After being on a panel a few weeks back to comment on the movie Forks over Knives, I confess I was naive and realised so when people started jibbing “animal killer” from the audience. I had inadvertently entered vegetarian land.
OOPS! I innocently thought I was there to comment on health benefits. NOT SO. It was turned into a forks versus knives debate (all meat not just the American Standard Diet which is what the movie talked about) and so if I offended anyone that night, I sincerely apologise. I wouldn’t actually sit on a panel or debate that was meat versus vegetarian diet as I don’t feel majorly pulled to either. I think both choices can be done exceptionally well and seem to suit certain people/genre/blood groups and both of them can be very UNHEALTHY if done poorly.
Some veggies (notably vegans) can be unforgiving to those of us who enjoy meat. And to be very frank I am not a “worse or bad person” nor am I insensitive nor consider myself a murderer. My comments here come from a health perspective and as always I welcome comments at the end (unless you call me a murderer then I am truly not interested).
People become “veggie” for various reasons. I was a veggie during my first few months of studying nutrition and it wasn’t politically motivated, religious nor moral. It just felt right at the time.
I have a cool colleague, Ben, in the UK who calls himself a “flexitarian” and his definition of this is to go with how his body feels and what he feels he needs at certain times in his life.
Lately I have been eating more vegetarian based meals with some fish. I don’t make a song and dance of it, it just seems right for now. Let’s look at vegetarianism more in-depth. If you want a great summary, wikipedia has done it well.
In essence vegetarianism is eating a diet that avoids meat.
Within this broad definition are sub categories:
1. ovo-vegetarian : include eggs but no diary
2. lacto-vegetarian: include diary but no eggs
3. ovo-lacto- vegetarian: include eggs and dairy
4. Semi vegetarian: include fish or chicken (i.e. don’t eat mammals)
5. pescetarian: eat fish
6. Vegan: no animal products at all (including bi-products such as leather belts, shoes, gelatin and rennet)
As you can see there are many tiers and I must admit I don’t think you really need to worry about whether you are a pescetarian or a semi-vegie, because if you are after a “Vegetarian Badge of Honour” then you are probably missing the point. I think people who aspire to be “vegetarian with exceptions” are living slightly out of line with their values. Or need it clarified.
If you are like me: love animals but don’t like the thought of them suffering or being in pain, then try to choose happy animals, never eat in excess and be grateful for every mouthful. If that is too heavy, deal with the fact that the world is about evolution and live and let live and enjoy your food. Or if you still feel confused, try being a vegetarian for awhile and see how you feel then. Maybe it is for YOU!!
If you ask my honest opinion about vegetarianism, I think many people feel they aught to be one at certain times in their life; at certain levels of awareness, for girlfriends, for boyfriends, for science, for school, for defiance, for attention, for love and for HATE! And if you are feeling like that, just let it go. That is what I did. But if you read this and feel repulsed then stick with what you are doing, obviously it is perfect for you 🙂 .
The reasons people choose to be vegetarian are wide and varied.
** Some religions (Hindi sects, some Buddists, Hari Krishnas, Seven Day Adventis, rastas) have vegetarianism as part of the moral code.
** Some countries eat vegetarianly because meat is expensive or inaccessible.
** Some people choose vegetarianism based on moral and values that include the environment, how the meat is killed, economic and health reasons.
If we consider being vegetarian from a health perspective these are my concerns and praises.
MORE GREEN is GOOD (more green light activities – if you have heard my talk on stress you will know what I am talking about, more Green Vegetables, more GREEN environmental considerations).
Often being vegetarian means a diet laced with more vegetables. This I applaud.
However I have had many “veggies” see me as patients who are missing vital components in making up their healthy diet plan, because they thought eating vegetables and fruit only was healthy.
Unless you do a bit of research omitting certain foods can make you quite sick. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are two ESSENTIAL VITAMINS that are hard to get from fruit and veg. You need to be aware of the foods that have them This is a link to Havard Health which has more about it.
I talked with a vegan the other day and as part of his commitment to being vegan he told me he has to give himself weekly B12 injections. If you are prepared to do this and still see it as your healthiest option, do it.
B12 and folic acid are critical in preventing many diseases in the body which is why I hesitate to advocate vegetarianism for all.
Other nutrients that can become a deficiency issue include calcium, iron, zinc, Vitamin D, omega threes and protein. And whilst saturated fats can get a bad rap we still need fats in our diet.
I have met a girl who is advocating fruit and vegetables ONLY. While it might work for her, I can not be an advocate for such an extreme diet and it is not “the panacea for all people” which is what she is promoting.
Dan Buettner (author of Blue Zones) identifies a diet with loads of healthy alive plants as being a key ingredient for living a long and healthy life. This I can advocate. But even in the communities he visits and comments about, there is usually animal consumption.
If you are considering being a veggie for health reasons, please do some research.
Make sure you have B12 and folic acid covered. Eat nuts and seeds and if your body craves meat ask why.
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Health Queen Rating on vegetarianism
As a health choice and done properly 10/10.
Done poorly or extreme (like carrots only for 2 weeks at a time) then 3/10.
Here is a list of veggie foods from a fitness website.
If you are doing it because you think you should, just sit back and don’t stress about it. Still 10/10 cause it has taught you a valuable lesson **
PS: There has been an insurgence of RAW only diets. The ones I have seen look AMAZING! and if someone could cook for me like that, I actually wouldn’t miss meat. But reality is for me I listen to my body above all and it is guiding me towards lots of veggies but some meat for now. Who knows in ten years time though. ENJOY!