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Meatless Meals Benefit Your Health

A ''Flexitarian'' Diet Meets in the Middle

85 Comments




 
2/10/2010 2:58:54 AM

DANASEILHAN's SparkPage
The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine is a misnomer, not to mention a front group for PETA. While the desire to reduce animal suffering (it can never be fully eliminated any more than ours can) and to eliminate CAFO operations is noble, and I can get on board with those, hello? I'm an animal too. If it's animal abuse to feed corn and soybeans to a cow, for whom neither is a species-appropriate diet, it's surely animal abuse to tell people to eat a diet that isn't appropriate for them either.

You need saturated fat. It makes up a significant portion of your cell membranes and is a preferred fuel for the heart. (Source: Mary Enig, PhD, who's been studying this stuff her whole life and was sounding the alarm about trans fats in the *1950s*.) There are only a few plant sources of saturated fat which, while healthy, must be imported to most countries. You need cholesterol for everything from hormone production to vitamin D production to production of cardiotonic chemicals. You can't get the best bioavailable forms of vitamin K, vitamin B12, or iron from plant foods. While you *can* get enough protein from plants, you have to eat larger amounts of plant matter to get it and nearly all plant forms of protein are accompanied by starch, which is great if you aren't diabetic, but not so hot if you are.

You can't get vitamin A from plant foods at all. I don't care what it says on the nutritional label, there is not a single solitary plant out there that has vitamin A in it. Food packagers are permitted, and the USDA carries on the practice of, labeling plant foods with the amount of vitamin A you would get if you converted all the carotenes in that serving of food at an optimal level. Infants, children, most of the elderly, hypothyroid patients and diabetics can't make the conversion, among other groups, and healthy people's conversion of carotenes to A is notoriously inefficient.

On top of that, plants don't "like" to be eaten any more than animals do (and they are just as alive as animals are, thank you very much), but as they can't ambulate, they must defend themselves chemically. So, the vast majority of plant parts across all plant species contain some kind of toxin, enzyme inhibitor, or phytate that will make you sick immediately, make you sick in the long run, keep you from optimally digesting your food, or leach minerals out of your body. The field of paleopathology has shown that since the adoption of plant agriculture, every culture that's taken it up has seen its members be reduced in height and health status. Remains show greater numbers of bone lesions indicating disease states. The only skeletons from these cultures, in fact, that attain almost full height potential and are healthier are those of the elite, who would have had greater access to animal foods.

Also, a plant-based diet might be fine if there were only a couple million of us on earth and we were all hunter-gatherers (or just gatherers), but in order to sustain six billion people on plants alone, you would have to convert all the arable land to farmland and deplete it down to desert. Our world population is still growing, too. It's a misconception that land used for raising cattle could be used for soybeans--cattle can graze on lands that are completely unfit for farming. The same can be said of other animals raised for food purposes. Anyway, if we're that concerned about the use of arable land maybe it's time we started yelling at all the idiots building suburbs right on top of it. (Do you live in a burb that's on top of a former farm? Then don't yell at meat-eaters.)

I don't care what individual people want to eat; I'm not here to convert anyone. I'm here to provide a counterpoint to all this misinformation I see going around. See, I have personal experience with depending too heavily on plant foods and suffering the consequences. My diet has been grain-based for most of my life, and I made a foray into veganism five years ago. On top of that I have depended on beta-carotene for vitamin A for most of my life. Going on four years ago now I started having really heavy periods, so bad I had to stay home the first day or two and break out the rag bag. It finally ended early last year or so when I read something about the inefficiency of depending on the carotenes for A and decided to supplement with fish liver oil instead. Almost immediately my menstrual symptoms subsided. I can now tell when I haven't had enough vitamin A in a given month because I get extra-crampy the day before it starts. I wonder how many women have had to get hysterectomies because their doctors had no idea what was going on. Your average doctor knows near zero about nutrition--they barely get any education on the subject, which is why nutritionists and dieticians have jobs in the first place.

I've talked to someone who couldn't shake anemia without heme iron, which comes only from animal foods. I've experienced that I gain weight, not lose it, on a plant-based diet. I've known someone else who habitually runs low on B vitamins unless he eats beef on a regular basis. He suffered a meds injury last year causing occasional Parkinsons-like twitching, but since he started low-carbing this year, the symptoms have subsided.

You can't argue with personal experience. You *could* argue that the (temporary?) better health outcomes some people have experienced on vegan diets have arisen because those people dropped junk food. People who stubbornly retain a red meat-eating habit are more likely to eat junk out of apathy or spite than people who go vegetarian. I notice nobody ever really compares starch or sugar intake between the two groups. It might be interesting what they find.

Meanwhile... parting shot I guess... it is amazing that for all that vegans claim their lifestyle is about love of animals, funny how they are the group that is least in contact with said animals, out of fear of "exploiting" them. Something to ponder.
1/14/2010 8:08:38 PM

MYMISSION2's SparkPage
This article was very enlightening and encouraging. Since not all of want to be vegetarians, it really showed how we can still reap the benefits of healthier eating by cutting back the meat portions.
SUSHAH
10/28/2009 6:21:12 PM

I consider myself a flexitarian. It is a dietary lifestyle that fits my nutritional needs and allows me a wider range of options when planning my daily menu.
10/1/2009 6:30:21 PM

BEINGHAPPY1's SparkPage
I really enjoyed this article, I have become what I like to call a "Lunch Time Vegetarian" I don't eat meat for lunch, partially to save money but also to encourage myself to try new foods and methods of cooking and preparing foods. It has been yummy.
10/1/2009 3:35:00 PM

GIANTPANDA's SparkPage
The Physicians For Social Responsibilty have held a 21-day vegan challenge with support to help. There are so many health benefits to meatless meals. My health improved immediately as I moved toward the mostly vegan diet. There are so many great recipe books. The latest one in my collection is by Mark Reinfeld. Very true about saving money on a vegan diet as well. It's amazing.
10/1/2009 3:05:42 PM

WOODLANDMYST's SparkPage
There's lots of great vegetarian cookbooks out there - give it a go! We're vegan (2 yrs) after being vegetarian for 3 years. I make all our meals from scratch and we enjoy a wide variety of foods. I like trying new recipes. In fact, my husband says that I don't make some of his favorites more often.
10/1/2009 2:29:50 PM

LEONALIONESS's SparkPage
To the poster asking about seitan, yup, it's made of wheat and is an EXCELLENT source of protein. It's made from wheat gluten which is the protein part of wheat. Low cal, low fat and nutrient dense. I think seitan is my favorite "meaty" food. I make my own (it's really easy - especially if you use a 'quick' recipe that uses gluten flour) and use it for stroganoff, 'roast' with carrots/potatoes/gravy and peas, in pot pies, stir fry ... really, you can use seitan anywhere you'd use meat.

For chili and things like stuffed peppers, I like using ground walnuts or bulgar wheat. I've made really delish "neatloafs" with ground walnuts as the meaty texture (plus mushrooms, rice, tons of veggies, etc.) and also made some fantastic walnut balls in a vegan bechamel sauce. Mmmm. For chili, I tend to just use bulgar. It's cheap, a good source of protein and fiber and adds a hearty texture to the chili.

Oh, and another poster mention textured vegetable protein. TVP is, in fact, soy based. It's delicious and I don't have any issues using it but for those intolerant to soy, give it a miss.

I've been vegan going on 7 years now (veg for about 4 before that) and I couldn't be happier. I didn't do it for my health, for me it was ethics, but the health benefits are a nice benefit. I'm happy to see so many willing to eat less meat. It's so much better for you, the environment AND the animals. Every bit helps. :)
10/1/2009 1:55:51 PM

MARINASHU's SparkPage
KRISTALSHYT, the wheat product you're probably thinking of is seitan, which is made from wheat gluten and has a solid, chewy texture. I'm not sure whether or not it's a good source of protein, but if tofu is too soft for you and you're craving something chewy this might be a good source!

I was a vegetarian for a few years (mostly for $$$ reasons--do you meat eaters not realize how expensive that stuff is??? You could get like ten pounds of rice for the cost of one pound of meat!) but now I eat chicken and fish occasionally, mostly when I'm eating out. One thing I never realized before going vegetarian was how FAST meat fills me up! If I eat more than six ounces, even if I'm not eating anything else, I feel so bloated. Especially beef--I'll have a hamburger a few times a year, but every time I just feel so icky afterwards it keeps me away.
SIRIRADHA
10/1/2009 12:47:08 PM

Yeah! Come and check out the Flexitarian Team!
10/1/2009 12:46:26 PM

ZAZABOOTY's SparkPage
I think a lot of people have the misconception that you can't get all of your nutrients without meat. Thank you for this article--it's helping to dispel some of those faulty beliefs. I'd also like to point out that eating a meatless diet is healthier for the environment as well!
10/1/2009 11:13:31 AM

KRISTALSHYT's SparkPage
My grandmother has been a vegetarian, except on holidays - she'll have turkey for Thanksgiving & Christmas, for pretty much her whole life. As a result I learned some great meatless recipes from her. And as a testament to the health benefits, she's in her early 90s & is amazingly fit for her age, though part of that is due to her physical activity level as well.

To the person who asked for non-soy protein options, there are tons. I'll admit it's too bad this article didn't delve into the possibilities. There is textured vegetable protein you can get - I'm not sure if it includes soy or not, but I think it doesn't. Also there are hempseed derived proteins you can get if you don't mind the flavor... & then there's my grandmother's favorite. It's derived from wheat somehow. I'm honestly not sure how it's done, but she makes wonderful "mock turkey" with gravy using it. I've also heard about rice derived protein options as well. It could help to go to your local health-food/organic market & ask about it. Usually when I do that I end up with some wonderful answers.
8/27/2009 10:03:57 AM

MOMMYSARA605's SparkPage
I'm definitely a flexitarian. I only eat meat maybe 3 or 4 times a month, and that includes fish. I prefer to fill up on vegetables and whole grains, sometimes a good tofu (which I'm still learning how to prepare myself), beans, and I keep my cheese to single servings of 1oz and try to not have it every day. It's a quick and easy protein, but I'm in a discovery mode to find as many quick vegetarian protein as I can for both meals and snacking.
8/27/2009 7:04:47 AM

KATELJM's SparkPage
Just remember, many of the older vegetarian cookbooks use lots of unhealthy fats.

On recipezaar.com, many of my biggest surprise hits were vegetarian dishes (in which we actually preferred the meatless version to the carnivore version). I love to discover vegetarian recipes that carnivores request as repeats.
8/15/2009 2:49:02 PM

CHOCOLATEJAZZE's SparkPage
Try it you all. I tried it and so far its only been a week, but I've lost four pounds. I eat seafood, crab burgers, shrimp, baked fish, etc. I really didn't crave any meat. My stomach hasn't hurt in the week. Before, I was an avid meat eater and would suffer physically. Now, I have more energy and my digestive system feels great.
5/6/2009 5:54:32 PM

FAYEBYNOE's SparkPage
I am a total meat lover but after reading this article im gonna have 2 meatless days in the week..I guess it wont hurt to try

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