Friday, October 22, 2010

On my reading list: The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith

Having previously been a vegetarian, actually near-vegan, I am very interested in any books covering such dietary information.  I have read most of the popular and not-so-popular books (i.e. Skinny Bitch, Food for Life, Greens for Life, Becoming Vegetarian, Cancer is Good for You, etc. to name a few).  So I am fully aware of all the reasons people have for living a vegetarian lifestyle.  It was actually very difficult to let go of many of the notions I gleaned from reading the aforementioned books when I decided to eat meat again.  I try my best to choose meats and other animal-based proteins that were raised in a sustainable, humane way.  If you are interested in why I decided to forego a vegetarian diet, you can visit my very first post on this blog here.

What I have yet to come across is a book that actually attempts to dispell all the myths surrounding a vegetarian diet.  I have been hearing a lot about a book called The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith and it is going straight on my reading list! 

Check out this review by Dr. Thomas Cowan:

The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith

Very occasionally powerful, life-changing books are written that give one the palpable sense that "if people would only listen" the world might be a different place. The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is one such book. In this book Lierre essentially tells two intertwined stories. One is the story of the deterioration of her own health as a direct result of adopting a vegan diet. The second is the related tale of the destruction of our planet essentially as a result of the widespread adoption of agriculture, specifically agriculture based on the growing of grains. Her central premise is that, unlike what we are all led to believe, the absolute worst thing that could ever befall humans or the earth is if we all adopted a vegetarian or, worse yet, a vegan diet. To many, this is such an unbelievable head spinner that they simply will not even be able to entertain the ideas that are presented by Lierre. The ideas, the argument she presents to make her case are powerful, coherent and irrefutable - grains and in fact a grain-based (i.e. vegetarian) diet are literally killing us all.

First, the ecological argument. We are told that the biggest users of fresh water and the most wasteful, ecologically speaking, food we can eat is meat. We are told that if instead of feeding grains to cows to get meat, which is anyway poison for us to eat, we should feed that grain to people thereby feeding at least 30 people with a grain-based diet for every one person we can feed on a meat-based diet. We are told to eat low on the food chain to conserve resources and be ecologically friendly. And, finally and crucially we hear people proudly announce they don't eat anything with faces as a sign that they are living out their deeply held convictions about social justice. The facts actually tell a completely different story.

Imagine the Middle East 10,000 years ago when the only people living in what we now call Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, etc., were nomadic hunter-gatherer types. This area was referred to as a paradise; it was lush, fecund; Lebanon was the land of the cedar forests. The area between the Tigris and Euphrates was literally paradise on earth. Then came agriculture, specifically the growing of grains. As happens where grains are grown and irrigation is used, the soil began to lose its vitality, the humous layer was lost. The irrigation and the converting of perennial grasses and the animals that live on these grasses to annual crops is akin to mining the nutrients and the fertility out of the soil. Without sufficient animal manure and animal bodies to put nutrients back into the soil, without the annual flooding of the plains that is stopped when irrigation systems are used, the land loses its nutrients, the soil becomes more salty and, as evidenced in the Middle East, eventually, inevitably the land becomes a desert. Lierre describes this process in intimate detail so the reader is left with no doubt that in human history, whenever the transition from perennial grass- based land - alongside naturally flowing lakes and rivers, co-existing with verdant forests - is converted into grain based agriculture, the inevitable result is everything dies. Everything - the plants, the insects, the wild animals and eventually the people.

If this wasn't reason enough for conscientious people to shun a grain-based diet, Lierre spends the second half of the book detailing the negative health repercussions from adopting a grain-based, vegetarian or vegan diet. For those familiar with the work of the Weston A. Price foundation or The Fourfold Path to Healing, this will come as no surprise. What will be eye-opening for many is a detailed chart that compares the physiology of meat eaters with that of herbivores. If you still have any doubts that humans are literally physiologically required to live on mostly an animal food diet, I recommend checking out this enlightening chart. Lierre has done her homework. She references many studies that have been done in the last 100 years documenting the superior health outcomes, the absence of chronic disease, and the total absence of cancer and heart disease in people who eat the food that comes naturally out of a perennially based grass and forest system. What do these people eat? What is the "human" diet, the diet that works back to heal the land? Conveniently it is one diet, called the GAPS diet. As probably more than a hundred of my patients can attest, those who have literally regained their health as a result of the GAPS diet, it is no surprise that the very diet that can heal so many sick people is the very diet that,when applied to agriculture, can heal a "sick" earth.

Get this book, read it, pass it to your friends, especially your vegetarian friends, for as Lierre often says in our current situation, it is not enough any more to just have good intentions. You also have to be informed about what it is you are fighting for.

Have you read this book or heard of it?  It sounds so very interesting and has received great reviews!