Why Adopt the Vegetarian Diet in 2020?
Animals, like humans, continuously eliminate waste products from their tissues and cells to the surrounding blood. This natural process comes to an abrupt halt when the animal is slaughtered; the waste material then present remains intact, and we ingest it when eating its flesh.
You might say that our bodies’ various organs of elimination—lungs, bladder, kidneys, sweat glands, and liver—should be adept at disposing of such wastes, but do you really want to add to their workload, which is already consumed with ridding our bodies of worn-out cells and the by-products of digestion? Asking them to take on the additional task of dealing with animal wastes is hazardous at best.
Our organs may well respond, if overloaded, by developing any of several degenerative diseases.20 I talked earlier about the dangers of meat staying for too long in the digestive tract; it begins to putrefy, which can cause noxious gas, headache, and lethargy, among other symptoms.
However, I neglected to mention that meat can also be putrefy outside before we even consume it. Unlike fruits and vegetables, the meat starts to degrade the moment the animal dies and continues to degenerate during processing, packaging, and transportation to the market or butcher. After slaughter, a steer is sectioned and moved into cold storage.
Some cuts may then be aged for a time to increase tenderness. The meat may be stored in a warehouse before finally being sent to a butcher or supermarket for packaging.
Of course, when it is refrigerated degeneration is slowed, but for parts of its processing time, it is not kept cool.
It is important to note that for any of the time that the meat was left out of refrigeration, the bacteria were proliferating like mad. Each gram of sausage stored at room temperature for 20 hours has its live bacteria count increase by 70 million, each gram of beef by 650 million, and each gram of smoked ham by a whopping 700 million.21 While no one would, except by accident, let the meat sit out for such a long time, you really can’t be sure how the meat was handled before you bought it. If you are a meat consumer, you are unlikely to leave meat sitting out for extended periods but you may well reheat the food one or more times.
Then, once the leftovers are set aside, the spores germinate and grow. The new bacteria may be strong enough to survive second heating.
The Michigan State University Department of Human Ecology came out with a warning against the practice, noting that reheated food could contain the toxins of bacteria previously in the food, and it warns that though the bacteria may have been killed by the original cooking, the toxins might still be present.22 And even worse, some bacteria form spores that are not killed by cooking.
Moreover, even if new bacteria do not grow, the toxins they release may stay around to inflict damage. Dr. Al B. Wagner, Jr., of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, backs this notion by saying of certain bacteria, that “although cooking destroys the bacteria, the toxin produced is heat stable and may not be destroyed.”23 A February 2008 article in Science Daily News details the debilitating effects of bacterial toxins that may be left in meats after the bacteria are killed.
They can shut down the body’s immune response by affecting a cell mechanism essential to attacking threats such as viruses and bacteria.24 In other words, they are what in military terms used to be called “sappers,” soldiers who undermined the walls of the fortress so the enemy (bacteria) would find it easy to invade when they came on the scene. I’m not saying, by the way, that the toxins in reheated meat wouldn’t also be in the meat (if it contained bacteria) the first time around—that is, when it is first cooked.
They certainly would be. In any case, this whole issue of remaining toxins is not one that seems to have been learned by agribusiness directors, who think nothing of taking bacterially contaminated meat and cooking it in order to “purify” it, as has been the practice of companies looking to cut their losses from sick slaughterhouse cattle.25
A 2002 Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service article describes how ConAgra Foods was planning to recycle beef contaminated with E. coli into cooked canned foods for either human consumption—such as chili, beef ravioli or meat spaghetti sauce—or for pet consumption. The article reports:
Consumers might buy a meal containing recalled meat [and this is perfect] legal—and wholesome—according to the US Department of Agriculture. The federal agency must OK the company’s plans for recalled meat. [But this is hardly unusual in that,] cooking recalled meat is common practice in the food industry.
“I think we can say any product that is cooked per the guidelines established by the USDA and recommended by the Colorado Department of Health is perfectly safe for human consumption and to indicate otherwise is irresponsible,” ConAgra spokesman Jim Herlihy said.26 Even though the USDA seems to find this procedure safe when done by meat companies, on the USDA’s own website, they take time to warn consumers, not meatpackers, that “if raw products are left out at warmer temperatures, pathogens can produce a heat-stable toxin that might not be destroyed by cooking.”27 Given what to most will seem like a reckless procedure in terms of meat safety— all to save a few bucks—by selling meat that is known to be contaminated, you can now see why I have little confidence in the meat industry.
After mulling over these latest findings, I have even less. Would you knowingly eat meat, or any food for that matter, that was recalled for containing E.coli or other harmful bacteria? Of course not. But big food companies have decided that it’s okay for you, and they’ve got the FDA’s blessing.
More than the dangers that face us through the ingestion of these animal products is an even greater danger—our inaction toward a healthier vegetarian lifestyle that does not include a diet of animal products. How is it that we can stand by—when we know the suffering of these innocent, sentient creatures—and allow this insanity to continue? Have we lost all connection to our humanity and our sensibilities?
It appears so, as many can still seemingly justify this means to an end. Yes, there are very practical health reasons for putting an end to factory farming as we know it today, but there are even more compelling reasons for putting an end to the human behavior that is causing suffering—not just in these animals—but to ourselves. In truth, we cannot be truly healthy when we are actively engaged and participating in the suffering of others—be it animals or humans.Find out more about veganism and how to live a vegan lifestyle in Dr. Gary Null's book!
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- James Robinson
What Does Vegetarianism mean in 2020
I’ve said that in the last 20 years there has been an upsurge in vegetarianism in the US. In this instance, our country is getting in touch with the rest of the world, where a plant-based diet is often the norm. There are a whole lot of people out there who do not eat animal flesh and therefore are technically vegetarians, but they don’t live anything resembling a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
If you live on bread, pasta, French fries, and ketchup, then yes, you’re technically a vegetarian—one who will certainly develop a host of health issues as you age. To eat a vegetarian diet does NOT automatically mean that your diet is a healthy one, and that is NOT the brand of vegetarianism we are promoting in this book. Healthy vegetarian eating means getting the host of nutrients that your body needs into your body.
This is the first step, after elimination. To do this, you need to eat the full range of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts available to you. Some might eschew peanuts and pistachios, for example, because of their acidic pH, but that is another discussion.
And as long as these people are eating other nuts, they’re fine. As an example of a population of people that eats a vegetarian diet that is primarily an unhealthy one, take India, which contains over 1.2 billion people (roughly 17% of the world’s population).38 The number of Indians who are thought to be vegetarian ranges from 20 to 42%.39 The Indian society is, perhaps, the largest collective of vegetarians on the planet today because of their native religion of Hinduism, which deems the cow as a holy animal and therefore not to be eaten.
While these numbers and ones we would find in other less-developed nations dwarf those in industrialized nations, even in the latter the number of vegetarians is growing. A 2000 Zogby poll found that 2.5% of Americans were vegetarian, while a 2003 Harris poll put the figure at 2.8%.40 Today, a reported 16 million Americans are vegetarians or vegans, which is about 5% of the population. You will see studies later on in the book that speak about the number of “vegetarians” who do consume meat from time to time.
However, my optimism about the growth of this movement is hardly dampened by this. Americans are now starting to get the message: If you want to decrease your risk of developing any one of the so-called “lifestyle” diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.), eat a plant-based diet; you will begin reaping the benefits almost instantly.
As the number of vegetarians grows in the West, so does a vegetarian support system, including restaurants offering gourmet vegetarian entrees, meatless cookbooks, even radio shows and magazines produced specifically for vegetarians. Plus, dieticians across the nation are now increasing their support in rising numbers.
From these facts alone, we can glean that eating a plant-based diet will only continue to increase in popularity. We’ve even invented other names for people partially on the path, such as “flexitarian.” This, indeed, is a sign that our population is becoming more aware of the benefit of a plant-based lifestyle and desire to be a part of it.
Still, there is a lot of confusion about what it means to be a healthy vegetarian, let alone what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle, all of which will be addressed within the pages of this book. First, we will take a look at the physical component.
It is, perhaps, the easiest and quickest way to become healthier and more vital. I have seen this first-hand in coaching people for decades. When you give the body the essential nutrients it needs to function well, through foods that it can readily assimilate, you will be surprised and maybe even shocked about what is possible for you, in terms of healing symptoms, improving sleep, gaining vital energy, promoting positive thinking and emotional balance, and feeling alive and well in general.
The body is incredibly resourceful and responds rapidly to good, properly applied nutrition. Some people realize significant benefits in their bodies in as little as three weeks.
After we address the physical aspect of health and healing, I will be spending time in the last two chapters of this section addressing the mental, emotional, and spiritual components of wellness.
The American Psychological Association reported that studies show that your mind and your body are strongly linked. As your mental health declines, your physical health can wear down, and if your physical health can wear down, it can make you feel mental “down.”41 Along the same lines, Professor David Goldberg of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, reported that the rate of depression in patients with a chronic disease is almost three times higher than normal.
To support the importance of this aspect of health, I turn to the APA, once again. This time, the study, led by author Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., of the University of California, Riverside, upended assumptions that success makes people happy. Instead, the study found that happiness leads to success via positive emotions.
The report notes: …happiness does lead to behaviors that often produce further success in work, relationships, and health, and these successes result in part from a person’s positive affect.He explains, “Depression and chronic physical illness are in a reciprocal relationship with one another: not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.”42
Furthermore… a person’s well-being is associated with positive perceptions of self and others, sociability, creativity, prosocial behavior, a strong immune system, and effective coping skills, and… that happy people are capable of experiencing sadness and negative emotions in response to negative events, which is a healthy and appropriate response.
Much of the previous research on happiness presupposed that happiness followed from success and accomplishments in life, said the authors. “We found that this isn’t always true.” Positive affect is one attribute among several that can lead to success-oriented behaviors.
Other resources, such as intelligence, family, expertise and physical fitness, can also play a role in people’s successes… and happy individuals are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life.43 It is important to note from the above studies that all of them speak about some aspect of physical health.
So, as we bring wholeness to our personal experience, we build on our opportunity to affect the health of those closest to us, perhaps others around the globe, and the planet at large.
To this end, we will start first by asking ourselves: how do we heal the physical body? Once we detail the answers to this, we will discuss emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being within the context of the vegetarian lifestyle, and how to put that to work in your life for the greater good of humanity and the planet.
The blog comes to you from a piece of Dr. Gary Null's book Saving The Planet One Bite at a Time. You can order it now below.
Nutrition Care Manual for What to Eat
Let us think for a moment about the concept of epistemology. Epistemology is a two-dollar word that essentially means knowledge. But it’s a little more than that: epistemology concerns how we know what we know.
This is an idea that Ancient Greek scholars deliberated thoroughly, and like many of their musings, it remains as viable a question today as it was then. How do we know what we know? The Ancient Greeks determined that knowledge essentially comes from one of two sources. Either you experience something yourself or someone told you. This sounds simple enough, but it’s actually quite complex.
Let’s briefly consider these ideas, starting with someone telling you a piece. When we learn from others, we are receiving their interpretation of the information they’ve received. This is true when we read journalists’ accounts of events in the newspaper, when we attend a religious speech or sermon, when we face the judge in a courtroom, when we read a textbook and in every other life circumstance. There’s no getting around this.
Whenever you speak, it reflects your understanding of whatever it is you’re talking about. Your perspective of the topic comes from the sources you’ve read and/or listened to. This might be news reports, political speeches, TED talks, movies and/or documentaries, and the internet, to name a few, and of course your coworkers, friends, and neighbors. We take this base information we receive and most of us tend to add our own thoughts and ideas to it.
This is absolutely normal. Now, in effect, we’re interpreting someone else’s interpretation. (“The preacher said this, and I think he was talking about that, so this and that must be related.”) We then share our perspective with others.
They add their own layer of interpretation and share the message further. It soon begins to look like the childhood game “telephone,” but the difference is that it’s not a game, and it’s not meant for amusement. This is how we get our information. This is how we gain knowledge. Sure, we might occasionally check sources, but if most people generally believe something to be true, it’s much easier for us to accept it as true. Also, it’s very easy to believe something if “all of the authority figures” promote a certain perspective.
If I do a web search for a certain thing and get 2 million hits that reinforce a certain perspective, and among that list are powerful and credible sources, that’s a much easier position for me to accept than if my web search yields 10 reinforcing hits from entities I’ve never heard of. You can start to see how this is becoming more complex.
Not only are we subject to greater influence when information comes from sources we consider authoritative, such as the preacher speaking on religious tenets or the farmer speaking about crops, but we also tend to gauge the quality of information by how many sources back it up.
Most of us are more willing to believe something that 2 million people agree on than a position that only 10 people agree with.
If enough people believe a certain way, this position becomes the status quo. It gets better (or actually, worse). Research in marketing shows that people prefer to purchase from sellers they’re familiar with. Since human nature finds uncertainty uncomfortable, we seek to reduce it; so it makes sense that as consumers, we’re more likely to purchase from someone we’re more familiar with. Big Business spends billions of dollars on creating familiarity with their company and their products for just this reason.
Over time, we as consumers become familiar with companies through their extensive advertising.
As we become familiar, we are reducing uncertainty and developing trust. So this familiarity means that as a consumer, I’ll more likely purchase from the company I’m familiar with and that I (therefore) trust. This is one reason advertising works to increase sales and profits.
The same can be said of ideas rather than products. When a message is consistent over time, it builds familiarity, which reduces uncertainty and builds trust in the information—whether the information presented deserves that trust or not. Further, when a particular idea is promoted by an authority figure or authoritative institution, such as our government, it’s harder for us to justify dismissing it as patently untrue.
Our leaders know this and rely on it. Consider George W. Bush’s admission of selling propaganda as truth in his comment, “See, in my line of work you gotta keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”1 If a powerful public figure says the same thing enough times, people will begin to accept it as truth. Also, when the status quo latches onto a perspective, it becomes increasingly difficult to swim against that powerful social stream, which by definition will label you a nonconformist and maybe even worse.
This is why many say that “change takes time”—a statement rooted in the knowledge that change is an initiation of new ways of thinking and being in the world, which goes against our strong human need for comfort and stability. As Arthur Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher (1788–1860) said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” So getting back to the question of how do we know what we know? As you can see, there are a lot of cooks adding to that soup we call our knowledge.
As for the other component of that question, the personal experience prong, that’s not straightforward either. We interpret our experiences based on our current knowledge. But remember that our knowledge is subject to the slant of whatever source we’re adhering to. So even when we experience something personally and learn from it, there’s a good chance that what we learn from that experience is also tainted by the information we’ve received from others in how we interpret what we’re experiencing. So even when we learn by directly experiencing something ourselves, that knowledge is deeply influenced by what we know from others.
Take the example of divorce: if your closest friend experienced a nasty divorce, where neither they nor their former spouse could agree on terms and both experienced tremendous pain and anguish through the proceedings, chances are your idea of divorce, whether you have experienced it or not, would be affected, possibly jaded. Then, in the event that you divorce, some of your friend’s experience would be in the back of your mind—no matter how amicable the situation; and it will likely influence your actions.
Now, let’s consider these ideas within the US capitalistic milieu of today. To provide focus to this discussion and because this is a book about healthy living, including food, we’ll start with the food industry. The authoritative sources in the US for information about what’s good for us to eat are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Surgeon General, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and maybe the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
These are governmental institutions, funded and operated by the federal government—paid for by you and me. In making their recommendations about what’s healthy for us, we like to believe, indeed we need to believe, that these institutions have our best interests at heart.
Why would a governmental institution make recommendations that would harm the population it serves? Yet, as soon as we utter this question, there’s another voice in our heads that laughs at the idea that the government has our best interests at heart. Some of us need to believe this, but most of us know that this is a utopian illusion and not our present-day reality. If you don’t live under a rock, you know that today’s political parties and the way they legislate is a mess.
The left and the right fight just for the sake of it. Whatever party is not in the oval office blocks the president’s agenda because they can. Rather than working together—unifying—to best serve our nation’s people, our politicians are busy taking sides and remaining intractable—separating—and protecting themselves and their ideological tenets. Politicians are subject to huge donations from special interest groups that result in those same politicians voting a certain way on a certain issue, one that conveniently advances the special interest group’s agenda, and swaying colleagues to do the same.
In fact, recent research has determined that the US is no longer a democracy but rather an oligarchy, run by those with the most money. Those who actually run this country aren’t “the people,” as democracy promises, but rather the huge corporations that purchase profit-enhancing rights and privileges via political contributions, and to heck with the people! Why else would billions be spent in campaigning for a job that takes home less than $200,000 per year?
This is relevant to our discussion because the FDA, Surgeon General, USDA, and CDC are governmental bodies—and are just as riddled with politics and corruption as Capitol Hill. To prove my point, let’s look at one recent example— the occurrence of senior CDC vaccine safety scientist, Dr. William Thompson.
In a blog dated February 12, 2015, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—one of the nation’s most prominent environmental attorneys—said that Dr. Thompson, who invoked the protection of the Federal Whistleblower Statute following the release of his taped conversations disclosing pervasive corruption within CDC’s Vaccine Safety Division, is maintaining that his bosses forced him and other researchers to lie about the safety of mercury-based vaccines,2 when the research clearly showed otherwise. Indeed, Dr. Thompson said: “Thimerosal (a controversial mercury-based preservative) from vaccines causes tics… I can say tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism.
There is biologic plausibility right now to say that Thimerosal causes autism-like features.” The worst aspect of this, perhaps, is the latent corruption between the CDC and pharmaceutical concerns as noted in Dr. Thompson’s account of what occurred when bringing this indiscretion to the attention of his superiors:
In 2004, he sent a letter to CDC Director, Julie Gerberding, alerting her that CDC scientists were breaking research protocols to conceal the links between Thimerosal and brain damage in children. Gerberding never responded to Thompson’s allegations, but her deputy, Robert Chen, then head of CDC’s Immunization Safety Office and Thompson’s direct boss, confronted Thompson in an agency parking lot threatening him and screaming, “I would fire you if I could.” In 2009, Gerberding matriculated to Merck as Chief of the company’s Vaccine Division.
Two years prior to the move, she approved Merck’s HPV vaccine for pre-adolescent girls—an estimated billion-dollar value to the company.
Following Thompson’s revelations, Merck transferred Gerberding from its Vaccine Division to Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy, and Population Health.3 Special interest groups have tremendous influence over the information that these governmental bodies—which we trust to decide in our best interests on what is safe for us to consume—disseminate.
It is not only unethical; it needs to be made illegal in order for the public’s best interest to be protected. What this means for the American people is that the information that our governmental institutions give us about what is healthy for us to consume is deeply influenced by corporations standing to profit immensely from the release of some information and the withholding of other information.
It is well-publicized that these governmental bodies and the large corporations affected by their decisions are run by the same people, as I just noted above. Decision-makers once employed by Monsanto and Pfizer now make decisions within these governmental institutions that affect these corporations, and vice versa, back and forth, and there are numerous examples of this revolving door relationship between government and industry and the conflict of interest that results.
For example, Marion Nestle reports that in her then-new job as manager of the editorial production of the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health in 1986, she was given these rules on her first day of work: No matter what the research indicated, the report could not recommend ‘eat less meat’ as a way to reduce intake of saturated fat, nor could it suggest restrictions on intake of any other category of food.
In the industry-friendly climate of the Reagan administration, the producers of foods that might be affected by such advice would complain to their beneficiaries in Congress, and the report would never be published.4 This was a very real concern, as federal health officials had suffered nearly constant congressional interference with their dietary recommendations for nearly a decade. Getting back to epistemology and how we know what we know, we rely on our leaders for our information about what is healthy for us to consume. The FDA, Surgeon General, USDA, and CDC steer public health in this nation. They are our most accepted and largest authoritative sources for our personal health.
These institutions and the news reports and governmental agendas generated from their reports are our primary sources for how we know what we know about food, nutrition, and health in the US. Yet, the information they give us is highly tainted with the agendas of the profit-seeking corporations these bodies are in bed with.
In other words, our government will tell us what it is told to tell us by corporations like Monsanto and Pfizer so that they will keep increasing their profits. Yes, this happens at the expense of our health and in spite of the fact that our tax dollars are paying their salaries.
In fact, the entire medical industry, including the pharmaceutical and hospital businesses, relies on our being ill or they don’t make any money. People with this agenda in mind are the same people telling us what to eat. So now that we know a bit more about how we know what we know regarding what is healthy to consume, let’s set everything aside for a moment that we’ve ever been taught about what is healthy for us to eat. Set aside your beliefs and your current knowledge on this topic. And think about it.
Think about what it means to rely on animal flesh and other animal products for our livelihood, to sustain life through the process of killing other living, breathing beings. Think about what our dependence on animal products means to the very large and powerful meat, dairy, and poultry industries, and to the numerous other industries connected to them. In short, our ill health is their wealth.
I also ask you to think about the health risks of continuing a meat-based diet—as we’ll see in this book, there are many—and the conditions in which these animals are raised, their only purpose in life to be made fat and then slaughtered and sold for hamburgers or chicken nuggets. With this as their sole life purpose, no care is given to their living conditions, which are riddled with disease, overcrowding, and immense suffering from the beginning of their miserable lives to the end. Is this what it means to be human, to bring living creatures onto this planet for the sole purpose of serving our wishes, without any thought to the suffering involved with this? In a humane world, how can we actually believe that the suffering of others doesn’t matter as long as we get what we want?
In considering our consumption of animal flesh, think also about our fellow human beings and the jobs they endure in these factory farms and the slaughterhouses and consider their working conditions and abuses.
Consider what it would be like to do this work for a week or even an hour. Imagine walking around on the kill floor, ankle-deep in blood, the air thick with the stench of death and decay, howling animals’ last cries of fear and suffering ringing in your ears and echoing in your soul—50 hours a week. Think about how many animals we need as a growing global population to feed the world’s people over time, how many resources we need to feed these animals, and whether, as responsible people, this actually makes sense.
Think about the culture of violence that murdering for our food contributes to. Then think about why you eat meat. I mean really, why?
Once you remove yourself from everything you’ve ever learned about the benefits of meat consumption, why do you eat it? Then it’s healthy argument is out, because it’s not healthy, so there are really only two reasons remaining: because everyone else does and because I want to.
Well, I won’t go into the dangers of leading an unhealthy lifestyle because everyone else does. As a kid, didn’t your caregiver ask you “If everyone else jumped off the bridge would you jump too?” You make a conscious choice whether or not to ‘drink that dangerous Kool-Aid.’ So let’s talk about them because I want the argument. In a hedonistic society, that’s reason enough. But in a responsible society, that just doesn’t cut it.
Dietary Vegetarianism Defined
The Various Names for Vegetarianism To most people, being vegetarian means nothing more than abstaining from the flesh of anything with eyes or a face, but people partake of this abstaining by drawing the line on what they will eat at different points. Some vegetarians eat dairy; some eat eggs; some eat fish; some eat varying combinations of these.
Here are a few examples: Total vegetarians or ethical vegans live on plant foods alone, eating vegetables (including greens, sprouts, and juice of grasses), fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
This regimen rigorously eliminates all animal foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and honey (because it is made by insects), and abstains from using products derived from animals, such as leather, wool, and silk, to name just a few. See page 268 for a list of popular products that utilize animal-based components.
Vegans abstain from eating all animal foods and dairy products, including honey, and live on the same plant-foods listed above; and depending on where they are on the spectrum, they also may not use products derived from animals, such as leather, wool, or silk. Lacto-vegetarians include dairy products in their diet in addition to vegetables. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians consume eggs along with dairy products and vegetables.
Pesco-vegetarians add fish to their diet. Such a diet is common in Asia where hundreds of millions live on rice, fish, and vegetables. Pollo-vegetarians eat poultry (chicken, duck, game, and birds) but omit red meat.
The term vegetarianism has evolved to connote diet alone, whereas, originally, it was used to describe the lifestyle of someone who lived naturally, in harmony with their surroundings, and acted in ways that did not harm fellow humans or the animals with which they co-existed.
The word vegetarian hails from the word vegetare, meaning “to enliven.” So, a vegetarian not only was thought to make something 22 more exciting and vital but to honor life through their every action. In its essence, vegetarianism is a spiritual undertaking, which we shall see by examining a brief history of the vegetarian movement.
Further, the term vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944, who defined it as follows: “Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk, and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.
Rather than descending into apathy, withdrawing into isolation and being unwilling to face these problems, this book intends to provide a deep and detailed strategy for how we can individually and collectively make a difference.
Not only is it affordable, but a vegan lifestyle will also strengthen our physical and mental health to face the challenges ahead. It is the single most important thing each of us can do to save the planet.
- James Robinson
The Truth About Nutrition For Longevity
What if I told you that going on the incredibly delicious, cost-effective plant-based diet would:
- Reduce your risk of all cancers by 50%,1
- Decrease your chance of developing diabetes by 50% and eliminate Type 2 diabetes,2
- Drop your chance of developing heart disease by 24%,3 reduce your chance of dying from heart disease by 29%,4 or if you have heart disease, reduce future cardiac events by 73%,5
- Lower your risk of colon cancer by 40%,
- Have an 80% chance of reducing arthritis symptoms in less than four weeks, ¡ Assist you in losing a minimum of one pound of body weight per week until you reach your goal, and without exercising6 (although I recommend exercising too.),
- Significantly lower high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels,
- Double the number of natural “killer cells” in the body, thereby increasing the strength of your immune system,7
- Significantly lessen your likelihood of being obese,
- Help you have leaner, healthier children,
- Improve your sleep, your sex life, and your complexion,
- Give you more energy than you have ever had, and, most importantly, add quality years onto your life?
What if I also told you that in one year of eating this way, you would save the lives of approximately 400 animals (fish and shellfish included), plus, you would save 300,000 gallons of water,8 nearly 90,000 pounds of grain9 (which could go to feed humans), and more than 5,700 gallons of gasoline, all while generating 50% fewer carbon emissions10?
You would also end your contribution through dietary choices to depleting rainforests, eroding topsoil, world hunger, and global warming, while standing for cleaner air, cleaner water in aquifers, rivers, lakes, and oceans, cleaner drinking water, the humane treatment of animals and humans, and the health of any number of species and the planet too. Would you want to hear about it? Moreover, would you be interested in knowing that millions—and a growing number—of people in our country and around the world are choosing this diet and lifestyle right now, and for the very reasons I just pointed out?
A Brief Look at the Problem Americans are sick; in fact, we are extremely sick. We are also tired, stressed, toxic, and confused. We work harder than most people, take fewer vacations, are sleep deprived, and our relationships are infrequent disrepair. We spend more on our healthcare than any other country in the world—$3.5 trillion, which is higher than any other segment of spending in America.
Unfortunately, every year of increased spending translates into worsening health. We have more cancer, more heart disease, more mental illness, and more inflammatory conditions like arthritis. In addition, we have record-shattering numbers of people suffering from diabetes and obesity— in fact, America has more obese adults than any other developed nation; we also have the highest per capita rate of childhood diabetes in the world.
So, our children are also now suffering from heart disease and diabetes. Shockingly, for the first time in modern history, many American children will now die before their parents—a disturbing reality, especially for a society that considers itself the greatest and most advanced country in the world. We are not only overeating; we are gorging.
“Supersized” is passé; we now have gigantic meals and frequently eat when we are not hungry. Many are experiencing a cognitive disconnect where “all you can eat,” or Saving The Planet: One Bite At A Time Introduction xxv “eat as much as you can” is the new norm. We are not eating to enliven, or eating for health, vitality, or restorative and regenerative purposes. We are simultaneously approaching pandemic levels of brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, memory loss, and Parkinson’s; and we are a nation that is depressed and anxious.
Consider for a moment that 25% of all women between the ages of 25 and 45 (11 million women) are taking some form of antidepressant medication, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil or Pexeva, and Zoloft, while over ten million children are being medicated each day before they go to school with drugs such as Ritalin. Fatigue and pain are the two most common ailments for which people are seeking medical treatment. This is the picture of ill health that now shapes our nation.
We actually see women’s life spans shortening more so than any industrialized nation. Yet, we have more doctors, hospitals, nurses, research facilities, and federal agencies looking into more ways of treating the symptoms of these conditions. We’ve become so concerned that our vernacular has changed.
Our nation is at “war” with just about everything now: a war on cancer, war on heart disease, and a war on obesity. But, unfortunately, like the wars on drugs, poverty, and terrorism, we are losing the war on health, too; and, frankly, cannot win with our modern approach of disease management.
One question we are not asking that actually could help us win is “Why are we having all of these conditions?” In short, we’ve confused the suffering and complexity of symptoms of these conditions with the solution—which is prevention; in this case, living healthfully.
To prevent disease is much easier than reversing it once it is in motion. Therefore, the purpose of this work, in part, is to describe a diet that is proven to prevent suffering and illness. So, we will take you step by step through these complex issues, while describing how the plant-based diet allows you to heal your body while easing pressures on our planet too.
Virtually all of the important statements herein have been scientifically verified, originating from a quality, independent science published in peer review literature. It is no longer a mystery that the Mediterranean diet, the Okinawan diet, or the healthy vegan vegetarian diet are scientifically valid ways of reducing and eliminating key major medical conditions.
Why? Because of plant-based diets—or those founded xxvi Saving The Planet: One Bite At A Time on plant-based foods—have as their basis the living nutrients that maintain the integrity and health of our body’s trillions of cells.
These diets are anti-inflammatory and slightly alkaline; they are high in fiber but not excessive in protein. Most can be prepared with minimal to no heat and, hence, are easier to digest and safer and more effective for our biological processes.
But, until now we’ve only focused on our bodies. What about the planet? When you stop and look around, you also see an environment that is imploding.
We have a massive amount of land that is no longer able to sustain life. We are seeing the desertification of America’s southwest, with dust storms similar to those of the 1930s and sand storms like those of the Arabian Peninsula. California is estimated to have one year’s worth of drinking water left from its current reserves. The state is in perpetual drought and is now imposing mandatory restrictions.
Last year, we had 12,000 unique weather events—the coldest day, the wettest day, the hottest day, the worst tornado, etc.—and this is the new norm. It gets worse. There are 18 million children in America going to bed hungry each day, living with food insecurity, the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
One hundred million Americans are just at or above the poverty level, which is about one-third of our entire population, and nearly 29 million Americans, although not considered homeless, are living on couches in family and friends’ homes.
We now have students who are part of the teenage debt system. 50% of all college graduates today live at home with their parents because there’s not a job for them in the area of their academic background, and graduate students can look forward to 20 years of paying off student loans.
We also have the return of the debtors’ prisons in 27 states, and in a minimum of 60 communities, we have made it illegal to feed the homeless. Is there something wrong with this scenario? Clearly yes, but how do we change it? What is the good news? The good news is that there are millions of Americans who are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance and value of the choices they make in every area of life, including food.
You exercise that consciousness when you wake up in the morning and decide to have a nourishing smoothie or hot oatmeal with fresh berries and walnuts versus more standard American fare, such as bacon, sausage, and eggs, toast, greasy hash browns with coffee, chemical creamers, and white sugar.
And, as you will see, there’s a substantial positive consequence when making these kinds of healthy choices.
Instead of sitting down to an unhealthy meal of steak and a “fully loaded” baked potato (butter, sour cream, and/or cheese) or burger and fries with a cola—a week’s worth of protein, fat, and sugar in a single serving—members of this growing group are going to farmers markets, health food stores, their own backyards, and food coops and selecting functional health foods.
They are also putting an end to overtaxing their kidneys and liver, thickening their blood, and putting blood sugar levels at risk. The foods they are purchasing are fresh, organic, non-GMO grown whole foods, alive with nutrients—vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, arugula, microgreens, sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and onions.
And, as they’re preparing these as part of a delicious meal—with red quinoa, organic brown rice, beans, and legumes, or tubers—they’re conscious that what they’re putting in their bodies will make a difference to their health, not just in their sleep, digestion, and energy levels today, but in the long-term with disease prevention. These people are also conscious that their health entails much more than just food or even exercise.
The mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health are also critical and must be explored.
Moreover, no conversation about health would be complete without speaking about the quality of the environmental resources that sustain us. So, we will be examining our water, air, land, and food-growing systems, as well as a host of other pressing ecological issues that are challenging humanity’s very ability to heal and carry on with life as we are accustomed. By considering the value of the information, principles, and guidelines that I am sharing here, my hope is that you will select what is reasonable to adopt and, in this process, enhance your natural, vital, and fulfilling existence.
And, while there are numerous studies supporting the superior health benefits of a plant-based diet for warding off disease and reducing illness and for lessening environmental degradation, being a vegetarian does not guarantee health. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned individuals rightly choosing the vegetarian diet do not know how to be successful at it and end up reporting an overall lower level of health on average than those who are not vegetarian.
Why is this? How is it possible? What does it take to be a healthy vegetarian? Moreover, what does it mean to be a healthy human being, and can we accomplish this in our fast-deteriorating world?
As you will learn, these are not mutually exclusive questions. Becoming a healthy vegetarian does, in fact, lead to becoming a healthy human being, which I essentially define as someone with enduring health and vitality on all levels—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
And this vitality supports a person’s full realization of their unique purpose in life and in service to others and the planet. But is a dietary change enough in this day and age to sustain health? As you will see, it is not.
- James Robinson