Pig parts. Pig hearts. Pig farts. It is all in the pork we eat and the bacon we salivate over. I was scared. I was scared enough to make a change. I’m like many Americans, I enjoy a large juicy steak and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs. I also love Hopdoddy’s Magic Shroom burger. Those are the kind of meals I look forward to.
That changed about two weeks ago when I was forced to watch “What the Health” by my Mom. She felt like she needed to ruin meat for me and she did! Actually, what she wanted to do was present me with a counter argument to a meat-heavy diet and its impact on the environment. The film detailed how eating meat, pork, and poultry have a bad impact on one’s health and is linked to so many diseases. My family and I decided to go vegan for two weeks. Unfortunately, it happened to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday – when most people are enjoying a plump turkey or spiral ham and buttery mashed potatoes with gravy, which I love so much.
The doctors who were in “What the Health” explained how meat is linked to coronary heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Cheese and milk (dairy products) also have a significant impact. Basically, milk is nothing more than liquid meat and America’s number one source of saturated fat. Many people incorrectly believe that chicken is so much healthier than red meat. However, this isn’t the case since chicken has almost the same amount of cholesterol as red meat. Because of this incorrect assumption, chicken is the number one source of cholesterol for Americans. Fish isn’t all that healthy as well as it contains mercury and is also high in cholesterol. The documentary also cited that eating one whole egg is the equivalent to smoking five cigarettes. All this was a big shock to me since I believed eggs, chicken, and fish were healthy. They are also some of my favorite things to eat.
Big health agencies such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and the American Heart Association (AHA) have their own dietary guidelines and recommendations. These guidelines are found on each agency’s website. Some of the diets promote eating meat and offer many meat recipes. In “What the Health”, the narrator of the documentary called for interviews with the people who published the guidelines and recommendations. For each company, they either declined or canceled the interview and directed the interviewer to contact the organization’s headquarters. The few people he was able to interview refused to speak about their recommendations. They did not want to talk about disease prevention, but only how to manage the disease (i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure) once it had developed. After further research, he discovered why. The ACS, ADA, and AHA were all funded by large and powerful corporations such as Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Tyson (largest chicken producer), Cargill (largest supplier of animal feed and nutrition), and Yoplait (yogurt). This goes to show you how the major health agencies are influenced by large corporate sponsors. I couldn’t believe the corruption!
We have been led to believe that protein is some super macronutrient and can only be obtained from eating animal products. However, protein can be so much better sourced from plants. Some of the strongest animals on earth only eat plants such as the elephant, giraffe, horse, and rhinoceros. It is rare to find people in America that are protein deficient. However, many people do not eat enough fiber. Fiber can be found in beans, lentils, nuts and vegetables. I know I don’t eat as much fiber as I do meat.
Aside from the health aspect of eating meat, I found it really disturbing watching how meat is produced and the process of getting meat products to our tables have the highest carbon footprint. I won’t go into detail about this, but I would recommend reading about the situation in Duplin County, North Carolina. They are the biggest pig producers in the country and the pig manure is killing everyone in the county. They have a really hard time protecting their water from contamination.
When my family tried going vegan, we found it hard for a few reasons. First, it was a big change from our normal eating habits. A lot of food had animal products in it like milk or eggs, and we were getting tired of going to a limited number of restaurants and eating the same dish each time. Very few restaurants offered vegan food that tasted good. After three days, I couldn’t keep being vegan. My family then went vegetarian for the rest of the two weeks. I didn’t feel too bad about the transition, but I was slightly disappointed in myself for not being able to stick with a vegan diet for more than three days.
My attempt to try veganism was an experiment, which did result in my feeling a little more energetic than when I did while eating meat. When we ate a vegetarian meal, we would also limit snacks to those with lots of carbohydrates. My family and I snack a lot, and while we were vegan, we couldn’t eat the snacks we usually ate, which was a good thing for our health but something we had difficulty maintaining. I haven’t noticed any major changes except for when I eat healthy for most of a day, the next day I have more energy.
I can’t say I will give up meat forever, but I’ll definitely cut back significantly. As for my family, my sister is probably going to still eat meat every now and then. My parents intend to become pescatarians, but still limit the amount of seafood they eat. We are going to cook mostly vegetarian at home, but we are all allowed to make our own dietary decisions when we dine out.
(Photo of sponsors by Loki’s Revenge)