Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vegetarian Thoughts

The following is the most recent article written by my Uncle Gene. It's great! Once again, thank you Uncle Gene!

In 1980, when I asked a class of about 100 students how many were vegetarians, four raised their hands. A recent U.S. poll of adults found that number still holds, but that 8% of people never eat meat, 1% are vegan (using no animal products), and 15% of students never eat meat. (Details available at www.harrisinteractive.com.)
The most frequent question raised of vegetarians is: “Do you get enough protein?” Various websites suggest that 75 grams of protein a day is enough for a person weighing 150 pounds, so with some very simple math, it should not be too hard to figure how many grams a day you need. Vegetarians get more than the requisite amount if they eat some combination of beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, and chickpeas. If you look at the labels on bread or oatmeal or cereals, you can see how easy it is to have an adequate protein intake, without deriving protein from animal sources. Most vegetarians favor a variety of vegetables, from sweet potatoes to broccoli, and most vegetarians eat a variety of fruits, including oranges, apples, grapes, cantaloupe, berries, and whatever fruits happen to be in season. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, although the requirement for it is very low. Vegetarians who eat dairy products or eggs have no difficulty fulfilling their requirement, but those who do not, medical authorities say, should take a Vitamin B12 supplement.
Most vegetarians choose that way of life for reasons of health: nothing makes a person a vegetarian faster than being diagnosed with coronary artery disease, possibly related to an excessive intake of animal fats. Francis Moore Lappe, in her 1973 book Recipes for a Small Planet, noted that it takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of animal protein, and that the planet’s ecosystems would be much better off if people just ate the grain directly, decreasing the length of the food chain, reducing the number of animals raised for food, and the amount of animal waste that contaminates land and water.
In the 1980s, Pritikin and MacDougall Programs emphasized the health benefits of diminishing or eliminating animal fats, decreasing the intake of salt and sugar, and increasing the amount of physical activity. So in thirty years, the same messages are still being broadcast, the same warnings still occur on the nightly news, and the movement towards healthier living still seems in its infancy. A publication from the Vegetarian Resource Group says nothing that was not known thirty years ago: “The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Limit your intake of sweets and fatty foods.”
The trend toward vegetarianism is gradual, but it appears to be picking up speed. Extremism, however is no virtue, as a recent comment by Dr. Michael Chu, an NYU resident who treated a patient who ate nothing but bok choi: “I don’t want to say people shouldn’t be eating raw vegetables, but everything in moderation — even things that are good for us.” He added that simply cooking some vegetables increases their nutritional values. But in the back of the minds of many vegetarians is a concern for animal welfare, and the saying of Mahatma Gandhi rings true: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated.” Beans, anyone?

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