serving: 302
Fat: 3 grams

SPICY BRAISED CARROTS
(Serves 4)

Enjoy this delicious dish.

4 cups thin raw carrots, cut extra thin julienne
1 cup red onions, cut in small dice
1 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4-inch fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon curry powder
Large pinch dried orange peel
Salt or salt substitute and pepper to taste
Juice of one lime

Parboil carrots for 5 minutes, drain well. Meanwhile, braise onions and green pepper in oil with garlic and ginger in wide shallow pot until vegetables are soft. Stir often and rapidly. Turn heat to low. Combine hot water, spices, and lime juice. Slowly add the carrots and water to the onions. Cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes or to desired tenderness.

Total Calories Per Serving: 146
Fat: 3 grams

ROASTED CARROTS AND JULIENNE VEGETABLES
(Serves 4)

Serve over cooked kasha, brown rice, or pasta for a main dish.

4 long and thin raw carrots, scrubbed
1 potato (about 4 oz.), scrubbed
1 small zucchini (5"-6" long), scrubbed
1 small yellow squash (5"-6" long), scrubbed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons orange marmalade
2 Tablespoons oil
Salt or salt substitute and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons untoasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut carrots and potatoes into short shoestrings (1-1/2-inches long) of equal thickness. The squash should be chopped into chunks twice as thick as onions, potatoes, and carrots. In a large plastic bag, mix all ingredients (except the sesame seeds) then spread in roasting pan about 7" x 12" and cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes covered and then 25 minutes uncovered or to desired tenderness. Sprinkle with water if dry; turn often. Sprinkle on sesame seeds before serving.

Total Calories Per Serving: 200
Fat: 9 grams

CARROT CONFETTI SALAD
(Serves 4)

Accompany with baked russet potatoes or yams.

2 cups raw carrots, scrubbed and slivered
1 cup red cabbage, trimmed and shredded
1 cup raw zucchini, scrubbed and slivered
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped

Dressing:
4 Tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette
Pinch dried dill weed
Salt or salt substitute and pepper to taste

Toss all vegetables in large salad bowl with dressing. Chill and serve.

Total Calories Per Serving: 73
Fat: 2 grams

QUICK CARROT NUT SPREAD
(Serves 12 as sandwich filling)

Serve with shredded lettuce or as spread for breads with a green salad.

1 cup raw carrots, scrubbed and slivered
2/3 cup chunky peanut or cashew butter
1 teaspoon lime juice
3/4 cup ripe banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup dried currants
Salt or salt
substitute to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender, adding about a quarter of the ingredients at a time.

Total Calories Per Serving: 127
Fat: 7 grams


Nutrition Hotline: Answers to Questions from Our Members

by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

QUESTION: I recently heard that the excitement over beta-carotene should be squelched, that beta-carotene actually increased the risk of cancer. Is beta-carotene now a "no-no"? What about vitamin E? E.M., NY

ANSWER: Reports questioning the benefits of beta-carotene were based on a study of 29,133 male smokers in Finland. Subjects received either alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), beta-carotene, both alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene, or a placebo. They were studied for up to eight years.

To everyone's surprise, the men who received beta-carotene, either alone or with vitamin E, had an 18% higher incidence of lung cancer than those who did not take beta-carotene. This was particularly surprising because a number of studies have shown that diets high in beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer.

Besides a higher incidence of lung cancer, subjects receiving beta-carotene also had more cancers of the prostate and stomach. Eight percent more deaths occurred in the men receiving beta-carotene.

Subjects receiving vitamin E had fewer cancers of the prostate, colon, and rectum, and more cancers of the bladder. Vitamin E did not appear to have an effect on lung cancer.

Despite these results, those subjects whose diets had the highest levels of beta-carotene and vitamin E at the start of the study had the lowest risk of lung cancer. This suggests that obtaining beta-carotene and vitamin E through diet rather than via supplements may be the best way to go. Perhaps it is not vitamin E or beta-carotene at all which are protective but some other substance which occurs in foods high in vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Interestingly, the Finnish results were quite different from those of a study in China which found fewer cancer deaths in subjects whose diets were supplemented with beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, and selenium for close to 5 years. Differences in subjects are one possible explanation for these results. Contradictions like these reinforce the fact that nutrition is a complex science.

The authors recommend further study but suggest that smokers not use beta-carotene supplements at this time. Perhaps selection of foods high in beta-carotene (orange vegetables and fruits) and vitamin E (vegetable oil, nuts, green leafy vegetables) would be a better choice.

The complete study can be found in The New England Journal of Medicine, April 14, 1994, page 1029-2011.


Notes from the Scientific Department

VRG DEMONSTRATES HEALTHY RECIPES ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA
Debra Wasserman was invited to be a guest on Good Morning America on September 5th to promote her new book, The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook (VRG, 1994). Debra demonstrated vegan recipes from her book, showing how many traditional recipes can be easily modified to make them lower in fat, yet remain totally DELICIOUS. Way to go, Debra!

VRG CONTINUES TO LEAD IN SCHOOL MEALS REFORM EFFORTS
The Vegetarian Resource Group continues to remain actively involved in efforts to reform this nation's federal school meals programs. September marked the end of a 90-day public comment period, during which the USDA received comments from industry, consumers, school food service personnel, health, nutrition and other advocacy organizations, and others about its proposed rules for school meals. VRG sent a lengthy series of comments to USDA, expressing strong support for a nutrient-based menu system (as opposed to the current food-based menu system), as well as detailing areas of the rules for which the group has concerns.

VRG has also established linkages with schools around the country which are participating in the USDA's pilot NuMenus project. Schools using NuMenus will be evaluating their meals using the USDA's proposed new nutrient-standard menu planning (NSMP) method. Using NSMP, school menus are evaluated for nutritional adequacy based upon the total nutrient composition of the menus, rather than by the number of servings from various food groups.

VRG volunteers around the country are contacting the schools in the pilot project to assess the schools' needs and to offer help in areas for which VRG can be of assistance. For instance, VRG is making packets of its quantity vegetarian recipes available to schools, as well as tips on incorporating more meatless items into menus. Including more vegetarian dishes in school meals will help schools to meet new requirements for menus that contain less total fat and less saturated fat.

JULIE HOSKINS, M.S.,R.D., DOES PRESENTATION IN WEST VIRGINIA
VRG member Julie Hoskins, M.S., R.D., presented vegetarian information from The Vegetarian Resource Group at a West Virginia conference for Health Department dietitians. The lecture was a huge success!

VRG NUTRITION ADVISOR SPEAKS TO DIETITIANS IN SAN FRANCISCO
VRG Nutrition Advisor Suzanne Havala was invited by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute to present a workshop on vegetarian nutrition in San Francisco on September 10th. The 3-1/2-hour nutrition workshop was given as part of the training received by dietitians who will be working with Dr. Dean Ornish's heart disease reversal programs at various sites around the country.


A Steaming Bowl of Red: The Spicy World of Vegetarian Chili

by Nigel Sellars

Legend has it that chili was invented when Texas Rangers patrolling the border caught a whiff of the aroma of Mexican cooking. The spicy smells so intrigued them that they returned to their posts and tried to duplicate it. Whether or not that legend is true, chili does have its roots in Texas and probably originated near or in San Antonio. In the early 1800's that city's Military Plaza, an open market by day, became by dusk "La Plaza del Chile con Carne" ruled by the "Chile Queens" who prepared various versions of chili and whose culinary practices created the traditions of the chili festival.

But whatever the origins, for the longest time the wonderful spiciness of chili was denied vegetarians. The name came from the sauce made with the fiery little peppers called chilies. The essence of the dish was "chili con carne" -- meat in pepper sauce -- actually a frontier way of dealing with spoiled meat. In fact, long before white settlers appeared, the region's native Americans used the peppers in the preparation of buffalo jerky.

Despite such unsavory origins, it seemed as if this bastion of meat-eating would never fall. But nowadays it is possible to find several different varieties of vegetarian chili on store shelves. Chili Man and Health Valley both offer a good mix of vegetarian chilies, including versions with peppers and corn or with lentils. They also offer mildly spicy varieties for the less gastronomically adventurous, as well as blazing hot ones for the true chili devotee.

However, none of these varieties can compete with cooking up a batch of your own vegetarian delight. Many traditional recipes can easily be adapted to vegetarian tastes by substituting soy nuggets, textured vegetable protein, or tempeh for the meat. Commercial chili mixes also do a reasonably good -- but far from perfect job -- of giving you the wonderfully hot and spicy flavor for which chili is known. While we can thank a German immigrant named Gebhardt for bottling the first chili powders, even the best can be improved with a little effort, and nothing can top finding good fresh chilies or dried pods and making your own sauce.

The key to your chili is the sauce, and the choice of chilies will determine the "heat" of your dish. If your taste buds are timid, plain old bell peppers will do. Jalapenos, the most commonly found hot pepper, make a very spicy dish, as do Anaheims. The hottest peppers are chiletepin, which still grow wild in Texas, and the habanero, which are frankly too hot for all but the most seasoned chili lover. In general, it is best to use mild chilies. Wash, stem, and remove the seeds from whatever peppers you elect to use, then boil or roast the chilies to remove the skins.

If you do make your own sauce, you should also be sure to include two other ingredients: cumin and paprika. It was cumin, or comino, which was apparently the secret ingredient in chili very early on. The spice was so treasured that it was kept under lock and key in the Governor's Palace in San Antonio before the Texas Revolution. Paprika, besides adding its own hotness to the dish, is also important if you want to give your chili the red color which is considered the standard of excellence.

A BOWL OF RED
(Serves 8)

This chili, also called "Reno Red," is your basic straightforward authentic Texas-style in a vegetarian version and is best made in bulk.

6 to 12 chilies
3 cups cold water
12-ounce package soy or textured vegetable protein (TVP) nuggets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 Tablespoon paprika
12 cups water

Wash, stem, and remove the seeds from the chilies. Put the chilies in 3 cups cold water and bring to a boil. After about 45 minutes to an hour, the skins should slip easily. Mash the pulp into a paste. If this seems too difficult, you can substitute chili powder at a ratio of one tablespoon of chili powder to a pod of chili.

Read the instructions on the soy or TVP package to see if the product was soaked beforehand. If not, use some of the water to prepare this ingredient. Saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and spices, then the 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, then add the nuggets. Reduce to simmer, cook for 30 minutes to an hour. If this seems too runny, you can thicken it with masa, the cornmeal flour used in tortillas.

When made in bulk, this chili can readily be frozen.

Total Calories Per Serving: 163
Fat: 4 grams

TEMPEH AND VEGETABLE CHILI
(Serves 4)

A flavorful stew-like chili which has a nice mix of flavors and textures.

1 cup kidney or pinto beans
1 cup white or blue dried corn kernels
8-ounce package tempeh
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large tomatoes, peeled and stewed, then broken apart
2 Tablespoons chili powder or paste from two to three chilies
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco style pepper sauce
4 cups water or tomato juice

Soak the beans and corn overnight, then cook until done. Cut the tempeh into small cubes and brown with the onions in oil. (Alternatively, you can grate the tempeh, such as White Wave suggests in a chili recipe on its packages.) Add bell peppers and garlic and saute 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, corn, and herbs and spices. Add water or tomato juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Serve with lime wedges squeezed over each serving or with grated vegan cheese.

Total Calories Per Serving: 408
Fat: 10 grams

KEVIN'S VEGGIE CHILI
(Serves 8)

This recipe came to me from my friend Kevin Laval, who sadly died some years ago. I found it a wonderful, quite different chili, and one which is not overly spicy. This recipe does take some work.

1 cup soybeans
1 cup wheat berries
6 cups water
1 or 2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, diced

Soak the beans and berries overnight. Drain. Bring water to a boil, add beans and berries and reduce heat. Saute onions and peppers in oil until onions are translucent. Add spices and tomatoes, simmer briefly, then add to beans and berries. Cook until beans are soft, about one or two hours. This chili is more delicious a day or two after preparation.

Total Calories Per Serving: 231
Fat: 8 grams


Book Review: Becoming Vegetarian

by Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis, and Victoria Harrison

Becoming Vegetarian's subtitle is The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet. This 262-page book, written by three Canadian dietitians, certainly lives up to its subtitle. Information presented ranges from the health benefits of a vegetarian diet to a vegetarian food guide; from recommendations for vegetarian children to a particularly clever chapter called Vegetarian Diplomacy which presents several potentially difficult situations and possible solutions. The book concludes with practical information on shopping, storing foods, and planning meals.

Although it is not a cookbook, it includes about 30 recipes, a number of which have several variations and provide lots of ideas for using some less familiar foods. The authors provide information on both lacto-ovo and vegan diets.

The nutrition sections of Becoming Vegetarian are quite thorough but may be a bit overwhelming for someone new to both vegetarianism and nutrition. Some may choose to skip these sections at first and turn directly to the chapters providing practical information on the "hows" of being a vegetarian.

The authors list selected references at the beginning of the book. I would have preferred to have references given for specific statements, but this will not be a concern for most readers. Apparently a complete list of references is available from the authors.

In general, I found Becoming Vegetarian to be a practical guide to vegetarian foods and nutrition.

Becoming Vegetarian (ISBN 0-7715-9045-8) is published by Macmillan Canada and costs $19.95. Reviewed by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.


Tolerance and Acceptance

by Brad Scott

While vegetarians often face situations where we do not feel accepted, many other "minorities" have similar experiences. Today's businesses are trying to convince employees of the value of "Managing Diversity": highlighting the contributions of all employees, whether female or male, of color, or a different age or religion. Similarly, we should value all people, whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore. Remember, very few of us are vegetarian from birth, and the advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle that are so obvious to us now were not always so clear. We must accept that some people will change slowly and others never will.

What causes intolerance? It's natural to surround ourselves with people who are similar or have similar interests, because these people are more accepting of us. We tend to be less tolerant of anyone who is different. Some people are taught to be prejudiced by their parents and peers, and this early learning can be difficult to change. We often categorize people without really knowing them, making assumptions about individuals because of their skin color, religion, or age. Many of us try to make ourselves feel superior by putting others down. Does it work? Maybe temporarily, but we build our own and others' self-esteem by building up people.

It's important to tolerate and accept people, but not necessarily their actions. Vegetarians and animal rights activists must often decide whether to tolerate the actions of others silently and accept them as other people's choices or to speak out, possibly creating a negative confrontation. And it becomes more difficult when someone you respect and love violates your sense of morality.

What would you do if your mother asks you to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, your neighbor asks to borrow some space in your freezer to store his extra venison, or you discover that a speaker at a vegetarian conference eats meat? While you probably want to change their behavior, if you cannot tolerate the person's views, you are unlikely to be successful. By accepting the individual, you will gain the opportunity to change his or her actions.

Often, we judge others through our thoughts and actions, even if we do not intend to offend them. We act superior, giving unwanted nutritional or environmental facts, or we accuse them of causing the problems on factory farms or slaughter-houses. This often causes people to close their minds and reject us and our opinions as obnoxious. But if we really listen as others describe why they behave as they do, we can present our opinions showing why they should change. If we are open-minded, we can help others become open-minded. Even if they don't agree with us, they may accept that our decisions are correct for us, and vice versa.

What else can we do to increase our own acceptance of others and respect their points of view, even if we don't agree? We can get to know and understand people who are different from us based on food choices, ideals, race, religion, or customs. We can concentrate not on differences, but on similarities, such as the same interests in health, ecology, sports, vacation spots, politics, hobbies, or business issues. We can improve ourselves by learning from others. To paraphrase Thoreau: "Everyone is my superior in that I may learn from her or him." We will also become more tolerant if we recognize the weaknesses in ourselves, especially the times when we were SURE we were right and later discovered we were wrong.

By increasing our tolerance and acceptance, we will increase our ability to help and influence others, we will reduce our own frustrations, and we will gain the respect and acceptance we desire. We may have to learn new habits, but the results will be worth it.


About the Vegetarian Journal and the VRG

These articles originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 1995 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:
The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE
WHAT IS THE VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP?

Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition-related publications and answer member and media questions about vegetarian diets. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships, contributions, and book sales.

The contents of this article, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

For questions or comments on this article, please contact Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@vrg.org. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial use intact and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

This file is uploaded with the permission of the publisher.



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