A Shout-out to Vegetarianism - Healthy, Natural and Easy
Posted June 16, 2009
Two blog posts caught my eye this week, and made me want to write about one of my all -time favorite subjects: vegetarianism. One was a strong and provocative piece by Jim Motavalli, predicting that within our lifetimes, meat consumption will disappear, except as a luxury item enjoyed by very few. He postulates that this shift will happen primarily because meat production will simply become unsustainable and economically infeasible, and not because of a change in personal eating habits, which - while desirable - will never happen in adequate measure to actually cause a demand-driven change. Please note that I personally do not align myself with some of the terminology used, likening meat-eating with slavery. But the article does get you thinking, and that's my only objective.
The second piece is a welcome emphasis by Kathy Freston that there is no compelling evolutionary evidence to indicate that humans are supposed to be meat-eaters. I've myself often heard the argument that "we would not have canine teeth if we weren't designed by nature to consume meat". Well, there is an increasing chorus of highly trained scientific experts on evolution and anthropology, none more credible than the venerable Richard Leakey himself, who are unequivocal about how human physiology proves we are all natural herbivores.
I'm not one of those vegetarians who proselytize everyone they meet about the virtues of turning vegetarian, or try to make people feel guilty about their dietary habits (I certainly hope I've never done that!). But I do feel that I can speak up amongst my close circle of friends and provide helpful information if they ask for it. Clearly, a blog-post takes this beyond the realm of a "close circle of friends", but nevertheless, all I am attempting to do is extend the ongoing discussion I have with my friends to a wider audience of people who may be curious, be open to finding out more about the impact their diet has on themselves as well as the rest of the world, and may want simple suggestions on moving one degree further along the dietary spectrum from meat-eating towards vegetarianism.
One recent discussion I had revolved around the "impossibility" of substituting certain nutrients if one moves from a meat-oriented to a slightly more vegetarian diet. People often believe that there is no way to get adequate Iron or Protein from a meatless diet. This is inaccurate, since Protein-combining (whether in a single meal or in the 24-hour cycle) ensures that vegetarians can also get the full recommended Daily Value (DV) of all 20 amino acids, including the 8 essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the body (see a handy site from Stanford University that provides tips for vegetarian food combining). Similarly, as long as vegetarian diets are not unduly restrictive (such a macrobiotic diets, or fruit-only diets), one can easily get the recommended DV of Iron. The George Mateljan foundation runs one of my favorite sites that helps one figure out the best dietary sources of nutrients. For instance, see how a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy and nuts more than makes up for any loss of iron (and scroll all the way down for many more fun options!).
There will be lots more tips coming your way - keep watching this space. And tomorrow, I'll be blogging about how vegetarianism in India is helping reduce the country's GHG emissions (in a tasty way!). Thanks for reading.
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