Thank you for joining me for another installment of “How should we eat”! Last week’s post looked into the USDA’s recommendations through the MyPlate initiative as well those in the popular Weight Watchers program. Today addresses three ways of eating that are often intertwined and sometimes not all that different from one another: vegetarianism, veganism, and raw foodism. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts and experiences as we continue through this series!
According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, vegetarianism can be divided into four different subcategories depending on the specific approach of the vegetarian individual: Lacto-Ovo eating includes dairy and eggs while eliminating meat, fish, and poultry; Ovo vegetarians will eat eggs but not dairy, meat, fish, and poultry; Lacto vegetarians will do dairy but not eggs, meat, fish, and poultry. Veganism will be discussed in the next section. I’ve also known of lacto-ovo vegetarians who still eat fish. People decided to eat in a vegetarian fashion for various reasons, such as ethics, religion, or health. Those who support the diet believe that all the nutrients, including protein, that people of every age need can be met through a vegetarian diet. Legumes, like dried beans and lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds are relied upon for protein intake, along with other plant foods.
What I like: Someone who becomes vegetarian will more than likely enjoy a very wide variety of fruits and vegetables, rather than the basic white potato and canned green beans that dominate many American plates. Many people also lose weight eating a vegetarian diet. Healthy, high-quality, and humanely raised meat and poultry is expensive and often cost-prohibitive for many families, whereas some vegetarian protein sources, like legumes, are also incredibly frugal. Though we are not vegetarians, I do enjoy making some meatless meals with eggs, cheese, or beans for protein to help keep our grocery bill down and vary our diet.
Where I differ: I believe that animal products are very beneficial to our bodies and that vegetarianism can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies or health problems in time. I would personally encourage anyone who still feels very strongly about not eating certain animal products to at least include dairy and eggs in the diet, and especially those produced from local farms that allow lots of pasturing for their well-tended animals. As mentioned in last week’s post, soy would also be a major concern with a vegetarian diet. Though touted as a health-food, there is much more to soy that should be researched before making it a major part of the diet. Reproductive and thyroid problems top the list of concerns in my mind. Vegetarianism also tends to be a low-fat diet, and I have found healthy fats, including and especially those from healthy animals, to be a very helpful part of our diet. Scripturally, God commanded the priests in the Old Testament to eat various parts of the animal sacrifices, butter (and honey) is referenced in Messianic prophesy as a food to increase learning, and Jesus Himself gave fish to His disciples, all of which leads me to believe that meat and animal fat is not harmful to our health.
The vegan diet might be considered the strictest form of vegetarianism. No animal products of any kind are eaten, and that includes even honey. Many vegans will also avoid leather, wool, or other fibers made from animals. Again, those who support this type of diet believe that all of the necessary nutrition can be achieved through a vegan diet. Soy cheeses, tofu products, and almond milk might be some of the products a vegan would choose to replace traditional cheese, animal protein, and milk.
What I like: Like vegetarianism, the emphasis on fresh and often organic produce is great. Legumes and properly prepared whole grain products are also very nutritious. Weight loss is often easy for a while with a diet consisting of plant foods.
Where I differ: Again, this is similar to vegetarianism, but even to a greater extent since veganism doesn’t allow the inclusion of dairy and eggs. I also find the highly processed nature of many soy foods to be rather concerning and don’t really see them fitting into the goal of eating food prepared in a way that leaves it close to its natural states. Vegan diets are also free from dietary cholesterol. Though excessive cholesterol in the blood is a sign of health problems, the cholesterol in our food is an important nutrient. Next to the Standard American Diet, this particular way of eating is one that I would be most hesitant to suggest for these reasons. Though many people report wonderful health improvement through a vegan diet, I personally do not believe that it is a healthy diet to be followed long-term, and varies greatly from the tradition eating habits of healthy people groups.
The raw food movement has its various branches, one of which is the Hallelujah Diet that bases its ideas from the mandate in Genesis 1:29. The main idea is that enzymes, nutrients, and the “life force” of foods are all damaged or destroyed through the cooking process and that foods are more nutritious and beneficial to the body in their raw form. Many who eat raw foods are also vegetarians or vegans, but this is not always the case. Depending on which specific plan is chosen, some diets allow for a small amount of cooking or searing of food. Those who encourage a raw food diet claim that it boosts energy, slows aging, and more.
What I like: Again, you just can’t go wrong with raw fruits and veggies! I’m sure that the majority of us would see improvement in our health with the inclusion of more of these nourishing foods. I try to keep many raw foods in our home, like fresh fruits and veggies, soaked and dehydrated nuts, and raw milk.
Where I differ: Similar to my differences with vegetarianism and veganism, I would be concerned that a raw diet might lack healthy fats and animal foods. Cooking and baking have been traditional food preparations for thousands of years, and this practice is certainly seen all through the Scriptures. I think that raw eating can have a great cleansing effect on the body but, like veganism, could lead to real health problems if continued solely for too long.
Whew! That was a lot of linking, wasn’t it? What do you think? If you’ve tried or follow one of these diets, I would love to hear from you! What have been your experiences? What do you think about the research that is linked here?
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. These posts are not to be considered medical advice, but my personal thoughts regarding nutrition. Though I can give you my opinion, please see your doctor for specific medical questions and advice.