Put Down the Cheeseburger

If you want to live longer, feel healthier, and save the world all at the same time, there’s only one thing you can do: go vegan.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the facts. The most common cause of death in the United States right now is a heart attack, but if you stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs, your risk of a heart attack falls by 90, I repeat, 90 percent.

Meanwhile, people who eat animal products are around 3 times more at risk of developing cancer than people who’ve either gone totally vegan or seriously cut back on the amount of meat they eat.

Oh, and if that wasn’t reason enough to drop meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet, consider this: breast milk infected with pesticides is about 35 percent more common in moms who eat meat than it is in moms who don’t eat meat. But the health benefits of going vegan are almost secondary to all the good it does for the planet.

Vegans are often portrayed in the media as extremists, but when you consider the amazing amount of waste and destruction that goes into supporting our meat-heavy diet, it’s the carnivores that look extreme.

Not only does a meat-based diet require 3 times more fossil fuels than vegan diet, it also hoards resources that could be used to feed the tens of millions of people that go to bed hungry every night.

In fact, John Robbins, one of the world’s leading experts on vegan diets, estimates that we could feed almost 100 million people if Americans cut their meat consumption by as little as 10 percent.

Most experts have known about the benefits of going vegan for a while, but now, in what’s really a big time win for public health, the government is catching on. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (or DGAC), a federal panel that includes some of the America’s top nutritionists, has just released its annual diet guidelines report. And that report is as ringing an endorsement of an animal product-free diet as you’re going to get from the U.S. government.

Noting that the average American diet contains way too much meat and dairy, the NGAC report recommends that we start eating fewer animal products and more vegetables. And while a couple of different diets will get the job done, the NGAC says, the best diet, especially when it comes to protecting the planet, is a vegan one.

According to the panel’s report, “The organically grown vegan diet… had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality… [while] Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood."

I’m glad the government’s finally coming around to something I realized decades ago. The last time I ate meat was when I was a teenager, and the decision to stop eating animal products was one of the best choices I ever made.

Of course, going vegan isn’t just about feeling better; it’s about recognizing the cold hard reality that the way we eat right now is literally killing us and the planet we live on. It’s time for all of us to face that reality and make some tough choices.

Totally abandoning meat might be too much for some people, but if we really want to save the planet and maybe ourselves in the process, we need to put down the cheeseburgers and pick up the veggie-burgers. It's as simple as that.

Comments

ChicagoMatt 2 years 32 weeks ago
#1
but if you stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs, your risk of a heart attack falls by 90, I repeat, 90 percent.

Your gas output rises by 200%, so your social life might drop by about 90%. :)

All joking aside, I found that, when I tried going vegan, the biggest problem was the time and effort it took to plan three meals a day for me and my family, particularly after 30 years of being a meat-eater. Meat is easy to prepare and make it taste good enough that even the kids will eat it. I'm sure, with enough time and effort and practice, the same could be true for a vegan diet.

Time is the key ingredient most people don't have.

Veganism seems to be the realm of the young, single people, who only need to cook for themselves (popular with the Hipster crowd around here), or the wealthy classes, who can afford to have a stay-at-home parent or personal chef.

Thom himself started young, so he has lots of practice. And no children, and ample disposable income, no?

For the average dual-income family, it just doesn't seem as practical.

I wish there were cooking co-ops, like there are farming co-ops. Like a company that would come to a block, organize the people who want to participate, get someone to volunteer their kitchen (the Jones' kitchen on Monday, the Smith's on Tuesday, etc...), then just cook for the whole block. Everyone comes by and picks up their meal at the same time.

This is a great idea. Somebody make an app for this.

TarryFaster's picture
TarryFaster 2 years 32 weeks ago
#2

Thom is SO right ... again! If you want to see a new film that portrays the full extent of the multitude of problems that make this issue contribute to Climate Change even MORE than the fossil fuel industry, then help yourself and the rest of us, as well:

http://www.cowspiracy.com

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 2 years 32 weeks ago
#3

I have mixed feelings on this one. Thom is right about Americans eating too much meat. Also, too much of the wrong kind of meat. However, meat is a great source of protein--perhaps the most important thing your body needs to survive. Although protein can be found in some vegetable sources like soy, tofu and beans, the body makes much better use of meat for protein, and the protein found in meat is much more complete than that of plants.

Nevertheless, too much of a good thing... I've found that the typical Japanese and Chinese diet is probably the healthiest way to eat meat. They take one portion that would normally serve as one serving in an American meal, chop it up, and stir fry it with vegetables of all kinds. In the end, the portion per serving is much more healthy and more than adequate for a serving size. Also, the same amount of meat feeds many more people.

There is nothing wrong with splurging every now and then with a good slice of meat. However, this should be kept to an occasional treat instead of a daily diet. I agree with Thom that the results for both the individual and society would be beneficial; and, by limiting rather than eliminating, would be a much better way to go for everyone.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 2 years 32 weeks ago
#4
Quote ChicagoMatt:

Time is the key ingredient most people don't have.

Veganism seems to be the realm of the young, single people, who only need to cook for themselves (popular with the Hipster crowd around here), or the wealthy classes, who can afford to have a stay-at-home parent or personal chef.

Thom himself started young, so he has lots of practice. And no children, and ample disposable income, no?

For the average dual-income family, it just doesn't seem as practical.

ChicagoMatt ~ Actually, I disagree. The more the merrier. If both work, both share the cooking duties. If they have kids, the kids help cook too. After all, how else are they going to develop good lifelong habits?

What you do is designate what days you have free to cook and do all the work for the week on those days. Cook at least two good meals so you can alternate throughout the week. Discuss what you want the following week during dinner and assign each other shopping tasks so that everything is ready by friday.

Saturday afternoon everyone gets a prep job before they go out or watch TV. Sunday, everything is cooked and sunday evening the dish of choice is served. That evening, all the rest of the food is packaged and refrigerated for the week. That way, when everyone comes home its just a simple matter of dishing out the food and warming in a microwave--leaving mom and dad free to relax, play with the kids, or take them to sport practice as they see fit during the week. Meantime, everyone eats right. Besides eating healthy, food prep and cooking is also good exercise.

LeeWenzel's picture
LeeWenzel 2 years 32 weeks ago
#5

An alternative perspective regarding the nutrition and disease part of your view is persuasively argued by Nina Teicholz in her book The Big Fat Surprise. It is worth a look. She wouldn't differ regarding the economcis and impact on the planet.

SuryaSmiles's picture
SuryaSmiles 2 years 32 weeks ago
#6

You are right TarryFaster.

I've been vegetarian off and on for 25 years, vegan now for 8. The common question, where does a vegan get their protein? In the plant kingdom. Meat provides some nutrients that also can be gained from eating from the pksnt kingdom, but b12. The animals humans consume are all plant-eaters but perhaps pigs.

Man does not need to eat animal protein to survive. Omnivores (I once was one), just have a difficult time letting go of eating meat. It is not easier to cook a omnivore meal than a plant-based one, from my experience. It may seem so, but cooking anyway new, or different just takes planning and an open mind. Sautéed veggies, a cooked grain, pasta, legumes, salad, isn't much different than a standard American diet meal, minus the animal protein.

Few theories I have is it's: 1.) psychological, 2.) humans love the taste of the fat either in meat or used to season/cook meat, why it's hard to give it up.

I live in "beef" country, in the West, surrounded by Angus farmers. I have no problem finding everything I need here to cook a delicious and nutritious meal for my omnivore hubby. Veggies may be limited in a town of 3K with one grocery store, but there are grains, legumes, spices, tofu, veggies and fruit, flour, sugar, alternative milks, even ice creams and gluten-free products (I'm celiac too).

I am not pushy, do not preach about the benefits of my diet, nor encourage others to change theirs, unless they're curious about why I became vegan or are interested in how to cook something. My husband has 3 immediate family members who had or have died of 3 different cancers, 1 was a niece. None of them belief it was diet related. Obviously no one knows for sure. But their diets are the SAD (standard American Diet), except they eat little vegetables and fruit, and a lot of sweets, ie sugar.

I have only mentioned that I've read that cancer cells love sugar. All their doctors have said their diets are not a concern, nor is the sugar. I feel one of the problems with the omnivore/vegan diet debate is most in the medical field do not get nutritional training, and aren't qualified to advise what is healthy or not. "A little of this once in a while" is a standard motto, and my in-laws/my own family say just that.

I forsee just as Thom as previously predicted in 2004, us fighting over water. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We can not continue to live the way we have. I do not believe our Paleolithic ancestors were meat eaters solely. I personally believe the Paleo Diet is another faze.

We can all choose to eat the way we choose, without regard to how, where we get our food. But, eventually it will affect us all with what resources are available to us all.

The standard retorts and excuses to our national and global food/water shortage issues will affect us all. It will be no easy task to satisfy all, and share our resources.

Thank you Tarry for sharing the http://www.cowspiracy.com link, it is worth watching by all.

SuryaSmiles's picture
SuryaSmiles 2 years 32 weeks ago
#7

Thanks Lee for that one...I'd not heard of that book.

conniej's picture
conniej 2 years 32 weeks ago
#8

Cowspiracy is a very compelling documentary. It really helps to see the true impact of animal agriculture. It is a real change to go from omnivore to vegan. I approached it as an adventure 15 years ago and the food is actually more varied and my tastes have completely changed. It takes a commitment and eventually the new lifestyle is completely comfortable and second nature.

BARBARA NECKER's picture
BARBARA NECKER 2 years 32 weeks ago
#9

I've been a vegetarian for about 40 years & do not miss the meat, although I remember fondly some of the dishes I made as a young wife. I was a devoted follower of James Beard. I still salivate at the memory of his Chicken with 40 pieces of garlic!

I continued to cook Beard's & many other meat dishes for my late husband & now for my boyfriend, but keep my own vegetarian ways. Now, almost a half century later, it would nauseate me to consume a steak, ham or bird dish, although I do consume an occasional egg or cheese dish.

I've found that there are many delicious things that can be done with vegetables & fruits

Willie W's picture
Willie W 2 years 32 weeks ago
#10

Moderation! Maybe I can reduce my risk by oh maybe 50%. But summer is coming. Grilling season. Better shoot for 25%...... Who am I kidding.

frisbeeguitar's picture
frisbeeguitar 2 years 32 weeks ago
#11

Actually saying it is about "moderation" is like saying "slavery" is okay in moderation. Many people miss the the point of what "veganism" is. Veganism is nonviolence in action. Veganism is our moral obligation to not use beings that can feel pain and suffer and also have the self interest in living.

We all agree it is morally wrong to hurt animals. Veganism is about changing your paradigim. Currently you have been programmed to think that animals are here to serve us or we are supposed to use them. Actually nothing can be further from the truth.

Go vegan and educate others. Please read the book "Eat Like You Care" and "Animals As Persons."

Also, nonvegans should be called nonvegans, not carnivores. Humans are not carnivores. Not even close.

www.vegankit.com

MontanaMuleGal's picture
MontanaMuleGal 2 years 32 weeks ago
#12

If you really want to save the planet, don't reproduce.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 2 years 32 weeks ago
#13

I'll take it from your name, MontanaMuleGal, that you practice what you preach. And I'm way ahead of you, but not by choice.

ChicagoMatt, I think the app should be called FlashMob in the Pan.

conniej's picture
conniej 2 years 32 weeks ago
#14

I totally agree with you. I don't really care how people enter the plant based life style, because it has so many good side effects. I started it because I thought it would help me achieve a healthy weight. My husband had a raised consciousness about the arrogance of human beings oin thinking everything in the planet and all of the creatures are here for us to use. We have both learned and grown in this lifestyle. 15 years and we will never go back.

conniej's picture
conniej 2 years 32 weeks ago
#15

I totally agree with you. I don't really care how people enter the plant based life style, because it has so many good side effects. I started it because I thought it would help me achieve a healthy weight. My husband had a raised consciousness about the arrogance of human beings oin thinking everything in the planet and all of the creatures are here for us to use. We have both learned and grown in this lifestyle. 15 years and we will never go back.

conniej's picture
conniej 2 years 32 weeks ago
#16

I totally agree with you. I don't really care how people enter the plant based life style, because it has so many good side effects. I started it because I thought it would help me achieve a healthy weight. My husband had a raised consciousness about the arrogance of human beings oin thinking everything in the planet and all of the creatures are here for us to use. We have both learned and grown in this lifestyle. 15 years and we will never go back.

gordal's picture
gordal 2 years 32 weeks ago
#17

Actually, the available evidence, if examined carefully (reading the scientific papers) indicates that the vegan diet is not good. I am an emeritus professor of biochemistry in a medical school and have delved deely into this subject. Vegans typically eat too much vegetable oil (omega-6 fatty acids) and get way too little omega-3 fatty acids (supplied by butter from pasture-fed cows and also by freshly ground flaxseeds). Oxidation of the polyunsaturated fatty acids causes production of malondealdehyde, which derivativizes proteins and leads to all sorts of pathologies, including vascular (heart) problems. Vegans typically eat way too much food containing lots of oxalic acid, which can lead to anemia (as it did me due to being vegan for a long time). Vegans forget that plants have spent many millions of years developing toxins (detailed by many publications of the renowed biochemist Bruce Ames) that undermine the metabolism of predators (like insects and us). Some of the worst are in soybeans and in wheat, leading to impaired guts and many other problems. Meat from grain-fed animals is not very good, either, since the lipids in grains are bad for us and they get transferred to the animals. I prefer wild-caught fish and eggs from free-range chickens raised by a local farmer. Vegans also eat too many processed foods, which lacksthe vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals needed for our cells to funciton well. The best book giving the scientific evidence on these subjects but very readable is PERFECT HEALTH DIET by Jaminet and Jaminet.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 2 years 32 weeks ago
#18

I'd like to see a law that cows must be grass fed, as they were naturally before we humans decided to cage them and feed them corn and other cows. This would require more land for the same number of cows, and therefore less supply of beef. People would have to learn to eat less of it, and when they did eat beef it would be healthier for them.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 2 years 32 weeks ago
#19

@frisbeeguitar, finally we come to the real reason for this discussion on Vegan Diets, Animal Rights. Greek philosopher Plato once wrote that Democracy would eventually evolve to the point where even the dogs stood up on their rear legs and demanded their rights. The eating habits of early man were obviously handed down to him in his evolution from lower animal life forms, thus his diet was primarily meat as his animal ancestors lacked the cognitive ability to develop and implement farming, The question has to be asked as to why, after a hundred years of real scientific development, no means currently exist to produce a source of synthetic protein. One has to assume that, in our capitalist system, the cost associated with that exercise precludes the ability to make an acceptable profit ! I would expect Corporate food producers to embrace a manufacturing process that is not location dependent and isn't held hostage to climatic conditions ! The real problem is that far too many Americans remain connected to their ancestors farming traditions that we moved past almost a century ago. Not many today remember the consternation over the end of the family farm and the required move by many rural citizens to the cities to work in modern jobs. Old McDonald died a long time ago !

mathboy's picture
mathboy 2 years 32 weeks ago
#20

People ate plants long before farming was developed. You don't have to farm them if they grow abundantly enough. Many forest-dwelling peoples don't farm, but yet eat plants.

luckylindee's picture
luckylindee 2 years 32 weeks ago
#21

Humans have also been eating meat long before the invention of agriculture. We have evolved to be omnivorous. We certainly eat too much of everything and especially processed food.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 2 years 32 weeks ago
#22

There's a reason the some humans have evolved adult lactose tolerance--milk became an important foodstuff. It can't be that bad for us if we changed our biochemistry to accomodate it rather than die trying.

luckylindee's picture
luckylindee 2 years 32 weeks ago
#23

I think a more important issue than whether to eat animal products or not, is that we need to eat organic. The pesticides, genetic engineering and hormones used in both animal and plant based foods are what needs to be avoided. They destroy our bodies as well as the planet. I avoid soy because most soy beans are genetically engineered, as is corn and you find both in nearly everything including animal feed. The best thing we can do right now is buy organic foods, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or omnivore.

luckylindee's picture
luckylindee 2 years 32 weeks ago
#24

There is a study...or a few, that show that consuming some dairy fat has health benefits, especially for women. Google "dairy fat health" and you will find several articles.

Judith H. Holmes's picture
Judith H. Holmes 2 years 32 weeks ago
#25

Your idea for a community kitchen sounds good--wish we had one around here (Texas)! Why don't you organize one?

I've been vegan for twenty-some years, hate to cook on a day to day basis (for a family of five), but the benefits are so very worth it!! LIke any new skill/change, vegan cooking gets easier with practice and experience, but it does require commitment. There is now an amazing array of pre-prepared vegan meat substitutes and vegan cheese, etc. In most grocery stores. The internet is exploding with vegan recipes and 'how-to,' and such an abundance of beautiful cookbooks: fast and easy thru truly gourmet, oh my!! It's not as difficult as you might suppose even for us non--1%er's.

There is also another thing Thom didn't mention: I became vegan as a result of the work I did in overcoming physical and sexual abuse. During that time I learned that those who were abused themselves are at higher risk of becoming abusers of others later. I know first hand what it is like to suffer in full view of people who for some reason did nothing about it. Having been raised on a farm and having worked in animal-based medical research, I had also seen animals suffer. 'All of a sudden' (after much work) I understood that their suffering in full view of people and my suffering were the same--pain and surrering and pain and suffering are the same regardless of who is doing the feeling. I had only heard about people didn't eat or use animals, but didn't know any; however, I decided to become one (later I discover they were called vegans) as an external marker of the inner psychological commitment I was making to not causing harm to others---human or animal. And now that includes the earth, too.

Recently, I read the quote from Tolstoy: "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be war."

P.S. Try cooking beans with a BAY Leaf--helps immensely!

loveprevails55's picture
loveprevails55 2 years 32 weeks ago
#26

I could write pages on this but I won't! Protein is something we don't need near as much as you might think. Beans are a complete protein and easy to prepare, I fix them all different ways putting in fresh veggies. I became a vegan in my mid-20's, many moons ago now. I look muchyounger, still have long blond hair and never, ever take any drugs for anything! For me, the biggest issue was the unconscionable horrors that continue in factory farming. How can anyone eat something, that a fellow sentient being has been so abused for us to enjoy? I also use natural products in my house to clean & never, ever use animal tested make-up. Really cooking meat is not easier.......the grease over everything is disgusting. Start by becoming a vegetarian; that is an easy process, kids won't miss the meat, and you will be amazed how much better you will begin to feel. Hey, it's cheaper! Thanks Thom for bringing this HUGE issue up. Sorry I missed the conference two weeks ago, darn I live and teach in the OC.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 2 years 32 weeks ago
#27

Not taking drugs is probably your biggest factor, love. I'm pretty healthy, I've haven't been to a doctor in 30 years, and I eat some meat (though not daily hamburgers or anything like that), but I avoid even aspirin and cough syrup if I can help it.

SuryaSmiles's picture
SuryaSmiles 2 years 32 weeks ago
#28

Gordal, I respectfully disagree with you. There is plenty evidence to date that is proving a plant-based diet is extremely healthy, if not for many people, especially with genetically proven health risks for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. I had genomic testing done 10 years ago, and it showed even tho I'm a woman, I have a great risk for heart disease. My paternal grandfather and father both died of heart disease, my father 10 years after having a sextuple bypass. He was a country doctor, specializing in cardiology, and tho once practiced a healthy duet and lifestyle, after his surgery at 75, reverted to the SAD in my opinion due to stress and comfort the SAD diet brought him.

Eight years ago I became vegan. By husband has 4 family members who have had cancer, two lived, two died. I've strived to cook a wholesome, unprocessed, nutritionally balanced plant-based diet for us because of our family history of cancer (not mine), heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. My husband is an omnivore at home 90% of the time, and eats whatever he wants with his family or friends, even at home I do not restrict what he chooses to eat. He is a hunter, so his philosophy about eating animals has not changed, as mine has.

I started as a vegan for health reasons, and as I read more about factory farms, animal husbandry, slaughterhouses, SAD food processes, my views increased to my inability to comprehend how we contribute to animal suffering. I became for me to see the disconnect I'd had with consuming animals and everything involved with that.

Even as a vegetarian, ie macrobiotic and Ayurvedic, I never ate processed foods except corn chips. I have always cooked from scratch, as did my mother and grandmothers, no packaged foods as I was never drawn to them, they all were wonderful gourmet cooks. Even omnivores can be deficient in the vitamins, trace minerals needed for healthy functioning cells, even B12. I feel vegetarians and vegans eat a far more varied diet than omnivores. My husbands family here in "beef" country, Idaho, are a case in point. Breakfast, bacon/free-range home grown eggs, and/or pancakes for breakfast. Oatmeal? Heck no, "didn't reduce my cholesterol"...tho my brother-in-law in question didn't reduce the bacon/eggs, lunch meat, pork, beef or chicken he consumed so how was an occasional oatmeal breakfast helpful? He has only 1/2 of his teeth at 65, as he also doesn't believe in doctors, having never been to one. Vegetables, all his sibs and their families, consist of lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes or carrots. Always some packaged cake, homemade pie or cookies for dinner, fruit never. Salads, "never think of that". Most Amercans eating a SAD diet consume more processed foods than a vegetarian or vegan.

I don't use vegetable oil and know omnivores whole use/consume much more (I used to use olive only), only flaxseed oil (good supply of omega 3's) for salad dressing. I sauté veggies in homemade veggie brith or water or cooking sherry. I've done my research for years, and know of oxaliic acid/some greens, as well as phytic acid/grains. I learned to soak my grains and actually seeds/nuts before cooking. How soybeans and wheat, as well as some of our vegetables are hybridized and over-pesticide grown today, affects us all. Omnivores consume as much, if possibly not more wheat than nonvegans/vegetarians. I consume more grain varieties (I'm not typically celiac but through an ALCAT found to be allergic to gluten and gliadin as I have the same celiac symptoms as a celiac), nuts, seeds and vegetables than most all omnivores I know, just as evidenced by my husband's family and our friends. I have 5 siblings, 3 of us eat a vegan, homemade, unprocessed diet, all for various reasons.

It does take a commitment to cook a varied, wholesome, unprocessed meal. Many of us do it, even some omnivore cooks. There are many cultures around the world that are vegetarian or vegan, that are not at risk for the Western diseases we are.

Yes, an omnivore can eat a healthy, varied, rotational diet, if you can't give up meat, with as much commitment and research. I feel most don't or won't take the time to do so, as processed foods are easier to use, as well as continue to consume the same meats and veggies that one was raised with or has gotten accustomed to preparing.

SuryaSmiles's picture
SuryaSmiles 2 years 32 weeks ago
#29

Frisbeeguitar, thank you for the book recommendations, I've read many, but not yet those. Another book, I can't remember the author, "Why Eat Eat Pigs, not Dogs".

I've been following many vegan and vegan/gluten-free blogs for the past years, all varied. Thankfully the research continues to show the benefits of a plant-based diet, not just for us, but why it is necessary for us all to survive in the future.

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