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Dr. Ayala

Dr. Ayala
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
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V.P. Product Development
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Herbal Water
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I’m a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. I recently co-founded Herbal Water Inc. (www.herbalwater.com) with my husband, Albert. I am a serious home cook, and love to entertain. My expertise is vegetarian food (I have been a vegetarian all my life). I strongly believe that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand. My main interests are science, nutrition and art, and I am overall a very curious person that tries to learn something new every day. Dr. Ayala (Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.)

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JANUARY 4, 2010 8:42AM

Are vegetarian diets healthy?

Rate: 21 Flag

Food has been one of the past decade’s biggest celebrities.

It’s not just star chefs, food so artfully presented it could hang in a gallery and the enchanting Food Network that have been grabbing our attention--there’s also a rising and keen interest in the impact food choices have on our health and the health of our environment. What and how we eat has evolved from a simple nourishment act to a lifestyle, ethical and self defining evaluation--and with choices come questions.

As a lifetime vegetarian, I get many comments and questions about vegetarianism and health and my personal choice, so I'd like to discuss the current understanding of the health impact of vegetarian diets and where I stand.

Let’s start with a few common definitions--these definitions of course fall short of describing the full range of dietary practices of those who restrict animal products from their plate, and there are many variations not covered by these rather simplistic definitions.

Vegetarians exclude meat and fish from their diet but do eat dairy and eggs. Vegans exclude all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy and eggs. The terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are not interchangeable from the nutritional science point of view; the two diets are quite dissimilar. This discussion is about vegetarians and not vegans.

Vegetarians choose to abstain from meat for a variety of reasons, ranging from health advantages and environmental priorities, to ethical and cultural considerations. This post is mainly about the health aspects of going vegetarian.


Are vegetarian diets nutritionally complete?

Simply stated--yes!

It’s now proven that a healthy, varied vegetarian diet is nutritionally adequate, doesn’t lead to any deficiencies of macro or micro nutrients and needs no supplementation.

Contrary to popular myth protein isn’t a problem for vegetarians.
Plants--especially pulses (peas, beans and lentils), nuts, seeds and grains--have plenty of protein. Plant proteins do not have all essential amino acids in every bite and are therefore considered incomplete proteins. However, we now know that incomplete proteins can be stored in the body for many days to be combined with other incomplete proteins. Since different plant foods together contain all essential amino acids, it doesn’t matter if the proteins are complete or incomplete and it’s also no longer recommended to bother with combining those different proteins in the same meal.

Contrary to common belief, the risk of iron-deficiency anemia is no larger for vegetarians than it is for omnivores.


Are vegetarians healthier?

A recent paper by Gary E. Fraser in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides a balanced summery of the current science.

As you can imagine, studying large vegetarian cohorts is no easy task. There are a few such large cohorts. The California Adventists have been studied since 1958 and the study’s ongoing. The Seventh-day Adventist church is a Christian denomination that observes Saturday as the day of worship, but it’s also known for promoting a “healthy message,” including a vegetarian diet and avoidance of alcohol, caffeinated drinks, tobacco (they’ve been denouncing smoking for 150 years, well ahead of the medical community) and illegal drugs. Not all Adventists are vegetarian, so the effect of vegetarianism can be isolated within the Adventists. Other large study cohorts include the Health Food Shoppers’ Study and the Oxford Vegetarian Study both from the UK, and the German Heidelberg Vegetarian Study.

Fraser finds consistency in outcomes of vegetarian lifestyles across studies for the following considerations:


• Coronary heart disease is clearly lower for vegetarians. A combined analysis of these cohorts shows that non-vegetarians have 32% higher heart disease mortality than do vegetarians.

• Total LDL cholesterol is lower in vegetarians.

• Vegetarians are thinner than non-vegetarians.

• The risk of diabetes and hypertension is probably lower for vegetarians across studies.


Where Fraser finds inconsistent results is in the incidence of colon cancer. There’s general agreement from studies of non-vegetarians that red meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer. The Adventists studies show that vegetarian Adventists indeed have a lower incidence of colon cancer, but the EPIC-Oxford study doesn’t show that vegetarians fare any better than the general British population. This of course demands explanation and further study.

 

Is the evidence suggesting health benefits from a vegetarian diet compelling enough to convince a meat lover to quit all meat? I doubt it.

One might argue--and I'll concur--that although there are studies that show a correlation between vegetarian lifestyles and lower incidence of several chronic diseases, the evidence is far from conclusive, and there are many confounders in the study of a self-selected group such as vegetarians. And although the evidence to support a diet rich in fruits and veggies and whole grains is convincing, there isn’t great proof that consuming quality meat in moderation is harmful.

I believe that most traditional diets, based on mostly plant food have proven themselves over time to be healthful. Indeed, people can thrive on many different diet regimens. The one diet that’s proving to be detrimental to health is our current Western diet of highly processed foods, fast foods and junk.

One hallmark of the American diet is very high consumption of animal products and especially meat (about half a pound of meat a day). What’s even worse is that most of those animal products come from animals raised in feedlots on a diet that’s unnatural to them (grains and even animal by-products, instead of grass, in the case of cows) and regimens of antibiotics and hormones.


So what’s my story?

My dad turned vegetarian when, as a kid, he saw a chicken slaughtered. When I was a teeny toddler my dad told me where meat comes from. He also told me that almost everyone eats meat, but he thinks animals do have a desire to live, show attachment to their young and do experience suffering.

I was convinced and never tasted meat. I am concerned about animal welfare, and I think cruelty to animals—expressed in the extreme in feedlots and industrial slaughterhouses—has reached a point in which most people would be appalled if they actually saw where their meat comes from.

I admit it…for me it’s easy. I have no desire to eat meat and don’t even think of it as food, because I don't have a habit of eating it.

This is my anecdotal proof that what you feed your kids when they're young has a profound impact on their eating habits. I haven’t gone any further than my dad did with animal welfare--I live with no small amount of hypocrisy myself. I do eat cheese and eggs. I’ll try to buy from producers that raise their animals in a humane and sustainable way, but I do realize that it's very difficult to give up foods you enjoy, were raised on and are part of your tradition. I don’t think I’d likely give up dairy completely, even if there were evidence that abstaining from it might benefit my health somewhat. After all, there’s risk everywhere; avoiding risk to the point of not enjoying yourself is risky too.

 

Every diet is characterized by which foods are eaten, not only by what’s excluded. At this point I think there’re plenty of reasons for everyone to eat more fruits and veggies and eat less animal products; it may turn out that the health benefits seen in vegetarians have more to do with what they eat, and not what they exclude.

There’s much more to talk about concerning vegetarian lifestyles, and I haven’t even touched on the environmental reasons to avoid meat, which are pretty compelling.

I welcome your perspectives.

Dr. Ayala
Related post: Eating green for our planet

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Thank you for explaining the difference between vegan and vegetarian. I am leaning towards vegetarian simply because we're weaning ourselves off of meat, which is not as easy as people may think! But we're working on that!

I also appreciate what your dad said about animals. We've seen the same observations here too ...
@rebelmom,
Changing eating habits is ever so hard.
Appreciate the comment.
Dr. Ayala,
One of the reasons I always look forward to your articles is they feature such a rare combination of research, information, humility, and practical wisdom. This one is a classic example of those traits.

I really appreciate the balanced approach you take while supporting your points so convincingly.

I was raised on a fairly typical midwestern diet - though I grew up in California. Meat was the anchor of every meal. In 1995 I cut meat completely out of my diet for health reasons - but it wasn’t long until my reasons became ethical as well.

“The one diet that’s proving to be detrimental to health is our current Western diet of highly processed foods, fast foods and junk.”

That sentence really is at the heart of the discussion as far as I am concerned.

It’s a very strange and sad phenomenon that most folks raised on Western diets and longing for a healthier lifestyle often must first lose their taste for processed, junk, and fast foods and acquire a love for fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s a wee bit convoluted if one thinks about it.

What’s delightful, however, is that once the vegetarian taste buds are “activated” there are few things that ever satisfy the same. One example: Several years ago we purchased high quality juicers for our home. I’m pretty certain I could live on fresh juice now - it’s that great.

Thank you for the wonderful ray of light you are here at OS. Einstein was a late bloomer in adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. But that still is some pretty good company to keep!

Rated and very much appreciated.
Dennis,

Thanks for the kind comment. It put a smile on my face.

I hear from people who try going vegetarian that they're always a little hungry, and don't feel the same satiety they had with meat. Did you experience that?

To me, that's actually one of the nice things about eating mostly plants--you're rarely really full for long and it feels light.

I love my juicer too. I use it a lot for making sauces. It's amazing how much flavor you can get from vegetable juices.
Dr. Ayala,
I didn’t really experience the lack of feeling full.

What I did experience was - and I am ashamed to say this - a craving for Jack in the Box tacos. I swear those things were enchanted or something.

For the first few months I made my own version of them using Fantastic Foods veggie meat mix and organic corn tortillas. But eventually the good food weaned me off my love of junk.

The thought of eating them now is scary :)

The juicer, the Vita Mix, the bread machine, the food processor, and the rice cooker are all indispensable at our house. But I think I’d grab my Breville juicer right after I’d grabbed my family if the house were on fire!
@Will
What do you think about this vegetarian food pyramid?
Contrary to common belief, the risk of iron-deficiency anemia is no larger for vegetarians than it is for omnivores.

Thanks for stating that! My daughter is a vegetarian. When she decided to go that route at 16 (or so) I did lots of reading and learned that, too. The greater (and more common) risk for vegetarians is lack of vitamin B12. It woudln't hurt for most "new" vegetarians to get their B12 checked periodically to be sure their diet isn't leaving them depleted. The good part of a veg diet - no animal fat.
I was a vegetarian for 10 years and a vegan for 2 years. After the first 6 months into my 2 years of veganism, I became somewhat forgetful. I felt like I had some short term memory lapses. My husband also noticed this as well.

As a vegetarian though, I felt more healthy overall. Furthermore, my cholesterol and blood pressure were lower. However, I always looked like I was retaining water! I believe this may have been due to the over consumption of soy in the place of animal protein.

Have there ever been any studies on the quantity of soy consumption by vegetarians?
It is so refreshing to hear a doctor tell the truth about vegetarianism--I cannot begin to tell you how many have told me that though not unhealthy, being veg is still less healthy than eating meat. I have been a vegetarian for 10 years (vegan for almost three) and cannot remember the last time I was sick. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the China Study (or China Project)?
even veggie diets can have lots n lots of fat!! believe it or now
This is the first article I found to be balanced about this subject. I am now having "pause" about the length of time it takes a human-being to digest meat. (24-72 hours) As I experience a change in my digestion system, I don't need to work overtime breaking down the meat. lol.

I am also working with Grizz Chapman (30 Rock) who was on Dr. Oz Dec 15th reference being on dialysis. He is working with a team of experts this year for him to lose 75 lbs. As I support him in this endeavor, I am planning to eat more plants. I do not eat meat everyday for I love yogurt and other diary products. They are very satisfying to me. I can snack on two boiled eggs!

Because I am African American, I need me some fried chicken every once in a while. (lol)

Going forward, I am will make better food selections.. I am also posting this article on facebook because there are a lot of people at the fork in the road when it comes to "healthier eating habits.". rated~
Thank you for this great article! I've already sent it out to several people....
Tremendous post I love your writing style.
My wife and I are Vegan, however I am only into it one year. My main motivation is the treatment of Animals.
The health benefits of the change have been staggering both in terms of "feeling good" and the complete disappearance of a myriad of "symptoms". I simply did not realise how incredibly "different" I could feel.
The criticism we may lack B12 probably needs some explanation (for Vegans more than vegetarians) - the amount of B12 needed in a lifetime is probably about the same quantity as three grains of rice.
My beautiful wife is Asian and her belief system is Buddhism aside from that her skills in cooking and her understanding of "Mock Meats" has meant I hardly ever felt I was not eating Meat, Chicken or Fish. Eating a "Steak" made from seitan (Wheat Gluten) made the way my wife makes it - has fooled many a guest in our home. Fried in Garlic and onions until firm (a little crispy) on the outside and tender on the inside, with a delicious mushroom gravy on top.... Hmmmm delicious. "Meat & three veg" never tasted so good.
I believe what you are doing - putting it out there in a non threatening way, without "pontificating" will do so much for the world as a whole
Thank You
That was a great article.
It is funny to me, because I used to climb with a vegetarian, and he could crank hard. In climbing, weight is important, the less the better.
I was too fat. But, if I ate no meat, I felt really, really weak. My body didn't seem to work that way. Sometimes, I just need a cheeseburger, although, their is a discipline issue.
Sugar management seems real, real important. And I am horrific at that. Horrific. But, every day is a new day. And, you are right that I have witnessed the strongest climber I ever know personally never eat meat, although he could not lift weights like I could. There, Like for Olympic Weight Lifters, you would have a problem I would bet. Although my old strategy of a six pack and chicken wings was probably suboptimal, although, I did get pretty strong, if not on a per pound basis. The veggie climber, on a per pound basis, was the strongest person I have ever met, except maybe wrestlers.
I stand by what Slavoj Zizek had to say about vegetarians--a funny little comment posted on Youtube. Degenerates, he called them, they'll all turn into fucking monkeys. Rated.
Damn. I wish I had read this before I bought the chopped meat for my chili.

I have a deep recurring guilt complex about not being a vegetarian. The GF (SWMBA) was raised as a vegetarian. Both her parents are vegetarians, but she started eating meat some years ago....and it would be difficult for me to vegie. And then there's my mother. Another long story.

I have the impression that it is impossible to gradually go vegetarian. You have to make the decision to do it, and then do it.

Like smoking, I guess....but food is the hardest addiction to give up.
Nice article.

On a cross-cultural note, in India, vegetarian means no eggs, either. Hindus consider eggs to be meat. Because of the influx of Americans and Europeans, and the growing popularity of vegetarianism in those places, the term "pure vegetarian" or "pure veg" is used in restaurants to denote that eggs aren't used, but milk is.
Your last paragraph is one of the main themes of Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food". I will always be an omnivore, but I think vegetarian advocates these days are doing a tremendous job of inviting meat eaters to go veg for short periods of time.
No one disagrees that a diet lower in fats, sugars, and processed food in general are a good thing.

With all general assumptions and studies is they are averages. The assumption that all meat eaters eat just eat hamburgers and french fries is just as skewed that all vegetarians only eat organic. I good balanced diet is obtainable by both carnivores and vegetarians.

For me limiting process food of any kind is my goal. A vegetarian can eat processed food without meat and still be as unhealthy as the meat eater doing the same.

For me (not preaching either way) it is a matter of balance. I have no moral objections to eating meat. So it comes down to the best way (taste and enjoyment are a factor) to obtain the correct combination of protein, fiber, carbs, essential oils, etc. are the goal of my diet. The only thing I try and eliminate are extremes.
@M Todd: Right on
I know vegetarian diets should be healthy, and my own is closer to vegetarian than it's ever been, but I can't help recalling this former colleague who used to shuffle about the office sniffling constantly, shedding clouds of skin flakes from his assorted skin ailments every time he sneezed. He was only ever at work about 50% of the time due to illness, and was bent and stooped like an old person. He was about 24 at the time. The worst thing was his constant evangelizing about the therapeutic effects of garlic. We could tell he was at work by the smell. None of us were ever bitten by vampires however, so it wasn't all bad.
What Dennis Knight said. He, my fellow OS vegetarian apologist, usually says everything better than I. Thanks for this!
Put your finger on your front-right tooth. Move it two teeth to the right.

EvolutionsaysWUT
One hallmark of the American diet is very high consumption of animal products and especially meat (about half a pound of meat a day). What’s even worse is that most of those animal products come from animals raised in feedlots on a diet that’s unnatural to them (grains and even animal by-products, instead of grass, in the case of cows) and regimens of antibiotics and hormones.

While I respect your choice of diet and have a vegetarian in the family - my sister - there's a lot of misinformation regarding the beef industry.

No cattle are ever raised solely on a feedlot. Cattle cannot exist on grass alone. They, like us, need protein and minerals that are not found in only grass. I'm unclear as to what "grains" you are speaking of here. Because, of course, if something is unnatural to the health and growth of the cows, it wouldn't do anyone any good to feed them something that would hinder that goal, right?

There are no "regimens" of antibiotics or hormones. If a cow gets sick, they receive an antibiotic - same as you and me - otherwise it would suffer and die. If a cow has had an antibiotic given, they go through a period of time until it's out of their system. Then, and only then, can it continue onto the next step. Hormones produce adrenaline, which in turn makes the meat tough. Not a very good business plan for the beef-industry: TOUGH Meat: It's What's For Dinner!

So, again, I sincerely respect your choice and the way you've laid it out here. Hell, I don't want anyone telling me whatI should or shouldn't eat - even if it hurts my lacking bottom line. But, on behalf of cattle producers everywhere, it sure would be nice if there were some facts to accompany outrageous statements.
@the ranting boomer,
thanks for the comment.
B12 is indeed a problem for vegans.
B12 vitamin is present only in animal products, and is therefore lacking in an un-supplemented vegan diet. Vegans do have a higher prevalence of B12 deficiency, and vitamin B12 needs to be added to their diet regularly in fortified foods or supplements. Vegetarians usually eat some cheese and eggs, and have enough B12.
I love vegetables, grains, legumes, salad, lots of salad but I want my meat. A lean cut of top round is delicious. Do I have top round every day? No. I love fish too, and chicken. Sometimes I don't eat any animal protein for days but I am a confirmed omnivore. I can relate to your father's story though. I watched a chicken slaughter en masse when I was 9. I couldn't eat eggs or chicken for years but now, they are fair game.
If B12 only comes from animals, then don't B12 supplements come from animals, too?
Julie, as the son of a cattle/sheep farmer (they may have clashed in the Old West but in Scotland they're often the same person) I need to answer what you've said about beef farming. Where I grew up cattle were fed mainly on the crops grown on the same farm, which back in the 50s/60s was a mix of grass in the summer and hay/grains/turnips/purchased pelleted food in the winter (most were housed indoors in winter). They even got vitamin-fortified molasses, which they loved, drizzled over their oats occasionally.

But nowadays, here in the US (and many other countries) many cattle are fed most of their life on a feedlot or in a large building, with grain and processed pelleted stuff making up a large part of their diet. Grass is something they see in the far distance.

The processed pelleted crap can be anything from shredded and compressed hay or alfalfa to rendered protein from other animals. Yes, cows are, or rather were, fed the spinal columns and brains and other unwanted parts of sheep. That's where Mad Cow disease came from. A few years ago I heard Ted Kopell grill an agriculture expert on why that outbreak happened in the UK and Europe, and not in the US. Every question Ted asked was along the lines of "So they're doing this weird feeding business over there, but we don't do that here in America, right?", and each time the expert would say, no, Ted, we do that here. Sometimes he would say "We thought of it first and we've been doing it the longest." Finally Ted, sounding exasperated, asks why Mad Cow hasn't broken out here if all that stuff is the same. The answer was "Dumb luck".

Now as for antibiotics, I'm afraid you're off the mark there too. A lot of animals are fed large doses of antibiotics mixed in with their food. It's not just to protect them from disease, though since they're often confined next to each other it's good to stamp things out before they spread. It turns out if you do that the animals gain weight faster on the same amount of food. This indiscriminate use of antibiotics is a major reason for the rise in resistant strains of bacteria. This isn't just a theory - it's been documented right down to a specific resistant strain of E. Coli (or possibly Listeria, I forget) being traced back through the food chain to a specific farm.

Indiscriminate use of hormones on the other hand seems to have decreased, mainly due to consumer resistance to having the hormones turn up in dairy products, plus the inability of US farmers to export to many countries. Beef for instance can't be traded either way between the US an the EU, since the US doesn't want that mad cow thing, and the Europeans won't let in meat with hormones in it.

Last word from me (I do go on a bit sometimes). The two worst things to me about feedlot farming are the dreary conditions the animals have to live in, and the fact their meat is neither as tasty nor as healthy as range-fed beef. Cattle that graze on grass alone have waaay less saturated fat in their meat.
Gee Bee - With all due respect, please read my bio before you make assumptions regarding my knowledge of the cattle industry.
This was refreshing.

Frankly, I'm rather fed up with all the "politics" surrounding food. If one chooses to eat meat, rock on. If not, rock on . . . Can we just drop the pretentiousness about it?

-R-
@catnmus

Great question!

Production of B12 is done in the lab by fermentation of selected microorganisms (bacteria).
@GeeBee
What a great comment! Thanks!
I abstain from eating meat for purely compassionate reasons. It sickens me how animals are treated; tortued really, simply because they "taste good" to people. I quit eating pork first, then beef, and still felt like a hypocrit for eating chicken, so I quit eating them, too. Went along like that for a while, and still felt bad about all the cheese I was eating. I loved cheese more than anything..One day I said "no more" and overnight I quit eating cheese. I had eaten eggs all my life; what else does one eat for breakfast? Suddenly I couldn't stand the thought of a plateful of eggs; quit eating them also. I didn't do this for my health, I still eat junk food galore. My name is mud on thanksgiving day around here, because I won't cook a turkey. Nor will I let anyone bring one in, which has been suggested. Don't know if many people know this, but some animal rights group filmed turkeys being tortured on "butchering day". Some guys were sticking objects up their butts. Not small objects, either. And yea, it was butterball. It sickened me to think I had helped make these people rich beyond reason. To think they couldn't care less about the birds who are making them rich and comfy in this world. But the most shocking thing I have encountered in this whole mess is that almost NO ONE I talked to about it cared enough to NOT buy a turkey. Yea its awful, they will say..on their way to the meat counter. Americans are so ..spoiled, or ..I don't know...what to call it. It truly shocks me that people could care so little. I have lost so much respect for people, and it's awful.
I have been a vegetarian since my early teens and I appreciate this informative post. There are many good reasons to be a vegetarian, as you demonstrate.
I just don't believe that a vegetarian diet is good for everyone. I never felt well as a vegetarian and after 2 years as a vegan, I became extremely ill. Subsequent attempts to eat vegetarian never worked and I have tried every variation out there, from macrobiotics to raw foods. I have a handful of vegetarian friends and half of them are morbidly obese. My naturopath says she's never met a vegan who didn't have a compromised immune system. This diet only works for certain body types.
First let me just say this is a great post. But not everyone can live with a vegetarian diet. I saw my grandfather raise and slaughter animals on his farm, he loved them and he treated them well, so I don't necessarily think it is evil to eat animals, but I do think it is evil the way that big agribusiness raises and treats the animals.

I was a vegetarian for many years because I did not want to support the animal-torture industry but I was never healthy because I mostly ended up eating bread, cheese, beans, fruit and salad. All these years later, I understand that my system is just not able to digest beans or raw fruits & veggies without it making me sick. But for many years I felt like a bad person because I needed to eat meat. All those judgmental neo-hippies looking down on me didn't help. So I guess I just wanted to say that those who truly are not able to eat vegetarian should not feel like shit about that. Now I eat mostly cooked veggies, grains, nuts, goat cheese, and small servings of local organic free-range meat 3-4 times a week, and I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. It is too bad that all my guilt and self-denigration about eating meat kept me sick for so long, and I hate to see others go through it unnecessarily.
Thanks Ayala, for a balanced and interesting article. I am not "anti-vegetarian" -- not at all -- I love my fruits and veggies, and eat mostly (though not entirely) fish as a protein rather than red meat, though by preference and not ideology.

Where I have a problem is this: most of the people I know who are or claim to be "vegetarian" or "vegan" today care less about animal welfare or health than they do about BEING SKINNY. As in the (horrid, horrid) books "Skinny Bitch" or "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch"...not eating meat has become a kind of shorthand excuse for eliminating a lot of healthy foods (not just meat) and eating horrid mass produced junk (soy cheese, faux lunch meat, veggie fried chips) all in the name of losing weight and being very thin. You can't discount this in a culture which is literally OBSESSED with body image and diet and skinniness.

I notice that nearly every proponent of vegan/vegetarianism, including yourself, manages to note that vegetarians are THINNER than meat eaters (sometimes but not always true) and that vegetarian eating is a good way to lose weight; whether factually based or backed up by science, this is speaking loud and clear to a lot of body-hating, fat-loathing unhappy people with forms of body dysmorphia, who hate themselves, hate their looks and hate food (because perversely they love it so much; they hate the power it has over them) and ergo, have become in some form or another "VEGETARIAN ANOREXICS".

Such people use "vegetarianism" or veganism to avoid eating with family, or to reject healthy normal food (even veggies, with the claim "some meat has touched them!") or to enable the person to refuse all food or fast without raising suspicion that they have an eating disorder. This is not a rare condition; it is growing exponentially and at epidemic levels in high schools and colleges, mostly (but not always) among women and girls.

It is not responsible to promote vegetarianism or veganism without at least addressing this. The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are worthless if you are starving yourself solely to be fashionably skinny or if you have such deep dysmorphia that you can't see or appreciate a normal, healthy body.

Lastly, I am curious: what do you feed your dogs or cats? Even the most rapid vegetarian/vegan should be having a problem with this, as many pets (unlike humans) are NOT omnivores and MUST eat a carnivorous diet. If I even tried to feed my cats a vegetarian diet, they'd just sneak outdoors and gobble up some chipmunks! lol
Is exercise a good idea?
It is wonderful how you grew up never eating meat! That is how I plan to raise my children. I grew up eating meat for every meal during most of my life and I decided to change that about a year ago. I began to research where my food was coming from and it was a big wake up call! I have pretty much given up all animal products - meat, cheese, eggs --- it was very difficult since they were all part of my everyday diet, but I feel like a new person.

Changing eating habits are so difficult - but totally worth it in the long run!

I enjoy reading your posts!!