People are drawn to vegetarianism for a plethora of reasons. Some want to live longer, healthier lives or do their part to preserve Earth’s natural resources. Others have made the switch because they love animals and are ethically opposed to eating them. When you chose to become a vegetarian, you’re not only doing your personal health a favour, but that of the planet we live on and the animals we share it with.
What is a vegetarian?
A vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat. This includes poultry, red meat, fish and other seafood. Vegetarians still eat eggs and dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt and ice-cream. They are often called ovo-lacto vegetarians. Turning vegetarian is the first step towards an animal product free lifestyle. Often, many vegetarians take a further step and become vegan.
What is a vegan?
A vegan is a person who doesn't eat meat, eggs, honey or dairy products. Strict vegans often don't buy leather, fur and other products derived from animals. To replace milk, they often drink soy milk made from soya beans. Vegans also often eat tofu, TVP and tempeh which are also derived from soya beans.
Why should I go veg?
1. Health Facts
"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of `real food for real people,' you'd better live real close to a real good hospital."
-Neal D. Barnard, M.D., President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, D.C.
- An estimated 70% of all diseases, including one-third of all cancers, are related to diet. A vegetarian diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach and bowel cancer.
- A low-fat vegetarian diet is the single most effective way to stop the progression of coronary artery disease or prevent it entirely.
- Cardiovascular disease is lower in vegetarians & vegans than in meat eaters, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. A vegan diet is inherently healthful because vegans consume no animal fat and less cholesterol and instead consume more fibre and antioxidant-rich produce.
- The National Cancer Research Institute found that women who eat meat on a daily basis are almost 4 times more likely to get breast cancer than those women who eat little or no meat.
- Meat contains approximately 14 times more pesticides than plant foods; dairy products contain 5.5 times more pesticides than plant foods. As these toxins are all fat-soluble, they concentrate in the fatty flesh of the animals.
- Millions of kilos of antibiotics and hormones are used in animal production every year. These drugs end up in milk and meat which ultimately end up inside our bodies if we eat these products.
- 95-99% of toxic chemical residues in the western diet come from animal sources.
- By reducing your consumption of meat, dairy products and eggs by 50%, you reduce your risk of a heart attack by 45%.
- By following a pure vegan diet (no animal products at all) you reduce your risk by 90%.
- Meat and dairy products raise the acid level in human blood, causing calcium to be excreted from the bones to restore the body's natural pH balance. This calcium depletion results in osteoporosis. Contrary to the common belief that dairy products are necessary to prevent osteoporosis, dairy consumption actually increases the likeliness of this crippling disease.
- About 30% of all pork products are contaminated with toxoplasmosis, a disease which is caused by parasites. It can be passed on to consumers.
- On a meatless diet, you are less likely to get a bacterial infection such as E. coli, Camphylobacter, and Salmonella.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician who is referred to as the "father of medicine" in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field.
Are vegetarians healthier?
Everyone wants to be sure that they are eating a healthy diet. It has been demonstrated that vegetarian and vegan diets can meet the nutritional needs for people of all ages.
“Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diet, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” [American Dietetic Association]
Research shows that in many ways a vegetarian diet is healthier than that of a typical meat eater. Compared with omnivorous diets a varied vegetarian diet contains less saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and more folate, fibre, antioxidants, phytochemicals and carotenoids. Research studies have found that vegetarians have a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes.
Do vegetarians/vegans lose weight faster?
Studies have found that people who follow a vegetarian/vegan eating plan, on average, eat fewer calories and less fat than meat eaters. They also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than non-vegetarians. People who follow a low-fat, vegetarian or vegan diet lose an average of 10 kilos in the first year, as a by-product of consuming a diet free of animal fats.
Choosing a vegetarian eating plan with a low fat content may be helpful for weight loss. But vegetarians —like non-vegetarians—can make food choices that contribute to weight gain, like eating large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value.
Where do vegetarians get their Iron-Protein-Calcium?
Vegetarian diets should be as carefully planned as non-vegetarian diets to make sure they are balanced. Nutrients that meat eaters normally get from animal products, but that are not always found in a vegetarian eating plan are iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, protein and omega fatty acids. Choose a vegetarian eating plan that is low in fat and that provides all of the nutrients your body needs.
- Pulses including chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and tofu.
- Sprouted beans and seeds such as aduki beans, alfafa and sunflower seeds.
- Quinoa & Chia seeds
- Cereals and products such as breakfast cereals and bread.
- Green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, cabbage, Asian greens and broccoli.
- Nuts, in particular almonds and cashews.
- Dried fruit especially apricots, dates and raisins.
- Date syrup and molasses are good sources of iron.
- Vitamin C which helps with absorption of iron is present in citrus fruit/juices as well as items like sweet peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens.
How we combine iron-rich foods with those that contain vitamin C can have a significant effect on iron absorption levels. The presence of vitamin C in the gut has been shown to increase the absorption of iron up to two or three fold.
- Almonds, Brazil nuts, almond milk, sesame seeds, dried fruit
- Tofu, tahini
- Yogurt or dairy (cheese & milk)
- Fortified soy milks or fruit juices
- Collard greens, kale, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, Asian greens
Vitamin D influences calcium absorption and ensures continuous mineralisation of bones and teeth by supporting calcium blood levels.
- Fortified foods and drinks including milk, soy milk, fruit juices, or cereals.
There are two forms of Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced by the action of sunlight on our skin and is found in animal products like eggs and milk. D3 is used to fortify foods as is the other form, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which is derived from plant sources. For most people the action of sunlight on the skin provides adequate levels of Vitamin D.
- Eggs, dairy products
- Yeast extract (Nutritional Yeast)
- Fortified cereals, soy milk, soy/veggie burger or vegetable margarines
- B12 supplements
Shiitake Mushrooms, tempeh, miso and sea vegetables are often claimed to be a source of B12, however this is not completely accurate. They contain a compound with a similar structure to B12, but it doesn’t work like B12 in the body. They may contain some B12 on their surface, from soil (bacteria) or fertiliser contamination.
The primary functions of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) are for;
- The formation of red blood cells and their roles
- Normal cell division
- Nerve structure and function
- The maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels, together with folate and vitamin B6 (raised levels are a risk factor in cardiovascular disease).
Diets which exclude all animal produce need to ensure that they obtain their recommended daily intake from other sources. Vitamin B12 can be stored in small amounts by the body (predominantly in the liver), with a normal amount being around 2-3mgs in adults (this amount is sufficient for 2 to 4 years). According to the British Nutrition Foundation, dietary deficiency is rare but it can sometimes be seen in vegans who obtain virtually no B12 in their diet.
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the reference nutrient intake for Vitamin B12 in adults is 1.5 micrograms per day.
- Eggs, dairy products
- Beans, peas, lentils
- Seed-grain superfoods such as quinoa & chia
- Nuts & seeds
- Tofu, miso, tempeh & soy-based products
Protein is an important part of our diet. A balanced diet should include a daily intake of around .75grams of protein for every kilo of your body weight. Popular concern that vegetarians go short of protein is misplaced and in particular plant protein has the added advantage of being free from the saturated fat associated with meat & dairy.
The protein content of foods of plant origin such as nuts, peas and beans (including peanuts) is very high and rivals that of meat and fish. Some vegetarians include eggs and/or dairy products as part of their protein intake. Cheese has similar levels of protein to meat and fish by weight whilst egg is regarded technically by dieticians as the perfect protein food on account of its ideal balance of amino acids.
Some everyday foods that are normally regarded as carbohydrates such as rice and other grains, pasta, breakfast cereals and breads contain significant amounts of protein and can play an important part in your intake. For example, 100g of wholemeal bread contains 9.4g of protein. Potatoes too, because they are eaten in quantity, provide useful amounts of protein.
As with the other main food groups, fats and carbohydrates, an excess of protein in the diet will be treated by the body as a source of energy and in turn can be converted to body fat potentially contributing to obesity. Current official guidelines for protein intake suggest for adults a daily intake of 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight.
Average adult (19+) woman = 45g per day
Average adult (19+) man = 55g per day
Fats & Omegas:
It’s important we don’t eat too much fat and yet at the same time fats are an essential part of our diet. As vegetarians understanding a little about the role they play in the human body can help us include the right type of fat in our diet.
Fats help with the absorption of the ‘fat soluble’ vitamins - vitamin A and the carotenoids, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.
Saturated and hydrogenated fat have harmful effects on health. As well as leading to weight gain which is associated with diabetes, eating a diet that is high in these fats can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of cholesterol cause atherosclerosis which increases your chances of developing heart disease.
The healthier unsaturated fats are mainly from plant sources such as fruit, seeds, nuts and vegetables. Olive oil and rapeseed oil are the main sources of monosaturates and polyunsaturates are provided by sunflower, soya, sesame and corn oils. Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats promote health; can lower your blood cholesterol levels and the tendency for your blood to clot. Monosaturated and polysaturated fats should each provide around one third of our fat intake.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids must be present in the diet for normal health. An adequate intake of both may prevent and control a number of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, macular degeneration, immune dysfunction (e.g. asthma, eczema).
Linoleic acid (LA) omega-6 is widely available in a vegetarian diet in:
- Maize (corn)
- Soya beans
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 is found most notably in:
Both LA and ALA are found in:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dairy & eggs
If you have high cholesterol there are several ways in which a vegetarian diet can help. If you are thinking of switching to a vegetarian diet as a way of avoiding the saturated fat associated with meat then vegetarian sources of protein such as tofu, beans, lentils and soya mince are excellent alternatives. If you want to cut down on saturates by reducing your dairy intake soy milk and soy yoghurt are useful alternatives to dairy milk and yoghurt. Almond, rice and oat milk are also becoming more widely available and all are low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturates
Essential fatty acid Omega-3 can help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Fibre, which is abundant in a balanced vegetarian diet, is also cholesterol reducing. Foods that are part of a healthy vegetarian diet include pulses such as chickpeas and kidney beans. Pulses can be doubly helpful in reducing cholesterol as they represent a good source of protein without the associated saturated fats of some meats and have the added bonus of protective fibre.
There’s an abundance of scientific research that demonstrates the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet.
Get more health info here:
2. Environmental Degradation & World Food Shortage Facts
"A reduction in beef and other meat consumption is the most potent single act you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources. Our choices do matter. What's healthiest for each of us personally is also healthiest for the life support system of our precious, but wounded planet."
--John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, and President, EarthSave Foundation, Santa Cruz, California
- Meat production wastes natural resources. Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water.
- It takes up to 7kgs of grain to produce just 500gr of meat.
- Fish on fish farms must be fed up to 2kgs of wild caught fish to produce 500gr of farmed fish flesh.
- It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.
- It takes more than 9,000 litres of water to produce 500gr of meat, while growing 500gr of wheat only requires 94 litres.
- What may come as a surprise is that only 5% of water runs through toilets, taps, and garden hoses at home. Nearly 95% of your water footprint is hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on.
- We are eating ourselves off the planet. 7-10 billion animals are slaughtered worldwide every year to supply demand. The raising of animals specifically to kill them and eat them has resulted in incredible pollution, waste and devastation of our precious resources.
- Due to plundering our farmlands to fatten animals for slaughter, millions of acres of cropland are being lost to erosion globally every year.
- Livestock production is a major cause of desertification (where the land dries out and loses its precious topsoil so vegetation is unable to grow on it anymore) as well as deforestation (loss of trees).
- Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil, usually the top 2-8 inches (5-20 cm). It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms and is where most of the Earth's biological soil activity occurs. 200 hundred years ago American cropland had topsoil that averaged 21 inches in depth. Today, only about 6 inches remain. 85% of topsoil erosion is associated with livestock production.
- Spinach grown on an acre of land can yield 26 times more protein than beef produced on the same acre.
- 20 vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed 1 person consuming a meat-based diet.
- More than 40% of the world’s grain is now fed to animals. 60 million people will starve to death this year- 60 million people could be adequately fed by the grain saved if we reduced our intake of meat by just 10 percent
- Some beef comes from cattle raised on land that was formerly rainforest. This land is not good for grazing and it lasts only for a few years, after which more rainforest must be destroyed to raise the cattle on.
- For each quarter-pounder fast food hamburger sold that came from cattle raised on former rainforest land, 55 square feet of rainforest was destroyed
For more info on environmental impact of meat production see:
3. The Sanctity of Animal Life
"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. We feel better about ourselves and better about the animals, knowing we're not contributing to their pain."
-- Paul and Linda McCartney
- You’ll spare animals. Many vegetarians give up meat because of their concern for animals. Up to 10 billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption each year.
- Unlike the farms of yesteryear where animals roamed freely, today most animals are factory farmed crammed into cages where they can barely move and fed a diet tainted with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.
- These animals spend their entire lives in crates or stalls so small that they can’t even turn around.
- Many factory-farmed animals never see a blade of grass or feel sunshine on their skin in their entire lifetime.
- Animals raised for food production are nearly always deprived of natural sexual, social, hygienic, and parental behaviours.
- Farmed animals are not protected from cruelty under the law. In fact, the majority of state anticruelty laws specifically exempt farm animals from basic humane protection.
- Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient, because while animals eat large quantities of grain, soybeans, oats, and corn, they only produce comparatively small amounts of meat, dairy products, or eggs in return. This is why more than 70% of the grain and cereals that we grow worldwide are fed to farmed animals.
- Animals that are raised for slaughter needlessly experience incredible suffering throughout their life and death. Many people try not to think of the torturous experiences of the animal whose flesh ended up in their hamburger or on their dinner table. But if it is distasteful to think about, consider what it is like to experience it.
- Animals, like humans, have a right to life: the living beings encaged in animal bodies are not here for us to harm and exploit. We are meant to act as caretakers and protectors of animals and the planet.
- Vegetarianism/Veganism is moral and ethical: given the devastating consequences of meat eating on an individual, social and ecological level, as thinking, caring beings we should choose vegetarianism.
Many great philosophers, inventors, scientists, authors and great thinkers such as Plato, Socrates, Leo Tolstoy, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw have taught the morality of vegetarianism.
As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields. -- Leo Tolstoy, author
Vegetarian food leaves a deep impression on our nature. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind. -- Albert Einstein
Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends. -- George Bernard Shaw
Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others: we are burial places! I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men. -- Leonardo Da Vinci
A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral. -- Leo Tolstoy
Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. -- Albert Einstein
Kombucha Fermented Tea
Kombucha Tea is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the Kombucha culture. The tea is mildly effervescent and has a cider-like acid taste. It can also be flavoured with herbal teas such as rosehip and dandelion for added health benefits.
The Kombucha Culture
The Kombucha culture looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake. It's often called a ‘scoby’ which stands for ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.
As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucaric acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids and enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.
You might wonder if fermenting tea with yeasts would produce an alcoholic beverage. It's a good question. The yeasts do produce alcohol but the bacteria in the culture turn the alcohol to organic acids. Only minute quantities of alcohol, typically 1% by volume remains in the Kombucha brew.
Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea
People from all walks of life throughout the world claim that taking Kombucha Tea on a regular basis provides relief from many ailments. While it may or may not be the cure to all ailments, it is a traditional fermented beverage used in many cultures to promote well-being.
The strongest endorsement of the power of Kombucha Tea is that cultures throughout the world have been using it for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in different parts of the world. This in itself lends testimony to the fact the tea has long been beneficial to many for a variety of physical ailments.
Some of the reported health benefits from testimonials are:
- Acts as a gentle laxative, helping avoid constipation
- Aids in the relief of arthritis
- Cleanses the colon and gall bladder
- Aids in healthy digestion
- Relieves colitis and stomach cramps
- Returns gray hair to its natural color
- Helps stop non-infectious diarrhea
- Relieves bronchitis and asthma
- Clears up Candida yeast infections
- Regulates the appetite and reduces fat
- Aids with stress and insomnia
- Improves eyesight, cataracts and floaters
- Relieves headaches including migraines
- Puts Lupus into remission
- Helps reduces the alcoholic's craving for alcohol
- Eliminates menopausal hot flashes
- Clears acne, psoriasis and other skin problems
- Thickens hair and strengthens fingernails
- Enhances the sense of smell
- Vitalizes the physical body and adds energy-including sexual energy!
The Organic Acids
Acetic Acid: A powerful preservative that inhibits harmful bacteria.
Butyric acid: Produced by the yeast, protects human cellular membranes and combined with Gluconic acid strengthens the walls of the gut to combat yeast infections like candida.
Glucaric acid: Helps liver function more efficiently.
Gluconic Acid: Produced by the bacteria, it can break down to caprylic acid is of great benefit to sufferers of candidiasis and other yeast infections such as thrush.
Lactic Acid: Essential for the digestive system. Assists blood circulation, helps prevent bowel decay and constipation. Aids in balancing acids and alkaline in the body and believed to help in the prevention of cancer by helping to regulate blood pH levels.
Malic acid: Helps detoxify the liver.
Oxalic Acid: An effective preservative and encourages the intercellular production of energy.
Usnic Acid: A natural antibiotic that can be effective against many viruses.