A Nutritionists View on Vegetarian and Vegan Diets: What is it and Why?
Vegetarianism is a diet theory that abstains from eating meat products such as; pork, poultry, beef, and any other slaughter by-products. Vegetarians also generally avoid fish, shellfish, and other sea animals. There are several different variations of the diet. Some exclude eggs, and/or some products produced by animal labor such as dairy products and honey. The Vegan practice of vegetarianism is a more restrictive version of vegetarianism. Veganism excludes not only animal flesh from the diet, but animal products as well, such as dairy products, anything made with animal fat, eggs, and honey. Many who practice veganism do so for ethical reasons. Consequently they often refrain from using animals’ fur, skin, or body parts for any purpose (e.g. leather, fur, etc…). Some of the most common reasons people have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle are; morality, religion, culture, environment, society, economy, politics, taste, or health.
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The West and Animal Protein:
Most of us in the West eat too much protein. The average person eats 60 to 100 grams of protein per day. Follow some of the currently popular high protein diets and you will get about double or triple that amount your body needs. Metabolic studies have shown that a human requires only .25 gram (healthy adult women) to 2.0 grams (infants) of protein per pound of body weight per day, depending upon the stage of life, muscle mass, and activity level. To figure out your personal minimum daily needs in grams, simply multiply your recommended body weight in pounds by .25. The resulting is your minimum daily protein requirement. An adult woman of 125 pounds, for instance, would multiply 125 X .25, which equals 31 grams of protein per day. That’s the amount present in two servings of meat (about the size of two decks of cards). One complete protein source (e.g. soy, fish, dairy products, nuts) in a day is enough. When combined with other foods there should be no problem meeting daily protein needs.
Protein, Fiber, and your Kidneys:
Most Americans eat twice as much protein as necessary. As we now know, this has sent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer rates soaring. The reasons excessive protein may be harmful to humans are still being debated, but some points are clear. When large amounts of animal protein are consumed and inadequate amounts of whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruits it is detrimental to your health. The reason being, there is not enough fiber to bind the toxins and fats together, to be eliminated from the body. This cycle can eventually prove extremely taxing for the body. When there are inadequate amounts of fiber and excessive protein in the diet, our kidneys must work twice as hard to remove waste.
Protein, Fiber, and Diabetics:
A high-protein diet can be especially detrimental to diabetics because they are already at a higher risk for kidney disease to begin with. In a study involving 1,500 patients with diabetes, most had lost more than half of their kidney function because of high intake of animal protein, according to Fuhrman in his book “Eat to Live”.
Protein and Weight Loss:
The American Cancer Society conducted a study over a ten-year period with nearly 80,000 people trying to lose weight. Participants who ate meat three or more times per week gained noticeably more weight than participants who avoided meat and chose vegetables. Studies published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition and The New England Journal of Medicine stated that meat eaters are much more likely to be overweight then vegetarians.
Protein and Digestion:
If one does a simple comparison of the digestion system of human beings and carnivorous animals, it is plain to see the marked differences. For instance, our teeth and saliva are much different then the teeth and saliva predators rely on for survival. From the moment we consume food the digestion process kicks in. The alkaline saliva the human body produces is not effective in breaking down animal flesh; carnivores have a different type of saliva ced acid saliva perfectly designed for that very task. Furthermore the hydrochloric acid essential for digesting animal flesh is only secreted in very small amounts in a human stomach. Carnivorous animals are shown to have ten times the hydrochloric acid of humans. Our enzymes, digestive tracts, and organs are different from those found in carnivores. Our kidneys, colon, and liver are ill-equipped to process animal proteins. Compared to carnivores, our intestines are very long, so food that is not adequately processed becomes backed up in our intestines. Animals quickly pass food through their digestive systems because their digestive tracks were created much shorter. When our intestines are unable to process foods it rots, decomposes and ferments in our intestinal tracts and colons. Genetically and structurally we are designed to thrive on plant-based foods.
The benefits of eating less protein may be more than long term. On a day-to-day basis, many people have reported increased energy, clarity of mind, and over an sense of well-being. Perhaps giving the kidneys a break from digesting difficult animal protein may translate into energy better used elsewhere. If one thinks logically regarding humans and meat consumption we can draw similar conclusions. Compare yourself to a wild carnivorous animal such as a bear or lion. Predators do not rely on anything other than their natural hunting abilities, strength, speed, claws, teeth and jaws. Animals do not use tools or weapons like a human must. When we see a cow in a field does our mouths salivate like a wolf’s mouth? Compare our speed, and agility to that of a tiger. Compare the strength of your jaw to a wolf’s. Imagine yourself trying run after the animals we eat, catching them with our bare hands, killing them and eating then eating them without the use of an oven or fire. Furthermore, animals such as bears spend most of their time sleeping in order to possess the energy needed to digest their prey. We do not need to ward off meat completely or permanently if that task seems too overwhelming. Perhaps just being conscious of how much animal protein we are eating, and where it is coming from would be enough. It has been proven that eating less meat is much better not only for our health, but better for the environment, and better for the world we live in.