Benefits of the Vegan Diet

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Moein Ghahremani Nejad is a Raw Food activist and author of the book Rethink Your Diet. He became a vegan in October 2011 and that made all the difference in his health.

Ever since childhood Moein had always been interested in nutrition and health. Despite abstaining from alcohol and junk food as a teenager he was still very unhealthy. From the ages of 16 to 18, he experienced severe headaches for two to three hours almost everyday. He also caught colds several times a year, until he became a vegan. After that, he caught the cold only four times during the first three years of being a raw vegan, and each time he recovered much quicker. He had also suffered from digestive disorders, and all medical doctors (MDs) could do for him was prescribe toxic pharmaceutical drugs.

As someone who had experienced suffering and sickness, the thought occurred to Moein that perhaps sickness was not a natural phenomenon. Surely, there must be a better way to prevent and treat many sicknesses. This thought inspired Moein to start researching the most safe and efficacious solutions. So he researched natural, non-invasive therapies in his free time by reading books, magazines, newspapers and of course, the greatest source of information: The Internet!

While researching, Moein shared his findings to increase public knowledge about the vegan and raw vegan lifestyles. He created a Persian website (www.VeganDownload.com) to share related e-books, video, articles, and events. He also wrote and published a health book in Farsi, which was translated into English titled Rethink Your Diet. In 2013, Moein spoke at the 41st Vegetarian Festival in Malaysia, where he presented the benefits of the vegan and raw vegan diets. He was surprised that most of what he had presented was new information to even the mostly vegetarian audience.

Ultimately, Moein wants to bring public awareness on the numerous health benefits of the raw vegan diet—one that is healthy for our body and for nature. However, it is obvious that many people may disagree with his stance due to their different perspectives and experiences. Moein realizes this because he’s aware that new ideas need time before people adopt them—the gap between what people know and what they apply.

For Moein, the main reason for writing the book Rethink Your Diet is to challenge people to reassess their eating habits based on nutritional facts and dietary science. Moein believes that having the right information to make conscious decisions is very important. After all, the ability to choose wisely is the main difference between a human and a robot!

Today, Moein continues to research nutrition and other health topics. He believes the journey to a healthy lifestyle requires constant change because our daily habits can be the most difficult to change— some people can change their habits quickly, while others need more time to make adjustments. Moein recommends that everyone make the daily effort and proceed at whatever pace they’re comfortable with.

Questions and Answers

by Trung Nguyen

In terms of chemical composition, is there a difference between plant protein and animal protein?

Yes, there is a difference. Animal protein is complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. Most plant proteins are incomplete protein, missing a number of essential amino acids. In brief, we need to obtain the essential amino acids from our food, which is not a problem as every plant contains most of the essential amino acids. We just need to eat a variety of plant foods, such as different fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to obtain all the essential amino acids that are found in animal protein.

Human ancestors have been eating meat for hundreds of thousands of years. They rarely, if ever, experienced any of the meat diseases (E.coli, mad cow disease) we have today. Is it the meat itself or what industrial farming is putting in the meat (growth hormones, antibiotics, vaccines, feed additives) that is the concern for you?

Animal meat diseases can be grouped into two main categories: those found in the meat itself and those that are the result of eating animal meat and animal byproducts (milk, cream, cheese, etc.). For example, two diseases directly found in the meat itself are E. Coli (parasitic disease) and mad cow disease.

Then there are diseases that are the result of consuming animal meat and animal byproducts. For example, cancer could develop when there’s a high uric acid level in the blood. Heart disease and diabetes have also been linked to excessive consumption of animal meat and byproducts, especially dairy.

With mad cow disease, the main cause is feeding cows with other animal parts in the form of powder. Cows are naturally herbivores and forcing them to eat animal feed is against their natural digestive system. So we can say that the main culprit for mad cow disease is humans, because humans decide what to feed the cows.

As for parasitic diseases such as E. Coli, the occurrence was much less in the past. Nowadays, environmental pollution and lack of hygiene in industrial farming increase the number of parasites in meat. However, our ancestors were also at high risk of catching parasites from eating meat, because it is something that occurs even in wild and clean nature; however, the disease prevalence was much lower compared with our modern polluted environment. As evidence, the Eskimos who eat wild fish and other meats that are free of antibiotics and other poisons found in industrial animal farming still catch parasites and develop heart stroke, osteoporosis, and other diseases. Animals, even the ones in the wild, were not always free of parasites. Also, our ancestors’s immune system might have been stronger than ours, allowing them to better fight against parasites, or at least control them from spreading.

With industrial farmed meats, there are food additives, vaccines, growth hormones, and antibiotics that make the problem much worse. Physiologically, meat is not very compatible with our digestive system. It takes a lot of enzymes to digest meat.

Today we have higher rates of different cancers, but evidence from various ancient civilizations shows that cancer was a threat even to our ancestors. However, they were unable to diagnosis and recognize many diseases, so there isn’t a running record on the prevalence of cancer in their time. So meat and other foods (even some plant foods) that were not compatible with our ancestors’s body caused different diseases. The ideal picture of health, the natural principle, is that no animal should catch any disease during its life. Therefore, if we face sickness and disease, it is a warning sign that there is an imbalance in our lifestyle.

Research has shown that the human brain advanced in tandem with our ancestors’s consumption of animal protein (concentrated protein). Research has also shown that our cellular biology is the most advanced of all the species on Earth largely due to our ancestors’s diet. In successive generations, will vegans be missing out on anything?

This is a hypothesis, not fact!

Our history is a mystery, and we still haven’t discovered all of it. From the physiological aspect, meat was a survival food for our ancestors when plant foods weren’t available. However, meat is not the ideal food for our digestive system and long intestines.

Also, meat causes different diseases in humans, so if the human brain was developed in sick bodies, imagine how advanced it could develop in a healthy body. A diet laden with plant foods is the minimum requirement for a healthy body and brain. On the other hand, there are studies and theories that suggest the human brain might have been more advanced in the distant past than it is today. The main premise of this theory is that we use only about 5% of our brain’s potential, while the brain still uses 20% of energy in our body. What about the remaining 95% of the brain’s potential? Why can we not use it? New research on this topic is provided in Tony Wright’s book, Left in the Dark. More information on this topic is available at Mr. Wright’s website.

I don’t think the new theory of the brain is against Darwin’s theory of evolution. The brain might have reached its developmental peak at some point in the millions of years of evolution and then the development halted, then declined.

However, what we know about our hunter-gatherer ancestors may not be the entirety of history. We know that humans require artificial tools (spears, guns, injections) to hunt animals, whereas carnivores like lions and tigers don’t require tools to hunt, kill, and eat (forks, knives) other animals. So it is very obvious that hunting is not ideal for humans. The main reason humans started hunting other animals was to survive in situations where plant foods were unavailable, but in successive generations eating meat became a tradition and habit—meat tastes better when cooked and seasoned. Also, cooking kills many harmful parasites, so cooked meat was preferred over raw meat. Cooking also makes meat and other foods more digestible, but cooking also destroys many essential nutrients as well, so overall cooking may not be healthy for the body.

Plants also contain all the essential nutrients for brain health. The brain uses glucose (natural sugars) as its main fuel source, and fruits and vegetables are loaded with glucose. This shows that natural, simple sugars are essential for our brain. In addition, our body requires a variety of minerals, antioxidants, and micronutrients, and the main source for simple sugars are fruits and vegetables, which contain natural sugar with plenty of vitamins and antioxidants. Therefore, an ideal diet should include lots of ripened fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds because they’re rich in minerals and essential fatty acids. The nutrients in plant foods are required for healthy brain development, and for positive and creative thoughts.

Meat consumption degrades the environment. The industrial-farming industry is an enormous contributor of greenhouse gases. There is a food shortage in some countries because producing meat and animal byproducts requires on order of magnitude much more water and resources compared to plant foods. We’re also facing an overpopulation crises, so we have to choose our lifestyle wisely. With these problems in mind, the vegan lifestyle is healthier for the environment and our body.

However, it’s important to remember that veganism doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. For example, a diet based on starchy foods (white flour: bread, pizza, spaghetti, noodles; and other refined foods such as white rice and sugar) and cooked foods could be even unhealthier than a diet based on meat. For eating excessive refined and processed foods, many vegans also catch degenerative diseases such as cancer. So, it depends on the whole lifestyle and the distribution of raw and healthy plant foods in the diet. In total, everything that is healthy for the body is also healthy for the brain. The different organisms in our body work together and affect each other, so food selection should be based on what is good for those organisms.

I know a lot of vegans who extol the benefits of the environment from a vegan diet. But these vegans usually have 2-10 pets. These pets use up a lot of resources. Any comments on the environmental virtue of that lifestyle?

You are mentioned a real problem. Having many pets that devour a lot of resources, while many humans don't have enough food to eat, is something not helpful for our world. On the other hand, animals belong to nature and they are not human property, so buying and selling animals is not moral, nor ethical. However, some animals, such as dogs, are habituated to humans and they almost cannot live without humans, but there are better ways to care for them instead of having them in the home. For example, a brilliant idea that was adopted by some animal shelters in Iran for stray dogs was to find sponsor who picked a dog and donated money for the welfare of that dog. The dog remains in the shelter, while the sponsor can visit their sponsored dog, play with it, and even take it outside. Once the visitation is over, the dog is returned to the shelter. In this system, no one owns the animals. I think ideas such as that one are better than having pets in the home. Also in some cases, pets need to be neutered or spayed to control their population. However, this is a controversial topic likely to inflame debate.

Anyhow, we have to consider this environmental issue and rethink pets as well. I think it is not a black or white issue, because sometimes having a pet is a necessity for some people. For example, pets are valuable to senior citizens who are single, as are guide dogs for the blind. But there is no need for everyone in the world have a pet or several of them in the home.

It has been shown that cooking food destroys some nutrients. However, it has also been shown that cooking food breaks down the tough cell walls, which release more nutrient and make food easier to chew. In addition, heat denatures (unwinds) protein which allows our body to digest the cooked food easier and deactivates some plant poisons. It has also been theorized that cooking food allowed our ancestors access to a wider variety of food which they could not have eaten raw. This new food staple allowed our ancestors’s to develop a very complex brain chemistry—the most complex of all the animals because of the variety of nutrients. What are your thoughts on this?

Well, these theories are not completely false or completely true. Yes, cooking can extract some nutrients better, but it also destroys many nutrients as well. And yes, cooking might have helped our ancestors to survive during periods of drought and famine, when food was scarce. My overall opinion is that foods that need to be cooked in order to be eaten are not natural to humans. For example, tasty fruits and vegetables don't need to be cooked or undergo any processes before they’re consumed. Of course there are some exceptions such as certain grains, legumes, tough vegetables, and eggs. However some people can eat the aforementioned foods raw but it is not safe. So, when there is no fruits and vegetables to eat, foods that require cooking can be used as survival food, just to remain alive. A diet of mainly cooked foods is not a picture of good healthy, though.

Going back to the brain—it uses many nutrients that can be destroyed during cooking. For this reason, we want to consume fresh (or “live”) food. The nutrients in fruits provide a lot of energy and they’re easy to digest as they contain simple carbohydrates and glucose, which the brain uses as its main fuel source. Our brain works best with energy supplied from raw foods, and when our brain is healthy, it provides the foundation for creative and innovative thinking. Our brain functions best with raw foods. This is one more reason to adopt the raw vegan diet.

In my opinion, these theories about cooked foods are still incomplete, as there are many hypotheses. I can at least say that some cooked foods could be beneficial for humans. For example, cooked roots, such as beet. Even with cooked foods as part of our diet, we should still consume copious amounts of raw fruits and vegetables to remain healthy and to compensate for the micronutrients destroyed during the cooking process.

What is your view on veganism and raw veganism? To me raw veganism is a bit extreme. What are the health benefits of raw veganism over veganism? 

Veganism is a peaceful lifestyle, and in my view, raw veganism is the ideal form of veganism, with more health benefits. The idea of raw veganism is very simple: to eat as close to nature as possible. I don't see anything extreme about it. However, it is still possible to remain healthy while eating a little cooked food, but raw and fresh foods should still be the principal part of the diet. It is possible to remain completely healthy with a 100% raw food diet or at least a diet that is predominantly raw, but it is not possible to remain healthy in the long-term with a 100% cooked food diet! Anyhow, many nutrients are destroyed during the cooking process, so it is vital to eat whole foods to prevent nutritional deficiency.

In my experience, I feel better and vibrant when I eat raw food versus cooked food. If I eat cooked food, especially cooked starch, I feel sleepy and as a result, I need more sleep to renew my energy. I’ve heard the same experience from other raw vegans as well.

Do you ever get cravings for junk food such as greasy burgers, fries, bacon, or chocolate bars?

In the beginning, yes, the craving for junk food was very strong. However, I didn’t have cravings for any animal food when I philosophically became a vegan. However, I did have cravings for vegan junk foods, and sometimes I ate some of them. But these cravings gradually decreased, and after three years of being a raw vegan, I had less cravings for cooked foods, even the healthy ones, and almost no craving for junk food.

How does being a vegan good for the environment? Are there stats to support the assertions?

Well, as industrial-animal farming is one of the biggest pollutants of the environment, polluting the air, land, and water, going vegan reduces the need for animal farming. Yes, there are public statistics that support this idea. Just refer to Livestock's Long Shadow by Food and Agriculture Organization for more details. Or check the research of PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency:
http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/2009/Climate-benefits-of-changing-diet

Also, here are more links on the environmental benefits of veganism:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/vegetarian-or-omnivore-the-...

http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/environment.html
http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-facts...
https://www.vegansociety.com/try-vegan/why-go-vegan

Again, veganism alone is not enough because it can be improved. For example, in addition to being a vegan, going organic is even healthier for our body and the environment.

Rethink Your Diet. This book will provide you with all the nutritional facts needed to help you change your diet for the better. In this book the reader is invited to think about what he/she eats; to question those foods we have been instilled to eat over decades and how we prepare such food. You will learn the fundamentals of healthy eating and thus, you will learn how to prevent most diseases and remain healthy at every age. You can choose a flexible plan based on your own personal situation and preferences. The book recommends veganism/raw veganism, but it can also be a useful book for anyone interested in nutrition, the environment and helping to build a better world. The main purpose is to help people become aware of their lifestyle in an open-minded manner.

The author of Rethink Your Diet has aimed to answer most nutrition and diet questions backed up by scientific and research examples while avoiding any kind of fanaticism. The book displays a critical thinking on the subject of nutrition, while at the same time, it promotes a better solution based on science, logic and real experiences. By reading this e-book, you can get the most useful information in the minimum possible time.

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