Vegetarianism: Fact vs. Fiction – Part 2

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 The Problem With Milk….

            Milk is NOT bad for us in and of itself.  The problem with milk is the way it is processed and sold to us. We’ve been drinking cow’s milk and goat’s milk for centuries. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that we began pasteurizing milk, which was a response to suspected harmful bacteria in beverages and foods, including milk. Ironically, it is the pasteurization process that created new problems with this otherwise natural food. When any natural food is exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time, as it is with pasteurization, the naturally occurring enzymes that are essential for our digestion of that food are destroyed. This prevents us from assimilating and absorbing the beneficial nutrients found in that food. Additionally, the proteins and fats in the food become denatured, which promotes the production of mucous and inflammation throughout our bodies. This is also essentially why milk is one of the most common food allergens we have today. bigstock-Slices-Of-Lebanese-Cucumber-22902863

             Another issue with conventionally raised cows is that they are primarily grain-fed. Cows are by nature plant eaters.  When they are forced to eat a grain-based diet, their livers become fatty and toxic. To make matters worse, the grain they are fed tends to be genetically modified and the cows themselves are injected with growth hormones to increase milk production.  All these chemicals end up in the milk you drink.

            Ultimately, all of these “modifications” wreak havoc on the cow’s natural biochemistry, promoting toxic overload and unhealthy weight gain, which in turn makes them more susceptible to disease and infection. This is why they need to be fed antibiotics and their milk needs to be pasteurized. 

           Conversely, raw milk acquired from free-range, grass-fed cows avoids these hazards. To the contrary, it is considered by many to be a health food. This is because cows that are allowed to graze freely on grass and other vegetation are healthier and less susceptible to disease and infections. Consequently, the milk from these animals retains the enzymes and healthy bacteria we need for digestion and does not contain nearly the levels of harmful bacteria and toxins found in conventionally raised, grain-fed cows.  This alleviates the need for pasteurization and the use of antibiotics.  For more on this topic, see the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website.

             Unfortunately, the government in most states has made it illegal to sell raw milk. However, there are co-ops in every state where you can obtain raw milk and raw milk-based foods like butter, cheese and yogurt (see Weston A. Price link above for a list of co-ops near you). Speaking of yogurt and cheese, these “cultured” forms of dairy are even healthier for us than raw milk because they contain even more of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that enhance the digestion process. In fact, people who have allergies to milk often do not have a problem with yogurt and raw cheese.


The Downsides of a Vegan Diet

                A “vegan” is someone who does not consume any animal-based foods, including milk or eggs. A “vegetarian” will consume milk, eggs, and fish. The problem with a purely vegan diet is what is missing. While most of us could stand to eat more vegetables, avoiding animal-based foods altogether creates several nutrient deficiencies and eventually disease in the long run. This is because animals are our only source of complete proteins, vitamins A & D and bioavailable forms of iron and B12.  All of these nutrients are essential for our health and survival. Deficiencies in these nutrients promote conditions such as immune disorders, anemia, brain dysfunction, osteoporosis, inflammatory conditions, fatigue, and cancer.

 Vegans often claim that beta-carotene, found in vegetables like carrots and peppers, is the same as vitamin A. This is not true. Beta-carotene must be converted to vitamin A in our bodies and the only way that is possible is with the help of bile salts. Bile salts are secreted by the gall bladder, but only if stimulated by the consumption of dietary fat. This means that beta carotene must be eaten with fat for the conversion to take place. And since vegans tend to avoid dietary fat, they also tend to be vitamin A deficient. In addition, infants and people with gall bladder issues, hypothyroidism, or diabetes also have difficulty making the conversion.

As for iron and B12, there are plant sources of these nutrients, but these forms are inferior to animal-based forms and are therefore not bioavailable to humans.

As for vitamin D, it is the most heavily researched nutrient in recent years and we are learning that it is possibly the most important nutrient for things like calcium absorption, prevention of inflammation, cancer prevention, autoimmune disorders, and hormone balancing. And vitamin D is simply does not exist in plant-based foods.

When it comes to complete proteins, a vegan diet is quite deficient. A complete protein is one comprised of sufficient amounts of the 8-10 essential amino acids. The “essential” amino acids are ones our bodies cannot produce on their own and so we must get them from dietary sources. While animal-based foods contain sufficient amounts of all of the essential amino acids, plant-based foods do not. One example is soy, which are often told is an adequate meat substitute. This is not true because it is deficient in cysteine, methionine, and tryptophan—all essential amino acids. The other big problem with soy is its tendency to promote hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism leads to inefficient body temperature regulation, skin conditions, hair loss, constipation, brain fog, fatigue, and weight gain.

The only way for a vegan to get the required amounts of these amino acids is by combining specific foods. One example of this food combining is beans and rice. Combining grains and legumes can address this issue, but few vegans do this effectively or consistently. Also, this food combining presents other potential problems, like gluten sensitivity and blood sugar imbalances. In fact, many vegans develop gluten allergies. Gluten is the protein found in grains like wheat barley, rye, and oats.

So if one wants to thrive on a vegan diet and avoid these serious nutrient deficiencies, they simply must get these nutrients from supplements such as vitamins and minerals and protein shakes.


Is a Meat-Based Diet Inhumane?

            There is no doubt that the commercial livestock industry in this country is deplorable. We pump our cattle full of growth hormones and antibiotics and fatten them up on genetically modified grains. Many of these animals are badly mistreated and even tortured, leaving them sick and suffering. They are then slaughtered by methods that promote toxic stress hormones that we in turn ingest. And all the while, these morally deficient farmers are exempt from animal cruelty laws and so their methods are condoned by our government. The thought of this reality is enough to make one sick even before eating the meat and other foods that come from these animals.

             However, not all animals raised for human consumption are treated this way. By contrast, free-range and organically raised livestock are allowed to graze freely on grass and other wild vegetation. Their diets are nutrient-dense and devoid of harmful chemicals or pharmaceuticals. Additionally, these animals are slain in a state of tranquility, much like the kosher and hallal slaughtering methods practiced by orthodox Jews and Muslims. As a result, they are healthier animals and they produce healthier milk and meat.

             And if you still have a problem with eating the flesh of animals, you can consume eggs and milk, which do not require the killing of another animal for production.

           As for the spiritual objection to eating meat, this is often a matter of a lack of information. Most of the known religions condone eating animal-based foods. Christians certainly do—Jesus is purported to have eaten meat at the last supper. And then there is Genesis 9:3, which reads: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Followers of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths eat lamb during their holiest holidays—Passover and Ramadan, respectively. And while some forms of Buddhism restrict meat consumption, they still allow dairy products. 

             When it comes to killing an animal for food, it is not the same as murder because the intention behind the act is for survival as opposed to a malignant intention to do harm. What has become lost in the industrialization of agriculture is consciousness around doing what is necessary for us to survive. Just as many traditions say blessing at mealtime, so should we honor the living thing that has just given its life so that we can live. It is the cycle of life. Native Americans would routinely offer a prayer to the spirit of the animal they had just slain. As mentioned above, many traditions, including biodynamic farmers, follow this model of gratitude. 

            Having said all of this, ultimately, you should do what feels right in your heart. I am just encouraging you to be wise about it and make the necessary adjustments to your supplement regimen so that you can live the healthy lifestyle you aspire to by eating consciously.


Is Meat Consumption Bad For the Environment?

            The argument here is generally twofold: 1) the grain it takes to feed livestock for human consumption could be used to feed hungry populations around the world; and 2) raising livestock requires more water than raising plants. Both arguments are again indicative of a lack of information.

             As already mentioned above, only conventional farming methods use primarily grain to feed the livestock. Organically raised livestock are primarily grass-fed and require little to no grain. So the problem is not meat consumption per se, it is the method of farming used. The sooner we realize that conventional farming methods are wasteful to the environment and harmful to those who consume their products, the sooner we can grow the organic and biodynamic farming movement and improve our collective state of health at the same time.

             With regard to the water used to raise livestock, even if we stopped raising livestock for food and began to grow more grain and vegetable crops, the water would still be necessary to fertilize those crops. Another consideration here is that the urine from grazing animals, which is comprised mostly of water, is rich in nitrogen which helps nourish the soil—yet another argument for biodynamic farming.

             Perhaps a more serious threat to the environment, as well as to our health, is the practice of commercial “monoculturing.” Monoculturing is the practice of using one plot of land to grow a single crop, like soybeans, over and over. This depletes the soil of nutrients and in turn requires the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Monoculturing is one of the reasons the nutrient content in our produce has dropped an average of 40% in the last 50 years, as found by a University of Texas study entitled: Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999.

             The obvious solution to this dilemma is again the more ecologically sound “mixed” or biodynamic farm. Mark Purdy, a British organic farmer, points out that “a crop field on a biodynamic farm will yield up to five harvests per year, while a monocultured crop will only yield one or two.”


The Role of a Vegetarian Diet

            As I mentioned before, a vegetarian diet, as opposed to e vegan diet, is not bad for everyone. Some people can and have done well on a plant-based diet. We just have to remember that the decision to live on plant-based foods is an individual one. As humans and omnivores, we are each biochemically unique. It is a matter of listening to our bodies and feeding it what it needs.

             One example of how a plant-based diet can serve just about everyone is a temporary detox or cleanse. These have become extremely popular lately and they do serve a valuable purpose. The idea is to dramatically reduce or cut out animal-based foods for a brief period of time, typically 10-21 days. This is more helpful for people who have created an acidic environment in their bodies from consuming too much processed food or simply overeating over a long period of time. A plant-based diet is more alkalizing and can help to restore more balance to the body.

 However, proponents of long-term or lifelong vegetarianism forget that while an overly acidic biochemistry can promote disease, so too can an overly alkaline one. This is another reason why a more balanced diet, consisting of plenty of fresh vegetables as well as free range and organic animal-based foods is better for our long-term health.


            If this article has triggered more questions for you or you simply want to add to the conversation, please use the comment section below to share your thoughts.

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