By Lori Zito on This Dish is Veg
I have a friend who has made the transition to a vegetarian diet, under my guidance, over the past few months. She has been feeling great, with many notable health improvements. However, her doctor, whom shall remain anonymous and whom from this point forward shall be referred as Dr. Ignorant, expressed some 'concern.' I use the term 'concern' loosely. I have quoted his statements made to her in an email (yes, these are REAL quotes), and provided my response. I am not presenting this to say that ALL medical doctors have these views. In fact, I hope and believe this ego-inflated man is the minority in the medical profession. I know many doctors who embrace and support the choices of their vegetarian patients. But I also know that many vegetarians and vegans know deep down they are doing the right thing, but just don't know how to verbalize it when they are attacked like this. So sit back and get comfortable; this is gonna be a long one...
"If whomever is advising you is not a certified health provider (that does NOT mean some bogus nutritionist, that means a PHYSICIAN) you are being lead astray."
Does having a title after your name make you smarter? Ok, well I am certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a holistic health and nutrition coach, I am certified in plant based nutrition through Cornell University, I have a BS in physical therapy and a minor in chemistry. And since when did the title 'nutritionist' get the prefix 'bogus' added to it?
"A high carb diet will only do one thing....make your body insulin resistant, and predispose you to adult-onset diabetes."
Dr. Ignorant, I'm sure you know that our brain runs on glucose for fuel, and the same goes for most of bodily functions. Our diet should be comprised of approximately 65% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 15% fat. While I agree that a diet high in REFINED carbs will lead to type 2 diabetes, this statement should not be generalized to ALL carbs. This line of thinking forces people into eating too much protein. And too much protein is taxing on the kidneys, and has been strongly linked to cancer. Studies done by Dr. T. Colin Campbell show this fact. It is VERY rare for anyone in the United States to be protein deficient. I do applaud your concern over diabetes, and the assumed understanding that it is an epidemic. However, 'a high carb diet' is actually the diet that was followed in the documentary Simply Raw... you know, the film where they REVERSED diabetes in 6 patients in 30 days, all through a raw, vegan diet.... ever hear of it? In fact, one of the participants actually cured himself of TYPE ONE diabetes! The diet was certainly 'high carb' per most people's standards, as it was all plant based food. But the educated plant eater knows that there is HUGE difference between how our body processes carbohydrates in a leafy green or a carrot, versus in a piece of white bread. Do you know the difference Dr. I?
"I am NOT advocating you become an exclusive carnivore, all I am saying is that diabetes and obesity is MUCH less prevalent in people who eat lean meat, and HIGH COMPLEX, LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX carbohydrates, than in vegans, and vegetarians."
First and foremost, what is an 'exclusive carnivore'? One who eats NO vegetables? Well I sure hope you're not advocating that... Anyhow, I do realize that losing body weight on a plant-based diet is much less likely to occur when individuals are consuming too much of the refined carbohydrate foods. Plant based WHOLE foods are the key. Sweets, pastries, and pastas simply won’t do it. According to a recent summary of seven studies, vegetarians or vegans are somewhere around 10 to 30 pounds slimmer than their fellow meat eater. As for diabetes, medical studies dating as far back as 70 years ago show that as carbohydrate intake goes up and fat intake goes down, diabetes rates decline rapidly from around 20.4 to 2.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Of course the carbohydrate intake we are talking about is the complex carbohydrates that come along with the consumption of plant-based food. And here's an interesting fact: According to Dr. Benjamin Spock, feeding cow’s milk to children can and does cause anemia, allergies and insulin-dependent diabetes. This has also been found in numerous other studies. In addition, whole fruits, vegetables, and grains are rich in fiber, which makes you feel full. There is virtually NO fiber in animal foods (this means meat, dairy, eggs). Maybe that's why my friend went from being constipated for 5 days at a time, to having regular BMs daily with her new vegetarian diet? Need I say more? Okay...
Vegetarian diets are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher levels of dietary ﬁber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, ﬂavonoids, and other phytochemicals.
"You cannot get sufficient B vitamins from plant matter only."
Are we talking about ALL B vitamins, or did you mean to say B12? Well since our soil has been so depleted through conventional farming, that is now the sad truth regarding vitamin B12. However, nutritional yeast, a staple in most vegan diets, provides a great source of B12, as well as fortified non-dairy milks, and maca. That said, a supplement is of course a good idea, as back up. I take a B12 supplement sporadically, and consistently eat the foods mentioned above. I just had my B12 levels checked a week ago and they were perfectly normal. In regards to other B vitamins, they ARE present in plant foods, especially dark leafy greens and beans.
"You cannot get Vit D from plant matter."
Actually, Dr. Ignorant, you can. Sun-dried shiitake mushrooms are a plant source of vit D. Also, most non-dairy milks are fortified with vitamin D at the range of 25% recommended daily value per serving. And while we are on the subject, I would suggest that many meat eaters are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in both vegans and carnivores alike (probably due to the fact that we live such technology driven-lives and spend little time out in the sunshine; the BEST source of vit D). Regardless of diet, it's prudent to have your vitamin D levels checked, and take a supplement if indicated. But on side note, this vegan of 2 years just had her levels checked and was perfectly in range, sans supplements.
"True vegetarians can survive, just not healthily."
Einstein was a vegetarian and he seemed to do all right... so was Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Dr. Spock, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Olympic star Carl Lewis... to name a few. Actually, the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras was vegetarian, and until the mid-19th century, people who abstained from meat were known as "Pythagoreans." I think we vegans are in good company...
Some facts to consider include:
- the advances of many cancer cells can be stopped and reversed by sticking to a vegan diet (shown in the China Study)
- vegan athletes report surges in stamina, speed, reflex sharpness, strength and significantly shorter healing times between workouts
- only 2% of vegans are obese, compared to 30% of the general population (over 60% of which are considered overweight)
- vegetarians have a 50% lower risk of developing heart disease than meat eaters
- vegetarians have a 40% lower cancer rate
- vegetarians have the lowest rates of coronary disease
- every meat, egg and dairy eater also consumes antibiotics, steroids,
saturated fat, cholesterol, feces, uric acid and pus... does that sound
"ALL baked sweets have white flour, and sugar in them, NONE are healthy."
Oh is that so? Check out this recipe. How do you like them apples??
"The best formula is a well-balanced diet including ALL the major food sources (except for whites)."
Excuse me, is this 'whites' you mention a new food group I didn't know about?
"Meat, fish, poultry are NOT bad for ANYONE."
Well for starters, fish are the most highly contaminated animal product in the food chain, due to the high levels of mercury. Mercury is such a potent neurotoxin that even small doses can cause irreversible brain and heart damage. And seafood is the number 1 cause of food poisoning in the United States. As for poultry, Consumer Reports found free-range poultry to be actually more contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter than other poultry. Former USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester says of today’s processed chicken, “The final product is no different than if you stuck it in the toilet and ate it.” And here's some food for thought: 70% of U.S. broiler chickens are infected with campylobacter. And a report by the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 89 percent of U.S.beef ground into patties contains traces of the deadly E. coli strain. I could go on and on...
"The consequences are potentially catastrophic."
Yes... you're right! You may outlive all your meat eating friends!!!
"If you do not eat animal products because you have some problem with killing animals, I suggest you give up shoes, belts, jello, glue, colognes, and perfumes, and thousands of other goods which require animal products."
So you're saying if you can't do SOME good then you shouldn't do any? I'm sorry, but I politely disagree. I fully intend to save approximatley 100 animals per year solely by my choice not to eat meat. And here are some other facts that motivate me:
- hens, called “layers” by the industry, are kept in cages the size of file drawers
- unable to move in the cramped “battery cages” their feet often grow around the wire mesh
- after being dragged, shoved and beaten out of the trucks, cows are hoisted upside down by their hind legs and their throats are slit. The lucky ones are stunned, but many are fully conscious, kicking and crying out, as they are skinned and cut to pieces
- it takes 2,500 galloons of water to produce 1 pound of California beef, according to the Water Education Foundation.
- in California today, you may save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering for six entire months
- 12 million tons of grain are needed to adequately feed every one of the people on the entire planet who die of hunger and hunger-caused disease annually
- in order for the U.S. to save 12 million tons of grain they would only have to reduce their beef consumption by 10%
I know I can't be perfect, but if I can at least put a tiny dent in those statistics, I have made a difference. I firmly believe that a vegan diet is the healthiest for my body, the planet, and for the sentient beings who are treated as commodities instead of live, feeling creatures. I leave the choice up to everyone to do what they feel is right is for them. But when people have questions about this diet, I feel compelled to educate them, as many people just are not aware of the facts. I know I can't be perfect, but I try to live my life along the lines of doing the MOST good, with the LEAST harm...
"I hope you know this is sent only because I am concerned that you are blissfully, and unwittingly destroying your health. Now go out and order a nice, lean steak with a sweet potato, a side of salad with olive oil and red vinegar dressing."
No thanks; every steak consumed has the same global warming effect as a 25 mile drive in a typical American car. But the sweet potato and side salad sound good...