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How to be a Healthy Vegetarian

How to be a Strong, Healthy Vegetarian/Vegan  

The Real Energy Crisis

     First of all, it is vitally important to really understand why we eat in the first place.  Ask yourselves if you know, beyond the obvious answer of, "I feel hungry." Once you understand what the body is really seeking in its food, you will see why certain foods help us and others destroy the body. 

1) All organisms require energy to function. Energy is the currency that keeps us alive.  Animals and Humans require food which is then turned into energy.  Plants, on the other hand require only Sunlight for their food.

2) Plants turn Sunlight into energy through Photosynthesis.  

3) The plants convert the kinetic light energy into kinetic chemical energy, called ATP.

4) The ATP is then used to make carbohydrates (sugar molecules used and stored for later as needed).  

5) The chemical energy is stored in chemical bonds, and the bonds are then broken which creates energy. Plants can use stored chemical energy during the night when light isn't available.  Every time Energy is used, the chemical bonds are broken.  This process releases energy, but is very inefficient (90% of the value or useful energy is lost- This is due to the amount of energy required to break the chemical bonds in order to make the energy in the first place.)

6) So, energy on this planet begins as light and goes through chemical processes that diminish the amount of useful energy for the organism.

7) Finally respiration is the process whereby the stored chemical energy (carbohydrates) are converted back into the chemical energy ATP which the organism uses for quick energy needs.

       A) Only plants can do Photosynthesis which is the beginning of ALL LIFE. Plants are the only organism that can convert sunlight into sugar for us.

       B) Plants then give us the Oxygen required to burn that sugar into energy or ATP.

So, let us take a brief look at why eating meat is such an inefficient means of obtaining energy!

A Corn Plant uses photosynthesis to create carbohydrate (or starch).  (Keep in mind, for every chemical process we lose 90% of the useful energy).

        - 90% of useful sun energy lost producing ATP

        - 90% of ATP energy is lost producing sugar

        - 90% of the sugar energy lost producing starch

Now, the cattle eat the corn starch.

         - 90% of the energy of the starch is lost in cattle's digestion

         - 90% of the energy after digestion is lost making protein

Now, you sit down at your favorite steakhouse and eat.

         - 90% of the energy in the meat is lost to your digestion

         - 90% of the energy is then lost making you energy, ATP


This is why eating Raw Juices, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits provide you with so much more energy.  They do not go through anywhere near the number of chemical processes and so you get MUCH MORE ENERGY.


The Protein Myth

    This is the first question everyone asks about being a vegetarian.  Let's take a real look at this question so we can once and for all put it to rest.  In 1952, William Rose fed a group of adult males a mixture of corn starch, sucrose, butter fat, vitamins, and highly purified amino acids, and then gradually eliminated one amino acid at a time.  Amino acids are the building blocks required to make protein. When an essential amino acid (meaning the body cannot produce it internally and must get it from a food source) was not given in sufficient amounts, all the males complained of similar symptoms: a clear increase in nervous irritability, extreme fatigue, and a profound loss of appetite. 
    Dr. Rose found that of the ten essential amino acids found necessary for rats, only eight were needed for humans.  Dr. Rose determined the minimum level required for each amino acid, including a large margin of safety in his conclusion.  From each amino acid, he took the highest recorded level of need in any single subject and then doubled that amount.  Dr. Rose described this amount as , "a definitely safe intake."  This amounted to 2.5% of our daily calorie intake.  This works out to about 20 grams for an adult male!!  The World health organization (WHO) then doubled this amount to be absolutely sure, making protein 5% of the daily caloric intake, or about 40 grams.
  -  W. Rose, "The Amino Acid Requirement of Adult Man, XVI, the Role of the Nitrogen Intake," J Boil Chem 217 91955): 997

    Now, most people eat between 150-200 grams of protein a day.  "When our diets contain more protein than we need, the excess is broken down in the liver and excreted through the kidneys as urea.  This protein is called BUN, or blood urea nitrogen.  Urea has a diuretic action, which causes the kidneys to work harder and excrete more water.  Along with the water, minerals are lost in the urine, and one of the most important minerals lost in this manner is CALCIUM... In one long-term study, investigators measured calcium balance in adults and found that when subjects consumed as little as 75 grams of protein a day, even with daily intakes as high as 1400 milligrams of calcium, more calcium was lost in the urine than was absorbed into the body from diet...The deficit must be made up from the body stores of calcium, which are primarily the bones.  The end result is calcium-deficient bones that can break with the slightest provocation, such as a sneeze that can crack a rib or a normal step that can break a hip.  This condition is called OSTEOPOROSIS...

    "Observations of various populations worldwide show that the higher the protein intake, the more common is osteoporosis.  Bantus living in Africa on low-protein vegetable diets and 400 milligrams of calcium, are essentially free of osteoporosis...Eskimos consume a diet very high in protein-250-400 grams a day from fish, walrus, and whale, along with a high calcium intake of 2,000 milligrams from fish bones. Yet, these very physically active people have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.

    "The calcium lost on high-protein diets ends up in the urine and results in high levels of calcium in the kidney system.  This contributes to the formation of painful calcium KIDNEY STONES...Calcium kidney stones are the most common type found in persons in affluent societies...By the 8th decade of life, people in affluent societies commonly lose 75% of their kidney function." 


1) J. McDougall, M.D, "The McDougall Plan," (1983): pp100-102

2) S. Margen, "Studies in Calcium Metabolism, the Calciuretic Effect of Dietary Protein," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 27(1974): 584

3) C. Anund, "Effect of protein Intake on Calcium Balance of Young Men given 500mg Calcium Daily," J Nutr104 (1974): 695 

4) R. Walker, "Calcium Retention in the Adult Human Male as Affected by protein Intake," J Nutr 102 (1974):1297

5) J. Cummings, "The effect of Meat Protein and Dietary Fiber on Colonic Function and Metabolism, Changes in Bowel Habit, Bile Acid Excretion, and Calcium Absorption," Am J Clin Nutr 32(1976): 2086

6) L. Allen, "Protein-Induced Hypercalcuria: A Long Term Study," Am J Clin Nutr 32 (1979):741

7) A. Walker, "Osteoporosis and Calcium Deficiency," Am J Clin Nutr 16 (1965): 327

8) R. Mazess, "Bone Mineral Content of North Alaskan Eskimos," Am J Clin Nutr 27 (1974): 916

9) "Urinary Calcium and Dietary Protein," Nutr Rev 38 (1980): 9

10) W. Robertson, "Should Recurrent Calcium Oxalate Stone Formers Become vegetarians?" Br J Urol 51 (1979): 427

11) "Diet and Urinary Calculi," Nutr Rev 38 (1980: 74

12) H. Anderson, "Fat-Reduced Diet in the Treatment of Hyperoxaluria in Patients with Ileopathy," Gut 15(1974): 360

13) B. Brenner, "Dietary Protein Intake and the Progressive Nature of Kidney Disease: The Role of Hemodynamically Mediated Glomerular Injury in the Pathogenesis of Progressive Glomerular Sclerosis in Aging, Renal Ablation, and Intrinsic Renal Disease," N Eng J Med 307 (1982): 652


    When I was in high school I knew two vegetarians and they always looked sickly and anemic.  Another important question people ask is how will I get enough iron?  Iron is a trace mineral of vital importance to the body.  Although there is only about a teaspoon of it in your body at any one time, it is essential in the formation of Hemoglobin, the red pigment of blood.  Now, hemoglobin carries oxygen to your organs and tissues, so you can see how important iron is to the body. There are two types of iron: Heme and Non-Heme.  Now, Heme is more easily absorbed by the gastro-intestinal tract (10-30%) while Non-Heme is only about1-10% absorbed.  Guess what, Heme is available in the tissues of animals.  That's right, the more available source of iron is found in meats and dairy than in plants.  So, you may be thinking, okay we've got those damn vegetarians.   But, digging a little deeper reveals a new and important discovery.  

    The interesting fact is that despite a less absorbable form of iron, vegetarians are no more likely to suffer from iron deficiency than non-vegetarians. Draper and Wheeler have stated there is no indication of increased prevalence of iron deficiency amongst vegetarians. Anderson found their on status of long-term vegetarian women to be adequate, despite a high intake of fiber and phytate which INHIBITS the absorption of iron!
- Anderson, B. et al. The iron and zinc status of long-term vegetarian women. Am J of Clin Nutr v.34 (6),(1981):p.1042-1048.

- Draper, A. & Wheeler, E. The diet and food choice of vegetarians in Greater London. Center of Human Nutrition, London.(1989)

    In fact, because iron can be stored in the body, too much iron can cause problems.  Too much iron consumption leads to the production of free radicals (a molecule with an extra electron that will steal a negatively charged hydrogen electron from DNA, tissues, or organs which causes disease and aging).  High levels of iron have also been found in association with heart disease and cancer.  The buildup of iron in the tissues has been associated with a rare disease known as hemochromatosis, a hereditary disorder of iron metabolism that causes bronze skin pigmentation, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and heart disorders.

    Iron is up to 16 times more absorbable if taken with foods rich in Vitamin C.  That means any citrus fruits, kiwi, watermelon, apricots, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, and tomatoes. Other foods that contain iron are beets, dulse, kelp, almonds, avocados, millet, kamut, kidney and lima beans, raisins, lentils, peaches, pears, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans.  Copper, manganese, molybdenum, Vitamin A, and the B complex Vitamins are also needed for complete iron  absorption. This is why we believe you must get iron from foods rather than a pill.  In foods, you will find these vitamins and minerals naturally occurring and they will synergistically combine to form the optimum amount of nutrition without you trying to calculate it all out.  In pills, you will get something like ferrous oxide (oxidized iron: In other words, RUST). 

    If you are anemic, then drink juices rich in chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is responsible for the green pigment in plants (called the "blood" of plants).  Chlorophyll has almost the exact same chemical makeup of hemoglobin (less one iron molecule), both are responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood.  Since the chemical makeup is almost identical, chlorophyll can quickly and easily be converted to hemoglobin.  If the juices are rich in organic iron, then you have all the qualities for a blood transfusion. Dark leafy vegetables (particularly fresh vegetable juices including beet and beet greens, carrot, and dark leafy greens) and especially Wheat Grass are abundant sources of iron and chlorophyll.  They have extraordinary blood-building properties.  If you are anemic, drink Organic fresh juices made with Beet Greens, Carrots, and ANY Dark Green Leafy Vegetable.  Also, drink 1-3ounces of Wheat Grass a day for one week.  Get your iron and blood levels tested before and after- your doctor will be stunned.

    Caffeine and tannins (in tea), and calcium inhibit iron absorption.  This is another reason to avoid iron supplements, because they almost always have calcium in them as well.  Besides, almost none of the iron supplements use organic iron, so you cannot absorb any of it and it gets pissed away or lodged in your tissues where it can cause disease.  Always get your nutrients from natural foods rather than pills.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Balch, James, MD, (1997): p. 25-26


How Do I Fill Up?

    If you are anything like I was then you are thinking that a meal just isn't a meal without some kind of meat on the plate.  I mean, how else are you going to be satisfied at a meal.  In Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, Eric Marcus puts it this way, "When I met my first vegetarian, he told me he hadn't eaten meat for 14 years.  I looked at him as if he had managed to hold his breath that entire time.  Now I know there is nothing rigorous or strange about eating a diet that excludes meat."  The truth is that you should be eating much less protein and fat which leaves room for much more carbohydrates and fiber.  This is the way human beings have eaten throughout history.  Starches (whole grains, legumes-beans, flours, pastas, roots), vegetables, and fruits (all sources of carbohydrates and fiber), fill the stomach quickly with the intake of fewer calories than meat, dairy, and oils.  In fact, because meat and dairy are so concentrated in calories, it is almost impossible NOT to eat excess calories while trying to fill up your stomach.  So, the truth is that you can eat much more until your hunger is satisfied.

    So, here's what happens.  When you first give up meat, you will probably experience some acid-reflux.  This will feel like a slight burning sensation in your throat.  This occurs because your body is used to the onslaught of digesting meat and in order to do that, it produces a lot of acidity the blood.  Your body is basically preparing for the meat and when you don't eat anywhere near that much protein, your body needs a little time to re-adjust.  Relax, it will passion.  Then, it will take a little time, but the amount of food you need to eat at a meal will shrink dramatically.  Again, this is the BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.  The one thing that ALL medical doctors agree on is that Everyone should be eating less.  This will naturally happen when you switch to a vegetarian diet.

Great Vegetarian Books

Now, there are wonderful books that explain how to eat as a vegetarian in order to be strong and healthy.  We strongly recommend:

Dr. Joel Furhman, Eat to Live

John Robbins, The Food Revolution

Dr. John McDougal, The McDougal Plan

Ann Wigmore, The Hippocrates Diet

Howard Lyman, Mad Cowboy