Eating less meat might just be the solution to our and the world’s health problems, finds Yeevon Ong
I remember reading Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser years ago and swore to myself never to have fast food again. It was tough resisting. I missed and craved the oh-so-succulent juicy patties sandwiched between slabs of melting cheese, pickles and warm buns. But almost every time I am nearly overwhelmed by temptation, visions of meatpacking workers barbarically jabbing and bulldozing down cattle to be slaughtered flashed vividly in my head. Rather than salivating, there was now a gag reflex.
One has to acknowledge these contemptible actions to animals and make a stand. Can we however live without fast food, without these patties born from so much bloodshed, or can we live without killing at all?
It seems there are benefits to a meat-free diet. Meat is often a source of saturated fat and diets that include less saturated fat have been instrumental in freeing many diabetics from their pills, shots, and pumps. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report suggests that the “natural products and food forms” in a vegetarian diet “will produce very significant metabolic advantages for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications.”
It is also animal products which contain cholesterol and aimal fat, which is often responsible for clogging arteries, prompting higher chances of heart attack and strokes.
Even osteoporosis (bone loss resulting from mineral, particularly calcium, depletion), often thought to be caused by not ingesting enough calcium, may, according to research, actually be compounded by drinking too much milk. A Harvard nurses' study of more than 77,000 women aged 34 to 59 found that those who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass or less per day.
According to PETA website, T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University reinforced that the association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
In addition to excessive amounts of fat, cholesterol, and protein, consumers of animal products take in far greater amounts of residual agricultural chemicals, industrial pollutants, antibiotics, and hormones than vegetarians do.
Eating fish can also dangerous. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that fish can accumulate thousands of times the level of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) found in water in which they live.
Meat, as we have learnt in school, is an excellent source of protein. Excessive intake of protein however has been linked to the development of endometrial, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. We can also obtain a good amount of protein as it is from tofu and soy products. And they taste good too.
Eddie Lim who used to represent Malaysia in Taekwondo would vouch for that. The 26-year-old has been practising a vegetarian diet for about two years. He gushe about how he still gets to treat himself to a hearty and satiating meal at his favourite vegetarian restaurant called Chef Low Organic Kitchen in Petaling Jaya.
As opposed to the misconception of vegetarian “mock meat” being “cardboard flavoured dishes with copious amounts of artificial seasoning”, Chef Low offers food is natural, healthy and tasty, concurs the Friedchillies Food Network food site.
Whoever thought a man chowing down on a plate deprived of meat is unappealing should take a look at Golden Globe-nominee Brad Pitt who is vegan and English actor and activist Ian McKellen, who is vegetarian.
What by the way, is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? While vegetarians do not consume any meat nor fish, vegans go one step further by staying away from animal products like , cheese, eggs and sometimes even honey.
Nonetheless, these labels are just easy categorizations and what you put in your mouth is ultimately due to personal discretion. Chris Wong, founder of iMagazine and active proponent of the LMF (Less Meat Family) movement, believes that vegans and vegetarians have the same cause– a healthier and more responsible lifestyle. In fact, Chris regards a no-meat lifestyle to be the key to saving our planet.
This is because livestock is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Ruminant animals, like cows and lambs, have digestive system that produce more powerful greenhouse gas methane than non-ruminant animals like pigs and chickens. A typical cow belches out more than 100kg of methane gas each year– an equivalent of two return flights from London to New York. Nitrous oxide meanwhile is largely the result of these livestock’s manure. Poor managing of the manure can subsequently threaten rivers thus poisoning and killing aquatic species. These gases together cause the majority of global warming.
Schlosser in Fast Food Nation mentioned how 20 years ago, new slaughter plants in the High Plains in the US slaughtered about 174 cattle an hour. Today, due to the massive demand for fast food, some plants slaughter up to 400 cattle an hour– about half a dozen animals every minute. Therefore the more our consumption of beef as well, the more livestock reared, and the more emissions produced.
“A lot of things can be done to help stop global warming but really, going vegetarian is the simplest most effective way,” asserted Chris who has been cutting down on his meat intake for more than two years now.
He has been active in LMF to give a different name to vegetarianism. He doesn’t want 'vegetarianism' to sound exclusive and restrictive. Instead, LMF promotes gradually cutting down meat for a good cause, while providing a support system for all who wish to be vegetarian. He knows how hard transitioning from old habits can be; he used to love eating meat, especially pork dishes like char siew (barbecued pork) and siew yok (roasted pork belly).
Also part of the Less Meat Family are sisters Stable and Miracle Lai. Stable started to go vegetarian when she was 13. Unlike Chris who took things slowly, the 34-year-old turned from being known as the 'meat blender' amongst her friends and family to a vegetarian in a day.
“I could eat about 20 pieces of Kai Lo Yao (chicken's backside) back then. I didn't like vegetables too,” said the beauty products supplier to the gasps of everyone at the table. She was a hardcore meat-eater up till the faithful day when she witnessed the full slaughter process of a chicken in a market. Later that day, she couldn't bear to take a bite of the chicken she saw brutally murdered for her chicken rice. From that day on she swore to never take meat again.
Her mother was not too keen on her daughter going green on her diet but Stable stood her ground and boycotted her mother's attempt to revert her to meat by cooking meat-only dishes. “When you make a decision like this, you will definitely be challenged, rebuked, and ridiculed at some point,” recalling how she had had to stand up to an important person at a dinner.
Vegetarianism has in fact done well for the sisters. When they took a trip to China to visit their relatives, they braved the cold in just a layer of clothing while their relatives clad themselves in layers of jackets and warmers. They were surprised as these sisters never took meat, let alone dog meat which was considered to be the 'warmer' for most in China.
The world is fast picking up on the green diet. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are springing up like mushrooms after a rain. There are thousands of vegetarian restaurants in USA alone with one unconventional fast food chain that provides its patrons with delicious vegetarian alternatives.
The Otarian, launched last year in New York and London, sought to empower its patrons to make a positive impact on the environment one meal at a time. There are also international campaigns like Meatless Monday founded in 2003 which promotes personal and environmental health by going vegetarian on Mondays.
Well, I admit I still do gorge myself on salty greasy fries and cheeseburgers every now and then when the cravings get too overpowering. However, I have made the distinct effort to cut down visiting a certain fast food chain from twice a week to once in every two months.
If you can’t, like some, turn from one habit to another overnight, just have fun cutting down on those fatty patties and animal proteins. And really, eat your vegetables because they are good for you.
Bet you didn't know these:
Percentage of calories from protein (taken from PETA website)
Raw kidney beans 58%
[CAP] Brad Pitt has said that he got his body buff for movie Troy by following a strict high protein vegetarian diet
[CAP] Sportsman and businessman Eddie Lim has been vegetarian for about two years