A Vegetarian New Year

imagesThe following article was originally written for the website of Identity magazine and was scheduled for publication in December 2016. 

For a variety of reasons, that never happened, so rather than waste it, I am posting it here, though it is a bit late in the day to be making New Year’s resolutions perhaps! Still..the advice in the article still holds!

It’s that time of year again, and like the last one, I’ll be making a list of New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more, and generally improve my life. I might even keep some of them, but usually, by the end of January, most are forgotten. And I don’t think I’m unusual in that. Good intentions are easy. We start with strong motivations, and then it comes to an end. Life gets in the way, or maybe our intentions weren’t realistic in the first place.

So, here’s a resolution, that’s easy and fits in around your normal routine. Becoming a vegetarian is the perfect, healthy, energy boost that will make you feel good all year long.

Abstaining from eating meat and fish, might seem a daunting option. And it’s often the case that those around you will find your decision a bit odd, or even dangerous.  So, let’s arm you with some facts to allay those fears.

The scientific evidence against eating meat is stacking up.

A study by the National Centre for Biotechnology showed that there is something called Neu5Gc (an acid-sugar molecule) that is always found in meat. This molecule is almost always found in cancer tumours and can harden your arteries. You don’t produce these molecules yourself, they always come from meat. There is a significant amount of evidence now that meat consumption is linked to the development of various forms of cancer. Even the World Health Organisation has confirmed that there is strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer. Arthritis and the development of various allergies are also linked to eating meat.

But it’s important to recognise, that just cutting meat from your diet, doesn’t automatically make your food choices healthy. You need to consider carefully what you eat. So here is some guidance on a healthier you.

Switching to a vegetarian diet will help you lose weight. There are overweight vegetarians of course, just as there are skinny meat-eaters, but on average vegetarians are about a tenth less likely to be overweight as their meat-eating counterparts. Replace all those high-fat meat products with healthy fruit and vegetables and grains, and your waistline will thank you.

You could even consider going vegan. The difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that vegans also abstain from milk and milk-based products, eggs and honey, whereas a vegetarian would be fine with consuming these, but there are health consequences if you do so!

Cutting milk from your diet, for instance, would give your arteries and bones a chance. According to the ‘Save Our Bones’ campaign, along with almost every other scientific study in the world, drinking cow’s milk, gives the lie to the old wives tail that drinking milk is good for you. Cow’s milk leaches calcium away from your bones and makes them weaker.  The pasteurisation process makes the calcium in cow’s milk almost completely non-absorbable. Non-dairy milks such as rice milk, almond milk, and soya milk are great sources of calcium. Non-dairy milks are easily made in your own kitchen with a little effort if you can’t find them in your local supermarket. And guess what? Milk too is implicated in the development of cancer. According to T Colin Campbell; Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, in 2000:

“cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed”.

And eggs? They will shorten your lifespan, according to The Harvard Physician’s Health Study. Honey? According to an article in The Journal of Nutrition, it’s no better for you than refined sugar. Veganism is definitely better for you!

If you’ve ever seen the cartoon character, Popeye, you will know that he eats a lot of spinach. It’s no coincidence that Popeye’s gigantic biceps are due to his mono-vegetable lifestyle. Spinach, along with many other leafy greens can give you all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs. Vegetables are a prime source of iron, calcium, vitamin C and beta-carotene (which helps with your immune system). Meat sources, on the other hand, are always of a much poorer quality. And don’t forget, vegetables are low in calories, which is great for keeping your weight down.

Apart from the benefits that your body will feel from switching to a vegetarian diet, the planet will also thank you. The meat and dairy industries are the number one cause of environmental destruction around the world. You may think you live on a planet, but you actually live on a gigantic farm. According to an article in ‘Time’ magazine, over 40% of the world’s land mass is used for keeping us 7 billion humans fed, and most of that (30% of the world’s ice-free land mass) is used to raise animals of various kinds for human consumption. That’s a lot of land, and we’re running out of it.

All that meat production is having a devastating impact on the climate and the state of the environment. An article from the Smithsonian Institute pointed out that:

“Livestock species contribute direction and indirectly to deforestation, water pollution, air pollution, greenhouse gasses, global warming, desertification, erosion and human obesity… Dry and scrubby Greece, once a nation of woodlands, has gone to the goats. In Brazil, forests are falling before the advance of soybean fields, cultivated largely as beef fodder.”

So, if you are going to make any resolutions this year, then switching to a vegetarian diet would be a great one to commit too. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it does need you to be conscious about what you eat. You will do yourself and the environment a big favour. And if the idea of switching to a meat-free diet forever scares you, why not commit for just one month and see it goes? Or if you can’t do that, what about cutting meat for one or two days a week as a starter. You don’t need to do it all at once, but every little helps.

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About Steve Gooch

Steve Gooch was born in March 1962 in Rugby, Warwickshire in England and grew up there with his two brothers and sister. He moved to Corsham in Wiltshire and attended Bath Academy of Art, where he studied sculpture and printmaking, before going on to work on projects for the artists Joe Tilson and Nick Pope. He also helped with the publication of a limited edition folio of Paul Eluard’s poetry. Steve moved to London to study for a postgraduate teaching certificate and then worked as a teacher of art in the UK. He gained his MA in Education with the Open University and also studied the discipline of Reiki with his Reiki teachers in Newcastle upon Tyne. His daughter Marianne was born in 1994. For a period of time, Steve devoted himself to teaching Reiki in his hometown of Rugby, before moving to Egypt, where he resumed his career as an art teacher, becoming the Head of Art in a prestigious British International School in Cairo. He continued to teach Reiki, introducing the discipline for the first time to Egypt. He also wrote extensively on the subject for various Egyptian English-language magazines. Returning to the UK, Steve’s son Sam was born in 2004. Not wanting to go back into the teaching profession, Steve took a job as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant and wrote his first book ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do: The Way of Compassion & Wisdom’. It was the world’s first book on that particular tradition of Reiki and is still considered to be the standard reference work on the subject. Steve them moved to Sudan, where he was again Head of Art at the prestigious Unity High School, and built an online living history for the school, called 'The Unity High School Archive'. It was in the process of building this archive that Steve uncovered a major scandal involving senior members of the Anglican Church, local dignitaries, and members of the faith communities. As a consequence, he got to know the head of the Secret Police in Khartoum quite well and then promptly left the country. Steve moved back to Egypt and took up a post as Head of Art in a school in Alexandria. Very much involved in the Reiki community in the UK, however, he founded the national organisation ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do UK’ and became the editor of ‘Focus: The Journal of Reiki Jin Kei Do UK’, and then set up the global ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do International’. He also set up the global video-arts project '12seconds for Peace'. The concept grabbed the attention of a number of big names in the peace movement, including Nobel Peace Prize nominees, and threatened to go viral. Circumstances (revolutions and social unrest) put it on the back-burner. Likewise, a major peace initiative called the 'Global Concert for Peace', scheduled for the summer of 2013, which would have been the world's biggest musical event, also went on the back-burner. Steve moved to Saudi Arabia for a little over a year in 2014, before returning to Egypt to take up a senior management position in another British International School in Cairo. Finally, after a year of professional purgatory in which he realised that there is no such thing as a good British International School in Egypt, he decided ‘enough is enough’ and quit the teaching profession for good to focus on his writing, art and Reiki classes. He is currently living in Cairo and writing ‘The Temple of the Djinn’, which is loosely based on the events that he uncovered during his time in Sudan. He is also teaching Reiki and working freelance for a variety of Egyptian magazines. He misses the UK and is looking forward to spending more time in his home country with his children. He'd also like to find time to paint and make sculpture.
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