I became a vegetarian 4 years ago while I was in law school after reading Skinny Bitch. Through making that decision, I have learned a lot about vegetarianism's connections to health, nutrition, ecology, resource usage, hunger, and the treatment of animals. I did take a year and a half hiatus (where I still really didn't eat much meat at all but it was more a matter on convenience when I started cooking for Chris and for friends) and now I am back on the bandwagon and here to stay :)
First and foremost - there are many scientific, ethical, and environmental reasons to back up my decision to not eat meat, and why I strive to eat locally grown and organic, but the number one reason I choose this lifestyle is because I FEEL better. I feel healthier. I have the energy to keep up after a 10 month old (sometimes two), work, and function when I'm sleep deprived. I feel mentally sharp, leaner, toner, and HAPPIER. I truly believe in the old adage that "you are what you eat" and that what you put into your body 100% affects your outward appearance, mental state, emotional state, and energy levels.
All that being said -- here are the facts:
- There are over 20,000 different drugs, including steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones and other veterinary drugs that are given to livestock animals. These drugs are consumed when animal foods are consumed.
- There are a host of bacteria and viruses, some quite dangerous, that are common to animals. When you eat meat, you eat the organisms in the meat. (Micro-organisms are present in plant foods too, but their number and danger to human health is by no means comparable to that of those in meat).
- Cancer prevention. Of all the natural cancer prevention substances found: vitamin C, B-17, hydroquionenes, beta carotene, NDGA, - none has been found to be animal derived. Yet most meats, when cooked, produce an array of benzenes and other carcinogenic compounds. Cancer is infinitely easier to prevent than cure. Soybeans contain protease inhibitor, a powerful anticancer compound. You won't find it in useful quantities in animal based food.
- Disease Inducing. The correlation between meat consumption and a wide range of degenerative diseases is well founded and includes: Osteoporosis, Kidney Stones and Gallstones, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Gum disease, Acne, Obesity, Intestinal Toxemia - The condition of the intestinal flora is critical to overall health. Animal products putrefy the colon, Transit time - Wholesome food travels quickly through the "G.I" tract, leaving little time to spoil and incite disease within the body. Fiber deficiency - Fiber absorbs unwanted, excess fats; cleans the intestines; provides bulk and aids in peristalsis. Plant food is high in fiber content; meat, poultry and dairy products have none. Body wastes - Food from animals contain their waste, including adrenaline, uric and lactic acid, etc., Excess protein - The average American eats 400% of the RDA for protein. This causes excess nitrogen in the blood that creates a host of longterm health problems. Meat eating also increases the risk of heart disease, the nation's #1 killer.
- America’s farmed animals produce 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, or 5 tons for every U.S. citizen. And the pollution strength of it all can reach levels 160 times greater than that of raw municipal sewage. This vast accumulation is not neatly contained; manure is the most common pollutant today in America’s waters. Land sprayed with pig excrement is particularly toxic, since pigs contract and transmit many human diseases—namely, meningitis, salmonella, chlamydia, giardia, cryptosporidiosis, worms, and influenza. Manure is laden with phosphorous, nitrates, and heavy metals and emits ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and cyanide.
- Approximately 800 million people today live with chronic hunger, and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes every day. Yet the world cycles nearly 43 percent of all the grain that is harvested through animals to produce meat. No matter the species, feed-to-flesh ratios are inefficient—7, 3.5, 2, and 3 pounds to 1 for beef, pork, chicken, and farmed fish, respectively. Biofuel production with-in one recent year gobbled up 110 million additional tons of grain, raising food prices and putting pressure on the world’s fragile food security. Compare this to the 840 million tons within the same year that was fed livestock instead to world hunger.
- The senseless waste of the world’s growing meat-centered diet is illustrated by a statement put forth by the Population Reference Bureau: “If everyone adopted a vegetarian diet and no food were wasted, current [food] production would theoretically feed 10 billion people [47.5 percent more people than alive today], more than the projected population for the year 2050.”
- A male calf born to a dairy cow—what’s a farmer to do with this by-product of the milk industry? If he is not kept for breeding stock or immediately slaughtered or factory-produced for meat, the calf will be raised for fancy veal. To this end, he will be locked up in a stall and chained by his neck to prevent him from turning around for 16 weeks until slaughter. He’ll be fed a special diet without iron or roughage. He’ll be injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep him alive and to make him grow. And he’ll be kept in darkness except for feeding time. The result: a nearly full-grown animal with flesh as tender and white as a newborn’s.
- I won't even get into all the horrific procedures and practices of the mainstream livestock farms but please visit factoryfarming.com and spend a few minutes reading through the eye-opening and truly inhumane treatment of these animals as well as firsthand testimonials of what goes on in these slaughter houses.
- To choose industrial meat is to support a system that long ago put family farmers out of business. Essentially, it is only the big players—those who bought into factory systems—who are feeding America. Yes, we do have lower prices at the retail level. But ultimately, what is the real cost of cheap meat? You need to factor in the $20 billion per year in government subsidies to commodity farmers, higher medical costs attributable to excessive diets, antibiotic resistance in emerging bacterial strains, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the inordinate amount of oil needed for petrochemical fertilizers, dwindling aquifers, zoonotic diseases, and the list goes on.
- Why choose organic? Some of the 'healthiest foods', i.e., the foods highest in essential nutrients and are familiar, affordable and great tasting, are the same foods that are artificially, chemically, synthetically and genetically produced. As a result of this, the human body is not only being robbed of the nutrients it needs to sustain itself, but it is also being exposed to dangerous chemicals that can cause serious harm. Organic foods must, by law (WSDA) (USDA), be produced without use of pesticides and other synthetic chemicals such as those which are easily detected on conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains.
- Whole grains (versus processed white bread) offer vitamins and minerals, plus high levels of antioxidants and other healthy plant-based nutrients. Whole grains contain protective antioxidants in amounts near or exceeding those in fruits and vegetables. They also provide some unique antioxidants not found in other foods. White bread is made from refined white flour containing several unwholesome constituents and very little in the way of nutrients and dietary fiber, essential for a healthy digestive system and a stable metabolism. Why? Refined white flour is produced from the whole wheat grain which is then subjected to the refining process which removes all traces of the husk, or bran and along with it all the goodness contained in the grain. It is then bleached using chemical bleaching agents which contain chlorine and dried in kilns at high temperature to kill any remaining beneficial constituents. Then they even add gluten, sugar, and salt.
- Studies have shown that eating more whole grains may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. New studies published in 2005 and 2006 show that whole grains may lower triglycerides, improve insulin control, help in weight management, and slow the build-up of arterial plaque.
- By buying organic/locally produced foods, you are keeping local farms viable; you are not contributing to the environmental and social costs of the worldwide transport of foods or supporting a system based on the exploitation of third world labor.
- Organic Foods Taste Better. Taste is hard to quantify, but science does tell us that organic foods do have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and beneficial nutrients than conventional foods. It only makes sense that food grown in soil that has been nourished and cared for is more nutritious and will end up tasting better.
It does not cost more to buy fresh produce, but going organic can be more expensive and budget constraining. The way I look at is is, would I rather pay a dollar more here and there and feel better, know what's (and what's not) going into my body, and enjoy tastier food, or save a little bit of money for food grown with pesticides and hormones and steroids and spending potentially hundreds of thousands on medical bills? View it as a wise investment in your lifestyle and overall wellbeing and happiness. Moms -- start now so you can introduce these habits and practices to your kids!!!
Can't afford to buy all organic? It's okay - I can't either. But I found a list of the top foods you SHOULD purchase organic here (also tells you the fruits and veggies with lowest pesticide levels that you can feel safe purchasing conventionally grown).
To find a farmer's market near you visit this site.
To find a farmer's market near you visit this site.