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Health!--becoming a vegetarian (part 1)

Posted by porceleindoll on March 20, 2003 at 07:30:01

This is an article I read a couple months ago which convinced me to make the final step to cutting meat out of my diet. Perhaps some of you will find it interesting?

We must build health to have health. You cannot mistreat your body for 20, 50, or 70 years and then expect a doctor to give you a wonder drug to cure your ills. You cannot expect that any more than you could drive your car recklessly, miss stop lights and break speed limits for years and expect the judge to let you off with a clean license. There is only one basic cause of disease, and that is unhealthful living. Unhealthful living leads to un-health; this is simple enough to be easily overlooked. Healthful living leads to health; this is nature's law for all living beings. If this seems self evident to you, that's good. You then realize that we can't fool Mother Nature, at least not forever, and therefore you wish to help nature to help you.
How, then can we help nature and help ourselves? It's easier than one might think.

Step One: Stop Eating Meats

"I thought you said it was easy!" you might be thinking. "I like steaks-chops-hamburgers, etc." Maybe you do. But perhaps you are just accustomed to the seasonings, condiments and habitual eating of the muscles of dead animals (and that's what meat is). After all, you were probably raised on meats. Most of us are, and just check the baby food shelves at the supermarket and see the jars of processed meat that children are given before they have a chance to say "no." It's because we think, or believe, that meat is somehow a good thing to eat. Most naturopaths (nature-cure practitioners) do not think that it is.

Naturopathy holds that meat eating is harmful to your health. There are several reasons for this (Parham, 1979). One is that humans are not meat eaters by nature. A meat eating (carnivorous) animal has sharp ripping-and-tearing teeth, like a cat's. Ever put your finger in a cat's mouth? Twice? A meat eating animal does not have to cook, tenderize, and employ a steak knife to eat its meat. A meat eating animal invariably eats its food raw, and eats the internal organs of its prey, especially the brains, liver and intestines. The first thing a lion does with its kill is open the belly and start eating there. Steaks, roasts and chops are only the muscles of a dead animal, and that's all that most people care for.

A meat eating animal has a short digestive tract, about twice the length of its body. A vegetarian animal has a digestive tract about four times the length of its body. A longer digestive tract gives the vegetarian animal's system a chance to more fully utilize plant material, with the help of beneficial bacteria that help break it down.

Where do humans fit in here?

First of all, our total intestinal length is about 20-25 feet, roughly four times our body length. (If you have been taught that the intestine is shorter than that, it may be because the measurement was made in a cadaver. The intestines shrink after death.) That's good for plant-fruit-vegetable digestion but not good for meat digestion. Meat will putrefy more easily in such a long digestive tract. Meat decaying in our intestine including the colon, or large intestine, is cause for constipation, diverticulitis, and cancer. (Airola, 1980, p 55)

Secondly, we have to cook, tenderize, and cut up meat because we have a vegetarian's dental structure. Human teeth are mostly blunt grinding teeth for getting the most out of grains, vegetables and fruits. Even our sharpest cutting teeth (incisors) in front are blunt compared to, say, a dog's or cat's. Compare for yourself, carefully.

Thirdly, we do not eat the whole animal. Farley Mowat, naturalist and author of Never Cry Wolf, observed wolves in northern Canada for months and discovered that through much of the year they feed on mice. It seemed so hard to believe that a large wolf could subsist on such small prey that Mowat also started to live on mousemeat. His recipe for Souris a la Creme (Creamed Mouse) makes truly inspiring reading, as does the rest of his excellent text (Mowat, 1970).

The diet of mouse meat seemed all right for him at first, but Mowat developed a tremendous craving for fat, among other things. He then realized that he was not doing exactly as the wolves did: the wolves ate the whole mouse. Mowat began to do the same, eating the entire mouse, except for the fur and tail, and subsisted happily thereafter. Now a whole mouse means bones, brains, abdominal organs, skin and all that they contain: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, lecithin, fat, iron, trace minerals and the mouse's last meal of partially digested vegetation. That is a complete meat eater's meal. This is a far cry from a processed, cut-up, cooked, chemically treated, flavored, tenderized,
steak-sauced, parsley garnished slab of dead muscle that we call "steak."

It we ate the whole cow, the entire pig, the complete chicken, we would be getting what natural meat eaters get in their diet. Also, we wouldn't be wasting two-thirds of the slaughtered animal that we waste now in butchering it. But the very thought of eating all an animal's innards repulses us, and indicates a hidden revulsion to killing and gore... and eating meat.

Naturopaths recommend greatly reducing or eliminating meat from your diet. American meat continues to contain chemical, hormone and antibiotic residues. When I worked on a dairy farm, I saw healthy, good milking cows that got infection symptoms and were loaded up with penicillin and other antibiotics. These cows were always taken out of the milking line to avoid contamination of the milk. However, if the cow's health continued to fail, under the continued administration of literally millions of units of antibiotics, then the cow was sold at auction. The next stop would be the meat factory. At least five days were supposed to be allowed from the time of the last drug dose to the time of the slaughter, and think this may well have been adhered to.

But is five days, or even five weeks enough time to get the residual antibiotics out of the animal's system? No. Most of the drug would be excreted. but not all. Most of the antibiotics would be gone in the first few days: half the first day, half of the balance the second day, half of that remaining amount the third day, half of that the fourth day, and so on. After five days, only 3 to 5% of the antibiotic should remain in the cow's system. Only? I personally administered individual doses of one million units of antibiotic very sick cows. Three percent of one million is 30,000. Thirty thousand units or so of residual penicillin? You can't tell me that some of that wouldn't be in the meat. Think of that next time you want to stop for a hamburger.

If antibiotics aren't enough, there are also chemicals added to our meat supply. Cold cuts, canned meats and most hot dogs contain fillers, fat, water, and nitrites. Sodium nitrite is a more potent preservative than sodium nitrate, which used to be known as saltpeter. Saltpeter was given to soldiers to restrain their amorous proclivities while on liberty; in other words, it is a sterilizing agent. It's difficult not to chuckle when someone says in a deep booming voice: "I'm a meat and potatoes man!" If we think that meat-eating makes us virile, we've fallen for the same falsehood that leads some to think that smoking is glamorous or that drinking is cool. How can embalmed animal tissue, loaded with chemical odds and ends, possibly contribute to the quality of life?

"Oh come on now - there's not that many chemicals in meats." You might be surprised about that. Fresh meat will last in a refrigerator about six days. This assumes no additives and a temperature of about 40 degrees F. Keeping this in mind, check the freshness" or expiration date on a package of bologna, salami or other refrigerated cold cuts. The shelf life of cold cuts is usually many weeks, and may run into months. Same with bacon. The temperature that cold cuts are kept at is 40 degrees in theory, but as my local inside-source butcher points out, 40 degrees is usually an internal coil temperature in an otherwise open-top meat cooler, and not the actual food storage temperature. The actual surface temperature is closer to 50 degrees F. For a meat product to last weeks and weeks at such a warmth the meat literally has to be embalmed. Think about that next time you see the TV commercial showing the cute little children singing about their bologna sandwiches.

Some people still are under the misconception that there is some question as to whether nitrates, nitrites and other preservatives are harmful to health or not. Let's clear this question up here. Harvey W. Wiley, M.D., first chief of the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry, directed extensive, detailed research on food additives to see if they were harmful to health. In his now rare and long out of print book, A History of a Crime Against the Food Law (1929) he describes the need for, and the findings of, this research.

In the foregoing pages attention was called to experiments made on healthy young men to determine the influence of preservatives and coloring matters on health and digestion. The general method of conducting these investigations was discussed. Altogether nearly five years were devoted to these experimental determinations, beginning in l902 and lasting until 1907. The total number of substances studied was seven, namely, boric acid and borax, salicylic acid and salicylates, benzoic acid and benzoates, sulfur dioxide and sulfites, formaldehyde, sulfate of copper, and saltpeter (sodium nitrate). Reports of these investigations were published, with the exception of sulfate of copper and saltpeter, which were denied publication. (p 57)

Denied publication? Why? Because the findings were that these additives were definitely harmful to health. Said Dr. Wiley:

Vigorous protests from those engaged in adulterating and misbranding foods were made to the Secretary of Agriculture against any further publicity in this direction. As a result of these protests he (the Secretary of Agriculture) refused publication of Parts VI and VII of Bulletin 84. Part VI contained a study of the effects on health and digestion of sulfate of copper added to our foods. The conclusions drawn by the Bureau were adverse to its use. The seventh part treated the use of saltpeter, particularly in meats. Owing to the well-known results of the depressing effects of saltpeter on the gonads, and for other reasons, the Bureau refused to approve the use of this coloring agent in cured meats. (p 62-63, emphasis added)

The Bureau of Chemistry was the forerunner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Something must have changed between then and now, because the FDA allows nitrates and nitrites in our food and particularly in meats. What changed: the research, or the organization interpreting the research? Dr. Wiley's interpretation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was this:

Following the rule adopted by the Bureau, every doubtful problem was resolved in favor of the American consumer. This appears the only safe ethical ground to occupy. Decisions against the manufacturers who used these bodies (sic) could be reviewed in the courts when the food law became established, whereas if these doubtful problems had been resolved in favor of the manufacturers the consumer would have had no redress. (p 61)

In other words, Dr. Wiley's policy was that if there was any doubt that a food additive was harmful in any way, it could not be put in food at all.

Today's FDA takes the view that unless an additive is definitely known to be a serious health hazard, it may be used until it is one. FDA even has a list known as GRAS: Generally Recognized As Safe. FDA allows, legally, the addition of hundreds of chemicals to our food that may be eventually (if they're not already) found to be poisonous (Natenberg, 1957). Since the whole purpose of adding a preservative to a food is to make it unfit for insects or mold to eat, some people think that all preservatives should be banned.

Perhaps the government will decide that this chemical, or that additive, or this coloring agent is bad for us to eat. But why should we wait for somebody to tell us? By the time the long, long list of FDA-allowed chemical food additives is erased, how many millions of mouthfuls of them will have been eaten? Consider this: Dr. Wiley's research showed that saccharin was harmful to health in 1907. As of yet (1999) the federal government has still not banned it from foods.

There is, of course, a simple solution to the preservative, additive, color and chemical problem: Don't buy, and don't eat, any food that contains any preservative, additive, color or chemical. That will help tremendously to reduce the ten pounds of chemicals that the average, FDA-reassured American eats each year. In case you don't think that there will be any foods left after you reject the adulterated ones, let me suggest a trip to the health food store, a public market, food co-op, or organic garden supply store. You can even get a lot of good, everyday, additive-free foods at the supermarket. Just read the label, and if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it, and don't buy it. This "voting with your dollars" will do more to get additive-free foods on the shelves than just about anything you can do.

We have automatically run into the second of the "Three Quick Steps to Health" because (as Monty Python might say) "it's":

Step Two : Eat Whole, Natural Foods

Meat is not our natural food, nor do we find much natural meat on the market. People continue to ask, though, "if we don't eat meat, then what will we eat?" The answer is, everything else, basically. Vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, salads, cheese, ice cream if you must, yogurt, some eggs and milk, berries, juices, breads, mushrooms, casseroles, quiches, soups, snacks and homemade desserts; and the list is as long as Mother Earth's supply of clean, whole, growing foods.

"What about getting complete protein, like in meat?" one may ask. Here's the answer, and it's important and easy to remember: corn, beans and squash together form complete protein. The amino acids provided by these three foods are fully equivalent to those from meat. Corn, beans, and squash are the "three sisters" of the Iroquois Indians.
You should have a serving or more of each of these each day, preferably at the same meal. Now this can include any form of corn, beans and squash. For example, corn bread, corn muffins, corn chips, corn-on-the-cob, corn relish, corn fritters, corn tortilla shells, corn in soups or vegetable stews (even corn flakes if you're desperate): these are all corn. Beans may be baked, re-fried, in three-bean salad, green beans, yellow beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), and also peas, pea soup, lentils and all other legumes. Squash may be baked, fried, steamed, in squash pie (yum!), pumpkin pie, pumpkin custard (my Mom's specialty), pumpkin bread, zucchini, zucchini bread or cake. Summer squash can be sliced into soups and casseroles. Eat winter squash like you would mashed potatoes. Corn, beans, and squash together in one dish makes succotash, one of the most nutritious, filling, and low calorie dishes there is.

For one of the most interesting aspects of the "three sisters" is that they really stick to your ribs. "Vegetables just don't fill me" is a common complaint of prospective vegetarians. In most cases, the person saying this has not eaten a balanced (corn-beans-squash) meal. Perhaps you've been brought up on mostly meat-and-potato meals, and other foods are not a big part of your menu. There's no problem there, for your appetite just bored. Your tastes will expand as you depend less on meat to fill you. As Dick Gregory says, "Are you going to have some food or just somethin' to eat?" (Dick Gregory's Natural Diet For Folks Who Eat: Cookin' with Mother Nature (1973) explains this very well.

"Vegetarian dishes are tasteless and bland" is another groundless but often heard comment. Ah, that's only if you choose to eat bland and tasteless dishes! It all depends on how the foods are prepared. (Remember, an inept cook can just as easily ruin a good steak or wreck a lobster.) Good, whole, fresh foods prepared with simple care are appetizing and attractive. The more you eat them, the more your real, dormant appetite will be aroused again for the foods that you need the most and enjoy the best. Condiments, artificial flavors, salt, sugar, and spices are a big part of the flavor that people are used to, and often it is the flavor we seek when we elect to eat meat. Think of all the mustard, ketchup, pickles, salad dressing, salt, seasoning, onion, white bread, grease, and lettuce that surround a "Whopper" or "Big Mac" hamburger.

If you make vegetarian pea soup and add some ground cloves and a little vegetable oil to it, you will taste the "ham" that isn't there. Add some chopped pineapple to baked beans, and again you might look for pork that isn't there. For ideas, recipes, and all-important confidence in cooking there are fortunately many excellent vegetarian cookbooks. Many are in paperback, and some favorites include Laurel's Kitchen (Robertson et al, 1976), Deaf Smith Country Cookbook (Ford, et al, 1973), and The Natural Foods Cookbook (Hunter, 1961).

It is easy to cook without meat. You just don't buy it. Don't let an obsolete meat habit keep you from something you really like to eat that your body likes, too. People like whole, natural foods. I often have people tell me that they feel they could practically live on fruit, or feel they could be happy eating just salads. Those foods they love... but they rarely eat them! Why? If you would d feel better after having a salad bar for lunch, rather than a burger and fries, why not have the salad? Are you a person who rushes into the fast food restaurant feeling good and hungry ...and strolls out feeling a little worse and stuffy? Well, a lot of folks feel the same way, every day. What I can't see is why they persist in eating things that don't make them feel good. Maybe it's all the advertising; maybe it's time and convenience; maybe it's because they never tried anything different.

Whole, good foods are rarely advertised. There's no need to advertise really valuable products, for they sell themselves. Lettuce, whole wheat bread, peaches, sprouts: when's the last time you saw ads for these? "Jello," candy, cake mixes, "Cool Whip", coffee, soft drinks: these are very heavily promoted nation-wide, all the time. My mother told my brothers and me from an early age that if we saw it on TV, we probably didn't need it. She would look through a catalog or circular and say, "Look at all the things we can do without." We can apply that to our diet in this way: advertising of a given food product will be inversely proportionate to its nutritional value. Or, the more it's pushed, the less your body needs it.