A few years ago, I went vegetarian, and then vegan. It was a gradual process, and has worked so well for me, that I feel like a bit of an evangelist – compelled to share it with anybody who will listen.
Disclaimer: This is my experience, not medical advice. See your doctor for medical advice. Furthermore, if you are taking any medications, consult your doctor before making any drastic changes, because if your body starts functioning correctly, you could become dangerously over medicated, and it could happen quite quickly.
We tend to eat what our parents fed us, and they ate what their parents fed them. If your ancestors came from very far away from the equator, where fruits and vegetables are not available year round, then there’s a good chance that somewhere along the way they would have resorted to eating animal products to survive through the off season. Now days, most of us can get fresh vegetables from our local grocery store all year round.
Let’s start at the beginning
- When I was a child and got sick, my mother took me to the Doctor. Penicillin was a wonderful discovery.
- When I was about 14 or so, my dad said something about the military doesn’t coddle you when you get sick. That got me thinking and that thought is supported by:
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” — Hippocrates
- In my 20s, I started gaining some weight. I had recently started eating potato soup late at night, so I immediately stopped that, and my weight returned to normal.
- Around the same time, I was drinking about a liter or more of soda per day and noticed some sugar highs and lows. I didn’t like that, so I immediately gave up all beverages other than pain water. I’m not going to say it was easy. I had some pretty strong cravings until about day 26, when it was like someone had flipped a light switch, and the cravings ceased.
- In my 30s, I took up cycling and learned a lot through that experience. Aerobic activities put demands on your body that non-aerobic activities do not. With aerobic activities, you have to pay attention to what and how much you eat in order to perform well. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what it wants.
- In my 40s, I lost my desire for animal products. I don’t know why, but I was just ordering the small hamburger instead of the regular size one. Then a friend started talking to me about being Vegetarian. He was an intelligent, strong triathlete about 10 years ahead of me, who had never had a bite of dead animal in his life. That alone dispelled a lot of the beliefs that I had developed, and seemed to turn the USDA food pyramid on its head. Google vegan body builder – they exist and do quite well.
What I have learned since
- What you put into your body has an effect on your performance and on your health. That seems pretty obvious. If you drank some poison, things would not go well for you. Conversely, the better the raw materials you give your body, the more good stuff it can do with them.
- Circulation is obviously one of the most important systems in your body. The heart circulates the blood, and the bouncing action of walking circulates the lymph, which allows waste to be flushed from the cells and out of your system.
Animal fats are not water soluble, so the body has a harder time getting rid of them, thus they tend to accumulate in the wrong places. THe doctors cannot surgically remove all the animal fats from all the little veins, arteries, and capillaries throughout your body, so it’s probably best not to let them collect i the first place. The ancient Chinese Medicine practice of Paida and Lajin (www.paidalajin.com) advocates stretching and manual stimulation to help remove blockages and restore circulation.
Kitchen sinks and sewer systems don’t fair well with grease. Would you expect our bodies to work any better with all that animal fat and grease? Try washing a hamburger plate without a de-greaser. Compare that to washing an avocado plate without a de-greaser, which is much easier.
I remember Dr. Gary Null, a Nutritionist featured on PBS, who talked about how dairy had allergens, and that no animals besides humans consume dairy after infancy. Consequently, he didn’t believe that diary belonged in the human diet.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, (www.drfuhrman.com) a Medical Doctor featured on PBS, advocates a diet rich in vegetables, and reducing animal products as much as possible. This is also consistent with Harvard Medical Research publications which advocate reducing animal products as much as possible.
Dr. Mark Hyman, (drhyman.com) a Medical Doctor featured on PBS, reports that wheat is sprayed with an extra dose of herbicide just before harvest in order to make harvesting easier.
Are Waerland, a Swedish nutritional author from the early 1900s, reported that fruits and vegetables promote good bacteria in the gut through fermentation, while animal flesh promotes bad bacteria in the gut through “putrefaction”.
I wondered for a long time why the ingredient labels are so complicated. Specifically, why the processors seem to be taking our food apart and putting it back together in such strange combinations. It finally occured to me that it is probably to increase shelf life. If, as Are Waerland reports, part of our digestion depends upon good bacteria fermenting, then how helpful is that pastry with the 12 year shelf life really going to be? Probably not very helpful at all.
Are Waerland reports that the nutrients are usually contained in the outer most portion of the grain (the bran), while the inner most portion (the endosperm), is mostly carbohydrates. He also reports that whole foods contain the correct ratio of nutrients to carbohydrate load.
Pre- Pro- and Anti- Biotics
- Pro-Biotics: Pro being good, are the good bacteria, the ones that benefit us. Pro-Biotics are contained in fermented foods like Saeurkraut, Kimchi, Natto, etc.
- Pre-Biotics: Pre are the biofood that the good bacteria like to eat. Onions, Bananas, Barley, Oats, Apples, Wheat Bran, and more. Generally plant sources with fiber that help it reach the gut in tact.
- Anti-Biotics: Anti kill off bacteria. Great when the bad guys are taking over. Unfortunately, they kill off the good guys as well, which is why you have to rebuild your gut flora after a course of Anti-Biotics.
In addition to prescription antibiotics, they are routinely given to livestock, and may ultimately make their way into our food supply.
Natural sources that fight infection and may be more discriminating include: Garlic, Onions, Vitamin C, Honey, and Ginger.
Vegetarian or Vegan
Ask 25 vegetarians what they eat and you will probably get 26 different answers. I could never keep vegetarian and vegan straight until someone told me an easy definition:
- Vegetarians don’t eat anything that “Has a Mother” e.g. offspring
- Vegans don’t eat anything “From a MOther” e.g. offspring or dairy
So, as a Vegan, my guidelines are simple:
- Eat as close to nature as possible, generally unprepared foods out of the produce section.
- Buy organic when possible, particularly for items with soft skins which are more vulnerable to parasites and consequently are more likely to have been sprayed with pesticides.
- When buying packaged foods, I look for whole organic items with as few other ingredients as possible, no chemicals, that are also low in sugar and low in salt. Frozen is not necessarily bad. They are usually picked and frozen at the optimum ripeness, vs. fresh, which may have been picked green in order to make it to market, or canned which may have been picked late or started to go bad.
- I avoid anything “From a Mother”, like meat, eggs, and dairy. Now I don’t get upset if the Mexican restaurant puts cheese on my veggie taco, but I no longer buy any dairy at the grocery store.
What do I eat
I’m going to call these bachelor meals, since I don’t really claim to cook, but rather warm my food.
- Oatmeal: Bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil, add 1/2 cup of oats, stir, cover, remove from heat, let steam for 30 seconds or so, and serve.
- Add some or all of: Banana, Red Tart Cherries packed in water, Fresh or Frozen Blue Berries, Pineapple packed in it’s own juice.
Mid Day Meal
- Avocado: Sliced or Chunks
- Quinoa: 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water, heat about 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
- Hummus on Whole Wheat Crackers
- Whole Grain Toast and Honey
- I eat more granola type cereal than is probably ideal.
- Better choices are celery, carrots, apples, oranges.
- Pick a Protein: Typically Black Beans or Pinto Beans
- Pick a Starch: Whole Grain Organic Pasta, or Potatoes with Jackets, or Whole Grain (Brown) Rice
- Pick a Green: Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, Squash, Zucchini, etc.
- Augment with some Onions, Mushrooms, Tomato Sauce, Garlic, Carrots, Celery, etc.
Finding something to eat at restaurants is a lot easier than you might think.
- Mexican and Chinese restaurants have lots of vegetables on the menu.
- A lot of places will at least have a veggie burger made from beans and other vegetables.
- Salad bars are really easy, and no I’m not hungry 15 minutes later.
That’s it really. I generally don’t have cravings, or blood sugar spikes, or headaches, or any of that stuff. Joel Fuhrman even says that when you eat the right things, you can eat as much as you want and you won’t gain weight.