Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vegetarian Food for Good Health - Ikaria

Balck eyed peas - Lobia beans

A vegetarian diet, especially one that includes eggs, milk/ milk products has been described as a healthy diet in many articles of this blog. It was given the name lovegan food as different from a vegan one that does not include eggs and milk.

While leafy green vegetables such as spinach are great for providing many of the nutrients a human needs for good health, when meat is completely or largely eliminated from one’s diet, it is necessary to replace it with other food items that will provide protein in order for the diet to be a balanced and healthy. Milk products and eggs are some of the sources from which this protein can come. However it becomes necessary to include other sources of protein too. One problem with eggs is that although one or two a day is great, a larger consumption per day appears to be bad for health. Milk products such as cheese and yoghurt or just plain milk can provide the rest of the protein active healthy humans need. However, just by themselves these foods do not offer enough variety. A third source for vegetable protein is lentils and beans.

Although I do consume meat or fish on occasions, especially when entertaining, the occasions are rare. On a regular basis, besides some yoghurt and an egg a day, sometimes two, my regular lunch is rice and lentils with some yoghurt and a green salad. The daily egg is reserved for breakfast. I do not drink milk straight because I am one of those humans that cannot digest milk easily. A large percentage of humans will fall in this category but cheese and yoghurt is digested easily because the latter do not require the same enzyme that is required for digestion of milk.

Lentil Beans

Some of the most delicious and nutritious lentils are chick peas (garbanzo beans or hummus) and black eyed peas (lobia beans) however just cooked straight they can make a human phart like a cow. Therefore, I have been avoiding these most times even though they taste good. Instead my favorites are washed split mung beans and red lentils. These latter are easily digested and if they are pre-soaked and the froth removed during the cooking process then they are flatulence free for most. Traditionally in India these were cooked over a wood fire in a narrow necked pot called a Handi. The froth just boiled over into the fire during cooking. Nowadays, when that sort of cooking is not feasible in a modern kitchen, one can easily remove the froth with a spoon while they are being boiled.

Recent news items about Ikaria, a Greek island, have however caused me to begin including both Hummus and black-eyed peas once again in lunch, albeit after a process that removes the flatulence causing properties of these two beans. I shall presently describe the process but first about Ikaria. It is a 100 square mile Greek Island with a population of around ten thousand. The University of Athens concluded that people on Ikaria were, in fact, reaching the age of 90 at two and a half times the rate Americans do. (Ikarian men in particular are nearly four times as likely as their American counterparts to reach 90, often in better health.) But more than that, they were also living about 8 to 10 years longer before succumbing to cancers and cardiovascular disease, and they suffered less depression and about a quarter the rate of dementia. Almost half of Americans 85 and older show signs of Alzheimer’s. On Ikaria, however, people were sharp to the end.

Dr. Christina Chrysohoou, a cardiologist at the University of Athens, School of Medicine, teamed up with half a dozen scientists to organize the Ikaria Study. She found that her subjects consumed about six times as many beans a day as Americans, ate fish twice a week and meat five times a month, drank on average two to three cups of coffee a day and took in about a quarter as much refined sugar — the elderly did not like soda. She also discovered they were consuming high levels of olive oil along with two to four glasses of wine a day. The beans most often consumed in Ikaria are hummus and black-eyed peas.

I am reminded that this diet is very similar to the diet in my father’s family in India. They too were long lived and sharp to the end. On the other hand my mother’s flatulence-free family was regular meat eaters. Unfortunately they did not live as long.

As mentioned, I have discovered a way to cook hummus and black eyed peas that makes them flatulence free. Although some nutrients are lost in my method the proteins are preserved. It is a small loss, I believe, for enjoying these wonderful beans that have been a part of a healthy and delicious human diet for centuries from the healthy parts of our world that includes West Africa for the black eyed peas and North Africa for hummus. These beans must be soaked overnight and next day they should be boiled with just salt and lots of water until soft. These are hard beans, especially hummus, and may take hours to soften. A pinch of soda or baking powder helps but ruins the taste. However all one requires is a pressure cooker and they are wonderfully softened in just half an hour. After cooling down, drain and throw away the water and out goes the flatulence causing starches. The drained and cooked beans can then be stir fried or added to a sauce in the same way as one might add hamburger meat to a meat sauce. Both these beans are just great with a little salt or butter but even better as a gourmet dish with any or all of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, onion and spices. The interested reader can find many recipes for them by a google search on the net.

However, cooking beans does consume time. Those who are in a hurry just go for an egg and a handful of mixed nuts from a tree or a coconut and you shall be just just fine if there is a good carbohydrate source like wheat or rice and frequent servings of salads/fruit and leafy green vegetables in your diet.

More on Vegetarian foods and the strongest of humans from another part of the world who are pure vegetarians  here:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/10/healthy-proteins-for-vegetarians-vegan.html

Sushil Kumar, strongest man in the world has been a pure vegetarian all his life


Photo adapted from


No comments: