Ready to quit meat?
Guttenberg resident prepares for annual vegan expo, promoting plant-based eating
Vegetarian Vision founder Harshad Shah enjoys a vegan breakfast in his Guttenberg apartment.
Maybe you’re one of the average Americans who consume an annual average of 270 pounds of meat, according to a 2010 analysis by the United Nations. If so, Harshard Shah wants you to join the 7.5 million Americans (according to a Harris Interactive study) on diets containing no animal products, known as vegans.
“Vegan diets are more healthy, more clean, environmentally-clean, with nonviolence,’’ said Shah, a Guttenberg resident and founder of Vegetarian Vision, a non-profit encouraging a cruelty-free, plant-based eating lifestyle. The group will hold its 25th annual Vegan Health and Wellness Expo in New York City’s Penn Plaza on Sept. 9th and 10th.
Shah claims the expo is the biggest vegetarian event in the world. It will feature doctors, chefs, and other experts extolling the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. One of the medical experts will include Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, the cardiologist who convinced former President Bill Clinton to adopt veganism after he contracted heart disease.
Shah said he launched Vegetarian Vision to help fill a void in alternative eating options. “I’d been traveling for many years around the world, and it was very hard to find vegetarian food,” he said. “I saw so many young people eating meat.”
“So I decided to talk to a few friends and we formed the group and moved forward after. We have several programs, information and education on the advantages of being a vegan.”
Eighty-six years young, Shah credits his longevity to his lifelong vegetarianism, running five generations in his family that originated in Bombay, India.
He also founded and operated a vegetarian society club for 25 years before moving to the U.S. in the mid 1950s.
“From childhood, I was taught not to eat any meat or fish,” he said. “So I was educated on being a vegetarian.”
“Vegetarian is acceptable in all religions.” – Harshard Shah
Seven years ago, Shah transitioned into his vegan phase. Though it may be easy to conflate the two, Shah cautions that vegetarians and vegans are not the same. Both groups abstain from meat eating, however, vegans take the additional step of not taking dairy products such as milk or eggs.
Shah said that though their numbers are still small, vegans are beginning to take over.
“In Manhattan there are vegan and vegetarian restaurants,” he said. “Fifty years ago, there were none. Today there are more than 100 of those restaurants in Manhattan. You travel to any part of the world, there’s a vegan restaurant. You go to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, there are vegan and vegetarian restaurants around the world now.”
Eating spots dedicated to vegans are now in every city in America, he said. “We don’t remain hungry – now we can travel freely,” he said. “It was not so 40 years ago. Things have changed – times have changed.”
Protein from plants???
Speaking of hunger, a common belief some people have about vegans and vegetarians is that they struggle to get enough protein. Shah dismisses such concerns.
“You can get proteins from soy products, peanut butter, and also lentils,” he said. “[Lentils are] a great source of protein – they have more protein than protein from meat.”
But whether or not you are considering making the switch from grass-fed burgers to grass burgers, Vegetarian Vision doesn’t want to impose on your personal beliefs.
“Our group is non-political and non-religious,” Shah said. “We do not interfere with any politics or any kind of religion. We have all kinds of members — Christian, Jews, Islamic, Hindus. Vegetarian is acceptable in all religions. Everybody eats vegetables. We don’t just eat meat.” Visit VegetarianVision.org for more information on the group.
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