This may make you cringe.
You might think, from the headline, “Oh, I’m going to learn why I should become a vegetarian.” Or, maybe you heard a sarcastic tone in the question: “I could be eating meat … why become a vegetarian?”
Let’s just explore the topic with an open mind, and consider both sides of the argument: Why become a vegetarian?
Vegetarianism – describes a diet in which a person does not eat meat (and sometimes other animal products) for health, moral, and/or religious reasons.
Lacto-Ovo – The most common type of vegetarian diet. Lacto-Ovo followers omit all flesh from the diet, but eat dairy products and eggs.
Ovo Veggie – This person eats no flesh or dairy, but does eat eggs.
Vegan – This person excludes all foods and products of animal origin, including honey, from their diet.
Raw Vegan – Same as above but this person consumes raw or ‘living’ food only.
Semi Veggie – A “part time vegetarian.” This person eliminates red meat, but does occasionally consume fish and chicken.
Pesco Veggie – This person eliminates most animal flesh, but consumes fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.
Pudding Veggie – The person lives on a “meatless” junk food diet.
This is where things get interesting. You see, this is going to be written from a vegetarian perspective first … and then, followed by an omnivores response! Of course, there are also comments at the bottom. That is where anyone can contribute to the discussion.
If you love meat, you might feel giving it up would constitute deprivation. Your body may beg to differ.
Response: I beg to differ. You see, I gave up meat for a time. I lost weight, strength, energy, and mental clarity. Eating meat may not be for everyone, but for some, life just isn’t the same without it. And, yet for others, eating meat is miserable!
The human body is not designed for digesting meat. True carnivores have claws and fangs for tearing off chunks of meat and very short and straight intestines to eliminate meat quickly and avoid poisoning, as meat putrefies in four to five hours. Like herbivores, humans have extremely long, convoluted intestines to fully absorb nutrients from plant matter and grain. Carnivores also have twenty times more stomach acid than humans. That helps considerably in the digestion of meat.
Carnivores also live short lives. Compare a cat’s life (carnivore) to that of the elephant (vegetarian). The elephant can live for 100 years.
Response: Humans aren’t carnivores; they are omnivores. Just the other day I was at a friend’s farm, observing his omnivore chickens. They have neither claws nor fangs, but boy can they eat some worms and bugs — both of which are meat. You might argue, “Yes, but those are bugs; you aren’t talking about people eating bugs, but beef and meat from big animals”. That’s true, but humans don’t need claws and fangs. They use their brains to capture and prepare meats, and they use instruments to eat it.
Regarding the digestive system, the meat in the digestive system isn’t putrifying, but digesting. Digestive juices make that happen. Dead animal meat cut open in the sunshine and exposed to oxygen might putrefy quickly, but in the human gut it is being exposed to digestive enzymes, like protease and lipase. These digest proteins and fats, including those in meats.
Regarding the length of intestines, if you compare all of the carnivores against each other, and compare all of the omnivores against each other, and compare all of the herbivores against each other, you will find variations in intestinal length. There are odd balls in every group.
Humans certainly were given a unique position on this earth. As it is written: “Fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and to everything living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28b), and “They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen 9:2b-4).
Nor have humans typically lived as omnivores. States the American Dietetic Association, “Most of mankind, for most of human history, has lived on a vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.”
Response: As I write this, March 14, 2012, The American Dietetic Association has a picture of a guy on the front page of the website with a big smile. He is eating a meat sandwich. A quick look into the “Eat Right Nutrition Tips” will reveal the ADA promotes meat for a healthy diet.
This suggests changing over to a vegetarian diet has many advantages. Here’s a list.
Response: And, of course, the responses may suggest otherwise.
1. Get more bang for your buck. Typically, vegetarians replace meat with more nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and so on. In so doing, you get more of the nutrients your body needs, translating into better health, less illness, and more energy.
Response: I eat meats that ate those things already. It’s like “One Stop Shopping”. You see, you have heard it said, “You are what you eat,” but when it comes to meats, you are what “THEY” ate.
2. Reduce acidity. Highly acidic, meat offsets our pH and sets up an inner terrain for disease. And, in fact, meat eaters have a much higher rate of cancer and cardiovascular disease than vegetarians. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 found that regular meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer by as much as 300%.
Response: Vegetables are alkaline and meat is acidic. When you balance them with a well balanced omnivores diet, you get neutral. The problem is that not everyone understands chemistry and biochemistry. Many will believe the lie – that alkaline is cancer free and therefore acidity must cause disease. Have you ever heard that “Cancer can’t survive in an alkaline environment”? The premise is wrong. Alkalinity does not prevent cancer. After all, the blood remains alkaline regardless of what you eat – yet humans have acquired cancers of the blood. That flies in the face of the anti-cancer alkaline reasoning.
Foods that attempt to raise the pH are good not because they are alkalizing, but because they are filled with phytonutrients and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and more. These same nutrients can be obtained by eating animal products if the animals were fed their proper diets. But research such as that referenced in the New England Journal of Medicine was based on a survey of what people ate… without regard to conventional foods vs. organic or even “Beyond Organic”. It is interesting that it wasn’t mentioned that the same study showed “fish and chicken without skin were related to decreased risk”(1). Yes, the increased risk was pertaining to beef, pork, lamb, processed meats, and liver without distinction as to where it came from.
I am not a proponent of conventional meats. However, I am confident that meats raised and fed the way God intended are beneficial to health and may very well trump a vegetarian’s diet. But such research has never been done.
3. Reduce fat. Meat contains a ton of fat, especially saturated fat. Cut out meat and you cut out much bad fat. This greatly reduces your risk of heart disease.
Response: Conventional meats are bad and contain lots of fat. Grass fed beef is high in protein, but not fat. Corn finished beef is high in fat… but cows aren’t supposed to eat corn. But humans taught them to eat corn. I don’t recommend you eat cows and other animals that ate corn, especially GMO corn.
Regarding saturated fats, It is correct that meats contain saturated fat. But saturated fat is not necessarily a bad thing. Trans fats are bad. Hydrogenated fats are bad. But saturated fats are stable and can be very healthy; unless they are saturated with toxins of course!
I don’t recommend you eat beef that has eaten or received medications or foods containing herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, vaccines, antibiotics, corn, or anything other than what God intended for them. If they were given toxins, the toxins will store in their fat and the consumer will then consume them. But if they are clean animals, their fat will be healthy and a source of vitamins that vegans may be lacking in. Research that shows saturated fats are bad used unhealthy saturated fats in the research. I have never seen research that used saturated fats from non-vaccinated organic greenfed animals.
4. Enhance health. Numerous studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, as well as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Dr.’s Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn have used a vegan diet to prevent and reverse heart disease with a 100% success rate, including the former President Bill Clinton. Vegetarians have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Also, not eating animal products means that you are not consuming any LDL or “bad” cholesterol, will greatly reduce your consumption of trans and saturated fats, and will increase your intake of fiber, antioxidants, and other micronutrients.
Response: We must separate healthy from conventional commercial meats and considering real science. Remember, vegans have usually made a series of choices including saying no to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and the likes of. We need to compare similar lifestyles (non-smokers, non-drinkers) of vegetarians and clean meat eaters to really get an understanding of which is better. That is, eliminate more variables so you can actually tell what is causing the differences.
5. Digest your food more quickly. Meat takes long to digest – up to four days –and it often putrifies in your system before you expel the waste. This encourages bad bacteria to grow and this leads to disease.
Response: Corn doesn’t always digest. Have you ever seen it on the way out? It can look like corn on the cob when it comes out.
Digestion starts in the mouth with digestive juices and chewing. Properly chewed food will digest like it is supposed to whether from vegetables or meats. Including plenty of fiber and water in the diet will improve transportation time and is part of a healthy diet.
6. Maintain stronger bones. Studies show that by age 65, the average meat-eater has twice the bone loss of vegetarians. The culprit is likely excess protein consumption that interferes wtih poor retention and absorption of calcium.
Response: Or it could be from an inflammatory omega 6 from meats that were fed the wrong diet consisting mostly of corn, or worse yet, GMO corn. Or maybe that vegans get more phytonutrients which are known to prevent osteoporosis.
Meat eaters should remember to eat lots of vegetables too. Of course, when they eat animal meat that ate vegetables, they certainly get more phytonutrients… or, more appropriately, zoo-nutrients. But, unfortunately, most people don’t know about the vast differences between conventional meats and real meats.
7. Get less food poisoning. Meat is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, especially if not stored, prepared or cooked correctly, and millions of people each year get food poisoning as a result. Not eating meat lowers your risk of food poisoning.
Response: Eating conventional bad meat increases the chances of food poisoning. But only eating vegetables increases the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies like D and B-12… unless you are getting lots of sunshine and eating those un-natural man-made synthetic vitamins, of course.
8. Maintain appropriate weight. Numerous studies show that vegetarians are slimmer and are less likely to be obese than meat eaters.
Response: vegetarians are also weaker and less likely to win a strength competition. Certainly physical strength is an indication of getting good nutrition, among other things, and weakness a sign of some lack. Why is it that vegetarians have less strength?
But in fairness, it might be that meat eaters exercise more. Or, it might be the CLA from beef.
9. Greater longevity. Vegetarians live an average of seven years longer than meat-eaters do, while vegans tend to live about fifteen years longer.
Response: I couldn’t find any research to justify these claims. Though, I would like to see any and see if it passes the scientific criteria. I would like to see how long vegans, vegetarians, and healthy meat eaters really live according to research.
10. Reduce toxic exposure to chemicals. Unless organic, meat is usually treated with chemicals and preservatives to increase shelf life so meat stays fresher, and to make the meat look more appealing. These chemicals can be toxic and the EPA estimates that about 95 percent of pesticides in a meat-eaters diet come from eating meat, fish and dairy. Fish is more problematic as it contains carcinogens and metals such as mercury and arsenic that cannot be eliminated by cooking them. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the breast milk of vegetarian women contained only one to two percent of the pesticide contamination than that of the average breast-feeding woman who eats meat.
Response: I completely agree. It is the kind of meat people eat. But you should take it a step further. Don’t settle for organic meat. Try “Beyond Organic” meats.
And don’t forget to keep the same standards for fruits and vegetables. These days they are making vegetation resistant to roundup. They are also making vegetation that makes its own pesticides. Our food can certainly be a dangerous source of toxins, whether herbs, fruits, vegetables, meats, and poultry.
11. Reduce animal suffering. Animals raised for food are crammed into filthy spaces and endure horrific treatment. Many remain conscious while being slaughtered. Eliminate meat and you eliminate much of their suffering.
Response: I agree. This is a horrible tragedy and the farmers should not treat animals this way. I will only eat Beyond Organic meat from farmers who treat their animal kindly and then give them a quick kosher death – which will end their lives much better than if they are allowed to die slowly of natural causes. I will then prepare my beef and eat with thanksgiving. Yes, those animals give their lives up for our nourishment and I am thankful.
12. Help the environment. The meat industry harms the environment in many ways, including wasting resources as animals raised for food eat enough grain to feed the world, wasting fuel, and creating pollution from their waste matter, and much more.
Response: The farming industry harms the environment in many ways. They spray crops with herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. They genetically modify crops to make pesticides that make the communities around them sick. Their GMO organisms are contaminating healthy organic farms eliminating the good crops.
But good farming, whether crops or animals, will actually give back to the earth, strengthening and enriching the soil contributing to the ecology.
13. Save Money A vegetarian diet is less expensive than a meat eating diet.
Response: I don’t want to save… I want to live. But, yes, good meat is expensive. Good vegetables are also quite expensive, especially if you are counting by the calorie. I don’t know if I could afford a 3,000 calorie per day diet of organic fruits and vegetables.
“Relation of Meat, Fat, and Fiber Intake to the Risk of Colon Cancer in a Prospective Study among Women” Walter C. Willett, M.D., Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Graham A. Colditz, M.D., Bernard A. Rosner, Ph.D., and Frank E. Speizer, M.D
N Engl J Med 1990; 323:1664-1672December 13, 1990, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199012133232404