Because I’m a curious person by nature and always open to new ways to improve my health and the aging process, I am declaring myself vegetarian for the next 30 days. Not vegan. I love eggs and my favorite whey protein shake too much to cut out all animal products.
So the game plan is no meat, no fish, no animal flesh of any kind in October.
I’m doing this for my health, which is already pretty good. I can move my body freely, unhindered by aches and pains that many people face every day. I exercise regularly, don’t smoke and steer clear of unhealthy food.
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My health issue is an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a disorder I share with 14 million other Americans. As a result, I take a thyroid pill every morning and will for the rest of my life.
What I learned through the long process of getting the correct diagnosis is that the thyroid-gut connection is very strong. I learned poor gut health can decrease thyroid function and trigger Hashimoto’s, which leads to an inflamed, leaky gut.
Enough on that. Suffice to say, my primary motivator for the great vegetarian experiment is my health. My question — and hence the experimental nature of the next month — is can I further improve my health by eliminating animal flesh from my diet while meeting all of my nutritional needs? I consume a lot of protein, usually 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight every day.
Honestly, I haven’t taken a side yet. My gut instinct (no pun intended) is the answer is yes. I believe that with diligence and education, I can figure this out. The bonus is a vegetarian diet is scientifically and medically proven to lower rates of heart disease, gallstones and colon cancer.
A study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association of more than a half million people showed vegetarians were less likely to die from heart disease and cancer than meat eaters. They also had lower blood pressure, which prevented hypertension, which reduced their risk of stroke.
My dad died from heart disease, and it wasn’t a way I would like to go. My paternal grandmother died from cancer. Maternal grandmother – diabetic. Suffice to say, my interest level is high.
Another peer-reviewed study published in 2013 focused on more than 73,000 people and found a vegetarian diet is associated with a 12% lower mortality rate from all causes.
There are literally dozens and dozens of studies on the advantages of vegetarian and vegan diets. I get it. Eat more plants and live a healthier life.
Is the Damage Done?
Here’s a great question posed by a friend who asked if it’s too late to turn around the potential damage done by a lifetime of carnivorous eating. Is the train too far down the track? Or can a small change in diet potentially prevent heart disease?
Dr. Dean Ornish, best-selling author, founder and president of the Preventative Medicine Institute, probably sums it up best. In simple terms, he prescribes exercise, stress reduction and a vegetarian diet to start down the path to reversing heart disease. His work was groundbreaking nearly 30 years ago, as he proved time and again that patients with existing coronary disease could reverse the disease with lifestyle changes. Check out his book, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease .
And then there’s The Big C. Can we reduce our risk of cancer by eliminating meat from our diets? As you might imagine, controversy swirls around this topic, and I don’t want to get too much into the weeds here. But there is a big body of scientific and medical evidence that links plant foods and specific elements of plants (fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals) to healthy weight and a lower risk of cancer. The research specifically links meat, especially red and processed meats, to several types of cancer.
Great Vegetarian Experiment
At the end of the day, I’m looking for any way I can personally contribute to better health. And lifestyle choices are at the top of the list. An analysis of multiple cancer research reports in the journal Cancer Management and Research says, “The direct and indirect evidence taken together suggests that vegetarian diets are a useful strategy for reducing risk of cancer.”
So to answer my friend’s question: No, it’s not too late. And this is where my journey begins. The Great Vegetarian Experiment starts today. Will I return to my carnivorous ways on November 1? I have no idea. I am open to this experience.
At the moment, my fridge is full of of organic veggies, berries, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes, organic tofu, free-range eggs, and more. Oh, and my grocery bill was about 35% less this week than what I normally spend when meat is on the list.
I look forward to the Great Vegetarian Experiment, gaining knowledge, evaluating how the body responds, experimenting with recipes, and hearing your feedback. Hit me up with your very best vegetarian tricks, tips and hacks!