The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

I live in Cambridge and have found myself surrounded with friends that follow a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Their rationale for doing so varies from person to person: health benefits, decrease damage to the environment, reduce animal suffering, etc. 

While I don’t follow a strict vegetarian lifestyle, I am a huge advocate of replacing some of your animal-based food choices with plant-based ones.  Eating a largely plant-based diet is associated with huge health benefits in the prevention of developing many chronic diseases as well as increasing the nutritional quality of your diet. 

The Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group is an excellent resource if you are interested in articles, research, websites, books, and cookbooks on the topic of vegetarian eating.

If you are interested in eating more plant-based meals, but don’t know where to start, the Meatless Mondays website is a great place to go.  The rationale behind the website is that by going meatless once a week, we can radically improve our health and health of the planet.  Check it out.

A couple of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks include:

  • Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers
  • Vegan with a Vengeance & Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Here is one of my favorite recipes that I’ve made lately, courtesy of Veganomicon.  I made it last week and served it on a whole grain bun and couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers.  Delicious!

Snobby Joes

prep time: | cooking time: 35 minutes start to finish | makes 4 to 6 sammiches

From Veganomicon. Every vegan cookbook needs a sloppy joe recipe with the name changed around a bit, right? Well, this is ours. Those sloppy joes we loved as a child but made with lentils. Snobby Joe thinks he’s better than all the other Joes because he doesn’t have any meat.

Just a pot or two

1 cup uncooked lentils
4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (wet mustard)

4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more.

Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.

Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can’t wait. I like to serve these open faced, with a scoop of snobby joe on each slice of the bun.

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