VYANJAN's 12-S Healthy Vegetarian Cooking Ideas

We’re what we eat. Eating, drinking included, is arguably the most important thing after breathing for sustaining our bodies. Our diet makes an impression on our bodies and our minds. So we owe it to ourselves to be very aware, very careful about what we put inside us. As responsible adults, it is our duty to take care of ourselves and our families, who depend on us. We cannot blame the government or commercial food manufacturers or our parents for our eating ills. I congratulate you all for making this conscious decision to be here and for actually being here today. Obviously you all want to take charge and maybe make some changes to your diet that will bring positive changes in your life.  Before we move our discussion to actual healthy vegetarian eating ideas, let’s just glance at the benefits of such a diet. Note that, I always mention healthy vegetarian and not just vegetarian. Because even if you’re a vegetarian, you can harm yourself if your diet mainly consists of processed carbohydrates, saturated fats, incomplete proteins, empty calories given by sodas and nutritionally lacking foods.

Benefits of a Healthy Vegetarian Diet :

1)     Less heart disease, because of low saturated fats and cholesterol content of a vegetarian diet.

2)     Less cancer, because of abundance of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber found in fruits and vegetables. Low fat diets protect against breast cancer and colon cancer.

3)     Less bowel disease, because high fiber based vegetarian diets increase the ease with which the food can pass through the system. Shorter transit time reduces the contact between digestive juices and lining of the intestinal tracts.

4)     Less obesity, as it is easier to plan a low fat, low calorie diet for a vegetarian than for a meat-eater.

5)     Less hyper-tension, due to low sodium diets.

 6)     Better endurance, because body uses carbohydrates based glucose and not the proteins to produce energy.

Position Statement of American Dietetic Association : It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

This is what American Heart Association says : Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they are carefully planned to include essential elements.

 Here is VYANJAN’s 12-S list to help you plan healthy vegetarian meals for you and your family :

VYANJAN’s 12 - S

 1)    Soaking – Best way to cook dried beans and lentils is to soak them before cooking. Put nature to work for you. Pre-soaking the bean is not necessary for cooking the beans, but soaking in warm water for 12-24 hours makes beans more digestible and reduces their cooking time. You can even eat soaked beans directly without cooking if you have a healthy digestive tract. Nuts such as almonds, peanuts can be soaked overnight to increase their digestibility and makes them flavorful and juicy. Soaking releases enzyme inhibitors in nuts and seeds.

2)     Sprouting – A sprouted bean is an excellent source of whole proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Sprouting is a great way to grow your own organic food every day. It’s the cheapest, quickest and freshest organic food you’ll ever find, other than a mother’s milk. Seeds are in their peek nutritional form, when eaten as raw sprouts. Other than eating raw you can use your sprouts in oatmeal, soups, stir-fry, noodles, rice, baked dishes, sandwiches, and everything else that you can think of. My favorite beans to sprout are Moong, Moth, Masoor, Garbanzo, chic peas, white peas, fenugreek seeds and black eyed peas.

3)     Steamcooking is a great way to preserve maximum nutrients in your sprouts or vegetables vs. deep frying or boiling. Use pressure cookers for hard to cook items.

When the pressure is on to eat right, you can’t eat healthier, tastier and faster than  food made in the pressure cooker. Pressure cooking makes it easy even for the busiest cooks to prepare meals from scratch and take advantage of the “Fresh is Best” philosophy of cooking. It saves energy, uses less heat, less water and wastes least nutrients.

4)     Stir-fry or shallow fry is the second best method of cooking vs. deep fry. Instead of deep frying your vegetables or dough, use a shallow pan or a skillet with little oil and lid to cook your vegetables, patties or rotis (tortillas).

5)     Seeds and nuts such as raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, walnuts and many more contain essential oils, are rich in vitamins and several minerals, improve body’s HDL, which is good cholesterol and help reduce LDL, which is bad cholesterol. Seeds are also a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber fights cholesterol in the body and moves food faster through the system. You can also add your seeds and nuts to your soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and the possibilities are endless.

6)     Spices and herbs make food more appealing by adding taste, texture, color and aroma to food. They are usually loaded with medicinal healing and disease preventing qualities, anti-oxidants and digestive abilities.

7)     Several ingredients in one dish is my favorite idea of cooking. We need 40 nutrients - > 10 essential amino acids from proteins, 15 vitamins, 14 minerals and 1 essential fatty acid called linoleic acid every day to nourish our body. To get all the nutrients through food, it’s a good idea to combine several ingredients in a single item. This makes the meal whole meal. Make this a core philosophy of your healthy cooking. Mixing whole grains and dried beans in whatever dish you make will provide whole protein – whole meal to your family. 

8)     Stay away from 5 things – white bread, white flour, white rice, white sugar and white salt. These are processed foods. Processed, refined carbs lack essential factor of fiber or roughage. Dietary fibers are the indigestible portion of plant foods that move food through the digestive system and absorb water. High-fiber foods contain several other nutrients as well – including vitamins, minerals, and other valuable substances known as phytochemicals. Think brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain flours such as whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, raggi, which is red millet rich in calcium, oat flour, soy flour instead of white flour.

9)     Slow carbs vs. low carbs should be emphasized. Because it contributes bulk to the diet, fiber in complex carbohydrates promotes satiety and maintains it for a longer time than other nutrients. Since we’re full longer, we tend to eat less food and calories. Our digestive system takes longer to break down these foods vs. processed carbohydrates, which get digested in the blood faster and make us hungry sooner. There are two types of fibers – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the blood and pushes it out of the system. It is found in dried beans, oats, barley and fruits like apples, citrus and seeds such as fenugreek. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains, cereals, seeds and skins of many fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber moves bulk through the intestines and balances acidity in the intestines. This promotes regular bowel movement and prevents constipation. It removes toxic waste through colon in less time reducing the risk of colon cancer. Eat fruits instead of drinking juices or smoothies. Remember, soluble or insoluble both kinds of fibers are available only from plant based diets. Eating raw salads and fruits with skins is a great source of fiber and other nutrients. Take some vegetables like beans, pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, green peas out of your refrigerator in the morning to be eaten as midday snacks.

10)      Seasonal fruits and vegetable are a wonderful source of nutrients. Nature is the best resource manager. Look at and listen to nature when you eat. Eat the fruits that are in season. Buying fruits during their natural growing season is most advantageous for our health and wealth, as they are cheaper during their growing season. Look out for sales flyers to lessen the cost of organic buying.

11)      Simplify and have a system to incorporate all these ideas in your daily cooking. Make up your mind to make more vegetarian choices when you go out to eat or buy groceries. Make a conscious decision about what you eat and why you eat that. Keep a stock of a variety of dried beans in your pantry and soak at least one of them in just enough water every night. Take them out of water next day and let them sprout over next 2-3 days. Use a pressure cooker with or without separator pans to cook whole grains and dried beans together.

12)      Surprise yourself, keep experimenting.  You now know the principles of mixing grains and beans in a single dish, sprouting, pressure cooking, eating fruits and vegetables in as natural form as possible. Apply these principles to your recipes, make suitable changes, come up with your own recipes. You can easily add variety to your cooking by changing proportions of spices. Healthy vegetarian cooking is acting in self-interest. You’ll keep a lot of preventable diseases at bay by planning and preparing your own healthy vegetarian meals.