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Balanced Diet

by on May 26, 2021

Balanced Diet

by Marco M. Pardi

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Aphorismes pour servir de prolegomenes. (4), Physiologie du gods. 1825

Feel free to comment, even if your mouth is full.

United Nations population data tell us the world population increased by 30% (1.6 billion humans) between 1990 and 2010. Yet, the growth rate has fallen dramatically and continues to fall.

Between 1970 and 2010 wildlife has declined by 60%, with the average loss among surviving species at 68%. The greatest declines have been in Latin America with an average decline of 94%. The primary drivers are: Humans exploiting more food sources among wild animals; humans destroying more habitat through converting wilderness areas into farmland to grow single crops; and exploring for fossil fuel resources and precious metals. Additional drivers are humans killing wildlife for parts from which to make trinkets, spurious medicines, and trophies.

What is the logical takeaway from this information? Humans are destroying life on this planet. And from that we derive, humans are the stupidest kind of predators; they destroy that which they prey upon. And in the process they destroy themselves. Oh yes, they grow their own food sources – on farms poisoned with pesticides and herd animals filled with antibiotics.

Ever driven near a factory farm where the sewage runoff is collected in open air reservoirs? Yes, the smell will bring you to vomit. But that’s not all. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05.14.2021 annual deaths directly attributed to agriculture across the United States are as follows:

Deaths from emissions connected to Meat production.

Beef – 4,000; Pork – 3,300; Dairy – 1,800; Feed Exports – 1,200; Other Meat – 500. Total: 12,700 annual deaths.

Deaths connected to growing/processing Plants.

Grain – 800; Sugar – 800; Crop Exports – 600; Oils – 300; Other Plant Based – 600; Bio-fuel – 1,200; Other Non-Food – 800. Total: 5,200 annual deaths.

The emissions from the animal factory and feed lot sewage ponds include: methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide. In one SouthEastern U.S. county 98 deaths in surrounding areas were directly linked to the air pollution emanating from food production.

All those emissions added up to make meat the biggest source of deadly emissions, Hill said. Per serving, the rate of air-pollution deaths linked to red meat was twice as high as that of eggs, three times as high as that of dairy, and at least 15 times as high as that of all fruits and vegetables.” Ibid.

The EAT-LANCET Commission just produced a study showing “that plant-based diets could reduce air quality-related deaths by as much as 83 percent. Substituting poultry for red meat could prevent 6,300 annual deaths and 10,700 “could be achieved from more ambitious shifts to vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diets such as the planetary health diet”.

And the mortality figures above cover only deaths resulting from the pollution generated by food production, not the result of eating the stuff. It’s hard to understand that there are still people who neither know nor care about the grim association of cancer with red meat, heart disease with fatty meats, dementia from clogged arteries, and the numerous other results of eating meat. Some might say stupidity is a way of culling the herd, the human herd.

But before we go further, let’s be clear about something. Nature is never in balance. If it ever had been in balance evolution would have stopped. And it is not in balance now, as anyone with an I.Q. over the ambient temperature should know. People ask, If evolution is still going on why are there still Apes? Why haven’t they all become people? The easy answer is that they are smart enough not to. But the scientific answer is that: Humans did not evolve from what we see as modern Apes; humans evolved from a common ancestor along with what is now the modern Ape. The populations we see now are those which reached adaptation to their environment, including diseases and predators. Yes, we still have a few people who believe in “supernatural Creation”, the spontaneous appearance of all plant and animal life just as we now see it. Fortunately, rational thought is gaining ground.

That rational thought, and the blend of biological and cultural evolution which characterizes Man, was on display when the young Dalai Lama and his entourage fled Tibet for India. On arrival they were given safe haven in a Hindu monastery. Hindu diets vary considerably but some form of vegetarianism has been known since at least 700 B.C.E. This particular monastery was strictly vegan; that is, they eschewed all animal products in any form. The Tibetans, most of whom were adults who had practiced a liberal form of vegetarianism, wanted to convey their appreciation for the sanctuary and tried to immediately convert to the very strict veganism. Very quickly their health suffered dramatically. They soon realized they had to establish their own monastery and did so.

Having studied monasteries and other communal forms of living I wondered how the Tibetans obtain their meat products. Do they raise and slaughter livestock? If so, how do they rationalize it? Do they take only milk from livestock? If so, what do they do with the offspring that is dependent upon that milk? Or do they shop in markets for meat products others have provided, like Americans at the meat counter who have never seen an intact, living cow, at the dairy department completely ignorant of how milk products are obtained and what is done with the offspring?

I remember the advertising gimmick of the Borden Dairy company; A milk carton with a picture of Elsie the Cow. Elsie encouraged children to drink milk, telling them she loved them…..while they ate their hamburgers.

There is no gracious way to describe the slaughter process, though it is often disguised in myth and shrouded with religious approval. I had a college friend who worked in a Kansas City meat packing plant. He never ate meat again. A quick glance at three separate slaughter methods provides the contrast between Muslim and Jewish versus Hindu slaughter:

Muslim:

The animal must be facing the Kaabaa, the holy place of Muslims.

  1. The slaughter must be done by a Muslim only.
  2. Kalma must be recited during the slaughter.

3.Most importantly, only the carotid artery and the trachea of the animal must be slit and the animal must bleed to death.* Satyameva. 2021.

Jewish:

Kosher slaughter, or shechita, is performed by a person known as a shochet, who has received special education and instruction in the requirements of shechita. The shochet kills the animal with a deep stroke across the throat with a sharp knife.* PETA.org.

Hindu:

Hindu slaughter is: Jhatka, the beheading of the animal in a single stroke.

I’ve seen Muslim Halal and Hindu Jhatka slaughter, but not Jewish Kosher. I’m told Kosher is practically identical to Muslim Halal; The animals are fully conscious and stagger around slipping and falling in their own blood. I’ve seen that with Muslim lambs, donkeys, and camels. I contrast that with a clean, instant decapitation I’ve seen of a young water buffalo. None of the events were pleasant or easily tolerable, but the Hindu practice was the more acceptable.

American slaughter houses use the stun, shackle, hang upside down, and bleed method on cattle and pigs. It differs from halal and kosher only in the initial stun which presumably renders the animal senseless.

By now some may be wondering about alternatives to meat acquired through the feed lot/slaughter process. And, aside from ethical concerns, one might wonder about nutritional value. Personally, I think the strict vegan diet, using no meat or animal associated products of any kind, is quite dangerous for people not deeply schooled in the dietary requirements of the human animal. Even then, transition to such a diet must be under careful supervision.

Those concerned about the barbaric process of crowding animals into pens, crates and other enclosures to wait for execution might be careful to ascertain that they are getting only free range poultry and wild caught fish.

It seems the common sense diet is composed mainly of various vegetable matter, especially leafy, green vegetables, various legumes, of which there are many, with regular but small helpings of poultry or fish.

No matter which diet is your preference you will soon be faced with fundamental changes in options available to you. Climate change is a reality and is accelerating well beyond previous projections. Consequently, growing patterns are already shifting as drought settles in to some areas and flooding into others. This affects not only the immediate crops we rely on for food but also the crops we rely on for livestock feed. Some foods will become scarce, if available at all, and much more expensive.

Another consequence is the shifting and intensifying patterns of weather conducive to an explosion in the number and variety of insects and other organisms living off those same crops. Since so many humans continually show themselves to be too ignorant, too stupid, or too uncaring to recognize climate change and address it they are increasingly relying on severely toxic pesticides with little or no long term track record for safety. Yet we have known since the days of Charles Darwin, if not Gregor Mendel that killing off part of a population only fosters a stronger next generation needing yet more powerful pesticides. And still, the craving for meat is driving more burning of rainforests, the lungs of the planet, to clear land for cattle and pig feed.

Changes in annual snowfall and rapid recession of glaciers are already displacing massive amounts of climate refugees around the world as age old reliable sources of water dry up. Geo-politics are changing dramatically as climate change dictates who has the power to grow food and who does not.

Some readers having come this far may be thinking it’s time to gobble down everything they like or want to try. After all, we’re going to starve soon. I would suggest one should weigh the consequences on future generations, however reduced in size those coming generations may be. But foremost in my mind are those, including all non-human life, which suffer and perish for the dietary whims of a relatively few organisms called Humankind.

Weigh that out; weigh the up side of your dietary choices against the down side of the consequences. The result is what I might think of as a balanced diet.

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6 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, this is an excellent post, and food for thought as always.

    In 1992 I read “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins empire.  It was life-altering and helped me develop a plan for my own two children afterward.  Since then there has been a new edition released.  It speaks of the horrors of factory farming.  Even if humans don’t care about non-humans, factory farming is a revolting practice in so many other ways, and any time I give in to dairy products (such as an occasional slice of pizza), I can’t help but consider that life-changing book.

    In the early 1990s I was an at-home parent and my son’s pediatrician was Dr. Leila Denmark, the physician who years ago helped develop the pertussis vaccine.  Her views included eschewing all dairy products, which are basically toxins in the human body, and making homemade baby food.  Making meals for toddlers (supplemented with human milk) isn’t difficult.  Each meal included a bit of fresh fruit to tempt the palate, whole grains, healthy sources of fat, dark leafy greens and a high quality source of protein (either legumes, tofu, or meat).  All of that is whirled up in a blender and heated in a pot on the stove 3x daily.  For infants she recommended breastfeeding for at least a year, introducing mashed banana and then avocado for first foods.  It works. 

    It is no surprise she lived to 114 years old and apparently had no signs of osteoporosis even in her later years. She didn’t drink bovine milk through her entire life (pretty incredible).  She also continued to do what she loved, and I think she practiced medicine until she was close to 100 years old.  

    Avoiding dairy especially applies to growing infants and children.  Dr. Denmark insisted the consequences of dairy are ear infections, runny noses, and allergies – something I never faced with my own children as a young mother.  I’m still grateful for her advice.  Of course my own experience might be anecdotal.  But, according to discussions I had with her, this also worked for the majority of patients she had in her care over the seventy years she practiced.  She felt the calcium in bovine milk was a cause of osteoporosis, rather than a prevention for the disease.  

    Today sometimes it often seems easier and more convenient to eat “food” that isn’t healthy for us or our planet.  But that benefits no one.  Eating food close to its natural state as possible is a good rule to follow.  I do have trouble even thinking about eating poultry or fish.  Trying to eat certain things can even make me wretch to the point of vomiting (tried the other day and I had to throw it away).  Protein shakes also can make me gag, but now I divide them into smaller servings, no more than 6 oz.  That way I can just chug them down without breathing and chase them with a couple of raspberries or other fruit.  Whatever works.  

    I found a really terrific pre-washed bagged salad mix at Publix the other day.  It includes shredded kale, various cabbages, carrots, and a crunchy cashew mix-in.  We can add what we like to whole, clean, fresh foods already there for our convenience.  Sunflower seeds, legumes, avocado, and other veggies made for a great salad.  I always eat better in the summer.  Winter can bring seasonal depression which for me has traditionally meant eating food that isn’t good for me and too many processed carbohydrates.  

    This post is a terrific reminder about the choices I make.  Thanks for writing and sharing. We can always do a little better for ourselves, non-humans, and the planet, even if the changes aren’t made overnight.  

    Like

  2. Thank you, Dana. I have always been skeptical of diet books as there are so many out there. You know the saying, No home has just one diet book. But what you describe and what you go on to explain makes a lot of sense. For example, I know of no other mammal that can tolerate milk once beyond weaning. And, an increasing percentage of children are being born lactose intolerant; so much so that the dairy industry is marketing “lactose free” milk. Of course, if people knew the horrendous truth behind that carton of milk removing lactose would not save the industry. But the dairy lobby is a powerful political voice. As is the beef lobby, which is increasingly causing the round up and slaughter of American wild horses and donkeys on federal lands so they can graze their cattle on those lands rent free.

    Still, I’m hoping people will educate themselves and step away from the sordid industries that mass market selected foods at horrendous cost to all other life.

    Like

  3. Julie permalink

    Thanks Marco, I really appreciated this post and particularly with the facts you included. I feel it backs my general world food view that I have come to the conclusion in more recent years. That being that we should view red meat as a luxury, not to be commonplace to consume regularly.. The animals that are slaughtered should be treated with the most care and respect possible including the manner in which they are slaughtered. Replacement quality vegetable based proteins should be mainstream. Ideally, free range poultry and wild caught seafood would be usual. That would be my ideal for the world, maybe one day.

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    • Thank you, Julie. I share your ideal for the world. Actually, I would like to see red meat phased out altogether. For many, it’s a prestige food. We need to turn that value completely around. Of course, another value taken increasingly for granted is leather upholstery, particularly in cars. That, too, must be turned around.

      As certain populations increase and climate conditions become more severe some countries have specialized in exporting live sheep, cattle, and horses to Middle Eastern countries for Halal and/or Kosher slaughter. The sea lanes are visible with the sick and dying animals thrown overboard. For example, horses easily get sea sick, but cannot vomit. As they collapse they are “downers” which get trampled or tripped over by the others and are then hoisted over the deck and dumped at sea. Of course, now we’re looking at a religious value, and that’s far harder to overturn.

      Some countries have long practiced care for their livestock. Connolly leather, highly prized in expensive cars, is from cattle raised in Britain in pastures with barb free wire so as not to scratch the skin. Kobi beef, raised in Japan, was and perhaps still is from cows massaged every day and given one bottle of beer daily. But these are so exceptional as to be unknown among most consumers.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. I’m hoping your country is turning the corner on the pandemic. Marco

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  4. I admire those who embrace vegetarianism as a way of life. I feel guilty in writing that this is not me. My husband’s family grew and raised their own food, and so we are somewhat familiar with the process, but this offering has given me much to think about. I’m not convinced I could ever be vegan, but eating a more plant-based diet would be good for all of us. In the not-too-distant future, that may be our last, best hope to feed our ever-growing population.

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  5. Thank you, Rose. I’m tempted to think there must be a genetic component to being able to thrive as a strict vegan. But varied vegetarian makes sense for everyone so long as they take the time to educate themselves on amino acids, etc. My intake of animal products is very limited.

    Like

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