Eastern Mediterranean vegan cuisine

Eastern Mediterranean cuisine is a favourite for many vegans. Thanks to our guest writer, Melbourne based Randa Mushcab, for exploring more in this article. When not cooking up delicious vegan meals, Randa actively promotes other environmentally friendly living practices.

If you enjoy the odd falafel wrap or some hummus dip to go along with your sliced carrots, then you may already know that the Eastern Mediterranean diet has plenty of great dishes for vegans.

It is becoming more apparent over time that opting into a plant based diet is one of the best ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Plant based meals are becoming increasingly popular, with large food chains now offering vegan options on their menus. But what about the environmentally cautious eater who wishes to explore plant based options at home? Drawing vegan inspiration from different cultures is a great way to kick-start your journey. In doing so, your new plant-based diet will be anything but mundane.

The Eastern Mediterranean diet can be considered as a close cousin of the more commonly known Euro-Mediterranean diet, consisting of countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan & Cyprus. The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits mostly known for reducing risk of heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, this diet includes a lot of plant based meals which are simple and easy to make, suitable for anyone considering trying a plant-based lifestyle.

One of the challenges one may face when considering a plant-based diet is incorporating evenly balanced meals that are high in nutrients and protein. Without making that conscious effort, one could easily fall into the trap of eating easily accessible foods which are often high in refined carbs and sugar, with little to no nutritional value.

The Mediterranean diet gets an A+ in improving health due to its wide spectrum of nutrients, focusing on whole grains, healthy fats, legumes, nuts and freshly sourced organic produce. Together, this combination will provide you with enough fibre, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to reach optimal health.

The selection of foods are practically endless and you will surely be spoilt for choice once you familiarize yourself with Mediterranean dishes. Essentially, the Eastern Mediterranean diet is split into two categories, mezze dishes and main dishes.

Mezze is a selection of appetizer dishes resembling Spanish tapas to stimulate your taste buds. You will have a great time trying different mezze dishes, which often focus on plant based dips, sauteed greens smothered in freshly pressed olive oil, salads such as the famous tabouli, or its popular sister known as fattoush, served with a pomegranate molasses dressing and crispy breadcrumbs to serve. Mezze dips include hummus and baba ganoush which both share the main ingredient tahini, a superfood packed with your daily requirements of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

When considering the heavier main dishes, they are commonly stovetop meals served with rice, vegetables, legumes and some sort of meat. Fortunately, it is very simple to substitute meat for a plant source of protein when drawing inspiration from such dishes. To help you get started, we recommend Kifah Dasuki's cookbook, Recipes for Peace. Kifah is an Arab Muslim woman born in Israel who later migrated to Prague where she adopted a plant based lifestyle. Her recipes remain true to the traditional Palestinian and Israeli kitchen using basic ingredients which can be found in most supermarkets and health stores.

A plant based diet may seem overwhelming at first but it doesn't need to be! The first step is simply being in control of what you consume and understanding where the food you purchase comes from.

Over 70 billion animals are killed for meat consumption every year, simply reducing your meat intake by exploring other healthy food options is a great way to kick-start your journey to an eco friendly diet.

Vegan Australia is an animal rights organisation that campaigns nationally for veganism. 
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