4. Pros And Cons Of Vegetarianism
4.1 Should We Be Vegetarians At All?
After all of this discussion of vegetarianism and the different types of vegetarians, we probably should ask the question: Is the vegetarian diet really that suited after all for optimum health?
If we consider the vegetarian diet to be chiefly based upon vegetables (greens, grains, stalks, tubers, roots, etc.), then we can answer: No, the vegetarian diet is not the best diet to promote health and well-being. The only diet that can truly insure the highest level of health is one that is based primarily on the foods of our biological heritage: Fruits.
Man is not suited to live on grasses, stalks, greens, and roughage that make up the greater part of the vegetable category. These may be additions to his natural diet, but such vegetables alone cannot give the highest-quality nutrients and fuel that we require. Fruits with their abundance of minerals, vitamins, natural sugars, and amino acids can furnish us with all of our needs. They are nontoxic (something that vegetables cannot make a claim to) and they may eaten with relish with no preparation (unlike grains, tubers, and hard roots).
Since T. C. Fry has addressed this question so well in the supplemental material following this lesson, we’ll end this discussion by simply saying that the typical vegetarian diet as envisioned by the majority of people does not meet all the criteria for optimum well-being. We hasten to add that this is true not because a vegetarian diet is deficient or lacking, but because fruits alone should form the majority of foods eaten, and not vegetables.
Yet for its shortcomings, the vegetarian diet is vastly superior to the typical American diet and is unreservedly recommended as at least a first step for those seeking to improve their health. Let’s look at just some of the more obvious benefits of a vegetarian diet.
3.2 The Beneficial Aspects of Vegetarianism
A recent study comparing diets and deaths from heart disease in seven countries showed that those people who ate the highest amounts of animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc.) also had the highest death rates. Finland, which had the highest amount of animal foods, topped the list in heart disease. The United States, second largest consumer of animal products, also took second place in death rate due to heart disease. The Japanese, which (had the lowest incidence of meat eating, also had the lowest amount of heart disease.
Vegetarians not only avoid heart disease, but also have lower blood pressure. A Boston study showed that vegetarians who ate little or no animal products (dairy, eggs) had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than their meat-eating counterparts.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, a publication noted for its conservative position on the role of diet in health and disease, Dr. W. A. Thomas reported that “a vegetarian diet can prevent 90% of our thrombo-embolic disease (blood-clotting) and 97% of our coronary occlusions.” In his book, Heart Attack, You Don’t Have to Die, Dr. Christian Barnard cites several medical studies which prove that “people who eat a diet high in animal products (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) have a higher incidence of coronary heart disease than those who do not.”
Not only do vegetarians suffer from fewer incidents of heart disease and high blood pressure, they fare much better when it comes to cancer. Several epidemiological studies and sources have shown a very strong correlation between the incidence of cancer of the colon and meat consumption.
One of these researchers says: “Because eating of vegetarian foods, free of animal fats, results in a shorter transit time and probably the production of less carcinogens, the incidence of cancer of the colon should be substantially less for vegetarians than for omnivores.” He then goes on to make this very revealing statement: “At the present time, there have been no cases of such cancer among those who are total vegetarians (vegans).”
Cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure—the list of meat-related diseases and illnesses—grows and grows. The true health benefits of vegetarianism, however, must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Not only does physical well-being increase dramatically along with new energy levels on a vegetarian diet, but emotional stability and mental equanimity are much more likely to occur when meat is no longer eaten.
The vegetarian diet has so many benefits that few ever think that it could have pitfalls or disadvantages. Yet there are aspects of vegetarianism that you should avoid.
3.3 The Vegetarian Trap
Vegetarianism has been vigorously promoted by many health schools. And for good reason, when you consider the alternatives of blood-letting, murdering, and corpse-gorging that meat eating offers. Yet is vegetarianism without its drawbacks, shortcomings, or traps for the unwary? We must answer: No. There are pitfalls for the health seeker who turns only to vegetarianism for his answers. Let’s look at some of the traps that vegetarians must avoid.
3.4 Vegetarianism: Not Far Enough
Whenever someone asks me what Natural Hygienists or Life Scientists believe, I jokingly answer that “we’re somewhere to the left of vegetarianism.” The point I try to make is that while some people consider vegetarians “radical” health seekers, Natural Hygienists view them as only beginners on the path to radiant health and well-being.
Vegetarianism is only the first step to a better diet, although it is an important step. The major trap for vegetarians is that since they have changed their daily diet so radically from the standard meat-centered American diet, they often feel complacent and self-satisfied. They feel that they have done enough to improve their diet simply because they have stopped eating meat.
Unless vegetarians give up all animal products, eat a majority of their food uncooked and unprocessed, and practice food combining rules, they will be doomed to a much lower level of health than those who follow the teachings of Natural Hygiene and Life Science. In addition, vegetarians must also embark upon a regular program of exercise and fasting to complete the detoxification process of their bodies.
Vegetarianism is unequivocably recommended and urged for every human being alive today, and the world will doubtless be a much better place if all gave up slaughtering and killing for food. But, becoming a vegetarian is only a very small step forward from the masses of sick and diseased meat eaters. To become truly well, truly healed, and firmly established on the road to total health, you must go beyond vegetarianism. Do not become smug, self-complacent, or self-satisfied simply because you no longer eat meat—you still have a long way to go before your lifestyle is in harmony with the universe. This is the first trap that vegetarians must avoid: the belief that vegetarianism alone is enough to insure health and well-being.
3.5 Vegetarians People Love to Hate
Another trap that vegetarians must avoid is the feeling of separateness and aloofness that sometimes accompanies a change in diet. Here’s a conversation I overheard while shopping at a supermarket in California:
“Hey, look at all those idiots waiting at the meat counter for their poison,” a smirking man said to his wife.
“Yuck. I can’t believe people eat baby animals and feed them to their kids too. I can smell the blood from here. I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t believe people are so stupid about eating decaying meat,” his wife agreed with him.
I passed by them and asked, “You must be vegetarians. How long have you stopped eating meat?”
The smart smiled proudly. “I quit six months ago. My wife ate fish only for the last two years, but now she’s a veggie, too.”
The couple deserved a medal on the spot. Imagine—no meat for six months! No doubt they would continue to insult friends, alienate relatives, and give vegetarians a bad name for another six months, until they found some other fad they could indulge in and feel superior about.
This is the second trap of vegetarianism: us and them. When people first become vegetarians, they often act obnoxious and supercilious. They think of themselves as us against them—the meat eaters. They often forget that one, two, or even ten years ago, they were also lined up at fast food joints, wolfing down hamburgers and hotdogs with all the other “idiots.”
Vegetarians need humility, patience, and understanding of those who have not yet become vegetarians. The majority of people who practice vegetarianism in this country also once ate meat, and probably even more meat than most people in the world. Yet as soon as they give up their foul habit, they immediately start to proselytize and seek unwilling converts.
Being humble, patient, understanding, and forgiving does not mean that we should tolerate or accept meat eating as a viable alternative to a vegetarian diet. Make no mistake about it: the willing and conscious consumption of animals is wrong—morally and physiologically wrong. Yet, we must not become self-righteous or hypercritical of those who still eat meat. Kind compassion, sterling examples, and extended help and support are the qualities that will win others to vegetarianism and better health practices. Avoid the trap of self-righteous vegetarianism. Don’t become the vegetarian or health fanatic that everyone loves to hate.