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    October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, which means it is the opportune time to actually do something that mother told you growing up and “eat your vegetables.” In all seriousness though- whether you are prompted to give up your T-rexish eating habits completely, or you choose to just use October as a month to experiment with meatless meals - going veggie has some definite health benefits.

    It’s time to blind you with science:

    • Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
    • Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%
    • Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
    • People on low-meat or vegetarian diets generally have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A recent study from Imperial College, London, also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.

    Now that we have the facts sorted out, here are some tips, specially tailored for Louisvillians, to help the transition from a full-fledged carnivore to a satisfied herbivore go off as painlessly as possible.

    • Pick up some reading material- Carmichael’s Bookstore has a pretty healthy selection of vegetarian cookbooks, as do the Louisville Public Libraries.
    • Get to know your local farmers- Simply Google, “farmer’s markets Louisville, Ky.” You will be bombarded with about 255,000 results in 0.34 seconds (trust me, I looked). Anyone will tell you that fresh, locally-grown produce tastes better- making the whole meatless process a lot more pleasurable.
    • Go ethnic- Sitar Indian Restaurant, Simply Thai, Dakshin, and even Shiraz offer delicious, filling meals that keep you out of boring salad territory.
    • Don’t fear tofu- Heart and Soy (located on Bardstown Road) is Kentucky’s only tofu-manufacturer, and they sell fresh, organic tofu- in addition to it being included in a variety of their restaurant’s own dishes.
    • Happy Cow- is a fantastic resource for finding customer ratings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants- it’s like the Yelp of the veg-world.
    • Shop the perimeter- We’ve all heard that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store makes for a healthier shopping experience. Avoid the butcher’s counter and you’re good to go. I could (and often do) wander the exterior circle of Whole Foods for hours, so be sure to say hi if you see me.
    • Expand your friend list- Check out Louisville Vegetarian Initiative on Facebook. There are plenty of people there who can answer any lingering questions.

    So with that, I wish you all good luck and a successful Vegetarian Awareness Month filled with "nom-worthy" vegetarian cuisine.

    Photo: Shutterstock/ifong

    Ashlie Danielle Stevens's picture

    About Ashlie Danielle Stevens

    I am a freelance food, arts and culture writer. Among other publications, my work has appeared at The Atlantic’s CityLab, Eater, Slate, Salon, The Guardian, Hyperallergic and National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate.

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