To be or not to be a vegetarian or...I think I was an Incan Priestess in a former life.
This article was first published March 29, 2017. Since it's been awhile, you may not know that our family of four traveled for ten months through Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and England.
During our travels we ate many different kinds of foods and experienced the challenges of trying to eat a healthy diet at the same time. Peru was one of the easiest places to feel like I was eating well, and as a result I physically felt great while I was there. If you someday get a chance to go, take it!
When I originally wrote this, I did not yet know that my son, ten-years-old at the time, would declare himself vegetarian, just as we were entering Spain. The poor kid ate mostly potatoes in Spain, and we cut our time in Spain shorter than we'd planned so that we could get to the Pizza!
His new vegetarianism was probably a combination of seeing meat hanging in open air market, the guinea pigs raised for food, and his best friend at home being vegetarian. He's still vegetarian two years later. Now, our family eats mostly vegetarian at home, but isn't as strict away from home. It's what works for us!
Probably not an Incan Priestess, but I did fall instantly in love with the Peruvian culture. It could have been reading all of those Paddington Bear books. He was from darkest Peru. Or it could have been the Peruvian Dark coffee I used to drink roasted by Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company.
Or was it the delicious food?
Getting used to the food can be a challenge when traveling. Not in Peru! The food was delicious no matter where we ate. Even the food on our trek to Machu Picchu was some of the best food I've eaten.
It was all about the food the instant we arrived in Cusco.
As we checked into our hosteria in Cusco, we were advised to rest for a half hour or so, then to have a light lunch of quinoa soup, walk around a bit (slowly), then another light meal for dinner (soup) and go to bed early. Cusco is at 11,150 feet in altitude, so these recommendations are for avoiding altitude sickness.
Quinoa is grown and eaten a lot in Peru. It is a great source of carbohydrates and protein!
Coca tea is also recommended. I had drank Coca tea in Ecuador, as well, when we were in the Andes at high altitude. It tastes like green tea. Yes, they are the leaves that Cocaine is made from and it is imported to the US legally to make all the ¨caine¨ anesthetics, such as lidocaine and novocaine. The leaves are legal here and have a place in the Latin American indigenous culture. The leaves contain many minerals and micronutrients found nowhere else in their diet. This is probably why it helps with avoiding altitude sickness.
I read a lot about the history in the the book One River, by Wade Davis. It's about the botanical expeditions in South America of Harvard Professor, Richard Evans Shultes in the 1940's and early 1950's and his protégés, Wade Davis and Tim Plowman's journey nearly thirty years later. It's a very interesting book spanning the use of plants and herbs as food, medicine, clothing, etc.
I like to ask questions about food and culture, and had plenty of time as we hiked the alternative route to Machu Picchu over five days. The cook and assistant cook carried all of our food on horses then later by car to each meal site.
They even had to carry our food over a land slide that blocked our path after a night of heavy rain. It was scary enough to cross once, much less going back and forth with heavy bags.
Something our guide told us early on really made sense to me. The people that live in the mountains or country in Peru, the farmers, eat vegetables and grains during the week, and eat meat only on the weekends.
My son decided to become a vegetarian after visiting some food markets in Ecuador and Peru. In both places, guinea pig and alpaca are specialties. We managed to avoid eating both of those.
Environmentally, meat consumption is hard on our planet. Some people become vegetarian or vegan for those reasons. Others, like my son, decide they don't want to eat animals or don't like the way livestock is treated.
Top Benefits of Vegetarianism
Research found that vegetarians had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to fish and meat eaters.
When done right, vegetarian or vegan diets are naturally lower in saturated fat and have been shown to reduce heart disease risk. Vegetarians also suffer less disease caused by a modern Western diet such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, diet-related cancers, etc. This can be attributed to a higher intake in fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, avoids, and carotenoids.
Grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables have fewer calories, but more nutrients. And they fill you up more!
Vegetarians tend to have better eye sight and less macular degeneration.
Plant foods tend to be less expensive, which can save big on grocery bills. We can all benefit by cutting costs!
Supporting Animal Rights
Ethical reasons can be a consideration when choosing a vegetarian diet. When you do eat meat, you can research where your meat comes from.
Vegetarians have been found to enjoy longer and healthier lives when compared to meat eaters.
How do you feel about eating meat? If you eat meat, do you limit your consumption of meat? Have you ever been vegetarian?
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