Published: Jul 25, 2020

Author: Syril Arachi

Veganism and the vegetarianism are no longer eating trends – they have become mainstream food choices around the world. Gone are the days when the search for plant-based foods required much research and a trek across another part of the city. Consumer trends have clearly indicated that vegetarian and vegan (hereafter referred as just vegetarian) options are here to stay – something witnessed in the growing diversity across restaurant menus and supermarkets shelves. 

The reduced ecological footprint, the ethical dimension of consuming more mindfully and the increased search to live a healthier life have turned the most faithful meat-eaters into occasional “part-time” vegetarians. A plethora of websites list many good reasons to take the plunge and try more sustainable consumption patterns that are animal-, environment- and human friendly.

In summary, the pro-vegetarian arguments can be broadly reflected through the HEARTT concept:

  • Health regeneration

  • Environmental sustainability

  • Animal protection

  • Religious and cultural customs

  • Trusted consumption

  • Taste

 

In this post however, I take the liberty to deviate a little from the more well established and commented mainstream observations and instead focus on the concept of food variety.

Variety, variety and more …variety

There are five basic taste senses: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.  Packaged foods commonly are only adapted to serve us sweet or salty non-natural preparations. Why deprive yourself of the other tastes? Across Asia and East Africa, vegetarian cooking and consumption is the norm. I am always amazed by the sheer range of dishes that can be prepared in fun and diverse ways. The famous cooked lentil range, for example, is often prepared as both savoury (sometimes bitter) and sweet alternatives and act as both a main meal as well as a dessert. The concept of incorporating greater food variety (or a rainbow-coloured plate) in essence offers a luxurious treat for our five basic taste senses. 

There are an estimated 1,000 vegetable species cultivated globally, mostly categorised into salad, fruiting, squash, shooting, leafy, seed , bulb and root vegetables. If we had access to all categories of vegetables it would imply, we could eat 2-3 new vegetables every day for every single day of the year. Similarly, there are an estimated 2,000 fruits in the world, yet most developed countries are only aware of around 10% of this food category – a huge missed opportunity for the consumer and the palate. 

Lessons from the East

Indian culture, in particular, has for many centuries practiced a vegetarian eating norm by incorporating spices and herbs that hold plenty of micro-medical properties. Food is medicine and should thus be consumed accordingly – in moderation, with intent, with purpose and with delicately combined potions of ingredients that simultaneously heal and nurture. Variety platters are based on cultural understanding of how to “compose” a complete meal, which includes items from all the necessary food groups, providing all essential nutrients to the body, and thereby triggering and restoring various organ functions.

"Because we cannot scrub our inner body we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs, and mind.  This is the art of Ayurveda." - Sebastian Pole

 

Top 5 international plant-based (PB) platter meals:

 

Name: Onam Sadhya

Country: India (South)

Number of  PB dishes: 18-26 items

Nutritional value: High and based on Ayurvedic principles

Accessibility: Low, mostly available in Kerala during Onam (Harvest) Festival in Aug/Sept 

HEARTT rating: 5/5

Onam Sadhya Onam Sadhya, India(South)

 

 

 

Name: Thali (or commonly referred to as “Rice n Curry” set meals)

Country: India, Sri Lanka

Number of PB dishes: typically, 10-18 items

Nutritional value: High and based on Ayurvedic principles

Accessibility: High, restaurants and food courts

HEARTT rating: 4/5

Veg thali Thali, India, Sri Lanka

 

 

 

Name: Beyaynetu

Country: Ethiopia

Number of PB dishes: typically, 6-15 items

Nutritional value: High, high fibre

Accessibility: Low, Ethiopian/ African restaurants only

HEART rating: 4/5

Beyaynetu Beyaynetu, Ethiopia

 

 

 

Name: Bibimbap

Country: Korea

Number of PB dishes: typically, 8-12 items

Nutritional value: High, probiotic

Accessibility: High, restaurants and food courts

HEART rating: 4/5

Bibimbap Bibimbap, Korea

 

 

 

Name: Poke Bowl

Country: Hawaii, Japan

Number of PB dishes: typically, 5-12 items

Nutritional value: High, high fibre

Accessibility: High, restaurants and food courts

HEARTT rating: 4/5

Veg poke bowl Bibimbap, Korea

 

 

Traditional meals are based on age-less fundamental science and an inherent understanding of the body’s needs. The Onam Sadhya (separate blog post coming up soon!) is meticulously planned and carefully served, in an almost ritualistic manner. 

 Needless to say, a simple observation of how multi-dish platters are prepared and served is a nutritional science in itself. Food is thus medicine for the mind, body and soul. Choose wisely, with HEARTT, and optimise your health with every delicious bite.

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