There is an incredible gap between thinking about drug-based health and food-based health around the world. Conventional wisdom has failed to show the importance in developing and using nutrition as a concept to maintain health and prevent disease.
The answer to what ails us has been here since day one
I have had two life-altering experiences that have allowed me to enhance two of the three elements that encompass a holistic lifestyle – Mind, Body, Spirit. The two that focus on the mind and spirit occurred almost simultaneously as I engrossed myself in academics at a time when my generation in the early 1970‘s was also looking for deeper spiritual realities not associated with institutional religion.
To many, as it was to me in my earlier days, this will come across as hippy, eastern mysticism crapola. I was raised in the South, – Texas to be specific – and as a conservative Catholic who feared God and hated communist I was a perfect patsy for the anti-liberal crowd that was slowly emerging in my part of the country at the time. The glory days of FDR were slowing fading into the sunset as Kennedy would be the last progressive president to win the electoral votes of the Lone Star state.
My tour of duty as a Marine in Vietnam opened my eyes to the ugliness of war and gave me a greater appreciation for the life we come face to face with every day. Death all of sudden was something more real to me than it had been as a carefree adolescent. There was the short period of time following my discharge from the service and upon entering college that simply served as a period to drink as much alcohol and smoke as much dope as I could and lay with as many women who were also wandering aimlessly in search of some kind of fulfillment.
I’m not sure what drove me to enter college. I was a mediocre student in high school before I dropped out in my junior year to join the Corps. But I was sold on the idea that furthering my education would open some doors for me and prevent me from getting stuck in a life where spinning your wheels in a job that led to nowhere was commonplace.
Enriching my understanding of the world outside my small community filled a void that had been there for some time. My association with more diverse, learned people than the crowd I grew up with introduced me to new themes and perspectives that struck a chord that had been lying inert within me too long.
The works of Emerson and Thoreau tapped a metaphysical nerve and pushed me to challenge traditional notions of religion. I struggled with this for years but once I got past the barriers that orthodoxy builds in our lives and punishes us with guilt, I found a new freedom that I never new existed. I became fully cognizant of the scriptural notion of leaving childish things behind. For me this included the tired old concepts of conventional religion.
Growing mentally and spiritually is supposed to be an ongoing process and entails getting passed established customs and rituals embedded into our psyche at very early ages. I don’t think we are capable of reaching a final point where we can honestly say, “I’ve made it! I’m here!” without setting limits for ourself. If we come to some point where we are asking “Is this all there is”, then I think we have given up rather than reaching the true limits of our being.
My Eureka moment has finally occurred about the final leg of a holistic life
And yet, the third leg of this holistic approach regarding the body has evaded me until just recently. Through various sources I have discovered that the health of our body also requires getting past arcane notions. Keeping in mind my upbringing was in Texas, we were big meat eaters. In fact the only time we didn’t have meat as a part of the main course for dinner was on Friday’s.
Canon law to this day still requires Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Friday. It wasn’t until 1983 and the implementation of canon 1251 that some other food “as determined by the Episcopal Conference” could serve as a substitute for red meat. It came too late for me however to replace Friday’s fried salmon patties my mom would always mange to over cook in lard.
We have evolved as a consumer of foods that are quick and easy and ever so tasty. Yet for all of the proclaimed benefits from such a diet we have deprived ourselves of something that literally can prevent illness and disease. Like sheep led to their slaughter we have bought into the notion that the modern meat-based diet and processed foods fulfill the essential needs for good health and long life. I have become convinced that nothing could be further from the truth.
There have been a few instances in the near past where I have crossed paths with people in real life and through media sources that have raised the prospects of living purely off of a holistic plant-based diet. One of the more prominent documentaries I had seen to that point was The Gerson Miracle. But these sources somehow were unable to penetrate that thick layer of time-honored beliefs that assured me meat and dairy products, at some level, were part of a requisite diet.
Like the ideas planted in my youth that put God, flag and family as the quintessential pattern of thought for my life, the food pyramid that insisted only meat protein and the vital nutrients in dairy products were conducive to a healthy lifestyle were equally ingrained within my knowledge base. It was believed that being a vegan was for limp-wristed types who wanted to undermine our traditional way of life.
What finally got me past this corporate propaganda was a series of documentaries that displayed stunning research in a fashion and language that was easy to comprehend. For someone like me who was willing to push the envelope on conventional beliefs it was easy to shut out the objections to a purely “vegan” diet and listen to alternatives. These alternative eating habits were not new but merely something that’s been lost over time and which enabled earlier generations to avoid the health issues we are experiencing today as a society.
Based on research by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D and significant others, meat and dairy products, which contain casein, a carcinogen found in animal based proteins, are strongly tied to high rates of heart disease and most cancers.
It may or may not surprise you to learn that meat and dairy, organic or conventional,
contain naturally occurring steroids and hormones, which can promote cancer growth.
animal protein, fat, and cholesterol (even nonfat/skim milk contains cholesterol) all contribute to heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and other major chronic disease
What made this an epiphany for me was not so much the obvious health benefits of a holistic plant-based diet but that it was a diet that needn’t include meat and dairy protein. We have all been raised with the idea that, A) Protein is a vital nutrient, and B) it’s only found in meat. Protein is indeed a vital nutrient but what’s not common knowledge is that meat isn’t necessarily a primary source for protein. The beef industry in this country has a long tradition of promoting this ideal.
I could sit here all day and give you all kinds of data to support the hazards of a meat-based diet, which includes dairy products. But I’d rather you be convinced by the documentary that turned that dormant light on and finally completed the third leg of a holistic life for me – the Body.
It’s called Forks over Knives. The film and its follow-up documentary, Forks over Knives: The Extended Interviews will blow your mind when you discover that by eating a plant-based diet you cannot only halt the conditions of heart disease and cancer but can actually reverse them. Both Netflix and Hulu have these in their inventory
Think of that. The number one and two killers of people in the U.S. – heart disease and cancer – can virtually be eliminated by changing how we eat. Then there are of course the positive results that such a diet will have on reducing obesity in this country and its serious side effect, diabetes. One health report even shows that there are significant links between a meat-based diet and high rates of Alzheimer’s.
Leading Causes of Death
- Heart disease: 597,689
- Cancer: 574,743
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
- Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
- Diabetes: 69,071
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364
Faced with the prospect of deteriorating health as I age alongside the rising costs of health care, I am profoundly disturbed that the health care institutions in this country have not been more supportive of a plant-based diet. It is one thing to discover how meat and dairy products can contribute significantly to poor health to all populations and another not to act on that in a manner that would reduce and likely eliminate the threat of diseases that plague modern man. It raises the question that asks, “Who do these people really serve”?
The meat and dairy industry in this country have spent a fortune on marketing and paying to influence the USDA to promote their products. I cited one example of this in an earlier post of mine – Kowtowing, Cow herders and Cow Paddies. In his informative piece at HuffPo, Nil Zacharias demonstrates how difficult it will be to overcome the powerful monied interests that represent the meat industry.
Thanks to the blog CountingAnimals.com, we now have hard data to … [show that] the meat industry has the big guns (i.e. more cash) … [to fight a] a propaganda war for the hearts, minds and taste buds of the American public.
The results of their analysis are captured in the graphic below, which helps visualize the scale of the difference between the dollars spent on promoting meat and the dollars spent on advocacy of farm animals. In the figure below, each red circle represents a meat-promoting entity, with the area of the circle being proportional to just the annual advertising or promotional expenses of that entity. Each green circle (you’ll need a magnifying glass to even see most of them) represents an animal advocacy organization engaged in promoting plant-based eating or meat industry reform, with the area of the circle being proportional to the total annual expenses of that organization.
There is a culture in this country that is deeply entrenched and ensures that all of us and our children will incur ill-health for decades to come. This revolutionary and liberating knowledge about plant-based diets will be attacked by this culture because there are billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs that are at stake here.
Yet the well-being of our families and the planet itself demand that we start turning the corner on food sources that shortens our lives, increases our health care costs and destroys our vital resources of water and clean air.
Don’t let the image of a plate full of “rabbit food” substituting a meat and dairy based diet weaken your resolve to change over. There are many websites where you discover how to make plant-based recipes that resemble those meat-based dishes we have all come to love. They can be equally satisfying by enhancing them with health beneficial spices and just as filling.
Check out the recipes at the No. 2 Engine Diet website for plant-based meatloaf, lasagna and burgers, to cite just a few examples of what they offer.
Here’s an enchilada dish you’ll find on the Engine #2 Diet website. It has all the protein you’ll need and there’s not an ounce of meat in it
“Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” ― Epicurus