The word “Vegetarian " was coined by the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom in about 1847. The word does not come from vegetable as is generally assumed: It is a derivation of the Latin word ‘vegetari ‘which means to enliven.
The practice of vegetarianism, however, goes far back in history. Many noted philosophers and religious teachers urged their followers to avoid a flesh diet. Brahminism, Jainism,Zoraostrianism and Buddhism acknowledged the sacredness of life and the need to live without causing suffering ; so did many of the early Christians.
There are various types of vegetarians. " Vagans "are the strictest vegetarians who eat only plant foods and exclude all animal by-products such as eggs, milk, cheese, curd, butter, ghee and even honey. There are “lacto vegetarians” who eat plant foods as well as dairy products and “lacto-avo vegetarians” who eat eggs besides plant foods and dairy products. There are even fish-eating vegetarians. The common factor among them is that they do not eat the flesh of warm- blooded animals. Meat seems to have assumed an exaggerated importance nutritionally. It is generally mistakenly believed that nutritional deficiences, especially of proteins and vitamin B12 and poor health may result if animal foods are eliminated. Studies however, have indicated to health problems or deficiency diseases for those on a vegetarian diet.
Of the 22 amino acids -the essential components of proteins - needed by the body for its normal functioning, only nine need be supplied by the diet as the body synthesies the remaining 13. The body can use 100 per cent of this protein if all ten amino acids are in ideal proportions. If, however, one or more of the essential amino acids are present in less than the ideal amount, the value of the entire protein is reduced in the same proportions. On a quality rating scale of 1 to
100, egg protein is 95, milk is 82, meat and poultry are 67, fish 80, grains are between 50 to 70 and legumes, nuts and seeds are between 40 and 60.
The so-called protein deficiency in a vegetarian diet is in fact more imaginary than real as the contribution of the protein value of the green vegetables has been ignored and the true protein requirement is less than that assumed. Green vegetable protein is as high in quality as milk protein and thus makes a very valuable contribution to the vegetarian’s protein nutrition. The high quality of protein balances the lower quality of other vegetarian proteins such as nuts and
beans. The recommended daily allowance of 70 value proteins is 44 grams per day for women and 56 for men. Researchers have now discovered that the actual protein requirement is much less, being 15 grams per day of 100 value protein or 21.5 grams of 70 value protein or 30 grams of 50 value protein. A wholesome vegetarian diet can, therefore, easily meet the body’s protein needs.
Moreover, it is possible to combine two low-value plant proteins to get a protein of higher quality. Thus, wheat which has a deficiency in the amino-acid lysine but an abundance of sulphur containing amino-acids can be combined with beans which have the opposite enrichment combination. Taken together, they complement each other to form a complete protein. As regards the adequacy of B12 nutrition, laco-avo vegetarians and lacto-vegetarians should not feel concerned on this score, as the B12 needs can be easily supplied by dairy products and eggs. A quarter litre of milk or 100 grams of cheese or 1 egg per day will supply the recommended daily allowance. This vitamin once eaten is stored in the liver. Vagans, however, do not get this vitamin in their food, yet reliable scientific studies have found no evidence of B12 deficiency diseases. It is therefore, presumed that this vitamin can be synthesised in the body.
Most diseases of the human body are caused by auto-intoxication or self-poisoning. The flesh of animals increases the burden of the organs of elimination and overloads the system with animal waste matter and poisons. Chemical analysis has proved that uric acid and other uremic poisons contained in the animal body are almost identical to caffeine, there and nicotine, the poisonous
stimulating principles of coffee, tea and tobacco. This explains why meat stimulates the animal passions and creates a craving for liquor, tobacco and other stronger stimulants. Excessive uric acid resulting from meat-eating also causes diseases such as rheumatism, Bright’s disease, kidney stones, gout and gall stones. Meat proteins cause putrefaction twice as rapidly as do vegetable proteins. The morbid matter of the dead animal body is foreign and uncongenial to the excretory organs of man. It is much harder for them to eliminate the waste matter of an animal carcass than that of the human body. Moreover, the formation of ptomains or corpse poisons begins immediately after the death of the animal and meat and poultry are usually kept in cold storage for many days and even months before they reach the kitchen.
Another powerful influence tends to poison the flesh of slaughtered animals. As is well known, emotions of worry, fear and anger actually poison blood and tissues. Imagine the excitable condition of animals after many days of travel, closely packed in shaking vehicles - hungry, thirsty, scared enroute to the slaughter -houses. Many die even before the end of their journey. Others are driven half dead with fear and exhaustion to the slaughter pans, their instinctive fear of death augmented by the sight and odour of the blood shambles.
Flesh is often a carrier of disease germs. Diseases of many kinds are on the increase in the animals, making flesh foods more and more unsafe. People are continually eating flesh that may contain tuberculosis and cancerous germs. Often animals are taken to the market and sold for food when they are so diseased that their owners do not wish to keep them any longer. And some of the processes of fattening them to increase their weight and consequently their market value , produce disease. Shut away from light and pure air, breathing the atmosphere of filthy stables, perhaps fattening on decaying foods, the entire body now becomes contaminated with foul matter.
Benefits of Vegetarianism
A vegetarian diet can have many nutritional benefits, if it is rich in fruits and vegetables, and contains moderate amounts of seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes. One of the main benefits of a proper vegetarian diet is its low caloric content in relation to the bulk supplied, which helps maintain ideal weight. Another benefit of the vegetarian diet is the much lower intake of fat, if dairy products, seeds and nuts are eaten sparingly. This accounts for lower serium cholesterol levels found in vegetarians, which considerably reduces the risk of developing heart diseases and breast and colon cancer. A third nutritional advantage of the vegetarian diet is its high fibre content. Fibre, being indigestible, increases the bulk of the faces, keeps them soft and makes them easy to expel.
One study has indicated that lacto-avo vegetarians consume twice as much and vagans four times as much fibre as non-vegetarians. High fibre intake has been associated with decreased risks of diseases of the colon, appendicits, cancer of the colon and rectum, hiatus hernia, piles and varicose veins. McCarrison, one of the greatest aurhoties on food, has outlined a perfect diet. According to him, " a perfectly constituted diet is one in which the principal ingredients are milk, milk products, any whole cereal grain or mixture of cereal grains, green leafy vegetables and fruits. These are the protective foods. They make good the defects of other constituents of the diet, protect the body against infection and disease of various kinds, and their use in sufficient quantity ensures physical efficiency. "
Vegetarianism is thus a system based on scientific principles and has proved adequate for the best nutrition free from the poisons and bacteria of diseased animals. It is the best diet for man’s optimum, physical, mental and spiritual development.