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April 2017
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THE 'ALMOST' VEGETARIAN DIET

   THE 'ALMOST' VEGETARIAN DIET

In the debate amongst vegetarians and non-vegetarians, vegetarianism and veganism, a new proposal has come to the fore by means of the book by Franco Travaglino and Giuseppe Capano, ‘Why be ‘almost’ vegetarian’ (Perché essere quasi vegetariani) (Sperling & Kupfer Edition).

According to the traditional definition of vegetarianism, eating meat and fish is excluded, whilst animal products (milk, dairy products, eggs and honey) can be consumed. In veganism, all products that are not vegetables are excluded but, consequently, there is an inevitable lack of essential nutrients in this diet. The choice to follow either diet can have health/dietetic or moral reasons behind it, for example, vegetarians who choose not to eat meat for dietetic reasons will probably eat fish but those who choose this diet morally will most likely not eat fish. Many people become vegetarians so as to avoid the negative consequences eating meat has on their health, the environment and on animals; in order to be able to consume meat, animals must be killed, however, for the consumption of milk and eggs, animals do not need to be killed. In reality though, even if producing milk and eggs can prolong the life of female animals, it can cause immediate death for males.

The ‘almost vegetarian’ model suggests a reduced consumption of eggs, milk and dairy products and, from a cultural point of view, although it does not stem the exploitation of animals who are bred for these purposes, it keeps open the possibility of bringing it to an end.

A sustainable diet

According to Travaglini, a diet (as a food regime and not a weight loss system) can be defined as sustainable if:

  • it is composed of a combination of foods that guarantee nutrition with better health conservation and prevention of illness;
  • it is based on foods that are obtained from productive techniques and agronomical practices that can conserve the natural foundations of agricultural production;
  • regarding the ingredients it contains that are of animal origin, the production of them keeps in mind health, safety and environmental aspects and also considers the animals’ well-being;
  • it can be conveniently adapted to diverse climates, environments and cultures;
  • it is tasty, stimulating and leads on to new, gastronomic discoveries.

The ‘almost vegetarian diet’ described in Travaglini and Capano’s book satisfies these conditions.

Nutritional needs

There is confusion about our real nutritional needs and therefore it is a good idea to refer to the most prestigious sources when looking to find answers, as indicated here. A normal diet, like a vegetarian diet, that provides the right amount of protein (provided by eggs, milk and dairy products for vegetarians) satisfies the right nutritional criteria, whilst a strict vegan diet lacks in some things.

Today, the attention of researchers is more focused on food regimes that can prevent certain factors. From such research, and with particular attention paid to diets that can prevent tumours, diets like the ‘almost’ vegetarian food regime have been developed that suggest at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day, an idea that comes from Dr Attilio Giacosa, a gastroenterologist at the National Institute for Cancer Research, Genoa, Italy.

The almost vegetarian diet

As mentioned, this diet is based on eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This then allows the other foods that normally make up the rest of a diet (bread, pasta, meat, eggs, dairy products, fats, sugars) to be regulated and whose excessive consumption usually makes diets imbalanced.

Here is an example of how to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in one day: add one portion of fruit to breakfast (first), drink a glass of fruit juice mid-morning (second), start lunch with a salad (third) and finish it with a piece of fruit (fourth). Another fruit juice or a portion of vegetables (fifth) with dinner completes the diet. N.b.: there have to be at least 5 portions and it is even better if it is more than 5.

The problem with pesticides

Pesticide residue in foods is still a problem that has not yet been solved. According to statistics released by the Health Ministry in Italy, in 1999, 68.4% of sampled fruit and vegetable products, analysed in public laboratories, were privy to pesticide residue and in 30.3% of these cases, there was less residue present than the legal amount. Of the remaining amount, 1.3% had more residue than was allowed. By looking at these statistics in reverse, we can deduce that a good 31.6%, almost a third of all fruit and vegetables eaten, contain detectable residues from pesticide methods we use today. It is true that the majority of these come within ‘the limits of the law’, but are these limits really acceptable?

To prevent consumption of pesticides Travaglini’s suggestion is to only consume fruit and vegetables that have been grown through biological agriculture.

An almost vegetarian cuisine

To follow a food regime like the suggested one, it would be useful to have some recipes and advice... Travaglini’s book also provides us with these as well as recipes from the chef Giuseppe Capano.

So what are we waiting for to try out our new diet??!!

THE 'ALMOST' VEGETARIAN DIET

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