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Why I like eating plants


Last updated 11/1/2019 at 1:36am

The romanesco tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.

Wendy Hammarstrom

Special to Village News

In 1968, I decided to stop eating meat, along with many of my friends. Our reasons were spiritual and humane. What gave us the right, we asked, to slaughter and eat other sentient beings.

And we are still asking that.

The other reason I went vegetarian was that I always hated eating meat. As a child, I would either hide the fat and gristle under my napkin until my older brother would gleefully point it out to everyone at the table, or I would feed it to my dog that was hopefully and strategically waiting by my feet.

Now that I'm in my second half-century, these memories have given way to a growing focus on eating for health. The statistics are in, and they're worth paying attention to. Americans are literally eating themselves into an early grave.

Because of the way the animals are raised, U.S. meat is frequently contaminated with E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria, causing millions of food-poisoning-related illnesses each year. According to the USDA, 70% of food poisoning is caused by contaminated animal flesh.

The World Health Organization has classified processed meat, including hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage and deli meats, as carcinogenic, in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that "animal fat was positively associated with the risk of colon cancer," while the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reported that vegetarians are less likely to get cancer by 25% to 50%.

Eating meat is not good for the health of the planet either, in that factory farms are responsible for 50% of the water usage in the U.S. and at the same time infiltrate our aquifers and pollute our air.

Reclaiming our health

When I first tried the cabbage soup diet, which was my first time going vegan, I noticed after about a week that I was not experiencing headaches or chronic muscle pains. I felt lighter, clearer and more relaxed.

Marion Nestle, chair of the Nutrition Department at New York University, said, "There is no question that largely vegetarian diets are as healthy as you can get."

According to the American Dietetic Association, those eating balanced vegetarian diets have lower rates of Type II diabetes.

My dance teacher at Temple University, Eva Gholson used to yell at us, "You are all lagging today. Did you forget to take your brewer's yeast?"

She swore by the B vitamins available for energy, stamina and a calm nervous system. You can also get this from nutritional yeast flakes, my favorite are Braggs.'

In fact, my husband in Philadelphia was famous for his popcorn and nutritional yeast. Today I enjoy steaming veggies with some kelp which is a great source of iodine and a healthy alternative to salt or some dulse, which contains B12 which is essential for vegans.

Plenty of protein

When I was in my early 20s, my brother bought land in central Pennsylvania and began raising sheep for slaughter. He would bring frozen lamb parts to me in Philly, because he was afraid I wasn't getting enough protein, which I would feed to my dogs.

My midwife was also concerned that I wasn't getting enough protein and had me religiously count the grams I got from spirutein. Since almost everything I ate was from a Korean produce stand, I was getting a great variety of micronutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids and minerals.

I recently purchased my first romanesco that tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. I bought it so I could take it home and take pictures of it because I loved the intricate, swirling patterns. I found out a single cup serving has 4 grams of protein, and it is great in a roasted veggie medley.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "dietary protein derived from plant sources built muscle just as well as protein from meat sources. However, meat also comes with additional components that are harmful to our health, including antibiotic residue, hormones, saturated fat, trans-fats, endotoxins, cholesterol, Neu5Gc, heterocyclic amines and contaminants such as high levels of metals including copper and arsenic. These undesirable elements increase inflammation and promote various diseases thus making meat a less desirable option when building muscle and long-term health are considered."

Local resources

Fallbrook resident Jamie Lee Purinton runs a Facebook group called "31 Day Plant Based Celebration" to help people make the shift. She founded Hike It Off Magazine and Clothing, is a board member and volunteer for Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Temecula and is a professional hiker and backpacker.

Purinton recommended watching any the following videos before embarking on the "31 Day Plant Based Celebration:" "The Game Changers," "Forks Over Knives," "Cowspiracy" and "Vegucated." She warned that "Earthlings" is also a powerful film but watch it only if you can handle graphic footage.

In Fallbrook, 127 West serves a different vegan meal every day; Small Town will also modify some of their menu for vegans and Thai Thai has vegan options available. In Temecula, Amo Nakatl Asada at Vail Ranch Headquarters has amazing meals as do Gentle Grill and Mantra Indian Restaurant, also in Temecula.

In fact, you can find plant-based food in most restaurants. Happy Cow is an app you can get for your phone that locates plant-based restaurants, groceries and hotels.

Debi Foli is a nutritionist with clients in Fallbrook who helped me create a nutritious vegan menu plan, and I recently met Marti Avila, a Fallbrook certified whole food/plant based/vegan personal chef as well as a vegan pastry chef. She has created an all organic, vegan chocolate chip cookie which hopefully will be on the market soon.

Most grocery stores have vegan or vegetarian sections, and fast food places are joining the plant-based movement. One of my most recent favorite discoveries was at Jimbo's grocery and cafeteria in Escondido – barbecued jackfruit.

Plant-based eating is not only healthy for our bodies and the planet; it addresses worldwide food shortages.

My father used to have a bumper sticker on his car that said, "Live Simply so Others Simply Live."

When I was growing up, our family just ate rice one day a week "because people were starving." So perhaps another reason I eat plant-based is because at least 700 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat.

John Robbins, author of "Diet for a New America," said, "The fact is that there is enough food in the world for everyone. But tragically, much of the world's food and land resources are tied up in producing beef and other livestock, food of the well-off, while millions of children and adults suffer from malnutrition and starvation."

According to the United Nations a global shift toward vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. Furthermore, when we go meatless, a whole world of food opens up to us.

This mandala is made of fruits and vegetables arranged by the author.

People who have made the switch report feeling lighter and having more energy, being more tuned into their bodies, with less or no pain and inflammation. Both Harvard Medical School, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association recommend a wide variety of veggies, so get out to the farmers markets, the organic sections of your grocery stores or best yet, plant your own garden.

We can improve our health, the environment and save the lives of millions of beings.

Wendy Hammarstrom has been practicing, teaching and writing about bodywork since 1976. Her book, "Circles of Healing: The Complete Guide to Healing with Massage and Yoga for Practitioners, Caregivers, Students and Clients," is available on Amazon or her website at


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