Diversity in Diet
One area often overlooked in diversity is the issue of diet. People follow different diets for a wide variety of reasons such as health, ethics, and religion. It is important to be aware of a person’s dietary preferences and the motivation behind why they choose to eat and drink what they do.
A Vegetarian and/or Vegan Diet
People who follow a vegetarian diet focus their meals on plant-based foods. There are several classifications those following a vegetable/plant based diet:
From: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596, 9-24-2009.
Health is a major reason people choose a vegetarian diet. Those following a plant-based diet often have greater health benefits than those following diets that are higher in fats and animal-based products.
Some people choose to adopt a plant-based diet for ethical reasons. Many believe that the production, slaughter practices, and consumption of meat is unethical and cruel. Often animals are raised and bred in unsanitary conditions, fed unhealthy foods and additives to create a "meatier" product, and can also be mistreated. Animals that are "factory" raised also have very little access to sunlight and/or pasture land and can be raised completely indoors in very restrictive areas, in which they have little room to move or grow properly. Because of these issues and many others pertaining to the rights of animals, some people choose to follow completely plant-based vegan diets.
Protecting the environment is another reason people choose a plant-based lifestyle. Due to the advancement of global warming, many are trying to find ways to reduce their use of non-renewable energy sources. It is argued that using valuable land resources strictly for the purposes of growing food to feed livestock (which will then be processed for human consumption) is wasteful and a destructive way to use precious food resources.
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism, 9/25/2009.
Because raising animals can be such a costly endeavor to both the land, the environment, and the impact on animal welfare, many choose to follow a diet free of animal products.
Another reason people also choose a plant-based diet is to follow religious guidelines. Some examples of religions that follow vegetarian or vegan lifestyles include:
Helpful websites about Vegetarian and Vegan diets
Gluten Free, Soy Free, and Casein Free Diets
A gluten free diet has gained attention in recent years as the prevalence of celiac disease has become more well known.
From: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/, 9/24/2009.
Those following a gluten free diet, usually do so for health reasons, such as celiac disease. Another health reason for adhering to a gluten free diet is due to gluten and/or wheat allergies and intolerances.
A food allergy is an immune system response to food. The body mistakes an ingredient in food (usually a protein) as being harmful to the body and creates antibodies to fight it. Symptoms are usually immediate and dramatic; they can even be life-threatening. They typically are visible and resemble seasonal allergies – coughing, wheezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing, tingling in the mouth and throat, swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, rashes, hives, eczema and even anaphylactic shock, requiring emergency intervention. Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as vomiting, cramping and gas may also occur. True food allergies are rare, affecting 2 to 4 percent of adults and 6 to 8 percent of children while food intolerances are much more common.
A food intolerance (also known as a food sensitivity) is a digestive system response to food. It occurs when foods irritate the digestive system or when the body is unable to properly digest some foods, most often due to a lack of certain enzymes. Reactions are typically slower, taking hours or even days. Symptoms of food intolerances are generally gastro-intestinal: heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and abdominal pain including gas, cramps and bloating. However, other symptoms are possible – migraines, irritability, anxiousness, exhaustion and nervousness. Furthermore, for some people, offending foods can cause an adrenalin rush and a kind of "high" after eating them. This can cause an addiction to the very foods to which a person is intolerant!
The only treatment for both food allergies and food intolerances is diligent avoidance of offending foods. Food allergies can be triggered by minute amounts, so strict and absolute avoidance is necessary. Conversely, with food intolerances, small amount of offending foods are typically tolerated. The allowable dosage varies from person to person. The top eight allergens are: wheat, dairy, soybeans, fish, shellfish (including crab, lobster, and shrimp), peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, wal¬nuts, and pecans) and eggs. Common intolerances include gluten, lactose, salicylates, nightshades, sulfites, yeast, caffeine and sugar.
Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including rye, barley, bulgar, durum, kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. Oats are continuously a controversial subject in defining gluten free foods. Oats are often cross-contaminated with gluten during processing in factories and they are often grown in fields that are rotated with wheat. There are companies that sell oats that are certified to be gluten free. Some individuals can tolerate these grains, while others with serious sensitivities cannot. Gluten can also be found in some food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, some brands of soy sauce, flavorings (especially if they contain dark artificial colors), artificial colors and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.
Many people find that after beginning a gluten free diet, they are also intolerant or sensitive to other food proteins such as casein or soy. Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, whey and even some brands of margarine. It also may be added to non-milk products such as soy cheese and hot dogs in the form of caseinate.
While soy is currently popular as a health food, it can also be a food that some people are highly intolerant or allergic to. People who have allergies or intolerances to soy, usually react to the proteins found in soy, which are very similar to gluten and casein proteins. Many people with soy sensitivies can tolerate small amounts of soy lecithin or soy oils, which are found abundantly in most packaged convenience foods.
Learn more about food allergies versus intolerances
Autism and other Behavioral Disorders
Another reason some people choose to follow a gluten free (and casein-free) diet is for a non-medical treatment approach to autism and other behavioral disorders, primarily in children. This treatment is currently very controversial. The reasons for following the diet for treatment of behavioral disorders are due to the hypothesis that the gluten and casein proteins cannot be properly digested in children with these disorders and the proteins form a substance that acts as an opiate in the body. The opiate reaction then causes the person to have severe changes in behavior, personality, and responses to their environment. Studies are currently underway to ascertain the effectiveness of a gluten free/casein free diet for these individuals. Many parents of children with autism and other behavioral disorders are highly in support of this natural treatment, especially when they try the diet and see significant behavioral results in their children.
Adhering to a Gluten Free,Casein Free, and/or Soy Free Diet
Following a gluten free diet can be difficult at first. Learning to read food labels is essential. Thanks to current food labeling laws, food labels MUST show if the product contains any of the top 8 food allergens. This is extremely helpful to the gluten free community, although some ingredients containing gluten such as barley and rye are not highlighted on food labels, and therefore it is imperitive to learn to read these labels properly.
Gluten free and casein free convenience foods are becoming more readily available and accessible in many grocery stores. Foods such as breakfast cereal, cake mixes, breads, etc... can usually be found in health food sections or are specifically labeled in many grocery stores.
Many main stream restaurants have also started catering to the gluten free community with gluten free menu options and knowledgeable wait staff and chefs. There are also restaurant dining cards available in many different languages online which can be printed and taken into restaurants to educate the staff on the needs of the diner.
Cooking and baking gluten free is not as complicated as it may sound. There are many gluten free flour alternatives such as rice flours, sorghum flour, millet flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, cornstarch, etc... these flours can often be combined along with a small amount of a gluten replacement such as xanthan gum, for a wonderful baked good. Breads, cookies, cakes, muffins, donuts, etc... can all be created with alternative gluten free flours and a little practice. For main dishes, gluten free pastas, rice, quinoa, millet, potatoes, etc.. are excellent starch replacements for wheat-based products and can now be found in many grocery stores.
Additional information on following a gluten free diet and gluten free recipes
Potato and Spinach Enchiladas
(Gluten, Casein & Soy Free, Vegan)
Makes 3-4 (2-3 enchilada) servings.
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Easy Marinara Sauce
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Jennifer Yandle's Easy Marinara Sauce
Southern Vegetable Curry with Tomato Sauce
(Gluten & Soy Free, Vegan & Casein Free Option)
For the Curry
For the Tomato Sauce
For the Vegetable Curry
For the Tomato Sauce
Veggies a la Rosa
(Gluten & Soy Free, Vegan & Casein Free Option)
1/2 of a large eggplant, sliced thinly and cubed
Chocolate Brownie Bites
(Gluten, Casein, & Soy Free, Vegan, Raw)
1/2 cup raw pecans or almonds
For Mini Brownie Bites
Whole Grain Banana Nut Muffins
(Gluten, Casein, & Soy Free, Vegan)