My New Year's resolution is to eat a vegan diet whenever I have the opportunity to do so. This may not seem like a big deal to some. To many, it may sound radical.
I remember when my sister told me that she was a vegetarian in college: I thought that she was bizarre. After all, we came from a family of steak eaters. My great uncle owned a cattle ranch and six grocery stores where he sold some of the best beef in Texas. When we would go to his ranch for dinner, he would fry beef fat to serve as an appetizer. I was always told how good meat was for us, and how we should drink three glasses of milk a day.
I was very surprised several years ago when my youngest daughter told me that she was going to become a vegetarian. I knew I couldn't tell her straight out that it was a bad idea because I knew she would rebel at such a direct command. Instead I said that she should consider eating meat a couple of times a week to get the protein that she needed for her growing body. Unfortunately, I did such a good job that whenever we dine out, now, she almost always eats a steak.
Shortly thereafter, I met a beautiful and talented actress in Los Angeles who gave me a book by Howard Lyman, a fourth generation rancher, called Mad Cowboy. It was a discussion about mad cow disease. Its thesis was that eating meat was bad for your health, and bad for the environment. After reading the book, I became a vegetarian. I lasted a year, and then resumed my diet of meat and fish. I simply got bored eating vegetables and fruit. I just didn't have a good enough reason to stay on a vegetarian diet.
My life changed earlier this year when I was told I had prostate cancer. I couldn't understand how I had gotten it at such a relatively young age. My gut feeling was that it must have had something to do with my diet. About the same time a close friend of mine gave me a book called The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. He is the Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. The China Study is the culmination of a twenty-year partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. It is the best book I have ever read that discusses the relationship between diet and health, especially as it pertains to cancer and heart disease.
Many of us know that trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats are bad for our arteries. We also know that too much salt in the diet is bad for our blood pressure. But do any of us realize that certain animal protein could be "so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed" as Dr. Campbell states in his book. And according to Dr. Campbell "casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, promotes all stages of the cancer process." He goes on to say that "people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic diseases" and that "people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic diseases."
Impressed by this information, I have decided to become a vegan. In Boston, it is not easy. I have a dozen steak and fish restaurants within a few blocks of where I live. But when it is a choice between health and convenience, health wins out. I highly recommend that you buy this book. Read it and then give it to the person who is most important to you. It could well add years to their life, and hopefully minimize their chances of getting cancer or heart disease. I have already bought a dozen copies to give to family and to friends.
A Happy (and Healthy) New Year to all!