Myths and Facts about Vegetarian Diet
Whenever someone hears about a vegetarian diet, the common question is, “But what can you eat if you don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs?” How sad it is to see what advertising has done to us, particularly our young folk! They grow up with the vast majority of food commercials on TV showing them the benefits of deep-fried chicken, fast-food hamburgers, “lite” beer, and the like. Rarely is there mention of the grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that for centuries have made up the staple diet of most people around the world. So, all too often youngsters end up thinking “food” means “meat”.
The slaughterhouse, factory farming, and mass merchandising are pretty much unique to this century. Refrigerators are a relatively recent invention. Many societies around the world still subsist on a very simple, basic vegetarian diet. People in the Western world seldom die of starvation, but rather the opposite over-indulgence.
But there is infinite variety in a vegetarian diet. Let’s look at the international nature of the culinary world. If you study the various ethnic foods (Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, etc.), they were all vegetarian-based diets. It was only after certain individuals or societies became more affluent that they added meat. Do you really think that the original lasagna or chow mein or tortillas had any meat in them? First of all, people couldn’t afford it, and secondly, it wasn’t something that was attractive or economically sound.
Many people today are becoming aware of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The vast increase in the number of deaths from cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc., has woken up a lot of people. Almost everyone in the Western world has lost a loved one to one of these diseases, which is brought on by a meat-centered diet.
But a great myth persists: that meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are necessary for a person to stay well and excel. A case in point: myself. In 1970, when I switched from a predominantly meat-based diet to a vegetarian one, virtually all my fellow athletes told me how sick I was going to get, and some even said I would die! After one year as a vegetarian, I was tested at the Percival Institute in Toronto. I had the highest fitness index of any athlete in Canada! In fact, my left hand strength had increased 38% amazing, considering I’m right-handed and didn’t lift any weights during the year. But the most significant increase was in my stamina. It had increased almost 80%!
Every athlete should understand that meat, fish, poultry, and eggs contain a high percentage of concentrated, pure protein, along with high levels of cholesterol. When one eats pure protein, the body cannot use it in that form; it must break it down into amino acids, expending energy with this extra step. This drain on the body’s energy takes away from an athlete’s performance. Also, these foods contain a lot of toxins, which the body has to work hard to eliminate. And because the cholesterol is in the lean tissue of the animal, even if you trim the fat you will still eat excessive cholesterol. The average Westerner takes in 500 – 600 milligrams of cholesterol a day, while the body can eliminate only 100 milligrams a day. The result is that Westerners accumulate a lot of cholesterol in their bodies, especially in the bloodstream, where it coats the arterial walls, causing arteriosclerotic build-up. As the area through which the blood flows narrows, less oxygen goes through the bloodstream, and with less oxygen getting to the muscles, the athlete will fatigue sooner. Athletes need to keep a flexible, elastic, and clean blood system, and this is accomplished on either a lacto-vegetarian or a vegan diet.
And finally, the overall perspective important for us to understand is that eating meat is an ecological crime. The purpose of the fish is to keep the ocean clean, the purpose of the chicken and pigs is to keep the land clean, and the purpose of the cow is to give us milk. Unfortunately, today we must even be concerned with the quality of milk we purchase, as so many of our factory-farmed animals are filled with hormones. Ghee is preferred over butter, and butter is preferred over margarine, the latter basically being plastic fat, a product that was invented in the late 1940’s as a substitute for the shortage of butter.
I consider the step to vegetarianism, and in particular, the understanding of it, the most important step in my life. It has changed my health for the better, but more importantly, it has changed how I view life. Only after changing to a vegetarian diet did I truly understand the phrase “reverence for life”. When I hear people say, “But a little meat won’t hurt me,” that may be true, but what a selfish way of looking at things. If you asked a cow or a chicken or a fish how it felt about “that little piece”…
So wherever you are in your level of understanding about nutrition, give Kurma’s recipes a try. Through his TV cooking series and video tapes, he has helped thousands of people realize the sheer versatility of vegetarian cooking.
If you sincerely make the effort to follow his instructions and recipes, you’ll discover a whole new world of enjoyment. You will be amazed at how good food really can be.
This article is written by Ms. Ajita Krishna Dasa. Please email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries.