24 October, 2008

Vegetables, Meat? Or Both?

It's been a while since I wrote a diet-related post.  (Which is amusing considering this is the support blog for The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook which is a diet book...)  I think the last food-related post may have been about approaching your nutrition in a balanced manner.  This article is going to raise controversy, the subject always does, but here goes.  Here's a way NOT to be balanced...

There's a cutesy ad on TV about a probiotic capsule that puts gut bacteria back, you may have seen it, the balancing board with nasty food-caused bugs on one side and dutiful cute blue acidofiluses on the other side, then suddenly, a whole army of cute blue washes the bad bugs away leaving these squeaking voiced blue things.  "Restore the balance!" booms the voice-over.  And it's total bullshyte, because there's no longer any balance, it's a one-sided bluewash.  That is not balance, that is just a different kind of bacterial overgrowth.  To work optimally, your stomach needs some of those other bacteria in there.  The secret is true balance.

Similarly, our diets need a true balance.  Remember we are the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, we don't have a mechanism for dealing with plant cellulose for a good reason:  our ancestors discovered that the occasional addition of meat to the diet was very good for survival, and we evolved to fit a specific dietary profile which now includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, fungii, seafoods - and meat.  Remove any of those from your diet and you're tying one hand of your immune system behind it's back...

The article I linked to, the author does exhibit balance, she mentions that they do still take meat.  This is a good thing, because it shows that the sense of balance is still there.  She also mentions using an organic butcher, and that shows excellent survival skills.  As I've mentioned in preceding articles, supermarket meat is horribly abused.  It's kept for too long, often injected with water to increase volume and weight, sprayed with irritants to retain its red colour, and a whole host of ills befall it.

Where I live, there's a butcher within half a mile of my place.  I bought meat there quite a bit, then one day I asked the owner of the shop where the animals had come from.  "Oh," quipped the guy, "it comes from the abbatoirs."  I never finished buying that order, and I now travel about two miles to get my meat from a larger scale butcher - but who knows to within a few square miles, where his various carcasses came from.  And you know what?  I feel heaps better because of it.

Once again, it's about taking personal responsibility.  My meat didn't magically appear, shrink-wrapped, on some styrofoam tray, it came from an animal.  An animal that died because I eat meat.  I'd rather the meat was treated properly and was therefore good for me, than that it gets adulterated along the way and wastes the sacrifice.  I eat it for the same sorts of reasons my forebears did, and in the same way - I balance the steak and ground round with liver, heart, and kidneys, because I also know that my ancestors did that and evolved to need the nutrients from every part of the animal.  And I eat meat because I know it's all right to do, as long as it's done in a balanced and sustainable way.  My responsibility is to make sure I don't take more than my share of the world's resources, so that limits my meat intake to a few meals a week.

I also don't eat one meat exclusively, that too would be wrong.  It's supposed to be a balance.  Do you think we would waste so much agricultural land on sheep and cattle, impose so much suffering on chickens, if people just did what nature intended and widened their choices of meats?  Here in Australia we have kangaroos, they are a source of a meat which is low to zero of cholesterol and fat, and sustainable - kangaroos are abundant.  The aboriginals might have had a kangaroo for the tribe every few weeks, and a goanna (monitor like lizard) or three in the same timespan, plus whatever snakes and small birds they managed to bring down.  Do you see the thing though?  B-A-L-A-N-C-E.  Don't just keep depleting the kangaroo population.  Or the lizard population.  Spread your impact out, minimise it in any particular area.

If there were no McDonalds, no Hungry Jacks (Burger King to our USA friends) and no fast food chicken places trying to unbalance your footprint, we'd need only half the cattle farms, half the chicken farms.  Or feed twice, thrice as many people on the same acreage.

Again, it boils down to shouldering your share of the responsibility.  Don't eat beef every day, or chicken every day.  Accept that your healthy feeding needs animals to die - and make sure they didn't die in vain, nor to feed a greedy person.

You know, when I say it like that, I almost believe that we could win back this global warming and environment decimation.  Then I look up and see the signs for Chicken Treat and McDonalds 900 metres away from my back fence, and things don't look so rosy...

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