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Ellen Kanner

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Meatless Monday: Anger Management

Posted: 05/31/10 09:41 AM ET

Based on reader response from my "Meat People Push Back" of post two weeks ago, there are some very angry carnivores out there.

Anger is a natural human response to crisis. It gives you a shot of adrenaline and cortisol, your fight or flight hormone. You're focused, three espressos worth of revved. If you were graded by the Department of Homeland Security, you'd be in a state of red alert.

This is useful in a crunch situation, but a steady diet of anger isn't good for you. It locks up your muscles and sends your blood pressure and heart rate skyward. Too much cortisol over too much time results in a fat gut and a slow brain. Anger can make you fat, stupid or dead.. So chill, guys. One way to do that is to give up meat.

Recent research by Arizona State University showed omnivores who went meatless felt better emotionally. Of the 39 people studied, one group kept to their omnivorous ways, a second group ate fish but no other source of animal protein, the third group ate no fish, no meat, no eggs. The first two groups reported no change in emotion or cognition. The plant-based party reported they felt more relaxed and focused than they did eating meat. I'm not saying all meat eaters are stupid. I'm saying there's a real correlation between how eating meat and feeling anger affect the body.

The Harvard School of Public Health examined 1,300 men in their 60s over the course of seven years and found the angriest guys were likelier to develop heart disease than those who could ride life's highs and lows without losing it. In another study, the Harvard School of Public Health showed eating bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs, any meat that's been processed or cured or salted, jacks up your risk of heart disease by 42 percent and your risk of diabetes by 19 percent. Feeling anger poses a lot of the same health risks as eating meat does.

Centuries before modern science noted what meat does to your body and mood, another science, Ayurveda, Sanskrit for the science of life, noted what it does to your karma, Sanscrit for action. Karma says we will experience the consequences of our actions, what goes around comes around.

Ayurveda, or balance, separates food and states of being into three categories. There's sattvic -- lightness and balance (spirit) rajasic -- change and energy (life), and tamasic -- heavy and dark (death). Guess which category meat falls under? The Surangama Sutra tells us that "if we eat the flesh of living creatures, we are destroying the seeds of compassion." That's the opposite of sattva, which strives for ahimsa, universal love, non-violence.

There's no meat in a sattvic diet, just fresh organic fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds and organic dairy. These foods are believed to energize and nourish the body without taxing it, providing the gateway to higher consciousness.

Does this piss you off? It could be you have a meat-related anger management issue and everyone around you is too afraid to tell you. Perhaps you'd benefit by swapping that steak for something sattvic.

Giving up meat doesn't mean depriving yourself of pleasure. You can be enlightened and peaceful and still eat fabulous food. You'll be on your way to a healthier body, a happier life and a lighter karma, too.

Meat out. Peace out.

Sattvic Mung Dal

Dal, or split peas, are a cornerstone of ayurvedic cuisine. Beans provide protein and fiber, and since these are small and already split, are quick to cook and easy to digest.

The downside of a purely sattvic diet for me is that garlic, onion and chilis, my culinary triumvirate, are ix-nayed. They're too exciting. Too rajasic. However, you can make a perfectly sultry, perfectly sattvic curry of mung beans using warming spices like cumin, ginger, coriander and turmeric.

2 cups split mung beans
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee (Indian clarified butter)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped fine
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
sea salt to taste

Rinse mung beans and let drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil or ghee in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped ginger, turmeric and coriander. Stir until the ginger softens and the spices darken and turn fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add mung beans and water or broth.

Stir and let mixture come to boil. Then cover and reduce heat to low for 30 minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed and beans are tender.

Add chopped cilantro and sea salt to taste.

Serves 4 to 6.

 

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