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 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!
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.