Vegetarian diet on solid ground

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12/07/2001 - Updated 02:16 PM ET Vegetarian diet on solid ground, experts say

By Sunny Aslam, USATODAY.com

Lots of people these days are dabbling with a vegetarian diet. Whatever the reason cholesterol consciousness, a yearning to be fashionably thin, or a newfound concern for cows and other living creatures more Americans are taking the plunge and making the switch to a flesh-free existence.

But how safe is this experiment? Without meat in their diet, do vegetarians miss out on important nutrients?

Probably not, diet experts say. As long as vegetarians take care to eat a variety of foods, they can be just as healthy and usually more healthy than meat eaters.

"The federal government and the American Dietetic Association have reported that vegetarian diets are nutritionally sound," says Neal Barnard, president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization that focuses on preventive medicine.

Studies have found that vegetarians actually get far better nutrition than non-vegetarians, Barnard says. And vegetarians get larger amounts of fiber, iron, many vitamins and other cancer-fighting compounds than meat eaters.

"Almost all of our essential nutrients come from plants," says John McDougall, a physician and founder of the McDougall Plan for Healthy Living. "Plants make 11 of 13 known vitamins. B-12 made by bacteria is the only vitamin inadequately supplied by a plant-based diet."

McDougall, who is on the PCRM advisory board, is the founder of a 12-day, live-in plan at St. Helena Hospital that uses a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. McDougall says his plant-based diet promotes weight loss, but more importantly, it can reverse some serious illnesses such as heart disease without drugs.

McDougall points to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that looked at Seventh-Day Adventists in California, a group made up mostly of vegetarians. The 12-year of study of 34,192 people found that on average, group members lived 10 years longer than the general population.

Barnard adds that Americans suffer from having too much to eat, not too little. The typical American eats too much fat, cholesterol and animal protein, which contributes to high rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease.

"Vegetarians have a 40% less risk of cancer and much less risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and other problems that are common among meat eaters," Barnard says. "Vegetarians also live several years longer and enjoy better health."

Meanwhile, Barnard says, "Americans are surprisingly undernourished when it comes to the protective nutrients that are in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans."

So swapping meat for vegetables is OK. But what about dairy products and eggs?

"Dairy is 'liquid meat,'" McDougall says. "Compare the macronutrients of cheese and beef they are the same. Both contain similar amounts of cholesterol, fat and animal protein, and both are deficient in fiber, vitamin C and carbohydrates."

McDougall also asserts that milk and egg proteins are the most common causes of food allergies.

So what does the would-be vegetarian need to know to get started on a new eating regimen?

First of all, the person should be educated about basic nutritional requirements, says Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"They need to be sure that they are getting adequate amounts of calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin D and are taking a supplement if needed," Klein says. "Fortified cereals, breads and orange juice could all be sources of these minerals and vitamins."

Klein, an expert on obesity, says less than 30% of calories in a person's diet should come from fat and less than 10% should be from saturated fat.

Barnard adds that vegetarians should take a B-12 vitamin supplement.

In short, new vegetarians can rest easy that their change in dietary direction is a safe one, experts say.

"Anyone planning to remain on a meaty diet should certainly see their doctor and perhaps a dietitian to try to plan for better nutrition," Barnard says.

-- (cin@cin.cin), December 07, 2001

Answers

My anti-kidney stone diet tells me to limit animal protein. Hmmm...is life REALLY worth living without pepperoni pizza?

-- Uncle Deedah (unkeeD@yahoo.com), December 07, 2001.

Pepperoni I can live without. It's the cheese I find hard to pass on. SIGH

-- (cin@cin.cin), December 07, 2001.

Food puritanism doesn't appeal to me. But I do love vegetables and whole grains, so I tend to get off easy in the realm of diet. I can eat a lot of things I love, every day, and not overdo the animal fats. But (although I was a vegatarian for a little over a year as a young man) I would never consider eliminating meat, eggs, milk and cheese from my diet. They are just too good!

As far as I can see, the benefits of total abstinance are not that impressive when compared to just a reduction of the same foods to a reasonable level. So, cin, eat cheese and rejoice! It is "milk's bid for immortality", to quote a well-turned phrase. Don't torture yourself.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), December 07, 2001.


cin,

So be an ovo-lacto (or whatever it's called) vegetarian: you can eat eggs, cheese and milk, but primarily eat vegetables. Or, just be a lacto-vegan; you can do the cheese and milk, but not the eggs.

I'm in luck because I love vegetables. I still haven't gotten over Z's thread on baked beans; it made my mouth water. :)

-- Stephen M. Poole (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), December 07, 2001.


Actually, Stephen, I haven't eaten meat in over 10 years. The only time I missed it was when I was pregnant with my six year old. I craved it badly, and succombed to a brief stint with poultry. I do eat eggs and dairy, but try to buy hormone free, range free, organic stuff. All the hormones that they give to those poor dairy cows ends up in the fat and milk, and can wreak havoc on the body. Not good, but very hard to avoid. But here in CA it is possible.

Anyway I suppose I'm lucky (or not) in that when I see a slab of prime rib, I can think of nothing but slaughtered tortured cow. It repulses me.

-- (cin@cin.cin), December 07, 2001.



"when I see a slab of prime rib, I can think of nothing but slaughtered tortured cow."

How can you eat eggs without thinking of the unborn chicken embryo?

-- meathead (eggs gross @ me. out), December 07, 2001.


Unfertilised eggs are not chicken embryos, but merely ...eggs.

-- (cin@cin.cin), December 07, 2001.

Cin,

The hormones bother me, too, as does the prophylactic use of antibiotics in almost all animal feed nowdays.

-- Stephen M. Poole (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), December 08, 2001.


I like eating lots of meat pumped full of growth hormone, it makes my balls huge and the wifey really enjoys that. : )

-- (Johnny @ "Big Wad". Johnson), December 08, 2001.

Um...Johnny...they're using estrogen on the animals...

-- helen (bigger@other.things), December 08, 2001.


Johnny's voice is getting a little higher. ; )

-- Pammy (pamela_sue57@hotmail.com), December 08, 2001.

Helen, they don't actually use estrogen [unless they have changed and gotten very wealthy]. They use a chemically altered form of a mycotoxin which has the functional groups which contribute to toxicity removed while keeping the ones that confer estrogenic activity. You can eat moldy corn from a crib and get the same thing.

Stuff will grow tits on a boar hog. ;o)

Best Wishes,,,,,

Z

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), December 08, 2001.


The frozen type non-organic chickens are pumped full of growth hormone to make them grow really fast for greater profits. My balls are now as big as grapefruits, and the schlongmeister has been getting bigger too. My wife is very pleased with the results, so she keeps feeding me chicken several times a week.

-- (Johnny @ "The Big Turkey Neck". Johnson), December 08, 2001.

Helen:

I forgot; in case you want to know, the mycotoxin is called Zearlenone. It is produced by certain Fusarium species.

Best Wishes,,,,,

Z

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), December 08, 2001.


The meat/no-meat controversy is interesting. I used to fill up on vegetables, fruits and pastas, trying to have a healthy little-to-no-meat diet. I really needed to increase my meat and fat intake and I feel much better and eating is more fun since I have, and cut out bready stuff while still eating as much or more vegetables, etc.

This article would have us eat "fortified cereals" - a deprived and denatured food, by definition. !

Then again, not one diet fits everyone.

I observe that we have hunter-gatherer genes, and our machine is designed to be out in the wilderness. While today, the top ten products by volume in grocery stores include cigarettes, soda pop, coffee, beer, and the only food items are Kraft processed cheese and Campbell's soup.

Somewhere between either extreme is the diet that's really you.

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 08, 2001.



Pammy is definitely a meat eater! ; )

(I tried to resist, JBT... really I did!)

-- Pammy (pamela_sue57@hotmail.com), December 08, 2001.


Wow, Z. That's where the corn fed women from Iowa get the ...

-- helen searches for moldy corn (got@some.here.somewhere), December 08, 2001.

But ... but ... it's not the MEAT AT ALL! It's ... .. .. . Mr. Coffee Nerves!



-- Stephen M. Poole (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), December 08, 2001.


LMAO...

Rollin' on the floor...

The Dog

-- The Dog (dogdesert@hotmail.com), December 08, 2001.


What about Eskimos living the native life style? For ten months of the year all they have to eat is animal products (fish and mammals and birds). The human species is omnivorous by nature.

-- (lars@indy.net), December 09, 2001.

Perhaps the question should be, "What are the comparative life expectancies for Seventh Day Adventsts and for geographically- appropriate Eskimos?" (I know nutritional research has been done on both groups.)

Of course, we would first have to remove Seventh Day Adventst Eskimos from our data sampling ...

-- Oxy (Oxsys@aol.com), December 09, 2001.


7th Day Advnturists do not smoke or drink so maybe that is the secret of their relative health. Native Eskimos don't smoke cigarettes but their igloos are full of passive smoke and they should be arrested for offending downwind neighbors. But they are not arrested because they gift their wives to the downwind neighbors. The wives like it!

-- (nemesis@awol.com), December 09, 2001.

Well, maybe the benefit of accessing downwind neighbors cancels out the destructivess of passive smoke.

At least for the wives.

-- Oxy (Oxsys@aol.com), December 09, 2001.


Nemesis is an ignoramus. The term "Eskimo" is inappropriate. We are Inuits, not Eskimos.

I love a woman that smell faintly of whale blubber.

-- (Mukluk@Pt.Barrow), December 09, 2001.


Of course. Inuit. I knew it. Heh.

-- Oxy (Oxsys@aol.com), December 09, 2001.

Well, Cin, I sat next to you in LV, and you, certainly, don't look emaciated. I tried the health food, vegetarian route ONCE. I FELT good, but I LOOKED like an Auschwitz survivor. I hadn't realized how skinny I was until a friend of ours asked if I was still on the "health food kick." I said, "Yes." He said, "Anita, you're REALLY thin." I then tried a whole bunch of things to gain weight. Two milk shakes with lunch...stuff like that. It didn't help. I finally learned that the only way I can maintain any meat on these bones is if I eat meat once in a while.

Metabolisms are all different. I mentioned that #2 and her beau visited recently and he was a vegetarian. He DID eat eggs. He even ate fish. I asked him how he maintained an appropriate protein level in his diet and he said he didn't keep track of his protein intake. I've known several Buddhists who didn't either. In fact, what I saw the Buddhists eat consisted mostly of junk food.

It's a good life [IF and ONLY IF] one is aware of the nutritional content of the food one digests. Protein can come from MANY other sources than animals, but one must be conscious of intake. Weight variations are another consideration.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 09, 2001.


Hey Mukluks,

Sumpin I allus wundurd.....where duz Inyoots go to crap? Ah knows y'aint gots no indoor plummin but don't tell me ya goes outside in a -40 deg blizzard tuh drop trou. Ya craps on da iglue floor, betcha!

-- (nemesis@awol.com), December 10, 2001.


nem,

dey digs a hole in da ice inside dem igloos, den dey can use it to catch fish and take a crap, dat way dey can stay inside all winter witout ever comin out. sometime dey can even use da crap to catch fish. when da fish come up to take a nip on da crap dat is floatin on top, dey can grab dat fish and smash it over da head.

-- (life@in.igloo), December 10, 2001.


"when da fish come up to take a nip on da crap dat is floatin on top, dey can grab dat fish and smash it over da head."

Is that where we get the name Crappie? ; )

-- Pammy (not@eating.anymore of THOSE fish!), December 10, 2001.


The typical American eats too much fat, cholesterol and animal protein, which contributes to high rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease. (Neal Barnard, PCRM)

Actually, traditional diets of native peoples the world over were, and still are, rich in saturated fats and animal foods, and heart disease and cancer are virtually absent in these groups (those few who still eat their traditional diet). Degenerative diseases are primarily diseases of modern civilization. Saturated fat and animal protein consumption, therefore, cannot logically cause these diseases and the reduced longevity associated with them. (Reduced longevity occurs for *other* reasons in those groups, when it does.)

With respect to heart disease:

Vegetarians do generally have a lower cholesterol level. They are also more likely than the average person to exercise, not smoke, and be focused on their health. It would not be conclusive just from this, that lower cholesterol is a measure of good health. Perhaps vegetarians can come up with other valid measures of their good health, but cholesterol should not be one of them. Some people without heart disease have low cholesterol, but so do many people WITH heart disease. The reverse is also true.

Various government agencies have given us the anti-fat, anti-cholesterol dietary guidelines, and those agencies are largely promoting the processed food industry. The "information" that finally reaches us through those biased sources, has been called into question by recent researchers and found to be distorted.

Take a look at the book The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD. A shorter version is online at http://www.ravnskov.nu/c holesterol.htm

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 11, 2001.


he was a vegetarian. He DID eat eggs. He even ate fish

LOL Anita. A friend of mine stopped telling people she was "vegetarian," because of questions like this that people always asked her. "Do you eat eggs?" "Do you drink milk?" "Do you eat cheese? "Oh, and what about fish?" "Chicken?" Yes, and even "Beef?" She just says, "I DON'T EAT RED MEAT." She sometimes eats the other things, but she got tired of explaining herself.

I still haven't figured out why she thinks of herself as vegetarian. I guess 'cause she is, except when she's not. ;-)

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 11, 2001.


That would be a non-bovine masticator... not vegan...

LOL

Chewin' on a bone...

The Dog

-- The Dog (dogdesert@hotmail.com), December 11, 2001.


Debbie:

I only know ONE person who is a true vegetarian. We had her for Thanksgiving. She will only eat that which has grown in the ground...no milk, no eggs, no cheese. If it didn't sprout from the ground, she won't eat it. This beau of my daughter was an interesting case. He told me he was a vegetarian. We discussed his reasons for limiting his choice of intake. I began with, "I assume it's for health reasons, because those shoes you're wearing tell me it isn't due to concern for the animals." Once his face returned to normal color, he explained his concerns. I almost laughed. This kid was REALLY fed some propaganda. [I can say all this now because he dumped my daughter.]

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 11, 2001.


Anita:

I only know ONE person who is a true vegetarian. We had her for Thanksgiving.

How did she taste? I am told that they can be quite good; slathered with olive oil and lightly broiled. A true low cholesterol meal. ;o)))

Best Wishes,,,,,

Z

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), December 11, 2001.


I saw a bumper sticker today...

Vegetarian

Old Indian word

for

BAD HUNTER

-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), December 11, 2001.


For me, the interesting thing about vegetarianism is how it gets woven in with notions of 'purity' and 'pollution' in the ancient religious senses of the words. A really strict vegetarian, in my experience, is always a religiously motivated one. Vegetarians who do not view their choice as a religious one, but instead as a logical one, have very little reason to maintain strict abstinence and generally slide back to some eating of meat.

Where things get peculiar, in my view, is the extent to which religiously motivated vegetarians try to justify their beliefs using non-religious arguments, like the appeal to health. But, none of the health claims of vegetarianism (for example, lowered serum cholesterol levels) require complete abstinence from meat. You could eat 4 oz. of red meat once a week and the effect on your health would probably be no different than complete abstinence from meat. But you wouldn't be a "real" vegetarian if you did that.

As a result, the deeper you dig into the beliefs of "real" vegetarians, the less scientific they become. Some of them regard meat as a deadly poison. Others regard meat as murder. I have no bone to pick with these beliefs - but they are purely religious, personal and outside of rational examination - much like a Christian's belief in eternal salvation or eternal damnation.

It would be better, in my view, if vegetarians accepted and embraced their own beliefs as religious and gave up trying to portray their personal religious choice as somehow being more rational and more practical than other choices. That is just false pride.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), December 11, 2001.


Vegetarians are killers too. They kill billions of God's creatures every day. Fruit is the only part of God's creation that can be eaten without killing something.

-- (die@vegetarian.murderers), December 11, 2001.

""Do you drink milk?" "Do you eat cheese? "Oh, and what about fish?" "Chicken?" Yes, and even "Beef?" She just says, "I DON'T EAT RED MEAT.""

I have been curious about this statement, does it mean that she only eats beef if it is well done?

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), December 11, 2001.


My eating choices have nothing to do with religion. Did you know that when an animal is slaughtered their bodies are full of anxiety and panic and those hormones racing through their bodies. I feel that you can somehow absorb all that terror when you eat them. That might seem weird and insignificant to you, but to me it's changed my life.

The question about vegan vs vegetarian: vegans consume nor utilize nothing that has come from animals; not even honey. True vegans are very strict. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy and ovo-vegetarians eggs, lacto-ovo vegetarians consume both dairy and eggs. Personally, I abhor labels. People don't fit into neat little boxes. Unless of course, you think you are so chic by claiming "vegetarianism". *major eye roll*

-- (cin@cin.cin), December 11, 2001.


"I feel that you can somehow absorb all that terror when you eat them."

Why did I read that and instantly the words and tune of John Lennon's Instant Karma popped into my head? (smile)

No experience or observation in my own life (so far) has led me to such a belief as yours, so I do not share it. But, as your personal belief, it doesn't matter if I share it or if I think it is "weird". And "insignificant" is last word I would use to describe such a belief! If I believed as you do, I would become vegetarian in a heartbeat.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), December 11, 2001.


I'm a mega-opti-getarian.

I eat major eye rolls.

MMmmmmm....

-- (what@i.think), December 11, 2001.


Those labels may be labels, Cin, but they are important and valid. I don't know why I laughed really. It was more at the "human behavior" aspect than anything to do with vegetarianism per se. My friend does vacillate as to what she feels is the best way to eat, but then so do I; I have principles but sometimes bend them. It is good to think about what we eat and why, more power to ya.

It just struck my funny bone, the notion that a fish is a vegetable. But I do understand the distinctions.

When people ask those questions, they really don't know what they are asking. It's not as if they haven't been presented with the chance to learn about different types of vegetarianism many times before; those people (and it's always the same people!) like to hear themselves talk more than they care to learn anything. And that is what is irritating to my friend and why she gets sick of explaining it. Can't say I blame her.

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 12, 2001.


"Did you know that when an animal is slaughtered their bodies are full of anxiety and panic and those hormones racing through their bodies."

There has been a lot of research done on plants as well, and evidence seems to indicate that they too have consciousness and feelings. Plants are creatures that do not appear to have brains like ours, but they have evolved into a higher level of intelligence that operates on dimensions that most of us cannot see or feel. Some people have said they felt the screams of pain as they cut into a piece of lettuce or a carrot.

-- (just@remember.that), December 12, 2001.


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