The Perfect Diet? 

Everyone is different -- and so should every diet be. 

There is no shortage of disagreement about what the ideal diet should be.

Given our genetic and environmental differences, it is not likely that there’s one diet that’s ideal for everyone. Even the dietary needs of a single person are likely to change constantly throughout his lifetime. 

Food is the foundation of health – good or bad. What we eat, when we eat, how much of something we eat and how we prepare what we eat have immediate and long-term effects in our bodies and health. But these effects vary from person to person. 

The short-term effects of high-cholesterol and high-saturated-fatty food, for example, can make some people feel sluggish, tired and bloated, and cause digestion problems and constipation. The long-term effects can be a dramatically increased risk of chronic illness, including heart disease and certain cancers. While some people might not experience any of this, others are predisposed for certain food allergies and other chronic illnesses. 

Our environment (place we live, climate, amount of sun we get, types of food available) our religion, culture, ethics, jobs, economical means, etc., all  contribute to our decision making process about what we eat. The food available to each of us, and the circumstances that surround us, influence the choices we make about our diets. 

Though one person’s “perfect” diet might be totally different from another, there are certain facts that hold true for everybody. Nourishing our bodies with a basic  Amira Elganhealthful diet begins with the understanding that we need proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. These dietary elements have a qualitative dimension – there are good proteins and bad, good carbs and bad, good fats and bad, and so on. Toxins, including pesticides and other harmful poisons introduced in the production of some foods, are unhealthful. 

The most important common element we all need to practice, in the quest for the perfect diet, is acquiring knowledge. Awareness about what we choose to put in our bodies is the best tool in finding the ideal eating plan. Understanding what food is, what nutrients it provides, how your body reacts to it, how it affects your health and even how it’s metabolized will help find your ultimate eating plan.

That’s what Vegetarian Organic Life is all about. It’s a guide full of knowledge and ideas – to help you find your own way. 

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What Have You Done for YOU Lately?

It’s easy to get caught up in a hectic daily life. We rush to get the kids off to school in the morning, exhaust ourselves at work all day, then come home and take care of personal chores with whatever remaining energy we might have. 

You can eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, but living a rushed, stressed out daily existence takes its toll on your health. 

It’s important to break the routine on a regular basis – to do something different. If your life is generally rushed and stressful, slow down and relax. Do something pleasurable and fun.

Experiencing feelings of various degrees of happiness and gratification are essential to your health and overall well-being.

You’ll be surprise at how doing simple things helps you think more clearly and gain positive perspective. You will feel invigorated and energized but more importantly, relaxed and happy—ready to conquer the world again.

Of course, all that’s easier said than done. 

The most effective way of enjoying simple things is by scheduling time to do them. You can plan them and enjoy them without feeling rushed or guilty. 

Here are a few simple things you can do to unplug, rewind and reconnect. 

· Schedule an “absolutely-no-work-day” at least once per month. Prepare food the day before so you can just heat it up, wear pajamas all day, read, play your favorite board games such as chess, watch movies, listen to classical music, etc. 

· Designate one day of the weekend a no-media day. Turn off the TVs, radios, computers and cell phones for the entire day. 

· Go hiking and then enjoy a picnic under a shady tree; bring a blanket, a book and take a nap. 

· Go for a walk on the beach at sunset. 

· Spend the day at the beach, a river or a lake—bring food, water, an umbrella, a blanket, sun block lotion and plenty to read. 

· Schedule a “do-only-fun-things-day” with your family or significant other. Start with a nice breakfast together and go somewhere for the day with total freedom; without a particular agenda—just unstructured time. 

· Do something romantic with your spouse; light all the candles, enjoy a simple romantic dinner, watch a fun movie, play your favorite romantic music CD, take a candle lit bubble bath together, give each other a massage, and the rest is up to you…

Live it up. Don’t be afraid to do something different and unusual. Let your imagination loose. It’s a way of living life more meaningfully and also building stronger relationships with your loved ones.

Reader Q&A 

Q: Amira, I love your newsletter....lively, informative, reader-friendly...but my question for your NEXT one is would you please elaborate on this phrase in your newsletter....I'm not quite sure what it means: "which appear to have a protective role in plants and synthesize as result of insect pressure, UV light exposure and microorganism pressures." Keep up the good work. 

A: The phenolics (plant phytochemicals) have a protective role in plants. Plants naturally produce these chemicals and use them as a natural defense against attacks by insects and/or bacteria and fungus infections and even UV light exposure. The more phytochemicals plants synthesize, the more antioxidants they contain.

Words of Wisdom

You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.

Charles Buxton


The practice of self-awareness is highly under-rated. Self-awareness is a great mental exercise for attaining calmness, composure and self-control. What I mean by self-awareness is the skill of active and deliberate thinking about one’s own emotions, feelings, behavior, character, instinctual actions and thoughts. 

Self-awareness enables you to think more objectively and enhances your ability to think more clearly and make the right choices. Everything you do involves decision-making, from choosing what to eat and whether to exercise or not, to how to interact with people, handle pressure and react to major conflicts. 

Make a conscious effort to raise your self-awareness—being cognizant of your emotional state will help you have more self-control of your actions and reactions to stressful everyday situations. 

Reader Comment

A READER WRITES: I just received an email containing an article by you. The article states that "There is no such thing as an obese vegan." This is a lie and you should not let your enthusiasm cause you to make such insupportable statements. I have been a vegetarian for over thirty years and a vegan for over ten and weigh 236 pounds. I eat too much and don't get enough exercise but am vegan nonetheless. Veganism is not well served by statements that ignore the truth.

REPLY: I appreciate you taking the time to point out what’s wrong with my statement.

You're absolutely right and I should have expressed myself accurately.

Let me assure you that my goal is not to ignore the truth but to be truthful and thought provoking—to both inform and inspire.

In addition to mentioning that being vegan does not guarantee good health, I should have said that it does not guarantee healthy weight if you don’t exercise regularly and don’t eat well balanced meals; that genetic predisposition plays a role in obesity, but that being obese is unlikely for the majority of vegans who not only live a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly but also eat varied, healthy, well-balanced, nutrient-rich wholesome meals.

Until proven otherwise, I believe that it’s unlikely for a vegan to be obese if he or she lives an active lifestyle. For example, walks or jogs a few miles at least 4 times a week, does some weight training or group exercise at least 3 times a week, and occasionally rides a bike and goes hiking. And also: 

1. Eats a well-balanced diet consisting of daily intake of plenty of vegetables and fruit (at least 10 servings) along with healthy fiber and protein containing foods such as beans, grains, (including tofu, tempeh and seitan). 

2. Includes a moderate consumption of healthy fats from sources such as olive oil, safflower oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, which are necessary for the body to be at its best. And Avoids intake of bad fats such as saturated fats and hydrogenated oil. 

3. Avoids or reduces consumption of simple carbohydrates and highly refined and processed food, which the body breaks down too fast inducing hunger too soon again and causing overeating. This process induces excessive caloric consumption, which ultimately causes weight gain, and also displaces wholesome food depleting the body of essential nutrients necessary for optimal bodily functions.

4. Does not smoke and drinks little or no alcohol.

You mention you eat too much and don't get enough exercise. I don’t know how overweight you are. You don’t mention your height or what your vegan diet is like or what kind of lifestyle you conduct or what your genetic background is. Despite of individual genetic differences, I still believe that if you had a nutrient rich well-balanced diet, exercised regularly and lived a well-rounded healthy and active lifestyle, you would not be obese (if that’s what you consider yourself to be).

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet that provides all the right nutrients, regardless of weather or not it is a vegan diet, usually gives a feeling of satiety and moderates the appetite. Consistent exercise and an active lifestyle also help regulate your appetite and metabolism.

Though genetic predisposition always plays a role, it is within our power to regulate our weight through diet and exercise. For overweight people who eat meat, switching to a vegan diet is a powerful first step to losing weight. Coupled with an approach to diet that maximizes balanced nutrition and minimizes caloric intake, along with daily cardiovascular exercise, obesity can be cured in most people. 

Thanks again for your input! 

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Tempeh & Pinto Bean Chili (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6

Enjoy this delicious and succulent comforting dish. It tastes and feels rich but is almost fat free and super nutritious—so good for you that it might heal anything that ails you. This complete protein dish was inspired by the delicious tortilla soup my dear sister- in-law makes. If desired, top it with baked tortilla chips.

Ahead of time: Pinto beans with soup (see cook’s tip below)

Preparation time: 10 minute Cooking time: 40 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready:
2 ½ tablespoons safflower oil 
5 fresh garlic cloves 
½ large onion 
3 celery stalks cut in pieces 
4 large carrots cut in pieces
1 (8 oz) package of Tempeh (crumbled) 
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
10 large plum tomatoes cut in quarters or 1 (28 oz) can of whole peeled tomatoes
3 cups of cooked pinto beans drained 
1 cup of pinto bean liquid (soup)
2 cups of frozen sweet corn
4 tablespoons of fresh finely chopped cilantro
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In an extra large pot, heat oil on medium heat. In a food processor or blender, chop the garlic and onion finely. Stir in chopped onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent. Add crumbled tempeh and saute until lightly browned. Meanwhile, put the celery and carrots in the food processor and processed until almost finely chopped but not pureed. Stir in the celery and carrot mixture and sauté for 10 minutes stirring often. 

2. Again, in the food processor, combine and puree the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro. Stir in the tomato puree, cumin, chili powder, paprika, coriander and cayenne pepper mixing well. Simmer for 15 minutes stirring frequently. 

3. Add corn and continue to cook for 15 more minutes letting it come to a soft boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each serving with chopped cilantro and serve. 

For dairy lovers: If you must have dairy, add shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese to each serving.

Favorite brand: Organic Garden Veggie Tempeh by Lightlife found in the refrigerated sections of health food stores. Any variety or brand will work. Read the label and choose one with highest grams of protein.

Cook’s tip: Organic dried pinto beans should be soaked overnight before cooking. Drain and discard soaking water. For cooking, place them in a pot, replace water to cover at least 5 inches above beans and cook over medium heat with 3 cloves of garlic and ½ onion (not chopped). Cover with lid lightly and cook boiling for 60 to 90 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary to soup. Add salt after the beans are done cooking. Once cool, store in fridge with the cooking liquid (soup) for up to 15 days.


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Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]