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The Vegetarian Life

Our These Days production assistant is a life-long vegetarian. Some people may not think that's very interesting, but having been born and raised in the Midwest, where a meal without meat was not considered a meal, I was fascinated that she has never had meat of any kind. No burger or bacon ever crossed her lips. No seafood or fowl ever entered her digestive tract. For her, this was a normal way of life - a vegetarian way of life.

Her story was the impetus for our series "The Food We Eat." We wondered about the history of vegetarianism. We pondered how the human body gets what it needs from an all-plant diet. And we wanted to know how vegetarians see themselves in a culture where meat is prevalent and commonplace.

We hope you'll listen to our segment, "Exploring the History and Health of the Vegetarian Diet," on Wednesday's These Days. And we'll love to hear from you. Are you a vegetarian...or do you have vegetarian leaning? How do you balance your diet to ensure that you get everything your body needs? What restaurants offer good vegetarian options?



Bryan from San Diego

July 30, 2008 at 05:10 PM

The largest epidemiological study ever undertaken between diet and disease shows a near linear relationship between animal protein consumption and cancer growth. Toxins cause cancer, but animal protein allows it to grow. Plant protein, on the other hand, does not promote cancer. Check out the book, The China Study.

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Amy G from North Park

August 07, 2008 at 12:38 AM

I have been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. My initial decision was based on my realization that I felt repulsion in every way at the idea of eating another living, feeling being that was capable of love, sorrow and pain. There were several key experiences in my life that led me to make this choice and when I did, I never looked back. I began a true journey of enlightenment. I read books and watched films which explained and demonstrated the way animals are being killed for food and the lives they lead until their lives ended. I was horrified. I had been raised in a family that never discussed animal rights or how meat came to be on our plates. Nutrition was also not a topic of discussion in my family and I found that I needed to learn about proper nutrition and healthy cooking techniques. I began to really enjoy vegetables and fruits and to prepare them with care, respecting their journey to my table. Environmentalism was the third part of my understanding. This topic is vast and just as important to me as the others. I have encountered what I believe is every possible question and comment about being a vegetarian; from mild interest to outward hostility. I've grown from each interaction. I do feel truly enlightened to have gained so much knowledge and respect for so many aspects of life. I believe my decision to become a vegetarian has contributed to the foundation of the person I am and effects every aspect of my life. For me, being a vegetarian is not simply a dietary decision; it is a choice to live a way of life which demands thoughtful, ethical, intuitive, peaceable, gentle, loving, learning and teaching behaviors every day. I have never regretted what was once a choice I made. Today, however, I feel there is no choice but to live my life in this way.

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Stephanie Corkran

August 13, 2008 at 08:29 PM

If being a vegetarian/vegan is a cultural/spiritual/environmental/animal rights decision I think that it is wonderful. However, as someone with a nutrition/evolutionary biology background I would just like to point out that it is easier to get a nutritionally complete diet not eating meat in a western/upper class society. Meat is a nutrient dense food source that many vegetarian animals will not even pass up if they have access to it. For humans living in conditions of poverty and not having access to a varied food source - as happens to be the case for many in the world - full human cognitive and physical development is aided by having access to animal protein/fat. The associations with meat consumption and disease usually is a result of overconsumption of meat/under consumption of whole grains and vegetables and a sedentary lifestyle. Prehistoric peoples upon investigation of the archaeological evidence and modern day gatherers/scavengers/hunters do not have health issues from consumption of meat. The meat we eat -with the horrible conditions we raise animals in - and the exposure to chemicals - etc. is substandard to what would naturally be available. The reduction of poverty world wide, the reduction of human population (and hence the implementation of humane animal husbandry practices) could aid human health and animal rights at the same time. Until than - I view vegetarianism/veganism as a much needed political statement more than a necessary prescription for human health. And I think compassionate omnivores have something to contribute also.

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Lee Lipsey from Point Loma

September 08, 2008 at 06:06 PM

I heard a snatch of conversation related to Victory Gardens on These Days, Monday, Sept. 8 at about 10:45. Please provide name and contact information for the group that is promoting Victory Gardens. I am working with with a group interesting in restoring historic gardens at the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma.

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Rich from Chula Vista

September 19, 2008 at 10:23 PM

I would like to also recommend the book THE CHINA STUDY (ISBN 1-932100-38-5). Many local libraries have a copy.

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Bryan from Virginia

September 25, 2008 at 06:02 PM

I have been vegetarian for ten years now. I do still eat a little cheese, but no meat of any kind. And it is not popular where I come from. Me being a white male in the south, who grew up fishing and hunting, and I also work a physically demanding job. Some people are suprised and some may even feel offended of threatened that I do not eat meat. Yet this is what feels right to me. Also, I don't seem to fit in with most other vegetarians because of my personal beliefs about such things as politics, economics, religion, gun ownership, and other issues. So maybe that goes to show that the common people should not assume that all us vegetarians are tree hugging extreme liberal pacifists. I am me. This is what I have chosen. You can do your thing and I can do mine. Whenever one of us does something good, it can, and sometimes does, inspire others to do something good.

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liz from san diego

December 07, 2008 at 01:28 AM

I am so opposed to the Rick Steves program shown on KPBS this evening showing the force feeding of goose so people can eat foigras. I called the station to complain and they could not take my complaint. If anyone reading this can forward my complaint to the station I would appreciate it. Thanks.

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Sujata from San Diego

January 26, 2009 at 11:10 PM

I was born and raised in India; a vegetarian. My parents, my grand-parents and great grand-parents were all vegetarians as is the case with many Indians. No one ever had animal protein except milk and everyone grew up healthy. As for the source of proteins, the many varieties of lentils (split yellow, green, pink), dried beans (kidney beans, black-eyed etc) and nuts provide tons of proteins. These are available in stores like Henry's Marketplace or any Indian supermarket. Some lentils need to be soaked for as little as 30 minutes and they are ready to be cooked. Vegetarianism was and is a way of life for us without any regrets.

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Ann from San Diego

February 03, 2009 at 06:53 PM

I am an omnivore and have always been. I like meat and feel that in moderation it is not unhealthy. I don't feel that it is wrong to eat meat; however, I recently saw a video showing the way that meat is obtained from animals in large factories in the U.S.. I was horrified. I do not think that hunting animals for food is wrong, and I don't think neccessarily that farming animals for food is wrong either. However, I think it is wrong to deprive living animals of the quality of life they would have in the wild (up until death) for our convenience. I feel that even if you consider yourself an omnivore maybe consider making a stand for the quality of life of the animals you are about to eat. This could mean cutting back on meat or vegetarianism. Either way we are much smarter than the food we eat and so we should act like it.