back to Veges and Beyond
Is it time to chuck meat?
Compelling evidence supports vegetarianism as a hedge against cancer and heart disease
By John Fauber
of the Journal Sentinel staff
March 16, 1997
Except for those who hunt, fish, ranch or just like meat, vegetarianism probably sounds like a great idea.
The practice, once considered quirky, has gained ground in recent years by appealing to a diverse group, including those who want to save animals and those who want to save their own hides.
The fat and cholesterol in animal products has long been implicated in heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States, and now red meat, especially, has been linked to higher incidence of a number of common forms of cancer.
Whatever the motivation, vegetarianism has become mainstream.
The Farm Animal Reform Movement, an animal rights group that is sponsoring the 13th annual Great American Meatout on Thursday, claims that more than 30 million Americans have explored the idea of a meatless diet, although some may no longer be vegetarian. Various surveys put the number of vegetarians at between 1% and 7% of the population.
Every year, it gets easier to be a vegetarian. From vegetable stir-fries to low-fat Tombstone veggie pizzas, restaurants and grocery stores now offer a large selection of vegetarian items.
Outpost Natural Foods carries about a dozen different brands of imitation burger products, most made from soy protein.
One new popular soy-based product, the Boca Burger, tastes remarkably like real hamburger, especially when it is grilled in olive oil, topped with grilled onions and a slice of mozzarella cheese and served on a whole-wheat bun.
At the more traditional grocery store, Grasch Foods in Brookfield, there are at least seven different types of veggie pizzas. The store also sells fresh packaged meatless dishes such as hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel balls and tabbouleh.
Co-owner Bob Grasch said that in the meat department, "the shift has been from beef to chicken and seafood as well."
Reflecting that shift, the term vegetarian has become easier to throw around.
Some people who have eliminated red meat from their diet but still eat fish and poultry consider themselves vegetarians, even though true vegetarians eat no flesh food. Even more stringent are vegans, who also have eliminated dairy products and eggs; their claim is that even though animals are not directly killed for their milk or eggs, the process can lead to suffering and slaughter. For instance, calves born to dairy cows often are killed for veal.
Many of those who turn to vegetarianism for philosophical reasons are teenage girls.
A 1995 survey done for the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 11% of girls ages 13 to 17 were vegetarians, compared with 7% of adult females.
"I feel guilty eating meat," said Jeannine Ruby, 16, of the Town of Delafield. "I like animals."
Ruby said she had been a vegetarian since 7th-grade.
Because of concerns about her weight, her parents had her see a dietitian about a year ago. At the time, Ruby said she had been getting most of her protein from peanuts. She said she since has added more lentils and beans to her diet and has gained about 10 pounds.
Her mother, Gay Ruby, said she believes her daughter's diet is healthy and that it had resulted in both herself and her husband eating less meat.
Several scientific studies over the past decade have given consumers additional motivation to eat less meat:
Red meat and fat consumption appear to be associated with colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, a disease that strikes women and men at about the same rate.
A study of the Seventh-Day Adventists, who eat little red meat and animal fat, found that they had about half the rate of colon cancer as the general population. They also refrain, however, from drinking alcohol and smoking, which may also contribute to their better health.
A separate, ongoing study by the Harvard School of Public Health involving 89,000 nurses found that those who ate the most animal fat were almost twice as likely to develop colon cancer as those who ate the least. The nurses who ate skinless chicken or fish instead of beef, pork or lamb, cut their risk by 50%.
At least two studies also have linked high-fiber, low-fat diets to a significant reduction in the number of precancerous colon and rectal polyps. It is speculated that fiber moves through the colon faster and, as a result, limits the exposure of the colon wall to carcinogenic substances.
The American Cancer Society also says that high-fat diets, especially those high in red meat, have been linked to increased prostate cancer.
In one study of 48,000 male health professionals ages 40 to 75, it was found that those who ate the highest amount of fat had 79% more cases of advanced prostate cancer, according to the New Wellness Encyclopedia from the University of California at Berkeley.
Those who ate the most red meat had a 164% higher incidence of advanced prostate cancer than those who ate the least.
Last year, the American Cancer Society, citing the colon and prostate cancer link, came out with dietary guidelines recommending that people limit their intake of red meat and consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Agriculture Department, over the strong objections of the beef industry, said yogurt could be substituted for beef in school lunch programs.
In January, for the first time, the government gave its blessing to vegetarian diets in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It noted, however, that vegetarians need to be sure they are getting adequate iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Still, red meat remains popular.
After hitting a high of 127 pounds per person in 1980, consumption dropped off to about 112 pounds in 1990, partly because of closer trimming of fat. Consumption has stayed at about that level since then.
At the same time, dining out for steak appears to have become more popular. The number of people eating at casual and upscale steakhouses increased 24% between 1994 and 1996, according the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Beef remains the primary menu item at restaurants, accounting for 40% of selections, compared with about 20% for chicken, 12% for fish and 10% for vegetables, according to the beef association.
Beef easily can fit into a healthful low-fat diet, said C.J. Valenziano, a spokeswoman for the association.
"Even ground beef fits into a heart-healthy diet," she said. "You can have sausage for breakfast; you just have to do something else the rest of the day."
But if you want to explore vegetarianism, even if it is for pure self-interest rather than for altruism, the anti-meat movement is waiting with open arms.
"Whatever brings somebody in," said Scott Williams, executive director of the Farm Animal Reform Movement. "If people want to come at it from the health angle, I don't have a problem with that."
The following vegetarian recipes, all quick and easy, are from the Vegetarian Resource Group.
1/3 pound rigatoni or other pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (1 pound) kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Black pepper to taste
2 cups tofu or low-fat cottage cheese (optional)
Hot pepper sauce (optional)
Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain and set aside.
Saute onion, garlic and green pepper in saucepan in oil 4 to 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in tomato sauce, beans, soy sauce if using, salt if using, chili powder and pepper. Simmer several minutes.
Stir sauce into pasta. Serve as is, or add 1/2 cup crumbled tofu or cottage cheese to each serving to make a lasagna-like dish. Add hot sauce if desired. Makes 4 servings. Note: To decrease fat content, saute in water instead of oil or just brush pan lightly with an oiled paper towel.
Sweet Sauteed Red Cabbage
1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded
1 apple, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in non-stick pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Spicy Potatoes, Cabbage and Peas Over Rice 2 cups rice 6 cups water (divided) 5 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 1/2 head of green cabbage 1 box (10 ounces) frozen peas (or equivalent fresh) 2 teaspoons curry powder 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper Salt to taste (optional) Cook rice in 4 cups water in covered pot over medium-high heat until done.
In separate pan, add sliced potatoes to remaining 2 cups of water and heat over medium-high heat. Shred cabbage and add to potatoes. Add peas and spices. Cover pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Serve over rice. Makes 6 servings.
Garbanzo Bean Burgers
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), mashed
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Mix all ingredients (except oil) in bowl. Form 6 flat patties. Fry in
oiled pan over medium-high heat until burgers are golden brown on each
side. Serve alone with a mushroom or tomato sauce, or as a burger with
lettuce and tomato. Makes 6 burgers.
© Copyright 1997, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. All rights reserved.
What are you waiting for?
There are MANY, MANY reasons to do it. Going veg is the absolute best way to help animals. Did you know that every second 289 animals are killed for the United Statesí meat industry? That makes 17,340 in one minute, 1,040,400 in one hour, and 24,969,600 in one day! By just becoming vegetarian, you can save at least 1000 animals in your lifetime. If you become vegan of course, youíll be saving even more. (Just in case you didnít know, vegans donít eat meat, dairy, eggs, or any other product coming from an animal. We also donít wear anything, like leather and wool, which comes from animals.) Here are just a few reasons for you to think about.
reasons for PEOPLE:
If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% enough grain would be freed (12000 tons) to feed 60,000,000 people- the population of Great Britian.
If all Americans became vegetarian enough grain would be freed to feed 600,000,000 people- the population of India.
A child dies of starvation somewhere in the world, every 3 seconds.
reasons for LAND:
If they continue to clear American forests to raise cattle atthe present rate, in 50 years there will be none left.
From 1966-1983, 38% of the Amazon rain forest was destroyed for cattle grazing.
An inch of topsoil takes 200-1000 years to develop - yet in the USA they have lost around 1/3 of their prime topsoil in 200 years (around 7 inches) due to animal farming.
reasons for the ENVIRONMENT:
25 gallons of water is needed to make 1lb of wheat, but it takes 2500 gallons to produce 1lb of meat.
The water needed to make 10 lbs of steak is equal to an average household's consumption of water in an entire year.
Enough petrol is used by a family of four eating beef for a year, to run a car for about 6 months.
70% of all grain is used to feed animals.
reasons for ANIMALS:
Fishers who use drift or other modern nets, kill millions of sea animals and disrupt the sea bed. Fishermens' nets kill about 10 times as many other animals as the ones they are trying to catch.
15,000,000,000 land animals are slaughtered every for food, and an unknown but much larger number of sea animals (including thousands of dolphins caught accidentally) are killed.
Several chickens are stuffed into battery cages together, unable to even spread their wings and often not able to stand up. 95% of poultry suffer from injury before being killed.
Every year, millions of male chicks are gassed or pulped because they can not lay eggs, while their sisters go to the battery sheds.
Chicks are debeaked without anaesthetic so they won't hurt each other in the unnaturally tight confines they're kept in. To us, this would be like having our fingernails pulled out without anaesthetic.
Sows are kept crammed in stalls 1.3 x 1 metre on concrete or slatted floors, so small they can not even turn around.
Cows naturally produce 5 litres of milk per day for their calves, but under the systems of modern farming are made to produce 25-40 litres a day. This results in swollen & inflamed udders, and they are soon worn out. Cows naturally live up to 20 years, but are slaughtered at 5-7 years when their milk production begins to fall.
Cows only give milk for 10 months after they have a calf, so they are routinely artificially inseminated (or mechanically raped) to keep them pregnant and milking. Their calves are taken away,usually at 12 hours old, for meat or export to veal crates.
reasons for your HEALTH:
Vegetarians have a 20% lower rate of mortality from all causes (meaning they live longer & don't get sick as often).
Vegetarians are 40% less likey to get of cancer than meat-eaters. This is thought to be because they have a higher intake of vitamins A,C & E.
Osteoporosis (due to calcium loss from bones) is mainly due to the sulphur content in meat & casein protein in milk that cause calcium to be lost in the urine. The countries with the highest meat & dairy consumption are those with the highest levels of brittle bones.
Of 2,100,000 deaths in the USA in 1987, 1,500,000 were related to diet (meaning meat and/or dairy).
If you decide to go vegetarian, then good luck, and I hope you stick with it. It can be a little hard at first, but after a little while it's very easy! Remember, you'll be helping animals and the environment,AND you'll be healthier!