Fish is Back
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a couple of weeks now, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. As many of my friends know, I’ve been vegetarian for over a year and half, eating mostly tofu, Tempeh, beans and the occasional egg for protein, and a variety of vegetables, fruits, and corn and rice products. However, over the last month, I’ve made a few changes to my diet: (i) reduced my consumption of soy products – especially soy yogurt, soy milk, tofu & Tempeh, (ii) added more eggs and egg whites, as a source of protein, and (iii) added fish back into my diet. And honestly – I feel better after making these changes.
There are several reasons why I made these changes, but before I elaborate, I do want to emphasize that everyone is different, and has different likes/dislikes, food tolerances and a different metabolism. What works for one person may not work for another, and it is crucial to really listen to your body and do what makes you feel and function at your best – all within your own level of moral and ethical comfort. For the last few months, I had noticed that I was feeling more tired than usual, was sore after workouts for longer, and was losing some hair (yikes!). Then, during a physical checkup, my doctor reported back that both my iron and protein levels were very low – and this was despite the fact that I had been eating (what I thought was enough) protein in the form of soy, beans and the occasional egg & egg whites. I also thought that I was getting enough iron from the beans and dark leafy greens, but evidently not. Moreover, I was also concerned about my heavy reliance on soy products for protein (there is much debate on the benefits vs dangers of too much soy due to the phytoestrogens it contains and how these hormone-like substances can affect your own hormone levels).
True, there are many individuals who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and do remarkably well on it – but I may not be one of them. It took me a while to accept this. And I admit, I felt torn with guilt at the thought of “giving up” on a vegetarian diet, and felt like a hypocrite for starting to eat fish again when I had been such an advocate for vegetarian diets. But I also had to acknowledge and accept my own likes/dislikes and my own lifestyle. I just don’t like a lot of pulses and large amounts of beans – my body does not like digesting them and I don’t like spending the time cooking them…Plain and simple – and the harsh truth. Hence my heavy dependence on soy the previous year; it was just easier to stir fry tofu & Tempeh than plan out a bean-based meal. For me anyway…
So lately, I’ve added some tuna and the occasional bites of salmon back into my life, and cut back on soy. I don’t eat poultry or red meat (still wrestle with the humane side of the issue), but I do buy organic and cage-free eggs, and sustainably caught tuna and other fish. I’m not sure if I will eat poultry or red meat again – maybe, but maybe not. I can however say that I won’t be so harsh in “sticking to an ideal” or idea at all costs, and try to be “ethically flexible” if that can be called a phrase. By that I mean buying local, organic and minimally processed food whenever possible, and to eat a primarily plant-based diet. However, I no longer say that I’m vegetarian because I’m honestly not – I eat fish and will probably continue to do so, but mindfully and only if I really want it – not simply because it may be convenient. At the end of the day, I think that a diet that is based on natural, minimally processed foods, that do not place an excessive burden on the environment is ideal – but it is also equally important to care of yourself and be healthy. So if something in your way of eating is not working for you then don’t be afraid to change it. Finding what works best for you is often hard and may take some experimentation, but it’s worth it in the end – especially if it turns into a lifestyle that you can maintain and one that seems ‘natural’ and not any form of a forced ‘diet.’ After all, this blog is called “Coffee Beans and Greens,” and is about trying to maintain a balance in life – and that includes balancing my concern for the environment with maintaining my own health.
So sorry for the lengthy post – but I did want to express my views on this subject. And with that, I’ll also leave you with my ‘fish’ addition that I had earlier this week: Easy Tuna Salad
Easy Tuna Salad
1 6 oz can light tuna, drained
1 large carrot, washed and diced
1 – 1.5 Tbs light mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs raisins
1 Tbs chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of black pepper
Dash of hot sauce
1 – 2 Tbs mashed avocado (Optional)
1. Combine all the above ingredients in a bowl and divide into two portions.
2. Add to a salad, sandwich or wrap with additional greens and avocado (if desired)