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You Are What You Eat

.. 53) Vegetarian diets contain less total fat and less saturated fat, which are linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In comparing the diets of vegetarians to omnivores, Mark Messina indicates that American omnivores eat a diet that is 34% to 36% fat, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat a 30% to 36% fat diet, and vegans eat a diet that is about 30% fat (59).This means that vegetarians also consume less cholesterol, which has been linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease and possibly even cancer. The amount of cholesterol of a lacto-ovo vegetarian is about 150 to 300 mg of cholesterol per day compared to the 400 mg of cholesterol that an omnivore consumes (Messina 59). Vegans, who exclude the intake of any food that contains animal byproducts, do not consume foods that contain significant amounts of cholesterol.

The US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have created a Food Guide to better advise Americans on how to eat healthier, more balanced meals, and which advises using fats, oils, and sweets sparingly (Farley 52). Vegetarians as a group also consume higher amounts of fiber. Fiber, found mainly in grain products, is essential to healthy bowels and colons, lowers the risk for diabetes, helps control blood glucose levels, and also lowers the risk for cancer and heart disease (Messina 59). And it is grain products that form the base of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services Food Guide Pyramid, which recommends servings of bread, rice, cereal, and pasta 6 to 11 times per day. (Farley 52) The typical intake of fiber for an average omnivore is about 12g of fiber each day,, with vegetarians eating 50% to 100% more fiber than nonvegetarians (Messina 59).

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A vegetarian diet also includes consumption of more antioxidants, which are believed to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and possibly arthritis and cataracts. Dietary antioxidants include such vitamins as vitamin E, vitamin C- of which the typical vegetarian diet includes 50%, 100%, or even higher- and carotenoids as well as the many phytochemicals that are found in plants (Messina 59). They also consume less animal protein, with omnivores consuming 14% to 18%, lacto-ovo vegetarians consuming 12% to 14%, and vegans consuming only 10% to 12% (Messina 59). While vegetarians consume less total protein, they do consume adequate amounts to maintain a healthy balance, as demonstrated by modern nutritional science. Excess protein, and in particular excess animal protein, is linked to the increased risk for osteoporosis, kidney stone formation, kidney disease, and an increase in blood cholesterol levels (Messina 59). The nutritional benefits of a vegetarian diet very clearly appear to be beneficial to human health.

But a vegetarian diet can also be healthy to the lives of our planets other inhabitants, the very animals that are being eaten. Due to the increased demand for food, livestock farmers have had to keep up by devising new and more efficient ways to raise more animals, giving way to the industrialization of meat farming. As John Robbins accurately writes, the raising of chickens in the United States today is not, however, a process which overflows with compassion for these animals (52). Chickens, as we grew up believing, were farmyard animals that would root around in the soil for their food, and were deeply attuned to the cycles of nature, as evidenced by the rooster crowing at the break of day. But the industrialization of chicken farming in the past forty years has changed all this, and the days of the barnyard chicken are over, replaced instead with what Robbins refers to as the assembly-line chicken (52).

But the poultry farmers are not alone in its industrialization. The beef, turkey, pork and other meat industries have also had to adapt their methods of production in order to keep up with the demands of omnivores. This includes the use of growth hormones in the animals to produce more eggs and fatter animals, which are then passed on to their human consumers. John Robbins describes some of the products used in todays pork industry in his book Diet For A New America: .. will also be given products like the new feed additive from Shell Oil Company. Called XLP-30, it is designed to boost pigs per litter, though it has a name that sounds like it should be added to motor oil instead of animal food. Incredibly, a Shell official acknowledges- we dont know why it works. This is just one example of the chemical tampering that the meat industry is forced to do with its animals in order to fight off the diseases that the animals cramped, unsanitary living conditions bring with them. As discussed by R.G.

Frey, this poses the most serious of threats to the health of Americans because ..the liberal use of antibiotics in animal feed may, in time, build immunity in animals and, through them, in us, to these drugs, some of which may play a role in the treatment of human diseases (10). Leonardo Da Vinci said 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 (Robbins 148). While the cruelty of murdering other animals for their flesh is a moral argument in favor of vegetariansim, it seems rather unlikely that amny Americans could ever be swayed by its message. However, many Americans are interested in preserving their own health and well-being, and that should lead many people towards a vegetarian lifestyle since a vegetarian diet includes the necessary vitamins and minerals to sustain human life, with out any of the negative byproducts of animal consumption, such as cholesterol, excessive fat, and excessive protein. A healthy lifestyle is something benefits us all, and yet most people are unwilling to give up the meat-filled diets. If the phrase You are what you eat has any amount of truth to it, then Americans need to realize what they are ingesting every time they enjoy a Big Mac, some Whoppers, or a filet mignon.

There are healthier alternatives to the meat eating that nearly every member of our society has been weaned on, and those alternatives all include the consumption of more vegetables and the absence of meats. It is now up to them to realize this and make the necessary adjustments. Works Cited 1. Farley, Dixie. More People Trying Vegetarian Diets. FDA Consumer October 1995: 52-55.

2. Fisher, Irving. The Influence of Flesh Eating on Endurance. Yale Medical Journal 13.5 (1907): 205-221 3. Frey, R.G.

Rights, Killing, and Suffering. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher Limited, 1983 4. Messina, Mark, and Messina, Virginia. The Dietians Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Gaithersburg: Aspen Publishers, Inc., 1996 5.

Robbins, John. Diet For A New America. Walpole: Stillpoint Publishing, 1987 Works Consulted 1. Farley, Dixie. More People Trying Vegetarian Diets.

FDA Consumer October 1995: 52-55. 2. Fisher, Irving. The Influence of Flesh Eating on Endurance. Yale Medical Journal 13.5 (1907): 205-221 3.

Frey, R.G. Rights, Killing, and Suffering. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher Limited, 1983 4. Kleiner, Susan M. Vegetarian Vitality: Striking The Right Balance. The Physician and Sports Medicine August 1992: 15-16 5.Messina, Mark, and Messina, Virginia. The Dietians Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications.

Gaithersburg: Aspen Publishers, Inc., 1996 6. Robbins, John. Diet For A New America. Walpole: Stillpoint Publishing, 1987 Health and Beauty Essays.

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