Are Vegetarians and Vegans fanatics? Are they in poor health? What is the best diet?
There are many myths and inaccuracies circulating in the media about Vegetarianism and Veganism. The subject has become a battleground, with some very hostile words coming from both the Vegan/Vegetarian camp and the meat-eating one. Of course the manufacturers are often behind these confrontations, in an effort to protect their own interests and profits.
I have been a Vegetarian for nearly 30 years and a Vegan for about 5 years. I have had to learn about nutrition and the alternative sources for the various essentials of a healthy diet. But before I tell you about my journey into this new lifestyle, or mention the benefits of Vegetarianism, I would like to set the record straight on a few things.
First of all, I am not an aggressive Vegan. I do not judge other people's eating habits, neither do I claim that it is wrong to eat meat. Mine is a personal choice which was made when I was young, and was uncomfortable with the idea of other creatures dying for my benefit. I do however, have a problem with cruelty and disrespect to living things. I hate the way some people treat animals. I believe that we humans demonstrate our civility and nobility by the way we treat others and other creatures.
I have never criticized anyone over their diet, or deliberately made them feel uncomfortable. I never volunteer information about my diet because I know it is controversial and can make people uncomfortable and defensive. People usually ask me about being Vegan, particularly when I am invited to a meal or special occasion. Unfortunately, I have been on the receiving end of some aggressive and insulting remarks because of my diet. I have been called a “Hypocrite”, “weirdo”, “fanatic” and other names.
The health benefits, and life improvements I have experienced as a result of my diet, were unexpected bonuses. Of course, when I first started out on this course, I was ignorant of nutrition and there weren't many alternatives to meat and dairy so, for a while, I didn't live the healthiest of lives. I do not gloat over my new good health, and I take no pleasure in others misfortune or ill-health due to poor diet. Sadly though, one of the biggest killers in our modern society is our poor diets. Our processed foods are manipulated and contaminated to sell more, regardless of the human misery and loss they inflict. I am not only Vegan but I am very selective with all my food and drink, choosing whole, fresh foods rather than processed ones.
It has often been said that “Vegetarians are lacking in certain nutrients that can only be obtained from meat and dairy products.”
There is no single form of essential nutrient that is exclusively available from meat and dairy. The protein issue has often been cited as a deficiency in Vegetarians but, again this is untrue. The group of essential amino acids that make up quality proteins are available in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses and grains. In actual fact, the richest source of protein is not meat, fish or dairy but is the simple bean. Conversely, there are numerous essential nutrients that are not available from meat, fish or dairy. One prime example of this is Absorbic Acid (vitamin C) which is vital to the human body. Another is the B vitamin complex. Many meat-eaters have been duped into thinking that meat provides all of these B vitamins but, this is not true. Only certain ones of the complex are found in meat. A person can live very healthily without meat, fish and dairy products, but, they cannot exist without vegetables. At the very least, a person abstaining from vegetables would be regularly unwell. I am a very healthy person who has never had a serious illness and I am of a healthy size and weight yet, I have not eaten any meat, fish or eggs for nearly 30 years. Furthermore, upon having a thorough health check recently, including tests for vitamin deficiency, I was given a glowing report, with no problems. My doctor then surprised me by telling me that, in his experience, it is meat-eaters who are more often deficient of nutrients in their diets. I reveal this with empathy, not satisfaction. It is a startling, yet revealing fact that I do not know of anyone else my age who is not on regular medication. I myself have never been on regular medication.
Even where some elements are scarce in the vegetable world, many foods and drinks contain added amounts of these elements. And even if someone does seek vitamins from supplements, is it such a big change in their life? Most users of vitamin tablets are not Vegetarian or Vegan.
I am often asked “What do you eat, if you don't eat meat?” I always chuckle a bit when I hear that question. The truth is my diet is rich, varied and full. To give you some examples of the kind of foods I enjoy, I make vegetable Chilli-con-carne, using Soya or Quorn mince (which, by the way has no unexpected things in it, and has a fraction of the fat). I make my own pizza toppings, with imitation non-dairy cheese. I make cakes, spicy samosas, pies and bolognese. I also enjoy sweets, ice-cream and chocolate which taste as good as any normal ones yet have no dairy or meat substances in them. My favourite foods are Indian cuisine. This is very fortunate because many Indian restaurants are very supportive of Vegan and Vegetarian diets, because many in the Indian and Pakistani cultures also have similar diets because of religion or upbringing.
I have often offered some of my meals to visitors who normally eat meat, and they have thoroughly enjoyed them, often asking me for the recipes. As a matter of hospitality and respect though, I always cook meat or fish for my guests and visitors who eat those things. I do not impose my own diet upon them. Normally, people show the same consideration and respect for me but, sometimes I do find myself going without at official functions where the organizers have not taken special dietary needs into consideration but, I do understand and I usually come prepared with my own packed lunch now. When people ask me the question mentioned above, I often reply with another question, “What do you eat for your Sunday baked dinner?” They answer “Meat and vegetables.” To which I ask, “Can you imagine that meal without the vegetables?” (They can't). Well, my Sunday dinner, without meat is not nearly so empty as that. In fact, I often have substitute pies or pasties with my dinner. Believe me, I do not miss out! In fact, I am usually quite stuffed after eating. Incidentally, I am the perfect weight for my size and age and I never have to worry about putting on weight. Having said that, I do know of some Vegetarians and Vegans who have weight problems but this is usually their inordinate intake of sugar. I only emphasize my good health to respond to the accusation about Vegans having poor health.
Another popular myth doing the rounds is that “Man is a natural meat eater, descended from animals, that is why we have canine teeth.“
This idea has been promoted by the Darwinist propaganda camp and perpetuated by the media. The fact is that the majority of animals are herbivores (plant eaters) and always have been. The gorilla has the largest fangs in the animal kingdom and is one of the most powerful creatures in the wild. Yet, it is a fruitarian. Why does it have such big teeth? Obviously not to kill! More importantly, humans are not descended from a savage, unreasoning ancestor. There is no empirical evidence to show such a transitory link between animals and humans (Please see my article “The Enigma of Origins”). Furthermore, the illustrations presented in the media of “ape-men” are pure guesswork and invention, as is admitted by the artists involved.
For those of us who are religious, you may be surprised to learn that, even according to the Bible, humans were once Vegetarian and were only given permission to eat meat after the topography of the earth changed and the first humans were rejected by God because of their selfish defiance of him.
Vegetarianism is logical, ecologically sound, more healthy and more humane both to people and other living things. A 414-page United Nations report “Livestock's Long Shadow” concluded that the livestock sector is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." The same report concluded that, if every person on earth had a meat-free meal once a week, the damage to our earth would be reduced by almost a third and the world's health would improve significantly.
It has been medically and statistically proven that Vegetarians live longer and enjoy far better health. Moreover, anyone who places their trust in the meat farming industry’s procedures to deliver clean, untreated, unaltered animal carcasses is, in my opinion, naïve and uninformed. I never bite into a strange lump or something that I do not recognize. If I accidentally consume something out of date, it will usually be harmless or, at least, it won’t kill me!
There is no need to eat meat, it is simply a modern choice in a world that has been misled. Becoming a Vegetarian was one of the best decisions of my life. I sincerely recommend a diet which is predominately fruit and vegetable to all who read this article, especially if you have health problems or excessive weight.
I have made a DVD set to music, which features more of the benefits of Vegetarian and Vegan lifestyles. You can find it on “YouTube” under “Superhuman” by Marigold Tulip.
Good health to you.