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There is irrefutable evidence that the human body functions better on a vegetarian diet. In depth analysis of various cultures around the world, both past and present, have yielded indisputable proof that vegetarian-based communities exhibit greater longevity, better overall health and far less incidence (in some cases zero) of various diseases and ailments than do the meat-eating cultures.

The long-haul, time-tested benefits of the veggie diet as experienced by these communities is, to me, the true test of how efficacious an eating regimen is; not some flavor of the month diet that has you losing lots of weight on the short-term, but clogging up your arteries and turning your blood stream into an acidic river of ketones on the long-term. Both the Hunzas (from the Himalayan mountains) and the Okinawans have relied on a plant-based diet which, along with an active, spritual-oriented lifestyle, have had these folks living productive lives of up to 120 years! Let's find out why....

Here's what we'll be covering in this For Your Health section (click on the Go link to skip ahead to that particular topic):

1. The anatomical perspective Go
2. But don't we at least need some animal products in our diet? Go
3. Can we get enough protein on the vegan diet? Go
4. What about getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals on the vegan diet, like calcium and B-12? Go
5. What about vegetarianism and physical strength? Go
6. The Hazards of Animal Products Go
7. What about chicken or fish as a popular substitute for red meat? Go
8. Care to eat some fear? Go
9. What's wrong with dairy products and eggs? Go

The anatomical perspective

The human anatomy seems ideally designed for a plant-based diet. Upon close examination of our digestive system, you'll find a 29-foot intestinal tract. We share this elongated design with other herbivores so that we may enjoy a gradual absorption of our plant-based foods in the digestion process. Carnivores have a short digestive tract so that the rapidly-putrefying flesh can make a quick exit. The stomach acid of a carnivore is 20 times stronger than ours, which was obviously intended to accommodate the denser materials of their diet. Our jaw and teeth structure, like other herbivores, is clearly designed for the grinding and chewing action required for eating fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts while a carnivore has some serious fangs (much sharper, longer, and bigger than our own "canines") and a jaw that operates in a vertical fashion for the gnawing and tearing of hide and flesh. Additionally, our hands were made to pick things from trees and bushes or pull things from the ground, not rip and tear like the hooves and claws of carnivorous animals. And, the fact that whatever flesh food we eat must be cooked is somewhat of a clue that perhaps we weren't meant to eat it.

But don't we at least need some animal products in our diet?

There is absolutely nothing found in animal products (that is required by the human body) that is not found in nontoxic, ample quantities in plant-based food. This includes all vitamins, minerals (including calcium, iron and B-12), and all else that the body requires. As for protein, it had long been thought that the vegetarian had to be very careful to combine certain foods so that they could aggregate into "complete" proteins. This philosophy was even perpetuated in the vegetarian community through the best selling work, Diet For A Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe, who suggested various combinations of plant-based foods that would resemble the amino acid ratios found in animal proteins. However, this was soon to be disproved as it was discovered that the body operates an amino acid pool which collects all proteins and configures them as it needs to. Even Lappe herself stepped forth in an addendum that was included in all subsequent printings of her book and made the correction.

Still, there seems to be a lingering stigma within the health community that views plant protein as the "inferior" source. It simply isn't true. After all, where do the animals get it from? Grains and greens! Think about it; most of the flesh foods that we consume are from vegetarian beings. So why not cut out the "middleman," avoid the saturated animal fats, stamina-inhibiting uric acids, and factory farm-related pharmaceuticals inherent to meat-eating, and go directly to the source?

Can we get enough protein on the vegan diet?

This is one of the most prevalent, yet unwarranted, concerns about vegetarianism. The bottom line is, if you're getting enough calories, it will be very difficult to not get enough protein. Yet, many people think vegetarians are constantly in danger of being protein deficient and that the body will (supposedly) begin to break down muscle fiber in an effort to compensate. But this break-down-muscles-for-protein concept is an extreme, last resort function of the body and you would have to make a concerted effort, days in a row, to hit that point. Both the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S.R.D.A. suggest daily amounts of protein in the 45 to 70 grams range, and that's with a buffer to insure that you get enough. To actually fall short of this amount, you would either have to live exclusively off of Pop Tarts, Kool-Aid and other "empty calorie" foods, live in a region of the world where there's absolutely no variety of food beyond some sort of low-protein vegetation (like cassava root in West Africa), or be on some kind of starvation diet where you're simply not getting enough calories.

Ironically, though, the bigger concern should be that we're getting too much protein. The body does not store protein like it does carbohydrates (or even fat), and as we exceed the limit of what the body can use, we begin to burden our livers, kidneys, arteries and colons with the overage. What's popularly regarded as "best protein sources," along with the variety of other animal products, are intrinsically linked to the three major causes of death: Heart disease, cancer and strokes. For example, when the doctor goes into someone's chest to clear out a clogged artery, what is he actually pulling out of there? Saturated fat, which, along with certain hydrogenated oils, is only found in animal products. Food for thought...

What about getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals on the vegan diet, like calcium and B-12?

First of all, there are two sides to the calcium coin with regard to getting them from non-vegetarian sources. First, an abundance of calcium can be found in many vegetarian foods like leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.) soy milk, dried fruits, oats, broccoli, cabbage, tofu, almond/raisin mix, chickpeas, sesame seeds and most beans. If you eat a variety of these healthy foods, calcium should not be a concern. (In fact, gram for gram, many of these foods contain more calcium than milk.) If you don't, then you might consider taking a quality multi-vitamin/mineral (as I've suggested elsewhere), any of which will include calcium.

Second, when you rely on animal sources for calcium, you may be defeating your own purpose. Several key studies in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that as these foods are metabolized they create a lot of acid in the body which, in turn, is notorious for taking calcium from the bones in an effort to strike a pH balance in the blood. Perhaps this explains the Medical Tribune's findings from a 1984 study where they concluded that vegetarians had "significantly stronger bones."

As for B-12, this is a bacterial-created vitamin found primarily in soil. In a perfect world, the microscopic soil particles which cling to raw garden vegetables (even after they have been washed) would be all we would ever need. However, given the current industrial production methodologies of our produce, we are clearly getting less B-12 than we normally would. Yes, meat-eaters are likely to get plenty of B-12 because cows have eaten plants with these particles clinging to them. But the overall ramifications of the meat-based diet far, far outweigh the benefits of picking up a little B-12. In fact, we require such a minuscule amount of B-12 that the organisms in our own mouths and intestines can usually reproduce an abundance of it. Medical studies conducted by Dr. T.A.B. Sanders and British hematologist, Dr. Frey Ellis, concluded that most strict vegetarians (no flesh foods, eggs or dairy) had ample levels of B-12, even without supplementation. Still, it certainly doesn't hurt to supplement. If you're not inclined to enjoy the variety of B-12 enriched soy milks and cereals, a basic multi-vitamin/mineral will be all you need.

What about vegetarianism and physical strength?

As for the contention that animal products are superior to plant-based foods (or even necessary at all) in the arena of physical strength or stamina, this is a complete fallacy. Yes, I know this untruth has been pounded into our heads since grade school, when misinformed teachers and family members imposed upon us their various pro-milk/meat dogmas. And I know that our social conditioning has handily perpetuated this falsehood, pelting us with slogans about how milk does a body good and how beef is "real food for real people," and showing us images of Greek god-like characters, performing incredible feats of athletic prowess as a result of their ingestion of animal products. But keep one thing in mind; THESE ARE ADVERTISEMENTS! Those magazines that show us animal product-based protein powders and supplements are largely run by manufacturers of these products. The four food groups were a glorified ad campaign for the United States Department of Agriculture; they are the ones who masterminded the concept and, along with related entities, actually supply the schools with these materials. And the well-meaning teachers and family members were misled, just like the rest of the public.

The truth is, physical performance is the result of your body running on those "eight cylinders" we've been talking about. In addition to effective training, the heights you can achieve are governed by this. But it's hard to imagine running on all eight with all of the drawbacks to animal products - the toxins, the energy-consuming difficulty in digestion, the stamina-inhibiting uric acid flowing through your body after that steak or burger, etc. At the same time, there have certainly been a number of peak performance athletes that have dispelled any myths about the shortcomings of a vegetarian diet, including the all-time home run champion, Hank Aaron; Ironman Triathlete, Dave Scott (six time winner); basketball great, Hakeem Olajuwon and dozens more world-class competitors from around the world.

The Hazards of Animal Products

Simply put, our bodies weren't designed to eat flesh foods and the net result of our doing so is nothing short of catastrophic. Food that was meant to "come in and go out" (of carnivores) now lingers around in our intestines for several days, at 98 degrees, releasing toxins into our bloodstream and wreaking havoc on a number of fronts. And this is to say nothing of saturated animal fats, which remain solid in the bloodstream at body temperature and love to clog up the ol' arteries. Ever wonder what the doctor actually pulls out of the tubes in a bypass operation? Solidified animal fat, pure and simple. Additionally, the host of various chemicals that are given to the factory farm animals, including antibiotics to prevent any outbreaks among the animals and steroids so the animal will be as big as possible come slaughter time, have their own share of adverse effects on the consumer.

What about chicken or fish as a popular substitute for red meat?

Surprise... they're in their own ways just as bad. Consider this: there's been a trend of substituting these "healthier" foods for red meat recently, yet there's been no decrease of heart disease or cancer. Why? Both still contain saturated fat and a protein content that is simply too high. What's this? Too much protein? How's that possible? The body can only store so much protein and this amount is often far exceeded when ingesting animal products. When this happens, your liver starts breaking down the excess and, as it metabolizes it, releases all of these toxic, nitrogen-containing wastes like urea, ammonia, and amino acid fragments, which make their merry way through your kidneys. This is not good! From there, the animal protein's sulfur content creates extra acid in the body, which then robs the bones of calcium. Also, with this animal protein being so concentrated and containing no fiber, it makes for too rapid an absorption in the body. (On the other hand, plant protein, being less concentrated and high in fiber, makes for a slower, gentler, "time-release" absorption.) If you're making a decision to eat fish or chicken because it's supposedly better than red meat, don't be fooled. There is plenty to still be concerned about. And as for the fast-food varieties of chicken and fish sandwiches...puh-leeze! These can definitely be worse, as they're often dipped in batters and/or cooked in grease.

Care to eat some fear?

Here's another sobering footnote for you; flesh-eaters are actually ingesting fear. Before an animal is "terminated," he knows what's going on. He's scared. The adrenaline is pumping, fear is actually shooting through his body...and then he's killed and "processed" - with the fear still in the meat! So, in addition to all of the other wonderful things you get when you consume flesh foods, you get the bonus of eating a terrified animal's adrenaline. This can't be good, for our body, mind or soul. Food for thought...

What's wrong with dairy products and eggs?

Okay, okay, okay. But don't tell me there's something wrong with dairy products and eggs. illustrated earlier, there can be an initial phase of vegetarianism that allows for the consumption of these foods, but...they're certainly not without their own "special benefits."

Milk (and all derivatives thereof, like cheese, ice cream, and butter), is actually a very bizarre choice of sustenance for humans, considering it was designed exclusively and perfectly to increase the weight of a baby calf 10-fold in only six months. The fat and protein ratios of cow's milk reflect this phenomenon. Conversely, mother's milk has less than three percent protein, and this is probably the most critical phase of our development! So, right off the bat, we see that we're ingesting something that was never intended for us. Besides the extremely concentrated protein and saturated fat content, dairy products are very clogging and mucous-forming to the body and are responsible for many allergies and hindrances to our system. (Growth hormones, fat, cholesterol, allergenic proteins, blood, pus, antibiotics, bacteria, virus and more!)

The yolks of eggs have perhaps the highest concentration of fat and cholesterol, and their "whites" are much too high in protein for proper absorption. Both dairy product and eggs are often filled with the antibiotics and chemical additives that the animals they come from are bombarded with, and these are, of course, handily transferred to us humans. Contrary to popular folklore (or those lovely ad campaigns), milk does NOT "do a body good," and there's no need to "give eggs a break."

From all of the info in the For Your Health section, we see two great truths emerge:

1) We have absolutely NO nutritional requirement to consume animal products. We can get everything we need from a plant-based diet, and:

2) If we choose to ingest animal products, there are many hazardous consequences from doing so.

With this in mind, let's switch gears a bit and talk about how animals are affected by our food and lifestyle choices.

Proceed to For the Animals

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