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Monday, August 6, 2007

VEGANS VS MEAT EATERS

VEGANS VS MEAT EATERS

I am prompted to write this Blog after watching a presentation by Fox News’ Laurie Dhue, who in my opinion is the most beautiful lady on TV broadcasting today – this, of course, having nothing to do with the case – on people eating a truly vegetarian diet – otherwise called “Vegans.” Laurie was interviewing a woman who would not go out with a non Vegan man because she would rather spend her time with another of the opposite sex with whom she had more in common – food and the way we eat being one of our major life styles – and because she said that meat eaters emit an odor which she did not find pleasing.

This reminds me of Rita, a woman of Chinese origin whose family was our closest friends at the time some 40 years ago. Rita ate very little meat as the typical Chinese diet consisted of rice with meat being a minor addition to the meal. In the US we would eat a large steak, a half of chicken, or two pork chops, but a Chinese or Japanese meal would use the meat chopped up in smaller pieces added to the larger amount of a grain such as rice. It seemed to me at the time to be a healthier way to prepare a meal using less of a more dense food item to perhaps flavor the dish.

Rita would insist that she could tell when a meat eater entered the room because of their smell. Years later after I became a somewhat of a vegetarian, not a true Vegan because I ate fish, I appreciated what she had been saying. In my book How to Benefit from Stress I state that everything in our infinite Universe can be explained, and because we do not have an explanation does not mean that there is none, only that we do not have nor know of it at the time. I will return to this point after explaining what a true Vegan is.

True Vegans eat only grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. They do not eat any animal meat or animal products such as milk, cheese, and eggs. There are those who call themselves “Ovo-lacto Vegetarians” because they also eat eggs (ovo), and milk and cheese (lacto). But they are not true Vegans. There are also some who claim to be vegetarians who say they also eat chicken. These individuals really cannot be considered vegetarians under any stretch of the imagination.

After all, eggs are a specialized animal cell and milk comes from the udder of a cow and is essentially juice from a meat bag! Eggs, milk, and cheese have almost everything in common with meat and nothing in common with vegetable matter. Their essential characteristics of carbohydrate, fat, and protein content are animal in nature and resemble the composition of meat, not vegetable.
Grains are special seeds by definition considered such because of the ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrate they contain. The usual grains are: wheat, oats, rye, rice, and corn. Wild rice and buckwheat, for instance, are not considered grains because they do not fulfill the proper criteria. These are considered “seeds” as are all the other seed items, such as pumpkin, sunflower, etc.

Nuts are also seeds but in a special category of themselves. We should discuss in a bit more detail the significance of legumes.

Legumes are a class of substances in the vegetable world which perform a very special function. They fix nitrogen. In the soil there are minerals, water, and other nutrients plants require to grow. Among the major nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A common agricultural practice is to add fertilizer to the soil to enhance plant growth. Fertilizers contain these nutrients and looking closely to a bottle or bag of fertilizer one can observe that the fertilizer is described with three numbers, 10-20-10, for instance.

1. The first number in a fertilizer formula is the nitrogen content:
Nitrogen is used by plants for producing leaf growth and greener, more lush leaves.
2. The second number in a fertilizer formula is the phosphorus content:
Phosphorus is used by plant to increase fruit development and to produce a strong root system.
3. The third number in a fertilizer formula is the potassium (potash) content:
Potassium is used by plants for flower color and size. It is also important to the strength of the plant.

Phosphorus and potassium normally exist within the soil but nitrogen does not. Nitrogen is a gas whish exists in the atmosphere in a concentration of 80%, the other 20% is oxygen which we need to breathe.

Legumes, such as the broccoli family of plants, alfalfa and clover, lentil, and beans have the ability of converting the nitrogen gas from air into nitrogen salts, a form of nitrogen which can be used by plants. In the early age of farming prior to the use of chemical fertilizers, farmers used to plant clover, alfalfa, or rape -- rapini in Italian –, in the broccoli family as co-called “cover crops” in the Fall which could be harvested in the Spring, clover and alfalfa to be fed to the cows. But during their growth these cover crops would add nitrogen into the soil so other plants, such as wheat and corn, could grow.

AMINO ACIDS AND PROTEINS

Something must be said of amino acids which are the major building block of protein. There are 20 amino acids required by the human body to manufacture proteins. Although we can make 10 on our own, we cannot make the other ten, the Essential Amino Acids which are: arginine (ARG), histidine (HIS), isoleucine (ILE), leucine (LEU), lysine (LYS), methionine (MET), phenylalanine (PHE), threonine (THR), tryptophane (TRP), and valine (VAL).These are usually identified by a three letter nemonic. Since the body cannot make these and they are important for human growth and development we must obtain them from our diet.

Most animal products contain all 20 amino acids, but vegetable matter does not. To be a true Vegan you have to know some very important principles of nutrition. Since no one vegetable food item, except soybeans, contains all the essential amino acids, how does a true Vegan survive? Well, it just so happens that although the grains have only some of the essential amino acids, the legumes have the others. When you combine grains and legumes, you consume all of the essential amino acids needed for proper growth and development.

Soybeans contain most, if not all, of the essential amino acids. Fermented soybean products definitely do because of the action of the yeast and bacterial which make most amino acids.

Some of the amino acids contain sulfur and sulfur is what I like to call “the smelly element in nature.” It is partly responsible for the odor of onions, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and turnips. To go one step further and to emphasize just how smelly sulfur is, consider the hydrogen sulfide of rotten eggs and the normal-butyl-mercaptan odor of skunk – mercaptans are organic compounds containing sulfur. It is said that the human nose is so sensitive to the smell of skunk that it can detect one part in 10 million of the substance in the air. That is one powerful an odor.

It is my opinion that animal products have considerably more of the sulfur-containing amino acids than do foods from the vegetable kingdom. This is the reason why meat eaters smell a bit differently to Vegans.

Certain sweat glands, especially those in the armpits and groin, are able to excrete substances other than water and salt, the main ingredients of sweat. Some of these other substances contain sulfur which when acted upon by the skin bacteria will result in an odor. Vegans require less or none at all of skin deodorants because they produce less of the sweat components which contribute to body odor.


CARBOHYDRATES AND FATS

To round off our discussion, we need to say that carbohydrates contain only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, as do fats. They do not contain nitrogen or sulfur. One knows from basic college nutrition that the human body can use ONLY carbohydrates as the source of energy. When not being used to build body components, excess fat and protein are converted into carbohydrate to be used by the body as fuel. Conversely, excess carbohydrates, fats, and proteins can be converted by the body and stored as future sources of energy. The storage form is fat.

Vegans who know what they eat are usually quite well informed and, by and large, tend to be healthier than most meat eaters who consume, usually too much, of highly dense food items. There are many in the medical profession who may disagree with me and believe that a true Vegan can be deficient in nutrients especially as it might relate to rapidly growing children who might require more of the essential nutrients.

In my opinion, and it is my opinion that the Oriental tends to be smaller because they have not usually eaten in the past nutrient dense foods. But this will change as they adopt more of the West’s way of eating. Consider the Western Europeans who were definitely of smaller stature than they are today. I do not believe this is due to a change in genetics, because such changes occur so slowly in the development of a species.

As a Pediatrician who used his practice growth charts developed years ago on a set of white-type Europeans, I used to wonder why so many of my pediatric patients were off-the-charts. This is not to speak of the Black children and those of South American origins who almost never fit the charts from the day of birth.

During my days of raising horses, we could definitely increase the stature of a horse by feeding him large quantities of grain during his early years. Genetics and genetic potential is one thing in the growth of any animal, including humans, and dietary practices to achieve a genetic potential is yet another. Both are important in the final development of the adult animal.

Thanks Laurie for the inspiration!


nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.

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