Vegetarian in Puerto Rico

Fresh fruit at the market

Whether you live here or are visiting, being a vegetarian in Puerto Rico is like an oxymoron. The concept is so foreign to the greater population, people who ask where can they get a Vegetarian meal get the crazy look. Its sad and unfortunate because when one finds out the health statistics of this island, one tends to wonder why Vegetarianism isnt more popular. And it really isnt that hard to be one either….Why? Because EVERYTHING grows here.  There is an abundance of fresh tropical fruits available all year…especially during the summer time when mostly everything is available…like Mangoes.

The typical Puerto Rican diet doesnt even incorporate veggies or fruit of any kind.  Puerto Ricans are very proud of their typical cuisine…Criollo. It consists of lots and lots of fried doughs and meats, rice and beans, root veggies, soups, roasted pork, and candied anything:  green papaya, coconut, almonds…etc. Hopefully this description of the PR diet doesnt come off with any type of demeaning energy…not the intention. Its just that for a seasoned vegetarian, folks tend to get this feeling that folks here could really eat so much better…if they were opened to it…or maybe even educated about it. If you ever try local Criollo, believe me, its very tasty…the vegetarian components that is…however, after a while you get this feeling inside of you that you need to eat something GREEN!  And unless you prepare your own food…it is nowhere…nowhere…nowhere to be found.  Unless you are okay with going to Subway to get a salad…but then the Subway’s here do not have Spinach as one of their lettuces like in the states. So, what are you to do?

If you find a health food store, usually a safe haven for vegetarians, you will quickly realize that you have just walked into a supplement shop.  “Where is the food?”  None there either.  A few of them do have small cafe’s in them, like the FreshMart’s that are located all over the island…however, they are not strictly vegetarian…except the one that is privately owned in Aguadilla…(Tom Spontelli owns Natural High Cafe in the back of the Freshmart in Aguadilla).  We live closer to the east coast of the island and there is NO vegetarian cafe’s for what seems like hundreds of miles.  The FreshMart in Carolina does have a pretty decent cafe, but they also serve chicken and fish.  There food is fair to partly cloudy.  I wish someone would tell them not to boil their veggies.  I cant stand to see frozen veggies swimming in water…reminds me of a jail cafeteria scene.

The few vegetarian spots you do find tend to focus on the vegetarian version of the Puerto Rican Criollo. Well, it may be vegetarian, but it wont be healthy.  Puerto Ricans have this wonderful connection to the fryer. They love fried food.  And with the rate of heart disease on this island, one would think that avoiding as much fried food as possible would be smart?  Go figure!

There are a few spots that I must mention, that are doing the darn thing in the vegetarian world, or should we say, PR:

La Mesa Verde: In Old San Juan, the owners have this neat little space not in the mix with the crowds of Old San Juan so you have to search for it.  There food is a bit pricey, but considering the quality ingredients, the charm of OSJ, and the ambience of the place…it gets an A.

Natural High: located in the back of Fresh Mart in Aguadilla, possibly the only place to eat on the West side of PR. They have a complete menu, hot entree’s, sandwiches, juices and smoothies…etc. Food here is very good!

The Veggie Garden: Awesomeness!  They have veggie samosas, vegan pizza, salads…what else can I say.  They have this Indian/Buddhist vibe that is fabulous.  Its hard to find, if you dont know the place, but they are located in Hato Rey somewhere.

Roots and Fruits: Well, this is our place.  Located right on the way into El Yunque in Palmer. We feature strictly vegan entrees, wraps, raw desserts, juices and green smoothies.  And we are also the only spot located on the entire east coast outside of San Juan. And we have also incorporated some Yoga classes too.

Well, hope to see you sometime. Remember when you come down to visit or even if you live here, support the vegetarian movement.  Its small but its about to EXPLODE!  YAY!

Sweet Breadfruit Sun Pie

Sweet Breadfruit Sun Pie

This pie is so sweet naturally…many people have never even thought of using Breadfruit (or Pana…here in PR) as an actual fruit. It is mostly used as a starch. My advice…let your fruit ripen! Nature has a way of cookin with the Sun! YAHOO!

Good Information is worth passing on!

From http://www.greensmoothie.com

Val Archer writes about the basic schools of thought as it pertains to Nutritional Healing:

What do the gurus say you SHOULD do? And which do you resonate with?

In nutritional healing, the top five schools are:

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* The Doctor School *
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These are the medical doctors and naturopaths who use food first to treat illness. Most are vegan (vegetarian with no dairy) while a few recommend a little flesh such as lean fish or egg once or twice a week.

Here we find Drs. Neal Barnard (Foods Can Save Your Life), Joel Fuhrman (Eat To Live), John McDougall (The McDougall Plan), Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), Dean Ornish (Reversing Heart Disease) and so on, the list is huge!

THUMBS UP for Doctors — their teachings are moderate and easy to follow. For the doctor school, it’s alright to eat sugar-free jam from the farmer’s market, and a quick dish of brown rice pasta with bottled sauce. These are Big No-Nos for the other schools.

The doctors taught me the easiest way to stick to whole foods — try vegetarian recipe books until you find a dozen dishes you love. And don’t be an extremist: chocolate pudding is A-okay — just make it with tofu from soya beans, not with milk from cows.

THUMBS DOWN for Doctors — they never showed me how to break free of my addictions.

These doctors treat patients with serious illness like cancer and heart disease. Such patients are highly motivated to switch to healthy food. Their life is at stake!

For me, I had to buy donuts and chocolate day after merciless day. I had no power to say no. I was vegetarian, I juiced, I ate salads, grew bean sprouts, cooked rice and beans, and took my supplements.

But I still had to get to the bakery. It eased my stress. Sugar gave me a buzz. It helped me squash down what I knew, that my job at a law firm was not really me. Ah yes, SFS keeps us in zombie mode…

My biochemistry was unbalanced. You know you have imbalanced biochemistry when you get cravings you can’t say not to, or when you get “normal” pains like toothache and colds.

My pain was not great enough to motivate me to change. I had not been told I’d die if I did not stick to a healthy diet. So I did not.

To see my addictions fly away forever, I needed:

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* The Living Food School *
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Popularized by the late Dr. Ann Wigmore — her books saved my life. I recommend every one, especially “The Sprouting Book.”

Living fooders eat a vegan organic diet — but it’s all raw and ALIVE. A food is alive if it’s still growing when you eat it, such as a bean sprout, a ripening fruit, a freshly-picked lettuce, a nut or seed fermenting into yogurt.

Both paleontology and biochemistry are on the side of living foods. For millions of years we homo’s plucked our food live from a tree, or out of the ground or sea.

Apart from losing a little hair, growing more brain and a foot or so in height, our bodies have not changed much since the early hominid, Lucy, was born 3.5 million years ago in Ethiopia. Fire we discovered about half to one million years ago.

About 100,000 years ago, our modern human brain and language appears. Even that is attributed to the fresh sea foods we ate, like raw shellfish.

THUMBS UP for Living Foods — when you eat living foods, you heal fastest. Every Single School Agrees that Raw Living Plant Foods Are the Best HEALING Diet (except macrobiotics, they stick to their cooked brown rice).

Living foods BALANCE YOUR BIOCHEMISTRY so cravings go. A living plant is in perfect balance. Lettuce loses 60% of its vitamin C within 24 hours of picking.

Living foods for a living body. There’s a clear difference between life and death. You don’t sit down to tea with a dead person. So why swallow death?

THUMBS DOWN for Living Foods — they healed me, but most people can’t eat raw foods only, especially when it’s snowing! I was freezing cold and starving hungry in a New York winter, without cooked grains.

How to find a healthy balance? For this, I was helped by:

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* The Macrobiotic School *
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Macrobiotics recognizes two forces in the universe — expansion, called yin, and contraction, called yang.

These forces pull in opposite directions, creating movement and change. But they also attract each other, so as to create balance.

They’re like a loving couple in a tug-of-war. Or your breath — once you’ve breathed in (expanded) you must breathe out (contract).

Some foods are more yang, contracting, like grains — picture a tight little kernel of rice. Some are so contracting they make you tense and violent, like meat and eggs. Try going vegetarian for a month, then eat some meat, and you’ll experience this.

Other foods are more yin, expanding, like fruit — picture a big watery melon. Some are so yin, they make you spaced out and lethargic, like sugar and drugs.

The secret is to eat a balance of yin and yang. The macrobiotic teacher who helped me was Annemarie Colbin, author of “Food and Healing” and top-notch cookery books.

THUMBS UP for Macrobiotics — it’s a clean diet, organic vegetarian (with some fish) whole foods. It teaches you how to cook easy delicious meals. It gives you a feel for balance — mixing colors, shapes, textures.

THUMBS DOWN for Macrobiotics — it’s mostly all cooked. I’ve met sickly cancer patients on a macrobiotic diet who will not touch a single raw food. This is shocking to me, and goes against all the laws of biochemistry. I pray for them to blend Energy Soup.

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* The Raw Food School *
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Thank you to the Internet for spreading the raw food movement!

Raw fooders are split into four groups, depending on their chief calorie-rich food:

 * Vegans who eat high-fruit raw, popularized in Dr Doug Graham’s book “The 80/10/10 Diet” – 80% of calories are from fresh fruit. Doug’s book inspired me to lose my fear of fruit.

 * Vegans who eat high-fat raw, popularized by Dr Robert Young and Dr Gabriel Cousens (Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine). Here up to 45% of calories are from fat in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, durians (a tropical fruit) and olives. Not my cup of tea, you avoid sweet fruits for 3 months!

 * Vegans who eat 85% raw, and meet their calorie needs with cooked carbohydrates like starchy vegetables and grains. They prefer this to an excess of sweet fruit or nuts. Leaders here are Rev. George Malkmus and Dr Alan Goldhamer. I like this in winter.

 * Non-vegans who eat raw meat too, so flesh is their chief calorie source. Called the paleodiet, Daniel Vitalis is a leader here.

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* Living Foods + Raw Foods *
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What’s the difference between living foods and raw foods?

Living fooders try to eat most of our food alive, so we’ll ferment almonds into almond cream.

Raw fooders are not so fussy about the life force. They’ll make a pie crust with unsoaked ground almonds + dried figs – the ratio is 2 parts nuts to one part dried fruit.

I used to love pie crust, with blended mango inside, and cashew cream on top (blend a cup of cashews with half a cup of raw dates).

Today I can’t digest the complex mixtures in raw food recipe books. I’m happier with a whole papaya, or a lightly cooked gem squash.

But I needed them at the start. These recipes help you to enjoy raw food. They satisfy your SFS addictions. So you get raw pizza and raw pecan pie.

ANY whole plant food is better than SFS! But over time it’s best to let it go. I agree with Doug Graham who says:

  “If it looks like pizza and tastes like pizza, then it’s probably not good for you, even if it’s raw.”

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* The Flesh School *
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Drs Joseph Mercola and Jonny Bowden are well-known here. Also ex-raw vegan writers Susan Schenck (The Live Food Factor) and David Rainoshek (There Is A Cure for Diabetes). They claim humans have always been omnivores, you can’t meet all your nutrient needs from plants.

Funnily enough, natural hygiene claims the exact opposite! They say that fresh fruit and vegetables is the species-specific diet of humans. It’s tempting to believe this, when it’s so easy to reach for an apple, and so hard to kill an animal or even a fish.

I agree that vegans are the guinea pigs. There has never been a vegan society in the history of humans. Digs of the earliest modern humans, such as Blombos cave in South Africa (70,000 years) and Jebel Irhoud cave in Morocco (108,000 years) show that the first humans ate shell fish. These are exceptionally high in essential fatty acids for our unique human brain.

For myself, I want to be a guinea pig. I’m not one yet. I manage to go vegan for a few months at a time. Then cheese lures me back. No other dairy attracts me.

I believe we have the knowledge and widely available foods to go vegan. We know about chia seeds and micro-algae oils!

In 1971-2, I was lucky enough to be in a vegetarian hippy community in London, so I stopped eating animals, birds, fish and eggs when I was 23 (except for egg hidden in cake).

A supportive environment makes such a HUGE difference! As I found in Alcoholics Anonymous too. The community carries you.

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* Will One Shoe Fit All? *
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I used to think I’d sooner die than eat an animal, fish or bird. Today I’m realizing how unique each person is, and how radically we change from year to year.

Is there one diet that is right for everyone, every day of the year? In my experience, there never has been and there never will be a universally healthy diet.

However, we do each feel more at home with one or two schools. For me it’s Ann Wigmore (sprouts + living greens), Doug Graham (fresh fruit) and George Malkmus (cooked carbs in the winter).

Google the leaders of the ones you like.  And

 * Subscribe to my Newsletter at http://www.greensmoothie.com/

Every week I send you links to the very latest interviews, teleseminars, webinars, so you get to hear the leaders in each school first-hand. Usually you can listen in for free, and online for 24-48 hours afterwards.

Watch this video of Kevin Gianni interviewing Dr J.E. Williams:

==> http://www.greensmoothie.com/alinks/KGnativediets.html

Dr Williams describes his 40-year research with indigenous tribes. They eat diets ranging from 100% meat in the frozen north, to 100% carbs in the tropics, yet they outlive us!

Only when fractionated factory foods come into your world, disease sets in. Your #1 goal is to move from factory food to whole plant food. If you need to add some eggs, fish or meat, go for it.

Listen to your body. You are an exquisitely beautiful strand in the web of life.

“What percent raw are you?” “Are you vegan or vegetarian?” Has anyone ever asked you this?

To me they’re superiorcist questions. They imply hierarchies. I just tell people:

  “I’m me. Today I’m vegetarian, mostly raw. I’d like to be vegan, but I enjoy cheese. Sometimes I give it up for a few months. I went vegetarian in 1972 for spiritual reasons. I can’t see myself eating flesh, but who knows what tomorrow will bring? Don’t put me in a box, it’s stuffy in there.”

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* Eat It Fresh *
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All schools agree on one thing – eat your food freshly picked (or slaughtered) and organic!

Meat leader Dr Mercola writes in his ebook “Discover the Magic of Nutritional Typing” that:

  “Not only do we advise and help our patients obtain fresh, locally grown, organic food, but we also recommend that you eat as much of your food raw as possible. Eating raw will preserve the nutritional integrity of your food.

  If you do cook your food, then it is very important to use our low-temperature cooking guidelines, as this will minimize the amount of heat damage that you cause to your food.”

I don’t touch GMO (genetically modified organisms). It’s in most factory food, even in the yeast used for bread. Get the free audio download from http://seedsofdeception.com. Educate yourself.

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* Your Homework *
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ACTION: Continue to SUBSTITUTE. Eat whole foods, not junk food. Put your hand on your heart and say out loud, send this message to the Universe:

  “I’m eating whole foods only today. Whole foods for LIFE.”

Figure out, what am I craving in the junk food? Is it the sugar and fat in McDonald’s milkshake? Then blend lots of fruit with cashew nuts, and enjoy!

Don’t worry if it’s a poor food combination. It’s a lot healthier than the junk!

In nature, you get protein, fat and carbohydrate, all together in one food. Even leafy greens are busy making their own fats.

Whole foods will take you to a world where a new dawn arises in your life, day upon day in ways you can’t dream.

You never know what new surprise is round the corner, as you grow into your wholeness, your full potential.

One year it was friends, I began making a lot more friends.

Another year it was a need to sing the praises of God/dess, so now I go to a church where we sing our lungs out in Gratitude! I thought I’d never step foot inside a church again.

You expand, you embrace, you become a river flowing into an ocean of Love. You grow out of the concepts, the rigid beliefs.

So beautiful is the journey, so full of Miracles.

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READING: Understand how enzymes work in your body, their substrate-specific nature. Read:

==> http://www.greensmoothie.com/juice/compare.php#electrons

Once you understand enzymes, then you see the critical importance of fresh, local, organic, raw.

Would you like to read my own very favorite page I ever wrote? It’s “How to Grow into Raw Foods” here:

==> http://www.greensmoothie.com/eat/commit.php

It’s a path of surrender. I always prayed for surrender. Until I realized surrender is a growth process in understanding and commitment.

The more you understand, the more you commit. The more you commit, the more you understand…

It’s not just about food. It’s listening to Gandhi, BE the change you want to see in the world.

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* Questions *
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That’s it folks! Congratulations on completing your 8-week class… Actually I’m sneaking you a 9th class next week, on serving the Light 🙂

Any questions or extra tips you’d like to add to today’s class? I’ll do my best to answer on my Facebook fan page here:

==> http://www.facebook.com/valarcherwriter

Click the “Like” button and a window opens up for you to post.

warm hugs — (womon)Val – DM @valarcher

P.S. “If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.” – Joseph Campbell