The 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.