Life Without The Meat Fort Frances Time Online Ju…

June 16, 2006

Life Without The Meat

Fort Frances Time Online
June 14, 2006
By Beth Caldwell

It could be said that there are two kinds of people in the world—those who eat meat and those who don’t.

But not many decisions in life are that black and white, including the why’s and why not’s about the consumption of animal protein.

It’s generally known that if you don’t eat meat, but include eggs, cheese, and milk in your diet, you’re a vegetarian. If you say “no” to meat and dairy products, it’s “V for vegan.”

And if you’re a bit of an extremist and don’t eat meat or dairy products, and your diet is uncooked and cold, then welcome to the “raw food vegan” club, where a cup of hot soup on a cold day is never realized.

Worldwide studies have been conducted on the benefits of eliminating meat and dairy products from the daily menu. And if done right, and in combination with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, vegetarianism stands out as a key player in longevity.

Some people give up animal protein for love of their four-legged friends; others because of faith. Some may carve out a meat-free life half-time while others willingly trade a cold glass of cow’s milk for a quarter cup of seaweed all the time.

The number of vegetarians and vegans in Canada is relatively small. A recent study estimated only about 250,000 vegetarians and 100,000 vegans are out there.

Cliff Marsh of Devlin pursues a vegetarian lifestyle because of medical necessity and out of respect for his service to a higher power. He admits it’s not always easy to say “No thanks” to the part of a meal that includes animal protein, but he’s doing his best.

“[My vegetarianism] was probably initiated as long as 10 years ago,” Marsh, 54, recalled last week by phone from his business “Northwest Solar” in Devlin.

Marsh and his wife, Roxanne, spent 30 years in the British Columbia interior where he was a meat-cutter. His wife had food sensitivities and allergies, which prompted a food cull of sorts. But it wasn’t until his own health started to deteriorate did he make some drastic changes to his diet.

“In being a meat-cutter for many, many years, I had consumed many herds of cattle on the barbecue and it led to ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome,’” March revealed.

“We had to start figuring out what was the problem and started doing research on natural remedies, and was eventually led to vegetarianism without any spiritual prompting,” Marsh added, referring to his membership in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which advocates a vegetarian lifestyle, including abstaining from pork, alcohol, and tobacco.

In fact, studies have documented that Seventh Day Adventists live about seven years longer than other people.

Upon carving out a vegetarian lifestyle to recoup his intestinal health, Marsh was strict with his diet for about three years—until he and his wife moved back to Rainy River District and came in closer contact with their families and the occasional meat meal.

But at home alone, they maintain a meatless diet and claim the greener lifestyle changed everything.

“Undoubtedly, absolutely [I feel better] and I have more energy,” touted Marsh. “For sure I have no bowel trouble at all when I am sticking to my [vegetarian] diet and, in fact, I can consume a little bit of meat protein on a limited basis without causing any trouble.

“When you get on to [vegetarianism], you don’t want to eat meat because you know what you feel like afterwards—it makes you slow down.

“It’s not surprising that carnivorous animals, after they eat the wildebeest, they go and lie down for 24 hours,” Marsh reasoned with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, Pat Kozik of Fort Frances has had a close relationship with vegetarianism most of her life. She was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist and remains a member of the church. Although she admitted to “falling off the vegetable wagon” during intermittent periods in her life, Kozik, now 81, has spent at least the last three years of her life animal protein-free.

“It’s just a way of life. It isn’t a religion as much as it is a way of life,” she stressed earlier this week.

True vegetarians give up the beef steak, chicken breast, and pork chops for other sources of protein, such as beans, peas, or lentils, tofu, soy milk, nuts, seeds, and eggs.

Rooksana Randeree, a dietitian with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. here, stressed the need for vegetarians to be mindful that they are receiving all the nutrients necessary for optimum health, and especially so for vegans who choose to cut out both meat and dairy products from their diet.

Randeree also noted that while she rarely sees adult vegetarians referred to her office by their doctor, she does counsel teenagers on the subject.

Much of the time, the young teens—primarily female—have come from their doctor with deficiencies in iron levels because they’ve approached vegetarianism without all the facts and need nutritional advice.

“I see a lot of teenagers who come through my office who have been to the doctor and been diagnosed with iron deficiency [and yet] they say they are vegetarian,” Randeree explained during an interview at her office last week.

“They come in here and when I ask them ‘What does a vegetarian diet mean to you,’ they say they’ve cut out all the meat and all they are eating are the vegetables and the potatoes, pasta, rice that their parents are making for them at supper time.

“They have excluded the meat [protein portion] but they haven’t supplemented it,” she stressed.

While Randeree deemed a well-balanced vegetarian diet healthy and safe for teenagers, she also said young women sometimes choose vegetarianism for the wrong reasons.

They cut out the protein and dairy products from their diet to lose weight.

“Some of these teenagers could have eating disorders, and often with eating disorders the protein portion of their food is the first thing to go,” she noted.

“A lot of young girls think [protein] is the higher calorie food, so they exclude it and start picking at the vegetables, and then you see the milk going—another protein source—so that basically they are just living on vegetables.

“If [teenagers] want to become true vegetarians, they can do it in a very, very healthy way,” Randeree continued. “The misconception is that you can go on a vegetarian diet and you can lose weight.

“Our bodies are so sophisticated that if you don’t meet your energy requirements, you may lose weight for a short period of time, but your body will adjust to what you are eating and then you will stop losing weight.

“In fact, some people who go through the cycle of under-eating and then over-eating, which is the ‘yo-yo’ diet cycle, actually end up being overweight because of that system where your body learns to conserve and preserve energy rather than utilize it,” Randeree remarked.

Melanie Béchard, a staff writer with the Fort Frances Times, has been a vegetarian for half of her life, taking that path for the four-legged creatures of the world.

It wasn’t easy switching to a healthy food plan minus the meat, but now at 32 years old, she’s a veteran at an alternative, balanced approach to nutrition.

“I consider myself a vegetarian, not a vegan. I did try veganism for about three months but couldn’t do it anymore,” Béchard noted last week.

“This is going to sound silly, but we always had dogs when I was growing up and I didn’t see the difference between killing a cow and eating it and killing my dog and eating it.

“I just didn’t see the difference—and I decided that I thought I could live without [meat],” she remarked.

“I think I cheated twice the first year [and] the hardest thing to give up was Kentucky Fried Chicken,” she chuckled.

“I was a bad vegetarian the first several years, I would say, because I was probably not getting the protein that I needed and if I was hungry after supper, I would have chips and ice cream,” Béchard laughed.

For the vegans of the world who cut out dairy products as well as animal protein, the risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency goes way up. It’s only present in animal products and if those sources of food aren’t included in one’s diet, supplements are in order, Randeree warned.

“Vitamin B12 [deficiency] is mainly associated with anemia because it’s necessary in the formation of red blood cells.

“And of course, protein is the building blocks of our cells, so we need it for the regular wear and tear of red blood cell formation—all the repair that goes on within our body and for muscle development, as well,” she reiterated.

Green leafy vegetables (like “Popeye’s” spinach) are sources of iron, but not the same kind of iron as found in animal protein. Called “non-heme” iron and vegetable-based, it is not as well-absorbed by the human body as that found in the “heme iron” in animal protein.

Anyone journeying into a vegetarian lifestyle also must be aware of their continued need for calcium. This is especially important for teenagers.

“If they just suddenly decide to become vegetarian and start cutting out the meat and then [as vegans] the dairy products, and are only eating vegetables, they are not going to be meeting their calcium requirements,” Randeree noted.

“During the teen years, that’s when the bone density is actually reaching its peak and that’s very, very important because what teenagers [consume in calcium] when they are 15 years old is going to affect them, in terms of osteoporosis, when they are 60.

“But they can’t see that relationship because they think they’ll never get old,” she smiled. And what about the raw food vegan approach? Brrr!

Randeree believes it’s probably a better idea to cut out the fast food, high fat, processed products in our diet than opt for eating a cold, raw meatless, diary-less diet.

“Even something a simple as your kidney bean. Well, a kidney bean is cooked [when you eat it] so being a raw food vegan really limits you,” she said.

“There’s always extremes, but I think research has shown that moderation ‘middle of the road’ is where to be,” Randeree concluded.

In an article published in the November, 2005 issue of National Geographic entitled “The Secrets of Living Longer,” three groups of people around the world were deemed to be among the longest living on Earth—each with its own core of centenarians.

And although each group has its own set of beliefs, they all share in the enjoyment of a vital—an active existence well into their 90s.

The hot spots of longevity include Sardinia, Italy, where they drink red wine, share the workload with their spouse, and eat pecorino cheese, in Okinawa, Japan, where they eat small meals, have purpose, and nurture friendships, and in Loma Linda, Calif. among the Seventh Day Adventists, who rely heavily on faith, nuts, and beans, and observe the Sabbath.

Only a third of the world is meat-eating and two-thirds vegetarian.

“When you look at the big picture, why wouldn’t you want to prolong your life? Why wouldn’t you want to live into your 70s, 80s, and 90s and still have a good mind, still go hiking, riding your bike, and enjoy a quality of life instead of being in your 50s and 60s and starting to feel the rigors of your lifestyle and be restricted,” Marsh challenged.

For more information on vegetarian food guidelines, go to http://www.nutrispeak.com

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