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Vegetarian diet has benefits

Thomas Jefferson was a robust 76, with every tooth still in his head, when he revealed a lifelong passion for vegetables in a letter to Dr. Vine Utley: "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food .


. and that as a condiment for vegetables which constitute my principal diet."

Did the Jeffersonian diet of mostly vegetables and fruits and grains, with meat as a relish, have anything to do with his brilliant statesmanship? We do know that George Bush loves pork rinds and hates broccoli.

Seven top reasons you should consider adopting a modified vegetarian diet:

7. Nutrient dense, loaded with vitamins and minerals.

6. High in soluble fiber (as in apples, dried beans and oat bran) which lowers blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber (as in whole grains and leafy green vegetables), which acts as a natural laxative.

5. Generally lower in calories than diets of meat-eaters. Overweight vegetarians are a rarity.

4. Low in cholesterol. Cholesterol is found only in foods from animal sources.

3. Relatively low in saturated fats found almost exclusively in foods from animal sources, which tends to raise blood cholesterol.

2. Helps pinch pennies and squeeze dollars at grocery checkout counters.

1. Tastes good.

If you have lingering doubts about the benefits of a modified vegetarian diet, treat yourself to a Southwestern dinner of Mexican Squash Bisque and Refried Black Beans, with corn tortillas (crisped in the oven or microwave instead of fried), commercial or fresh salsa, shredded lettuce and non-fat yogurt or sour cream.

You'll discover good nutrition doesn't have to taste blah or take more time than you can spare.

1992 Frances Price

Mexican Squash Bisque

1 (1 pound) acorn or butternut squash, or use 1 package (10 ounces) frozen winter squash, thawed

1 can (10{ ounce) beef bouillon with water to make 3 cups or 3 cups water

1 small yellow onion, chopped

{ cup diced red or green


2 tablespoons olive or salad oil

1 teaspoon cumin

\ teaspoon each cracked red pepper and oregano

Salt to taste (depending on level in bouillon or water)

Poke several holes in squash and microwave 10 to 12 minutes on 100 percent power, or bake in preheated 400-degree oven 45 minutes, until squash is tender and easily pierced. Cool enough to handle, cut in half, scoop out and discard seeds. Scoop out flesh, place in blender container with 2 cups of bouillon, cover and blend on high speed until pureed.

Meanwhile, in heavy 2-quart saucepan, saute onion and red pepper in oil until tender but not brown. Stir in cumin, red pepper and oregano; add pureed squash with remaining bouillon. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, adding salt if necessary. Makes 3 (1{ cup) servings.

Preparation time: 20 minutes; unattended cooking time: 15 to 55 minutes.

Nutrients per serving: 164 calories, 3 gm protein, 19 gm carbohydrate, 10 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium.

Refried Black Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

{ small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup cooked or canned black beans, mashed


{ to 1 teaspoon each cumin and chili powder

Salt and liquid hot pepper to taste

In small heavy skillet, cook onion in oil until tender but not brown. Add garlic, then beans, cumin, chili powder, salt and liquid pepper. Cook over medium heat until crust begins to form on bottom. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 2 servings.

Preparation and cooking times: 15 minutes.

Nutrients per serving: 189 calories, 8 gm protein, 24 gm carbohydrate, 7 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 574 mg sodium.

Fresh Salsa

1 ripe tomato

1 green onion with top, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley


1 teaspoon olive oil

{ teaspoon salt

Liquid hot pepper to taste

Immerse tomato in boiling water to cover for 10 to 20 seconds. Cool under running water, skin and coarsely chop. Mix with green onion, oil, salt and liquid pepper. Makes 2 servings.

Hands-on time: 5 minutes.

Nutrients per serving: 34 calories, 0 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 273 mg sodium.