October 1st marks World Vegetarian Day as well as the beginning of Vegetarian Awareness Month. With many people seeking natural healing methods to address their health challenges, attention to diet is a vital element of most natural healing systems. Many studies have shown health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets that are based on whole plant foods, and the use of these plant-based diets for helping treat major health problems like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease is being increasingly recognized and implemented. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton has gone vegan to help overcome his health problems. Whether one wishes to go fully vegan or just reduce their consumption of meat and dairy foods, there can be significant health benefits that occur if your health concerns are related to challenges that can arise with consuming animal-based foods.
Vegetarian diets include a wide variety of tasty dishes. Coinciding with World Vegetarian Day, local vegan eatery Choices Cafe (at the former location of OM Garden) is hosting a “Delicious Life” workshop with local vegetarian enthusiast Michelle Maniaci. Michelle, a physical therapist, yoga therapist, and energy healer at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, has shared with this reporter for Examiner about her experiences being a vegetarian since her teenage years in the Miami/Aventura area. In this Q&A, Michelle describes how her health has benefitted from a plant-based diet and shares about local resources for others interested in going vegetarian.
Q. At what age did you choose to become a vegetarian and what motivated you to do so?
A. I became vegetarian around age 15… I used to work at Unicorn Village Health Food Restaurant back when they were in Aventura, Waterways… I was hired as a hostess…working there 20 hours per week during high school inspired me to take the leap to becoming vegetarian… I ate there every day after school…I learned about eating quinoa, beets, amaranth… I learned about the benefits of vegetarian diet as compared to animal diet through experience… I also felt it was inhumane to kill animals when I could live from the delicious food that I was exposed to working at the Unicorn Village. I feel so blessed to have been exposed to this lifestyle at such an early age. I felt my skin cleared up, I felt more energized and relaxed from eating a plant-based diet, I was hooked !
I began studying Yoga when I was around 17…I felt that eating vegetarian went hand in hand with Yoga teachings. I felt so great naturally that I did not ever try to do mind-altering substances.
Q. Do you consume any animal foods like milk or eggs or do you have a fully vegan diet?
A. I never drank milk-but I did eat ice cream and these days really don’t eat much ice cream and if I do it is non-dairy. I don’t eat eggs much, I don’t avoid things, if they are around and a friend made something with eggs or dairy for example I will try what they made, I am flexible, but I definitely notice I feel different when I eat different foods and try to keep my diet as dairy free and egg free as possible.
Q. What health benefits do you see associated with a vegetarian diet?
A. I am 38 years young and I feel like I am 23! My hair is very healthy, my skin, my energy levels, I feel so alive and delicious! I don’t know any other way… I did eat meat when I was pregnant at age 31… and I ate meat and poultry every now and then in the past 6 years… but now I am back to being vegetarian. I just don’t crave meat or poultry. I feel it shifts my energy flow, my digestion, I feel so light when I eat vegetarian, that I am motivated by how I feel to continue to eat this way.
Q. Does a vegetarian diet have a connection for you with any spiritual practices?
A. The study and practice of yoga evoked in me a peaceful surrender and compassion for all living things, I feel this motivates me to also be more conscious of the energy of the food I place in my body to nourish my soul, not just my body and mind.
Q. What resources did you find in the Miami/S. Florida area when you began your vegetarian lifestyle?
A. I worked at a Health Food Restaurant-Unicorn Village and my friends that I made there were also vegetarian. Whole Foods was a great resource for me also, as the restaurant I worked at also had a grocery store, that later on became Whole Foods.
Q. What resources in the area would you recommend now?
A. I recommend Choices Vegan Cafe, Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, La Vie En Raw, Thrive, Life Food Gourmet. I have teamed up with Vegan Brothers/Founders Of Choices Vegan Cafe-Alex Cuevas, Jorge Cuevas Antillon and Raw Chocolate-Vegan Goddess Ada Azarya to offer a first of it’s kind event called HOW TO LIVE A MORE DELICIOUS LIFE! Saturday, Oct 1st, 7:00pm-9:30pm, at CHOICES Cafe www.mychoicescafe.com
For more information: 305.206.2229 or www.nurturingmoves.com