Healthy Living
The Vegan Way: Staying Trim and Slim this Holiday Season and Beyond      
Welcome, fitness- conscious viewers, to Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. Do you ever feel increased pressure during the holidays to watch your weight and avoid overeating due to the many tempting, high-calorie foods and drinks available at this time of year? Do you also find yourself seeking dietary options that are healthy, low in calories and still tasty and satisfying?

On today’s program we’ll discuss nutritious, meat-free alternatives to traditional fare that can help you stay vibrant and at your optimal weight during this season and all year long. Speaking in a video message presented during a June 2009 climate change conference held in the Veracruz, Mexico, Supreme Master Ching Hai discussed how meat destroys public health.

The health risks of eating meat are more and more evident these days. As a so-called food, meat is simply one of the most unhealthy, poisonous, unhygienic items that could ever be ingested by humans. We should never eat meat at all if we love and cherish our health and our life. We will live longer without meat, healthier, wiser without meat. Meat has been scientifically shown to cause all kinds of cancers, also heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. The list goes on and on and on.

Let’s begin by examining the epidemic of obesity and its related diseases, which now affect millions of people worldwide, along with some ways to overcome them through a plant-based diet.

In their 2009 study, “Meat Consumption is Associated with Obesity and Central Obesity Among U.S. Adults,” Drs. Youfa Wang and May A. Beydoun of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA found that the meat-based diet can significantly increase the risk of becoming obese. Obesity is defined as having a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, with BMI being a measure for human body fat based on a person's weight and height.

The researchers used survey data representative of the US population to examine the links between meat consumption and body mass, waist size and central obesity (fat deposits around the abdomen). They found that participants who ate large amounts of meat were 33% more likely to suffer from central obesity.

In fact, higher intakes of “all meat” and “other meat” products were associated with a higher overall BMI and waist size, whereas vegan foods such as fruit and vegetables had the opposite effect of reducing BMI.

Besides the obvious physical challenges of being obese, this meat-related condition also increases one’s risk of acquiring many chronic ailments, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, uterine, breast and colon cancer, liver and gall bladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and osteoarthritis (degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint), all of which are on the rise in the United States and other nations.

The Johns Hopkins researchers state, “Our analysis based on the recent nationally representative data shows a consistent, positive association between meat consumption and [obesity] measures among U.S. adults. This may suggest diets that promote high meat consumption, such as the Atkins diet, might lead to higher BMI, waist circumference and obesity.”

Drs. Wang and Beydoun also note that other studies support their results and affirm the negative impact of meat consumption on human health, weight control and the environment, concluding that the meat-based diet should be avoided for the sake of our health and the well-being of the planet.

Although the study by Drs. Wang and Beydoun specifically addressed adult obesity, in recent decades the issue of childhood obesity in both developed and developing nations has also become serious. As a report on the US Department of Health and Human Services website states, “Overweight and obesity in children are significant public health problems in the United States. The number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled since 1980 and the prevalence among younger children has more than doubled.”

The same report also notes that the detrimental health effects of obesity are causing the need for medical care to rise dramatically: “Hospital costs alone associated with childhood obesity were estimated at $127 million during 1997–1999 (in 2001 constant U.S. dollars), up from $35 million during 1979–1981.” A key factor causing this trend is the longstanding but erroneous view, especially in Western countries, that meat-based protein is needed for adequate growth and development in children.

However, as stated on the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “Many well-meaning parents don't know that meat can contain dangerous toxins and that feeding meat to their children increases the odds that their kids will become obese and develop life-threatening diseases.”

Support for PETA’s view comes from a study entitled “Prevalence of Obesity in School-Going Children of Karachi” conducted in Pakistan. The study examined a cross section of 284 students in grades six to eight from four different schools in Karachi. A questionnaire was administered, heights and weights were measured, and a modified criterion for Asian populations was used to calculate the children’s BMIs.

Of the participants, 52% were found to be underweight, 34% were of normal weight for their age, 6% were obese and 8% were overweight. Of all the obese children, 70% belonged to the higher socio-economic status (SES) group, while of the underweight children, 63.3% were in the lower SES group.

Among the obese children, 65% ate meat every day, compared to 33% of the normal kids. The researchers concluded that socio-economic factors are important in determining BMI in children since obesity and being overweight increase with rising SES. They recommended that higher SES groups should be the focus for weight-reduction efforts, with meat intake being a key factor to be addressed.

One individual who is taking action on this issue in the US is Terry Mason, MD former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health in Chicago, Illinois and current System Chief Medical Officer of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. In 2006 he launched the Restart Program, a now-annual event that encourages Chicago residents to make their diets meat-free for the entire month of January. Dr. Mason expressed his wish that the Program would help people enjoy healthier, happier lives, with weight loss as an added benefit.

One of the unintended consequences of going to a more plant-based way of eating, which is not why I tell people to do it, is that you will lose weight, and it’s a natural sort of thing. I’m not saying do this as a weight-loss strategy. You do this because your heart will thank you. Your kidneys will thank you. Your pancreas will thank you. Your colon will thank you. All of these organs that are important for us will thank you for making their jobs a lot easier.

Dr. Mason’s motivation is partly based on his concern for the school-aged children of his city, who, like the students in the Karachi, Pakistan study discussed earlier, also suffer from obesity and being overweight, but on a much larger scale.

We’re overweight! Twenty-five percent of our children in the city of Chicago start school overweight. We should eat food; I’m not an anti-anything. This is a pro-message so people eat food. There was a great article that was in the New York Times magazine. The name of the author escapes me right now, but basically he said, and I think it's perfect, "If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it." If you read the label, and you can’t pronounce what’s there, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

This advice from Dr. Mason can easily be applied to choosing natural, vegan foods for the holidays and the rest of the year as well.

Another advocate of unprocessed, plant-based foods who is making a difference in the movement toward a healthier world is acclaimed nutrition expert and author Joel Fuhrman, MD of the United States. A member of the Board of Directors for the US National Health Association and the Advisory Panel for The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Fuhrman works tirelessly to promote plant foods as a means of averting disease and achieving optimal weight and health.

In a 2009 interview with Supreme Master Television, Dr. Fuhrman said the following about the link between processed foods and disease:

Right now fast food companies and processed foods are spreading all over the world and people are becoming more overweight, more obese, having more heart attacks, more diabetes, more strokes and even more cancer. The good news is that nutritional science has advanced to the point where we can have people not have heart attacks, we can win the war against cancer, we can stop people from having strokes and as they become more elderly they don’t have to become demented in their later years.

The secrets that we have learned to protect ourselves have to do with nutrients. There are two types of nutrients. There are macronutrients, and the macronutrients contain calories and those are called fat, carbohydrate and protein. And if you eat too many macronutrients, too much fat, too much carbohydrate, and too much protein, we can become overweight and we promote aging, and promote heart attacks and strokes. Now food also contains micronutrients and micronutrients do not contain calories. They are things like vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals.

So which unprocessed, high-nutrient food alternatives does Dr. Fuhrman suggest we use to lose weight, avoid disease and maintain optimal health?

Number one is beans, beans like kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, and split peas. Beans have something in them called “resistant starch.” And resistant starch doesn’t raise the glucose level. It promotes weight loss. It’s broken down by bacteria in the colon. The bacteria in the colon changes the resistant starch into short chain fatty acids, and those fatty acids protect us against colon cancer.

Switching to nutritionally sound and environmentally friendly organic vegan alternatives can help reduce one’s waistline, maintain the health of one’s family and contribute to a greener planet. Thank you splendid viewers for watching this week’s edition of Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. May everyone enjoy a safe, healthy holiday season.

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