Vegetarian Foods: Always Good? Not So Fast!
When we are under stress, we often are distracted from what we eat. That's why we are seeing obesity and heart disease increase as our daily lives get more challenged. Paradoxically, our fuel intake is even more important to our health during times of stress.
A growing trend now is for people to embrace vegetarianism. It is better for our ecology, can produce better health, and it can make us live longer. All true statements. But before we assume this is an automatic panacea, let's consider the full picture, and be aware of some caveats.
1. Vegetarianism is Better for our Ecology:
Point: It can take as much as 14 pounds of cattle feed (wheat/grass/oats) to produce a single pound of meat. Not to mention 5,000 gallons of water. Purists will point out this great efficiency if we eat the grain instead of feeding it to animals, then eating them.
Counterpoint: With organic or free-range animals and fish much of the "factory" syndrome can be avoided: the animals are in their natural state, and in fact are meant to be culled to preserve their species. If no hunting was ever allowed, many species would die out because they would out-populate their given food supply. Also consider that vegetables that do not carry the "organic" adjective can be raised with a lot of pesticides, and other obnoxious chemicals, and be raised in ways very unfriendly to the environment.
2. Vegetarianism is Better for our Health?
Point: Dr. Dennis Burkitt, an English surgeon who worked in Africa last century, noted that the Europeans he treated had a litany of diseases that he rarely saw with natives: for example, appendicitis, gall stones, varicose veins, heart disease and cancers. Burkitt was aciduous in his pursuit of science, which extended to weighing human stools at the roadside between villages. He concluded that the European diet produced stools of only a quarter the weight and volume of the native diet, which was largely vegetarian. He concluded that the people that have the smallest stools have the biggest hospitals. (I have previously referred to this as a Turd World Study).
Counterpoint: Even a vegetarian diet could have been ruined by bleaching or "refining" all the ingredients, like we do to flour and sugar. The main protection was the presence of fiber, not the absence of animal protein. Today it is possible to be a complete vegetarian and still have absolutely no fiber. For instance, the obese ten-year old often only eats candy, cookies, french-fries or chips, and soda-pop. All vegetarian, and all a disaster.
3. Vegetarianism is Better for Longevity?
Point: Long living vegetarians, like George Bernard Shaw, pictured, (who died in 1950 at age 96) attributed their lack of cancers or heart disease to the absence of animal proteins and fats in their diets. Certainly most centenarians are thin, and vegetarian fiber helps prevent over-filling the stomach.
Counterpoint: The wino that I see in a street clinic is typically young (often just thirty-something), yet looks incredibly old and wizened. Basically they die very young, yet their diet was purely vegetarian: the fermented juice of the grape, and packets of chips.
Conclusion: Consider the truth from the tooth:
Vegetarian animals like the Hippopotamus have flat teeth (in this case looking like foot-stools). Carnivores like wolves and cats have sharp cutting teeth. Both perfectly designed for their respective diets. Humans have a combo: cutting teeth in the front, and vegetable grinders in the back. So Humans have choices.
But remember, you can find both good and bad foods in the vegetarian world, so be selective, and select vegetables that don't have insectisides or other chemical treatments. If you enjoy some meat, poultry, fish etc, be sure to select from organically grown, with no added hormones or antibiotics, Also remember to add good fiber content from the vegetarian universe in order to fully balance your diet. Putting good fuel into your body will only make its engines perform better under stress. Bon apetit!