Let’s talk about constipation. It may be an embarrassing topic, but did you know that there’s a big vegetarian advantage when it comes to preventing and treating constipation, and some more serious colon health problems, that are so common in our meat-centered society? When it comes to constipation, the sales figures for laxatives tell the story as well as anything. No one should have to pay to poop, yet Americans spend over $1 billion dollars on laxatives every year to do just that. The culprit, as with so many other health problems, is the low-fiber, meat-centered, American diet. This is where, as with so many health issues, a healthy vegetarian diet can come to the rescue. Read more
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First Congress voted, and now the Supreme Court has spoken, so, as of this writing, a massive overhaul of the health system seems likely. The questions on many people’s minds at this point are: How are we going to pay for it all? and will there be enough medical staff and facilities to go around? The entire debate about health care is driven by the fact that Americans need so much care. Collectively we are sicker than we have ever been. When you think about it, what we really need the most to make things work is a healthier country. This is where helping the country to move towards a vegetarian diet can make a big difference, perhaps the crucial difference between success and failure.
The three leading causes of death in America are heart disease, cancer and stroke – mostly diet-related diseases which can be largely prevented, and often even reversed, by following a healthy vegetarian diet. Adding to the stress on the healthcare system are leading diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure – two of the most common diseases in America– and both of these can also be largely prevented and reversed through a healthy vegetarian diet. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are thought to affect as many as 80 million Americans, and high blood pressure another 75 million people.
As patients line up at pharmacy counters, doctors offices, and hospital registration desks, the cash registers ring up the costs of these diseases—well into the hundreds of billions every year. The money savings potential in moving the country towards a vegetarian diet is profound. For instance, a Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company showed that for every $1 spent in helping heart patients to switch over to a vegetarian diet, $5.55 was saved in treatment. One study found that over 90% of diabetics were able to discontinue or reduce their medication in only six months after adopting a healthy vegetarian diet. Plant-food rich vegetarian diets have been shown to drastically reduce the incidence of diseases such as stroke and hypertension, and even several forms of cancer such as colon and prostate cancer. But even less dramatic but still costly medical expenses would be saved. For instance, every year the meat-centered low-fiber standard diet, and the all-too-common constipation it causes, results in Americans to spend nearly 800 million dollars on laxatives every year. Yet the fiber-rich plant-powered diet would largely save us both the discomfort and the expense.
With all this in mind, you’d think that the government would do everything it could to financially support farmers who grow healthier food, but such is not the case. Sadly, every administration, both Democrat and Republican in recent decades, has been caught up in a system that not only tolerates ill health, but encourages it. For instance, only 3% of farm subsidies go towards healthy plant foods while the other 97% goes to animal products and highly refined and junk food. With this kind of policy, the government promotes an environment that encourages the very diseases for which it now needs to insure against. How much simpler it would be to promote a healthier diet, and save us all the money of so much “disease care,” and in so doing, provide the American people with what we really need, true health care.
While still controversial for some, most Americans feel we need some kind of insurance reform. But even more, we need better health. And that should be front and center in any emerging plan. While financial fixes have their place, and while new technologies can make a significant contribution, the country has largely blinded itself to the simple yet powerful potential of the vegetarian diet. Far from a bitter pill to swallow, a delicious vegetarian diet may just be the miracle drug of the 21st century.
Dietary fiber, sometimes called roughage, is the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components: soluble and insoluble fiber. Scientists divide fiber types into viscous (soluble) and insoluble fiber because each name can tell a researcher what to expect as far as how it affects the body. Both kinds of fiber are helpful. For example, insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and speeds transit time through the large intestine, helping to prevent everything from constipation to painful hemorrhoids, while lowering the risk of certain cancers such as colon cancer. Viscous fibers form a liquid or gel solution when combined with water in your digestive system. They help prevent spikes and crashes in your blood glucose and help reduce cholesterol.
How much fiber do you need? The National Academy of Sciences established an Adequate Intake (AI) level of 38 grams of total daily fiber for males 19-50 years of age and 25 grams for women in this same age range. It turns out that most Americans in this age range typically get only about half this much fiber each day, and many even less than that.
Here’s the good news: whole (unrefined) plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts and seeds, all have plenty of both kinds of fiber, though one kind or the other will predominate in any given plant food. However animal foods, such as meat, dairy and eggs, have none at all. This gives the vegetarian quite the health advantage. But here’s a word of warning for all those in transition towards a vegetarian diet (and especially those starting fiber supplements). Increase your fiber intake slowly in order to avoid gas and loose stools. In time, you’ll find that you’ve never felt so good once you’re following a high fiber diet!