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Meaty Matters: Let the Truth About Veggies Set You Free

Marilynn Preston on

Oct. 1 was World Vegetarian Day. I'm betting the farm you forgot to celebrate. Don't worry: The North American Vegetarian Society has declared all of October to be Vegetarian Awareness Month, so there's still plenty of time to roll out the cucumbers, round up the beans and take a closer look at a lifestyle that can improve your health, save suffering animals and help rescue our over-pooped planet.

Let's begin by confusing ourselves with definitions. A classic vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat, poultry or fish/seafood. They get all their nutrients, including protein, from a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It can be a fabulous and healthy way of eating, but it's not for everyone. Keep that in mind this month as your awareness of the healing powers of vegetables grows.

A vegan -- a remarkably trendy diet, considering how restrictive it is -- is a vegetarian who also excludes dairy and eggs. A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy but no eggs. An ovo vegetarian eats eggs but no dairy. And an ovo-lacto vegetarian eats both eggs and dairy. I'm still not sure where crispy fries fit in.

Be aware that none of these ways of eating is an absolute guarantee of great health. Very good, very clean, but all of us -- you, me and Angelina Jolie -- are unique individuals with distinctive genetic and biochemical makeups.

That means that what's good for the goose can make the gander sick, listless and dyspeptic. Most people do very well on a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Others may need some pure animal protein -- such as eggs or grass-fed beef -- to thrive. It's not a religious conviction. It's the science of nutrition, and sadly most U.S.-trained doctors have not studied enough to understand the connection between the food you eat and the diseases you have -- one more thing to be aware of this month.

A new term that's crept into the vexing vocabulary of exclusionary eating is flexitarian, which is what I am: i.e., mostly vegetarian. I haven't eaten red meat in more than 35 years.

At times -- especially when the host is offering me the killer coq au vin I know he spent two days making -- my manners overrule my mindfulness, and I just say yes. But the more I learn about our food system and how corrupt and unregulated it is, the easier it is to stick with delicious, nutritious, easy-to-love veggies.

WHY EAT MORE VEGETABLES? First, a plant-based diet has huge health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, digestive problems and cancer. Second, eating less meat saves animals from the pain and terror of slaughter. Third, eating a vegetarian diet is reported to lessen greenhouse gases; methane emissions (aka animal farts) are choking our planet.

So, are you convinced to go veggie? Of course not. It takes more than logic and common sense to get people to stop eating salami sticks and hot dogs. Very often it takes a diagnosis. It takes shock or fear. It takes an "aha!" moment, an experience -- a book, a film -- that penetrates your denial and shifts your thinking. If you haven't read Michael Pollan's marvelous book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," October is the perfect month.

HOW ELSE CAN YOU CELEBRATE VEGETARIAN AWARENESS MONTH? You can stop listening to all the trendy and confusing stories about the best way to eat and start listening to your own body.

You heard me. There is no one best way of eating that works for everyone. Your body tells you if it's getting the right ratio or carbs, fats and proteins by how it's feeling and how well it's moving, sleeping, thinking, reacting, creating and problem-solving.

If you are feeling 100 percent -- strong and energetic, no health problems, a calm mind and positive sense of personal well-being -- feel free to ignore Vegetarian Awareness Month and enjoy your next fried pork chop.

But if you're like most Americans, sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, changing your diet -- eating more vegetables and eliminating processed foods and factory-fed meats loaded with toxins -- is a fantastic first step toward regaining your health, your strength, your vitality.

So think about it. And be cheerful: Ice Cream Month is just around the corner.

ENERGY EXPRESS! WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE...

"I was vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition." -- Angelina Jolie

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Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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