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Vegetarian Diet

Humankind's natural diet

Everyone has an opinion, but not every opinion is correct. When we look around the world at humanity, those who live longest and remain healthiest all have a very good or semi-vegetarian diet. In Okinawa Japan, life expectancy amongst the older generation is in excess of 100 years because bulk of their diet is fresh vegetables.

It is one of the tragedies of Okinawa that the parents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents have to bury their children who are dying because they have embraced the Western high meat, high-fat and highly processed diet that has become so prevalent across the world.

In India and other countries where vegetarianism is prevalent, longevity and good health are considered normal yet in most countries today ill health and premature death is considered normal. So the real question is, do you want to suffer unnecessarily?

Vegetarianism is the restriction of meat and animal products from ones diet and there have been many studies supporting the view that this is a healthy way of eating which with due care can provide all our dietary requirements and may even help us to stay healthier and to live longer.

Vegetarianism has a long history in India and the Mediterranean from where it has developed from the ethical respect of all life including mammals, birds and fish, and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.

There is no one "vegetarian" diet, there are variants from the vegan diets where no animal products are consumed to semi vegetarian diets where small amounts of fish or animal products are included. So we have:

  • The vegan or total vegetarian diet which includes only foods from plant sources which include fruits, land and sea vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds and nuts.
  • The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products.
  • The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovegetarian) diet also includes eggs and dairy products.
  • The semi-vegetarian diet which simply excludes red meat from the diet.

The cornerstone of any vegetarian diet is that vegetables be fresh and 'organic' without any agricultural chemicals used in growing the produce or any chemicals used in post harvest, storage or preparation/cooking.

While some common problems associated with vegetarian diets include vitamin and particularly iron deficiencies, a balanced vegetarian diet will sustain life as well as if not better than any other diet. For most people the vegan diet is the most difficult; unless one resides in a community where people have the experience and good quality produce available, this diet can cause serious health problems as it is often difficult to gain all the required nutrients to sustain human life.

A non- Vegans question to a Vegan:
"If you were alone on a deserted Island with a pig, would you eat the pig or starve to death?"

A Vegans question to a non- Vegan:
"If you were living on a planet with 7 billion people, had access to unlimited fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and other healthy foods, and knew animals suffer and die horrible deaths so you could eat them, even though you don't have a necessity to, would you continue to eat them?"

The difference between the questions is that the first scenario will almost never happen, but the second is one that we all face every day. Which question do you think is worth thinking about?" ~ Lee Stewart.

The elements that are often lost in vegetarian diets are:

  • iron - which builds hemoglobin and especially to women who lose blood during menstruation and can suffer from anemia.
  • calcium - to maintain strong bones
  • protein - which builds new cells and repair any damaged tissues and without protein the body cannot function well.
  • vitamin D - for its role in enhancing calcium absorption and immune function, however although studies have shown that much of the general population is deficient.
  • vitamin B12 - for its role in our bodies' growth and development, the functioning of our nervous system, production of blood cells. It is a water-soluble vitamin and is derived almost entirely from meat, fish, milk products and eggs. Deficiency symptoms may not occur for 2 - 5 years as most people have a 2 year supply stored in their liver.
  • zinc - to fuel the activity of approximately 100 different enzymes that support our bodies biochemistry and the immune system.

The vegan diet
If you're choosing this diet, the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself and plan how to get all your nutritional requirements. Simply dropping animal foods from your diet is a recipe for disaster and it takes skill to make this diet work to maintain good health, physical strength and a high energy level.
For a person going into this diet and providing nutritional requirements are adequate, there should be few problems. However if the diet is not balanced deficiency symptoms may begin to become apparent within months or years. Early symptoms are depression and a lack of energy, tiredness and difficulties managing one's life. Unbalanced and allowed to continue anemia, depression, irritability, osteoporosis, weight loss and a host of other symptoms may appear.

The Semi Vegetarian Diet
Also becoming more widely known as 'Flexitarianism' this is a popular vegetarian diet as it essentially involves reducing meat and animal product intake and is less likely to cause sudden deficiencies. It involves increasing intake of fresh vegetables, whole grains and proteins while limiting the intake of meat and animal produce. There is no one standard to measure who is or is not a semi vegetarian, but an example may be a person who eats meat in one meal per week, eggs and animal products such as milk, cheese and eggs more sparingly.

The Lacto-ovovegetarian Diet
This is reported as the most popular vegetarian choice in the United States as consuming eggs and milk helps in making up the protein, lecithin and calcium requirements of the body, which may lack in a stricter vegetarian diet. It is sometimes recommended as a dietary therapy to reduce the severity of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, obesity, osteoporosis, hypertension, gout, gallstones, kidney stones, ulcers, colitis, hemorrhoids, premenstrual syndrome, anxiety and depression making a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet an economical and easily implemented preventive practice.

The Lactovegetarian Diet
A popular form of vegetarianism in India, this diet includes dairy products such as milk, buttermilk, cheese, yogurt, butter, cream and kefir, but excludes Cheeses which include animal rennet and yogurts which contain gelatin.

Becoming a Vegetarian
You may become a vegetarian for health or ethical reasons and it is a personal choice that can with due care have a positive effect on your life providing greater health, vitality and longevity, but done badly the resulting nutritional deficiencies can make you ill or even shorten your life.

Key Points

  1. Eat organically.
  2. Choose whole or unrefined grain products when possible.
  3. Use a variety of fruits and vegetables, including foods that are good sources of vitamins A and C.
  4. Increase your intake of soy products like tofu and tempeh.
  5. Increase your intake of sea weeds (sea vegetables) like kelp, kumbu & wakame.
  6. Keep your intake of sweets and fatty foods to a minimum as these foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.
  7. Ensure you are getting sufficient vitamins and minerals and if in any doubt, take nutritional supplements such as B vitamins.
Swami Prabhupada
Explains Meat Eating to Catholic Priest

It is believed that the true vegetarian out or respect for all of life is more peaceful and together vegetarians have the potential combine to create a more harmonious society, and it is true that as a vegetarian following an organic vegetarian diet, one is not exposed to the same level of agricultural chemicals that typically poisons the general population. A vegetarian diet has been the cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine and the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, the Trappist monks of the Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventists.

An unconfirmed list of famous vegetarians includes Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, the physician Albert Schweitzer, writer George Bernard Shaw, musician Paul McCartney and Albert Einstein, although not a strict vegetarian himself, stated that a vegetarian diet would be an evolutionary step forward for the human race.

References
Eating in the Light Making the Switch to Vegetarianism on Your Spiritual Path (International Studies in Human Rights) By Doreen Virtue, Becky Prelitz
Is God a Vegetarian? Christianity, Vegetarianism and Animal Rights. By Richard Alan Young
World Vegetarian Classics Over 220 Authentic International Recipes for the Modern Kitchen By Celia Brooks Brown
The Complete Book of Raw Food Healthy, Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine Made with Living Foods Includes More Than 400 Recipes from the World's Top Raw Food Chefs. By Julie Rodwell
The Cranks Bible A Timeless Collection of Vegetarian Recipes By Nadine Abensur
Wikipedia
"Many vitamin D deficient in winter". UPI.
Answers lacto-ovo-vegetarianism

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