You Can Live Well on a Natural Diet
by Mervyn G. Hardinge, MD
Henry Thoreau, a nineteenth century writer and philosopher, visited a farmer plowing his field with a team of oxen. As the two walked behind the plow, they talked about the kind of diet best suited to build strong bodies. The farmer said, "You cannot live on vegetable foods solely, for they furnish nothing to build bones with."
Thoreau mused, "All the while he is talking he is walking behind his oxen which with vegetable-made bones jerks him and his plow along."
Plant foods are rich in minerals and vitamins and build not only the bones and flesh of oxen but strong human bodies as well. Cereal grains, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts contain considerable protein. The President's Science Advisory Committee reports that 70 percent of the world's supply of protein is derived from vegetable sources, mainly from grains. Plant foods also contribute unsaturated fats and a variety of carbohydrates.
If you doubt that a vegetarian diet can build human bone and flesh, just take a look at the population explosion in areas where the diet is largely rice and legumes as in India; corn, millet, peanuts, and other legumes as in areas of Africa; or corn tortillas and beans as in Latin America. If such predominantly vegetarian diets of rather limited choice can produce the world's greatest fertility and growth, then certainly a more varied type of vegetarian diet need lack no essentials. A study of comparable groups of vegetarians and nonvegetarians found a diet of plant foods with milk and eggs to be as adequate for the needs of all age groups - adults, teen-agers, and pregnant women - as the conventional meat diet.
Obviously man is not dependent on animals to prefabricate his foods, particularly his protein, for him. He can go directly to the primary source - the plant - and get what he needs himself. Thus Harvard University nutritionists assured Americans during the food crisis of World War II that "as long as this country has access to a plentiful supply of calories and a variety of whole-grain cereals and legumes, it is most unlikely that impairment of health from protein deficiency will ever occur."
But why this concern over diet? Can diet kill?
Western countries with their large consumption of meat, milk, and eggs have a high blood cholesterol level and a heavy loss of life from coronary heart disease, especially in middle-aged men. In the United States 723,000 people die each year from this disease - 171,000 of them below sixty-five years of age. Such is not the case with peoples whose diet contains little animal food. Commenting on this finding, Dr. Jeremiah Stamler, executive director of the Chicago Health Research Foundation and a pioneer in studying the relationship between diet and our growing epidemic of heart attacks, points to a rich diet high in animal products as one of the most important factors responsible for this plague of coronary disease in affluent countries. He warns, "In terms of diet the whole American population runs a risk."This is characterized by excessive calories, too much total fat, and too much saturated fat and dietary cholesterol of the kind found in animal products.
Vegetarians have a distinct advantage
Evidently God who created our bodies knew what kind of food would keep them operating best. When He created human beings, He said, "I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:29, 31, RSV).
Isn't it interesting that scientists have now discovered that the original diet given to man by God is the best diet to prevent heart attacks and other disorders?
However, both nonvegetarian and vegetarian diets can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by an excessive use of cane sugar. Dr. John Yudkin, of the University of London, found that men who suffered heart attacks had habitually used twice as much sugar as men of similar age without heart problems. Workers at the University of Toronto observed that sugar and animal fat together in the diet combine to raise the level of fatty substances in the blood higher than either one alone. Thus the low cholesterol benefit of plant foods can be sabotaged by an excessive intake of sugar.
Vegetarian and near-vegetarian diets have distinct advantages. The cholesterol intake is reduced in proportion to the reduction of animal foods, and fat is less saturated. Plant foods provide an abundance of complex carbohydrates which animal foods do not contain. The starch in plant foods is converted to glucose for energy, and the indigestible fiber furnishes bulk for the bowels. Bulky foods have fewer calories and reduce the risk of overweight. Both the protein and the fat of a vegetarian diet are moderate in amount and in better balance with the carbohydrate intake than is the case with meat diets.
You can develop total excellence
Can diet kill? Usually it does not cause death immediately, but over the years a diet high in animal foods can clog up the blood vessels and disable the living machinery to a point where the life processes can no longer function.
It is the duty of every person, for his own sake and for the sake of humanity, to inform himself in regard to the laws of life and conscientiously to obey them. We need to become better acquainted with that most wonderful of all organisms, the human body.
This pamphlet has concentrated on only one aspect of healthful living - a proper diet. May it stimulate you to seek further counsel, for vigorous health does not depend on chance - it is the result of obedience to law. The body is the only medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character.
Actually we should develop all our powers - mental, moral, physical, and spiritual - because we belong to God by right of creation and redemption. We ought to present our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice. We need to realize that all our powers of mind and body are the gift of God to be preserved in the best possible condition for His service.
Southern Publishing Association
See "Why I am a Vegetarian"