The Mother Divine
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"Discussing Vegetarianism with a Meat-Eater: a Hindu View"
Published by Himalayan Academy


IV. Humans Have neither Fangs nor Claws
A ninth and most compelling argument against meat-eating is that humans are physiologically not suited for a carnivorous diet. The book Food for the Spirit, Vegetarianism in the World Religions, summarizes this point of view as follows. "Many nutritionists, biologists and physiologists offer convincing evidence that humans are in fact not meant to eat flesh._" Here are seven facts in support of this view:

"Physiologically, people are more akin to plant-eaters, foragers and grazers, such as monkeys, elephants and cows, than to carnivora such as dogs, tigers and leopards.

"For example, carnivora do not sweat through their skin; body heat is controlled by rapid breathing and extrusion of the tongue. Vegetarian animals, on the other hand, have sweat pores for heat control and the elimination of impurities. "Carnivora have long teeth and claws for holding and killing prey; vegetarian animals have short teeth and no claws.

"The saliva of carnivora contains no ptyalin and cannot predigest starches; that of vegetarian animals contains ptyalin for the predigestion of starches.

"Flesh-eating animals secrete large quantities of hydrochloric acid to help dissolve bones; vegetarian animals secrete little hydrochloric acid.

"The jaws of carnivora only open in an up and down motion; those of vegetarian animals also move sideways for additional kinds of chewing.

"Carnivora must lap liquids (like a cat); vegetarian animals take liquids in by suction through the teeth.

"There are many such comparisons, and in each case humans fit the vegetarian physiognomy. From a strictly physiological perspective, then, there are strong arguments that humans are not suited to a fleshy diet."

V. The Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
It was only recently that smoking only recently became recognized as a health and environmental hazard. As a result of research and education on a habit once believed to be not only harmless but stylish, most major U.S. cities have banned smoking of cigarettes, cigars or pipes in all public places. Smoking has also been outlawed in government offices and completely eliminated from all domestic U.S. air flights. Now, another, even more devastating problem is under scrutiny. Its threat to health and the environment is being realized based on overwhelming evidence amassed by recognized authorities over the past fifty years. Recently a group of eminent doctors called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), themselves members of the American Medical Association (AMA), have gathered to change the U.S. consciousness on human nutrition, particularly among the medical community. The PCRM is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., consisting of doctors and lay persons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research and health promotion. Founded in 1985, the PCRM is supported by over 3,000 physicians and 50,000 lay persons PCRM president Newal D. Barnard, M.D., is a popular speaker and the author of The Power of Your Plate.

As stated by the PCRM in their 1991 literature, "A vegetarian diet has been advocated by everyone from philosophers, such as Plato and Nietzsche, to political leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin and Gandhi, to modern pop icons such as Paul McCartney and Bob Marley. Science is also on the side of vegetarian foods. A multitude of studies have proven the health benefits of a vegetarian diet to be remarkable.

"Vegetarian is defined as avoiding all animal flesh, including fish and poultry. Vegetarians who avoid flesh, but do eat animal products such as cheese, milk and eggs are ovo-lacto-vegetarians (ovo = egg; lacto = milk, cheese, etc.). The ranks of those who eschew all animal products are rapidly growing; these people are referred to as pure vegetarians or vegans (vee'guns). Scientific research shows that ovo-lacto-vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters, and vegans are healthier than ovo-lacto-vegetarians." It should be noted that the Indian Hindu tradition has always been lacto-vegetarian, permitting the consumption of milk products.

The PCRM literature lists a host of health benefits of a vegetarian diet, including the following:
Preventing cancer: "Numerous epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that vegetarians are nearly 50% less likely to die from cancer than non vegetarians."
Preventing heart disease and lowering blood pressure.
Preventing and reversing diabetes.
Preventing and alleviating gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Preventing and alleviating asthma.

VI. The New Four Food Groups
In 1991 the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine submitted a proposal to change the official "four food groups" which have been promoted by U.S. nutritionists in the U.S. for the past 35 years. Their proposal reflects the fact that the long-held belief in meat as an essential dietary element is being displaced with new findings on the harmful effects of a meat-centered diet. The PCRM Update, May-June 1991, explains, "On April 8, 1991, PCRM unveiled a proposal to replace the Four Basic Food Groups. The Four Food Groups have been part of U.S. government recommendations since 1956, but promote dietary habits which are largely responsible for the epidemics of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other serious illnesses in this country._The old four groups were meat, dairy, grains and fruits/vegetables. The 'New Four Food Groups' are grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Meat and dairy will lose their food group status [by this proposal]. The 'New Four Food Groups' represents a nutrition plan that is based on healthy, fiber-rich plant foods rather than the former emphasis on cholesterol-and-fat-laden foods. 'The meat and dairy groups were the principal sources of cholesterol and saturated fat, which is the biggest culprit in raising blood cholesterol,' says PCRM Nutritionist Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D. 'These foods are simply not necessary in the human diet.' " PCRM poster offers the following description of the four new food groups.
1. Whole grains include breads, pastas, rice, corn and all other grains. Note the emphasis on whole grains rather than refined grains. Build each of your meals around a hearty grain dish-grains are rich in fiber and other complex carbohydrates, as well as protein, B vitamins and zinc.

2. Vegetables are packed with nutrients; they provide vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin and other vitamins, iron, calcium and fiber. Dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, chicory or bok choy are especially good sources of these important nutrients. Dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin provide extra beta-carotene. Include generous portions of a variety of vegetables in your diet.

3. Legumes, which is another name for beans, peas and lentils, are all good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soy milk, tofu, tempeh and texturized vegetable protein.

4. Fruits are rich in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Be sure to include at least one serving each day of fruits that are high in vitamin C-citrus fruits, melons and strawberries are all good choices. Choose whole fruit over fruit juices, which don't contain as much healthy fiber.

VII. Common Dietary Concerns
Those considering a vegetarian diet generally worry about getting enough nutrients, since the belief that meat is a necessary part of keeping strong and healthy is still extremely widespread. Armed with decades of nutritional research data, the PCRM addresses this issue head-on:
"The fact is, it is very easy to have a well-balanced diet with vegetarian foods. Vegetarian foods provide plenty of protein. Careful combining of foods is not necessary. Any normal variety of plant foods provides more than enough protein for the body's needs. Although there is somewhat less protein in a vegetarian diet than a meat-eater's diet, this actually an advantage. Excess protein has been linked to kidney stones, osteoporosis, and possibly heart disease and some cancers. A diet focused on beans, whole grains and vegetables contains adequate amounts of protein without the 'overdose' most meat-eaters get."

Other concerns are allayed as follows:
"Calcium is easy to find in a vegetarian diet. Many dark, green leafy vegetables and beans are loaded with calcium, and some orange juices and cereals are calcium-fortified. Iron is plentiful in whole grains, beans and fruits."

Vitamin B12: There is a misconception that without eating meat one cannot obtain sufficient v. B12, which is an essential nutrient. This is simply not true. The PCRM advises: "Although cases of B12 deficiency are very uncommon, it is important to make sure that one has a reliable source of the vitamin. Good sources include all common multiple vitamins (including vegetarian vitamins), fortified cereals and fortified soy milk."

"During pregnancy one's nutritional needs increase. The American Dietetic Association has found vegan diets adequate for fulfilling nutritional needs during pregnancy, but pregnant women and nursing mothers should supplement their diets with vitamins B12 and D.
"Vegetarian children also have high nutritional needs, but these, too, are met within a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian menu is 'life-extending.' As young children, vegetarians may grow more gradually, reach puberty somewhat later, and live substantially longer than do meat-eaters. Do be sure to include a reliable source of vitamin B12."

Besides the fortified cereals and soy milk mentioned above vitamin B12 sources that are widely available are multiple vitamins, brewers yeast and other potent dietary supplements.
Those interested in supporting or learning more about the work of the PCRM should write to PCRM, P.O. Box 6322, Washington, D.C., 20015.
to be continued…