Sometimes it seems like nothing is safe to eat anymore. Fat makes you fat. Carbs make you fat. Fruits are sugary. Vegetables may be contaminated with pesticides and/or bacteria. And protein? According to The China Study, the wrong kind of protein (i.e. from animals) can leave you wide open to all sorts of nasty illness.
I'm only halfway through the book (and skimming it, rather than reading every word), but the basic premise is simple enough: animal protein is bad. The author and all of his supporting evidence implicate animal protein in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune disease. The longest, most accusatory finger points towards cow's milk, but every form of animal protein is guilty by association.
My vegan sister is probably pretty pleased about all of this.
Of course, there is controversy. For every study that says X, someone else publishes a study that says Not X. A cynical person would accuse the dairy and meat food industries of paying for the opposing studies. I must say, I am finding The China Study pretty darn convincing.
When I was in my early 20's, I followed a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet for 2 years. Then I started showing signs of (my own diagnosis, therefore potentially wrong) protein deficiency. Around that same time, I was advised to give up milk. I figured if I wasn't getting enough protein with milk, I wouldn't do very well as a vegetarian without it, so I went back to eating meat (and subsequently did feel noticeably more energetic).
I was an omnivore-hold-the-dairy for 17 years. Then I added dairy products back into my diet, just in the past year. Interestingly, it was when I started eating dairy again that I started gaining weight. Coincidence? I mean, I did turn 40 recently. Could be just my metabolism naturally slowing down. Except that my father's metabolism didn't slow down until he hit 60. My mother? Well, it's hard to say; she's never eaten very much, but she's certainly never been remotely chubby.
Up to a point, I was happy to gain weight. I've always been an ectomorph, with arms the circumference of chicken toes. It's nice to have a little meat on my bones. My clothes look better. My face looks younger. I had to go out and buy all new pants recently, but hey, I like my new pants!
Then I reached a point where the new pants started to get tight. I was like woah, hold on here! I have a very small frame. A few pounds makes the difference between a healthy weight and a poochy tummy. I started counting calories. The extra pounds came back off pretty easily, thank goodness. But this whole calorie-restricted diet thing is not so much fun. At least now I have an appreciation of what people on weight-loss diets go through. It sucks.
The China Study says that if you eat a plant-and-whole-grain diet you'll be able to eat as much as you want, even more calories than before, without gaining weight. Hmm, that sounds good. It also said that women who eat a vegan diet have lower hormone levels (that's good) than the rest of us. I will spare you the details, but there are certain Lady Changes that also started around the time I re-introduced dairy into my diet which I would be pleased to reverse.
So am I going to go full vegan? Nope. Am I going to reduce the proportion of animal protein in my diet? Yup. Am I going to finish that carton of ice cream in my freezer? You betcha! Am I going to buy more when it's gone? Probably I'll go back to the soy substitutes.
How much would you be willing to change your diet to improve your health? Would you go vegan?