Because Peta says so?
Because it’s inhuman to kill?
Because it’s the latest ‘in’ thing in Hollywood?
Whatever be the reason offered as a case to turn vegetarian, truth is that vegetarianism in fact goes much beyond the ethical and moral fabric of being human than you may have perceived.
My plea is on grounds of health concerns – and there is a recent occurrence to make my case for it.
In the last two months, in a span of less than 30 days, three separate instances of food contaminations have triggered massive recalls of meat across the United States of America.
After meat giant Cargill was forced to recall roughly 36 million pounds of ground turkey in the second largest meat recall in U.S. history, another industrial meat processing company – National Beef Packing Co. of Kansas recalled over 60,000 pound of ground beef due to potential contamination with the deadly E. coli.
If you’re wondering what a virus outbreak in food has to do with meat specifically, let me explain. It’s true that any class of food, including fruits and vegetables can be part of large scale contamination; but if you look at the history of all major food outbreaks in the world, so far evidence points to a majority being instances of meat contamination.
While I may not be the authority to discuss how vegetarianism minimizes risk of contamination, there is enough matter on the internet for reference. I came across this one “Pesticide residues in foods include PCBs and dioxins.
These are found in highest concentrations in meat, fish and dairy products. Studies have shown these toxic chemicals can be passed on from pregnant women to infants during both pregnancy and lactation and may damage the developing nervous systems.”
At a simpler level, it’s common sense to understand that the environment in which most livestock is raised is not completely hygienic. To keep the animals healthy and to maximize their output, there are on averageover 20000 different drugs, including sterols, antibiotics, growth hormones and other veterinary drugs given to livestock animals. How comfortable you are with the indirect consumption of these drugs through the consumption of the animal is a question you must reflect upon.
If not risking your body to infection by deadly viruses is still not reason enough to keep that meat away, remind yourself of the China Health Project – a massive project on Nutrition, Health & Environment involving researchers from China, Cornell University in Boston, and the University of Oxford, that delves into the relationship between diet, lifestyles and disease-related mortality.
The study provides that the blood cholesterol level in vegetarians is significantly lower as compared to meat-eaters and so is the risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The study also finds that almost 50 percent of all deaths in the US are caused by heart disease and burn and almost 95 percent of these deaths can be avoided if most people followed a vegetarian diet.
Similarly, almost 80 percent of breast cancer deaths could be prevented. Other innumerable references can be cited about vegetarianism being good for conditions ranging from kidney stones to colon cancer but the point I’m trying to drive home is just one –a vegetarian diet promotes a healthier lifestyle.
How difficult is it to turn vegetarian, you ask?
As a vegetarian, I have been asked an exasperating number of times “where does your body obtain protein from?” I find it a little bemusing that so much ignorance still exists about a vegetarian or a vegan diet. It has been a while that popular research has proven that there is no nutrient necessary for optimal human functioning that cannot be obtained from plant and plant foods.
Let’s start with what’s already right: a vegetarian diet is known to be high in carbohydrates, omega-6 fatty acids, dietary fibre, carotenoids, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E,potassium and magnesium – that’s a lot taken care of. What is generally lacking or low in a meat-free diet is Vitamin B-12, cholesterol, and animal protein.
But a typical western diet, vegetarian or not, typically meets or exceeds daily protein intake recommendations. In fact, the average American eats 400% of the RDA for protein. That is excess protein. This could cause superfluous nitrogen in the blood that creates a host of long-term health problems. That’s right, too much protein than the body requires. Frances Moore Lappe, who popularized the concept of protein complementarity in 1971, himself long since admitted that getting enough protein was no longer an issue.
A vegetarian diet needs to have adequate calorie intake and consumption of a variety of foods including plant sources for protein such as soy beans, soy milk and soy isolate, tofu, legumes, whole grains, free-range eggs, nuts and seeds and some dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.
Yet another consternation against a vegetarian diet is its lack of Vitamin B-12, which does not exist naturally in any non-animal form. But vegetarians can seek out Vitamin-B fortified foods in soy milks and cereals to supplement what they lack.
To say that any diet – vegetarian or non-vegetarian is complete and provides every single nutrient requirement of the body is incorrect. Even a meat based diet has its deficiencies. For example, meat is carb-deficient, particularly in the starches that are essential to proper health.
What is required is a little planning. A vegetarian or vegan diet is nutritionally adequate and appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Plus, a vegetarian diet is more likely to strengthen your immune system. A fact corroborated by the German Cancer Research Center, that through a study went further to suggest that the immunity of the body in killing off tumor cells is a lot higher in vegetarians’than in meat eaters’. Research has time and again proven that a plant based diet helps protect against prostate, colon and skin cancer.
A British study that tracked 6000 vegetarians and 5000 meat eaters for 12 years found that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases. A conclusion to be drawn from this is that by following a vegetarian diet, not only will you live longer but also live healthier. The Loma Linda University concluded in a study that vegetarians live about seven years longer and vegans live about 15 years longer than meat eaters.
I am reminded of what Albert Einstein said in his times “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Which way do you prefer to live?