A large part of what fueled my motivation to go vegan was watching documentaries. And no, I’m not talking about the ones loaded with brutal, slaughterhouse clips that show the torture that animals go through before ending up on a plate. Although watching those can be disheartening, I found greater value in documentaries like Cowspiracy, Vegucated, and the newest I’ve watched, What the Health. These types of documentaries provide evidence and examples of the nutritional, environmental, cultural, and governmental implications of consuming animal products, which I find to be my leading reasons for going vegan.
What the Health confirms that the corporate food world, pharmaceutical companies, many doctors, health organizations, and even our own government make money off us getting sick. In today’s society, it seems that health providers are more focused on treating conditions, rather than preventing them. It also never really made sense to me why our government subsidizes meat and dairy (approximately $38 billion a year) but much less for fruits and vegetables (approximately $17 million a year). That ratio does not seem logical at all. Even so, the World Health Organization has classified processed meat and red meat as carcinogenic, yet tax dollars are still footing the bill..WHAT THE HEALTH?! I’ll also mention that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change and environmental destruction (water depletion, deforestation, ocean dead zones)..but instead of going on a rant, I’ll sum up some important information for you.
I found four valuable pieces of information from What the Health, and decided to share them with you. I’ll do my best to list these findings and not inject my opinion, since being vegan makes me biased. Most of what I learned from watching this documentary was interesting and disturbing, but also important to know.
Processed meat can cause cancer. The World Health Organization deemed that processed meats like sausage, deli meats, and bacon are carcinogenic. In addition to this, they say that red meats, which include lamb, veal, pork and beef are “probably carcinogenic” to people. If you’re interested in learning more about this, NPR did a story on these findings.
One serving of processed meat per day increased risk of developing diabetes by 51%. We’ve been socialized to think that carbohydrates and sugary foods are what lead to diabetes, but no one ever talks about processed meat being a cause. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study with results that suggested that red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
The leading source of sodium in the American diet for adults is chicken. This is a weird thing to think about, but it is a common practice for chicken companies to “enhance” the flavor of chicken by injecting it with water, salt, and other additives. Read here to learn more. Substantial amounts of dietary sodium come from restaurant and processed foods, so purchase location does matter. However, sodium intakes were examined in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys found that although the majority of sodium consumption came from foods purchased from stores and prepared at home, almost one third of total sodium came from restaurant foods.
There’s a reason why cheese is so addictive. Scientists in North Carolina did a study in 1981 and found that cow’s milk has traces of a chemical that “not only looked like morphine, but turned out to be exactly that. It’s not unique to cow’s milk—you can find it in human milk as well. Morphine, of course, is an opiate. If that weren’t enough for your brain to handle, a protein in milk called casein releases opiates, called casomorphins, upon digestion, too. When you eat a slice of cheese, digestion breaks the casein into casomorphins of various lengths. One of them, a short string made up of just five amino acids, has about one-tenth the painkilling potency of prescription morphine. This opiate effect may be why dairy products are constipating, the way opiate-based painkillers can be.” (prcm.org) It’s a weird thought to compare cheese to painkillers, but think about it. Why do you think it is that we always crave foods that are calorie dense and high in fat when we are stressed? And why do we keep craving them?