Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reasons to be “Almost Vegetarian”

There are many reasons to be “almost vegetarian”. 

For lifelong devoted vegetarians, being a vegetarian is often about not killing animals.  Some religions, like Hinduism, mandate vegetarianism, because they consider killing something for food to be a selfish act. 

Personally I’m not crazy about killing animals for food.  If I had to kill them myself, I’m sure I would be a die-hard vegetarian.  For me, it has been hard to completely give up meat, having been raised on meals consisting of meat, starch and vegetable.  If any component is missing, I often feel unsatisfied, like I didn’t really have a meal.  Yet in the last couple years, I have found increasingly more motivation to move in a vegetarian direction. 

I discovered a book, The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates, that has really impressed me.  This book describes dietary practices that help restore balance to the body’s internal environment.  Among other things, Donna recommends meals consisting of 20% meat and 80% vegetables, or 20% starch and 80% vegetables.  She specifically discourages combining animal protein and starches in the same meal.  Because the digestive processes are so different, they conflict with each other.  I became increasingly convinced that indeed when I eat meat and starch in the same meal, I have more reflux symptoms.  Since it is particularly difficult for me to give up starch, I figured if I ate more vegetarian meals, preparing vegetarian versions of favorite foods, I would have less reflux. 

Meat is difficult to digest.  According to Donna Gates, it takes about five hours for meat to clear the stomach.  I have thought for a while now that my body does not digest animal protein very well.  I was sick in February, and decided that my system was compromised due to being ill, so I would stay away from meat for a week or two, so as to not put additional strain on my system.  After about a week and a half, I noticed that I had not had any right heel pain in a week. 

Prior to this, I had been having right heel pain for months.  I was convinced that it was biomechanical, from how I sat on my couch when using my laptop.  One of the visiting specialists at my Naturopath’s office had said to me, “Right heel?  In Chinese Medicine, that’s your colon.”  Wow!  What a coincidence.  I have since noticed the return of varying degrees of right heel pain when I occasionally eat a little chicken, fish, or shrimp. 

Many doctors and nutritionists advocate vegetarian meals as being beneficial for people who need to decrease saturated fat in their diet due to heart disease or high cholesterol.  According to the Environmental Working Group, who supports the MeatlessMonday initiative, skipping meat not only lowers the risk of serious health problems, but cuts carbon emissions.  Here is a statement from the EWG: 

“If we Americans skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, we’d cut carbon emissions as much as taking 7.6 million cars off the road would! Cutting back on meat not only helps the environment, it also lowers your risk of serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers.”
You can sign a pledge to give up meat one day a week through the EWG Meatless Monday initiative. 

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