The A-Z of vegetarianism
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F is for…
(parental information – Gordon Ramsey’s favourite word is not included in this article!)
Factory Farming: A practice where any number of animals are packed into a limited space in an attempt to produce the highest output of meat at the lowest cost. They are subject to over-crowding, restrictions of movement, freedom to move around, and a lack of bedding, natural light and fresh air. Factory farming is just one of the many reasons to go veggie.
Faggots: Meatballs traditionally made from many different parts of a pig. Fortunately it is possible to make veggie versions.
Fajitas: (pronounced fa-hee-tas) A foodstuff originating from Mexico, fajitas originally referred to the specific meat that was served on a tortilla. The word has now evolved to describe a meal consisting of soft circular-shaped tortillas wrapped around a cooked filling. Traditionally fajitas are filled with grilled or fried meat strips and vegetables, but why stick with tradition? See what tasty veggie fillings you can come up it with. Why not try something like guacamole, salad and cheese?
Falafel or Felafel: Small balls or patties of ground spiced chickpeas or fava beans (see below) which are deep-fried or grilled, served alone or perhaps in a pitta bread with salad. Falafels are a popular and usually healthier form of fast food traditionally enjoyed in the Middle East and Egypt. Consider adding tahini, a drop of lemon juice, salad or even humous to your falafel sandwich for a bit of variety!
Fast Food: Any food that is prepared and served quickly, including such delights as chips, burgers, deep fried Mars bars, kebabs and of course falafel (see above!) is usually referred to as fast food. And what delight it must be to stumble upon a falafel van…
Ideally fast food should be enjoyed in moderation and not consumed on a daily basis as it tends to contain a lot of fat (see below), salt and many more calories than a similar-sized portion of a healthy home-cooked meal. However it can sometimes be a healthier option depending on what ingredients have been used and how it is cooked. Grilled corn on the cob, panini sandwiches, jacket potatoes, falafel pittas and veggie burgers can all be relatively healthy and tasty “fast” meals when you’re out and about!
Fats and Fatty Acids: Fats are naturally occurring soft, greasy solids present in some plants and animals. Fats and oils are essentially the same thing with fats tending to be solid at room temperature whilst oils are liquid.
The building blocks of fats are called fatty acids. These can be either saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated. Foods rich in saturated fats are usually of animal origin, vegetable fats are generally unsaturated. Saturated fat raises the level of cholesterol in the blood and, if we’ve been reading our previous A-Zs, we’ll all know that raised blood cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Two fatty acids are termed essential fatty acids. These are linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. These must be present in the diet as the body is unable to make them itself. They are widely present in plant oils such as sunflower, rapeseed and soyabean oils.
Fats have a number of important functions in the body. As well as being a concentrated source of energy, fats act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats are also essential for the structure of cell membranes and are precursors of many hormones. For more information click here.
Fava Bean: Also known as the broad bean.
Feathers: Some duvets and pillows are filled with down, the very soft feathers from the breasts of geese and ducks. Chickens and turkeys don't produce down. Down can be obtained by plucking, but over 90% of it is a slaughterhouse byproduct.
Felt: A material produced by a process that mats and hardens the fibres. Felt is usually made from wool, but it can be made from fur. You should be careful buying a felt hat as it may be either. Rabbit skin is often the source of fur for felt hats.
Fennel: Can be enjoyed as a herb (the leaf), spice (dried seed) or vegetable (the bulb). Whatever way you choose you’ll get a slight aniseed taste! The bulb can be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw.
Feta: A white cheese traditionally made in Greece from goat and sheep milk, although feta from cows’ milk is also available. Feta has a distinctly salty taste and crumbly texture and is commonly used in salads and pastries as well as in baking.
Fibre: Dietary fibre (or non-starch polysaccharide to its friends) refers to the indigestible part of a carbohydrate food. Fibre can be found in unrefined or wholegrain cereals, fruit (fresh and dried) and vegetables. A good intake of dietary fibre can prevent many digestive problems and protect against diseases like colon cancer and diverticular disease and a well-balanced veggie diet is guaranteed to be rich in dietary fibre.
Fig: The sweet, fleshy, seedy flower of the fig tree, which is often eaten as a fruit. Fresh figs don’t keep for too long and tend to bruise easily but they can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted, baked, or poached. We often see them as a dried fruit or preserved in a jam and used in fig rolls.
Fish: Whichever way you cut it, vegetarians don’t eat fish! You might think that fish are not cuddly, cute looking creatures, but they are cold-blooded water-dwelling animals who have a nervous system and pain receptors like all other animals. They feel pain and suffer when they are caught!
Flax: Also known as linseed, flax is either a dark brown or yellow seed which can be eaten raw or pressed to produce an oil which is full of essential fatty acids and sometimes used to season cricket bats! Its versatility was further emphasised in the Middle Ages, when cricket wasn’t quite so popular, and flax plants were reportedly carried around to ward off evil spirits. Putting a sprig or two in your shoes has also sometimes been believed by particularly gullible people to give them protection against poverty.
Foie gras: To produce foie gras (“fat liver”), ducks and geese are force-fed with large amounts of feed through a long pipe which is thrust down their throats two or three times a day, for a period of two to three weeks, before they are slaughtered. Force-feeding increases the size of the liver by up to ten times and the fat content of the liver exceeds 50%. During the force feeding period animals can be kept in tiny cages where they cannot stand properly, turn round or flap their wings. A number of countries, including Denmark, Germany, Norway and Poland have legislation specifically prohibiting force-feeding. In the UK general animal protection legislation is interpreted as prohibiting force feeding and yet foie gras is still sold in all of these countries.
Folic acid (also known as vitamin M or folate): Folic acid is important for red blood cell formation, protein synthesis, DNA metabolism and is an important nutrient for women who may become pregnant. It is found in yeast extract, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts.
Food allergies and intolerance: Food allergy is often mistaken for food intolerance. It is important to note that allergy is only one of a number of possible reasons for food intolerance. Food intolerance can be defined as a condition where an adverse effect occurs after eating a certain food or food ingredient. Genuine food intolerance is different from a psychologically based food aversion, where a person strongly dislikes a food and believes that a food produces a particular reaction.
A genuine food allergy occurs when a specific immune reaction takes place in the body in response to consuming a particular food. Allergies often run in families, and people who are allergic to some foods may also be allergic to other environmental factors, such as house dust, animal fur and pollen.
The most common food intolerances, in order of frequency, are milk, eggs, nuts, fish/shellfish, wheat/flour, chocolate, artificial colours, pork/bacon, chicken, tomato, soft fruit, cheese and yeast.
Frankenstein food: No, not food for Mary Shelley’s scientist who created the larger-than-life fictional monster made up of stray body parts, but quite similar! Frankenstein food generally refers to any foodstuff that has had organisms within it modified by genetic engineering. Whereas traditionally an organism's genes would have been manipulated indirectly by growers, genetic engineering uses the techniques of molecular cloning and transformation to alter the structure and characteristics of genes directly. Any food and drink approved by the Vegetarian Society will be free from genetically modified organisms.
Free Radicals: Highly reactive molecules which have been linked to both heart disease and cancer. A number of factors, including alcohol, stress and environmental pollutants can increase the generation of free radicals in the body. Polyunsaturated fats can also generate free radicals, especially when exposed to heat or sunlight. Because of this it is suggested that vegetable oils should be stored out of direct sunlight. Mono-unsaturated olive oil is less vulnerable to free radical generation and so is a better choice for frying.
Anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, C and E offer protection against free radicals. Fresh fruit and vegetables are rich in these anti-oxidants.
Fur: Most people know about the cruelties involved in obtaining fur. The animals are either trapped wild or farmed and both methods of production involve cruelty. As well as obviously causing the individual suffering of animals caught in steel-jawed leghold traps wild trapping can lead to endangered species being wiped out. The traps do not discriminate against who they catch, so other animals may also be destroyed or maimed, including cats and dogs. As many as 50% of the animals caught in traps will be no use to the fur trade, which refers to them as "trash animals". Farmed animals, principally mink and arctic fox, are kept imprisoned all their lives in tiny cages. Fur farming is a vast industry with more than 40 million animals being raised in intensive conditions, mainly in North America and Scandinavia.
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