- Page 1 : Veg Info
- Page 2 : Be Vegetarian or Vegan, that is the question
- Page 3 : Food sources for Proteins, Iron…
Note : The information on this page is based on my personal experience being Vegetarian, most of my life.
This page exists for more than 10 years. When I first wrote it, being Vegetarian was not as popular as it is today and I had to explain the concept to people who weren’t sure if a human being could survive without eating animals. Things have changed. Today, people know about Vegetarianism and talking a lot about Vegetarianism and there are more and more Vegetarian options around, but people who are actually Vegetarians (or Vegans) are still a minority in the population, not more than 10 % in the best case and usually less than 5 % (depending on the country).
I am Vegetarian for about 40 years and a proof that a person can abstain from eating animals, without any problems. I would like to share my experience on these pages.
A Vegetarian is someone who abstains from eating animals.
Vegans are those who also abstain from eating what animal are producing, like dairy products and eggs.
There are also vegetarians who do eat fish, but not the other animals.
Yes, it is possible to be vegetarian all lifelong and live well and even better than by eating animals. If you need proof, just talk to people who are vegetarian all their life, they are living among us.
Because you are smart : A research study conducted on more than 8,000 people, and published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that children with an above-average IQ may have a higher chance of becoming vegetarian in their adulthood (sorry, I found this anecdotal study and felt an urge to mention it).
The prime reason people choose for being vegetarian is in order to avoid the killing of animals. A human being doesn’t need to eat animals in order to survive, so eating animals is just a matter of having a good taste in the mouth and also a human social issue (everyone eat animals around me, so why not ?)
Other reasons for being vegetarian :
Some choose to be vegetarian because they believe it is healthier. It can really be healthier in the condition that you are aware of what you are eating.
Some are vegetarians because of religious beliefs (although the big religions of the world are not really promoting vegetarianism).
Some are vegetarian for economic reasons, but in that case they sometimes eat animals, when they can afford it.
Environment issues are also involved. It is more economic and sustainable to feed the world with vegetarian food than by growing animals.
Growing animals requires a lot of resources (water, animal food, space, medicine, electricity…)
It can be healthier to be vegetarian if you take care of what you eat. If you’ll become vegetarian and eat mostly french fries at the McDonald’s (it is vegetarian), you will not be healthy.
Vegetarians are usually more aware of the diet than others so they eat healthy food. If you are very lazy and you don’t have access to healthy vegetarian food, then eating a dead animal is a good solution and an healthier one.
There are scientific studies about this issue all the time. In a large study made in the UK with 45,000 participants, it was found that vegetarians have a much healthier heart (32 percent reduced risk of both fatal and non-fatal heart disease) and also fewer cases of other diseases like diabetes.
Also in life expectancy statistics, vegetarians score better than others but you should not take these studies as an indication, first because the differences in longevity between vegetarians and animal eaters is not dramatic and secondly because like in any study the real causes in the results may lie elsewhere and not in the vegetarian cause. For instance, vegetarians are usually more conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle and so are smoking less and doing more sports and that may be the cause for the difference in the statistics.
I think you should be vegetarian for the moral cause of not killing animals and not for an health advantage, which is not completely clear.
My personal experience as a vegetarian is good, I’m doing sports and feel strong and active most of the time (I don’t know how I would have been, if I was eating animals). I know there are weight lifters and professional athletes who are vegetarians, an elephant is vegetarian and he is strong.
If you will eat healthy equilibrated vegetarian food and go to the gym and do other sports you will be and feel strong.
From my personal experience, no. Each time I went to medical checks, I was not missing anything, including not the vitamin B12 which is supposed to exist only in animals (but I do eat eggs and milk).
The human body needs to receive these essential types of nutrients from the food: Carbohydrates, Lipids and Proteins. Vegetarians don’t have problems getting Carbohydrates and Lipids, they get plenty of them from vegetarian food, the challenge for vegetarians may be with the proteins. Proteins are the main building blocks of the human cells and make up between 12 and 15 % of the body mass, they are essential for many functions.
Dead animals contain, not surprisingly, a lot of proteins in their meat and these are also high quality proteins or complete proteins (they are an end-product, after all). So if you are a vegetarian you will have to get proteins from other sources. If you eat eggs and dairy products, you have this issue solved because they contain also high quality and complete proteins, but your body can also build proteins by itself if it receives the right amino acids which are the building blocks of the proteins. There are 8 essential amino acids that are needed for our body in order to produce proteins and not all of them are included in each plant, so the right thing to do is to combine in a meal several foods that together provide all the amino acids, for instance: rice and beans, rice and lentils, rice and peas, peanuts and wheat, they complete each other. Diversify your food and it will be OK. Some soybeans contain full proteins.
Some vegetarians are also concerned about lacking the Iron mineral which is also an essential nutrient for the body (oxygen carrying function). Iron is found in meat, but if you eat an equilibrated diet you should get enough iron from other sources (cereals, fruits). Surveys of vegans have found that iron deficiency is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population.
The B12 vitamin may be another concern for vegetarians. It is an essential vitamin, involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body. We need very small amounts of this vitamin during a day (2 to 3 µg per day) but we still need it. Unfortunately, this vitamin is found only in the animal world and not in plants. If you are vegetarian and you eat cheese and milk, it may be fine. B12 is also produced and added artificially to many foods like to morning cereals.
If you suspect or you were found lacking the vitamin B12, you should take B12 pills daily, for a certain period of time (or even a multi-vitamin). Taking overdoses of this vitamin is not a problem. Note that animal eaters are also sometimes lacking B12, because of inefficient body metabolism.
I do not take any supplement and I am vegetarian many years, but there may be cases of vegetarians who lack some nutrients because of the vegetarian diet.
Not only vegetarians but also animal eaters may be lacking some vitamins or iron for many reasons. Animal eaters don’t have a guaranteed equilibrated diet just because they are eating meat.
All people, including vegetarians should do a medical check from time to time and if the doctor advise you to take some food supplements like a multi-vitamin or B-12, you should do it and also start to eat natural foods that will bring you these elements, like eating more fruits, iron sources etc.
The difficult part of being vegetarian is the social issue it involves.
Modern societies and their cultures are non vegetarian ones. Generally speaking, our society is not made to support a vegetarian way of life. If we visit a restaurant most of the menu will not be vegetarian and even the few salads will contain a little bit of meat or tuna fish, just to annoy vegetarians. When you travel abroad, it gets even tougher because you are more dependent on restaurants and can less cook at home. Sometimes you travel and arrive to places where vegetarians have the same status as aliens from other planets. On flights, there are vegetarian meals but you have to order them in advance and the stewardess will bring the meal to your seat about 20 minutes before the “normal” people so that you will feel really different.
In some restaurants when you will say you are vegetarian and you don’t eat meat nor fish, the waiter will propose to you Tuna because there are people who don’t realize that the Tuna that comes in a metal can was once a big fish.
But, the biggest challenge as a vegetarian will be the conversations that you will develop with colleagues and friends while eating at the same table. You will have to answer a lot of questions as a vegetarian, for instance you will have to justify why you are eating plants, while plants can feel and suffer when they are being harvested.
As for the diet, being vegetarian is easy. At first you may need a transactional period in which you will pass from being a carnivore to being vegetarian, but it is OK, most things in life are better done gradually. When I was a teenager and I became vegetarian I still continued to eat hamburgers with friends at the McDonald’s during a year or so.
At some point, eating vegetarian becomes very natural and you tend to look at meat products as what they really are: dead animals, and you don’t feel an urge to eat animals like you don’t feel an urge to eat humans.
After a few years, even a smell of a barbecue will not attract you anymore, you will not consider meat a possible food.
Yes, of course. India is very good for vegetarians, statistics says that at least 20% of the Indian population is vegetarian, partly because the cows are sacred in the Hindu religion. McDonald’s even opened in India a vegetarian branch (unique in the world). Basic Indian food is vegetarian. The Buddhist countries like China and south east Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia etc are not specially vegetarian friendly and you better be in a tourist area in order to find vegetarian food, like for instance the Khao-San road in Bangkok (A backpacker neighborhood).
In the middle east, vegetarians have an easy life: middle east food is basically vegetarian like Humus, Falafel, beans, salad, rice and more.
European countries differ on that issue. In England, there is a lot of vegetarianism consciousness and at the supermarkets products have a special label to indicate whether it is adequate for vegetarians. Germany also have vegetarianism consciousness. France is not vegetarian friendly, even the south of France which it supposed to be on a Mediterranean diet, is quite tough for vegetarians. In Italy food is excellent anyway, so I forgive them for everything, I am ready to eat Italian pasta and pizzas all day. Spain is also not vegetarian friendly, in Madrid there is “Jamón” even in the croissants but Barcelona in Catalunya is fine for vegetarians. South America’s countries are heavy animal eaters but vegetarians can manage with the basic food which includes corn products, rice, eggs and beans. Cuba is bad for vegetarians but it is a lovely country with great people and music, I survived there thanks to one Italian restaurant in la Havana.
But things are changing, Vegetarianism is becoming popular everywhere.
First, you should realise that once you become vegetarian, you will mostly eat what you were eating before (pizzas, corn, rice, bread, cereals etc…).
If you´ll become vegetarian and not vegan, you will also eat eggs and milk and cheese and in that case you will get quite a lot of proteins in an easy way. There are different opinions about the right quantity of eggs that is healthy to eat during a week and recent studies show that there is not a special problem with that.
If you stop to eat animals, you will just feel the need to eat more of the other stuff you were used to eat before. The next stage is to try to have a more equilibrated diet: Not to eat only potatoes and pasta but to diversify by eating during the day :Salads, fruits, cereals, nuts, dairy products, eggs and combinations like rice and beans for proteins.
Now, if you are lucky you will also have access to special vegetarian meals that are meat substitutes and look like hamburgers but are made of tofu, seitan, quinoa and more healthy ingredients. These foods can be delicious, depending on who is making them. Try to live beside a cheap vegetarian restaurant and you are settled in life.
In the following picture you can see a vegan meal (from a vegan restaurant in Colombia). Beans and rice provide amino acids in order to build proteins. There is a meat imitation (beside the rice) and the drink is a soy milk.
There is also now the plant based products that successfully emulate the taste of meat. One company is called Beyond Meat and the other Impossible Foods. Their hamburgers can be found in many fast foods around the world. I have tasted them and it is really very close to the taste of meat but :
- I don’t need the taste of meat after so many years being Vegetarian.
- It is an industrial product, a very processed one, so not necessarily healthy.
It is great that this product exists now, and it is cool to eat such a Veg burger from time to time, but maybe more development is needed in order to make it healthier (less salt, for instance).
Practically no, they are all disappointing in this regard. They are disappointing because they have a lot of power on people and they do not forbid eating animals. All big religions regard vegetarianism as a moral ideal but they do little to make the world a more vegetarian one. The Western religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) tend to understand that there might be something wrong with eating animals and so they have rituals and rules about killing the animal or there are certain days which are supposed to be with a vegetarian diet, but usually members of these religions do eat animals.
Buddhism is no better. In theory they are pro-vegetarianism but practically even the Buddhist monks are eating animals. When I visited Burma which is a peaceful and very nice Buddhist country, I was surprised by the cruelty that I saw in the treatments of animals in the markets, the same with Vietnam and other countries in the region (Taiwan is OK).
Hinduism is the most advanced religion regarding the Vegetarianism. Hinduism does not forbid eating animals (except cows), but they promote non-violence against all life forms. Practically, a lot of people in India are Vegetarian. It could be up to 40%. Unfortunately as India become more developed, the meat consumption increases.
Not really, maybe just a little bit.
A religion is supposed to give a lot of answers to the people and to organise the life in society. Vegetarianism doesn’t pretend all that, it just asks to be non violent to other creatures, especially the ones who are close to humans, the mammals.
But there are 2 similarities between Vegetarianism and a religion :
- Like for religions, Vegetarianism is a fundamental belief and it is taken seriously.
- The main idea of Vegetarianism is the non violence. It is a common idea in religions, (but unfortunately not applied to the treatment of other animals, just to humans).
It may be a good idea to create a new religion based on Vegetarianism and the non aggressiveness, but I am a little bit tired, so someone else will have to do it : -)
Once you will become vegetarian you will not belong to any new religion or ethnicity, but there are many vegetarian organisations around the world and also animal rights organisations, you can join some of them if you want.
Because vegetarians don’t express their aggressiveness by eating animals, they tend to get out all the extra energy in sexual activity (just kidding).
It could be that vegetarians are less aggressive. Statistics say that 68% of the vegetarians are female and only 32% are male. Being a vegetarian is at least a sort of commitment and an intent to be peaceful and non aggressive but you can never know, there are rumours that Hitler was partly vegetarian during a part of his life (others deny it completely).
Are Vegetarians more moral ?
Morality is a big word and I am not sure humans understand it.
But one thing is certain : when a cow is being slaughtered, she cries and suffers. A cow is a mammal like us and she has feelings like us. Those who raise the cow are attached to her and know that each cow has its own character in the same way that each dog has its own character.
So why do humans murder animals ? Answer: Because they can.
The animals, are the weak link in the modern era, they cannot speak and cannot claim their rights in a human court. Humanity is abusing animals with a clear knowledge that animals cannot retaliate.
In the state of power today, not eating animals is a noble and moral act. By being Vegetarian you are (trying) to protect the weakest. It is an act that encourages world justice.
Vegetarianism is important not only for the well being of animals, but also for justice between humans. It is impossible to claim high standards of justice and morality in human society and on the other hand to murder creatures which are genetically very close to us, there is a huge dissonance. Yes, animals do kill each other, but animals didn’t establish courts of justice like humans did, so we have more responsibility (otherwise all our talking of justice doesn’t makes much sense).
In fact, because of much hypocrisy, we hide from the public the places where we slaughter the animals. It is done in remote places and the public is not allowed to visit and cameras are normally forbidden. That way the human protects himself from dealing with the moral issue, he forgets, he gets a “product” in his plate.
Many are the thinkers and writers who supported vegetarianism, but the greatest of them is (in my opinion) the great scientist Albert Einstein. Besides being a genius and a groundbreaking scientist, he was also a “universal person”, for example, he was in favour of establishing a stronger international institute than the United Nations, one that will enforce its decisions on countries in conflict and thus prevent wars.
Here’s Einstein’s comments about vegetarianism :
“Although I have been prevented by outward circumstances from observing a strictly vegetarian diet, I have long been an adherent to the cause in principle. Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind”.
I prefer to follow the wisdom of a person like Albert Einstein. He had some extra brain cells, after all.
Is humanity’s future, to be Vegetarian ?
There are several directions in this matter :
- Countries that were poor and could not afford to eat a lot of meat (like India and Africa) are getting richer and then the population is starting to be like the West and eat more animals. That’s what is noticeable today.
- The world’s population is growing to such a degree that it is no longer possible to spend lands for raising livestock for food, so humanity is moving to a more vegetarian diet.
- In the developed countries, people are getting more conscious of the suffering caused to animals. Many cannot live with the double moral standard, in which humans are treated with high level of justice (high court of justice, Geneva convention etc) meanwhile animals are being slaughtered just for eating something tasty. As a result, more people become Vegetarian.
- The technology of In Vitro Meat allows to create real meat in the laboratory, without killing animals. It becomes cheap and available for all. Also plant based products which emulate the taste of meat are becoming very good.
- Page 1 : Veg Info
- Page 2 : Be Vegetarian or Vegan, that is the question
- Page 3 : Food sources for Proteins, Iron…
On Cities and Countries :
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