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article imageOp-Ed: 'Beef with Meat' speaks of a 'Raw' movement going on for 20 years Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jul 25, 2014 in Food
Austin - This reporter stumbled across a book that debut in 2013 called, "My Beef with Meat - The healthiest argument for eating a plant-strong diet, by firefighter Rip Esselstyn.
He points out that one of the reasons why Americans suffer from heart-disease, diabetes and obesity is because of the decline in eating healthy with vegetables and whole grains at the center.
Esselstyn's book then brought to mind, oh about 20 years ago that I did a little article for The Sunset Beacon on a local vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco' Sunset District.
It was then called "Raw' foods and the chef was Juliano. Back then in the early 1990's, the word 'vegan' was just getting known and I admit I was skeptical. But when Juliano served me a 'meat-less' pizza with no baked wheat crust. It was a delicious surprise and a few years later, while watching Entertainment Tonight, I learned that chef Juliano had relocated to Southern Cal, serving his "Raw" food creations to celebrities in Hollywood.
And, to think, he got his start in San Francisco, chalk another point up for San Francisco as being a progressive city. Juliano had told me of his conversion to raw foods that actually sprang out of his years of working in restaurants. When he became a vegetarian, he started to ponder the idea of having not just a vegetarian restaurant, but one that was dedicated to and specialized in raw uncooked vegetables, grains, nuts and fruit.
So, when I began reading some of Esselstyn's book I was not surprised. I was just delighted to see the "grass-roots" of an idea or concept continue to grow. 20 years ago the word 'vegan' was new as if it just arrived from outer-space. But now, vegan food is right next to the word organic on food menu's and culinary lists.
In small towns and urban areas vegetable focused farmers' markets are part of the landscape. For example, when Lorene Reed of Planet Organics established her fresh produce delivery service over 15 years ago, "People were enthusiastic about getting fresh produce delivered to their door." Now, she said, more and more people are going to their local farmer's market because more and more places are having a farmer's market in their area."
In Sonoma (a small town north of San Francisco) for example there are two farmers' markets one on Tuesday evening at the plaza and one on Friday mornings at the athletic fields. In San Francisco, just about each neighborhood has its own farmers' market at least once a week. According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture, there were 8,144 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. This is a 3.6 percent increase from 2012.
"The USDA National Farmers Market Directory provides the public with convenient access to information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and more." said Anne Alonzo, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator. She serves as the coordinator of the AMS a special division within the USDA. The AMS administers programs that facilitate the efficient, fair marketing of U.S. agricultural products, including food, fiber, and specialty crops.
Esselstyn, goes over the common arguments about following a meat-free diet. He asserts that eating a healthy plant based diet can greatly improve one's health. And, while he is a firefighter, he used to eat the type of foods most American's eat, until he learned of his dangerously high 'bad' cholesterol levels. Once he developed and took his Engine 2 Diet to heart, he found that eating vegetables was not only healthy it was delicious. And, I can say from my eating meals prepared by chef Juliano of Raw, when Esselstyn says, "eating plants is easy," he is correct.
As Juliano pointed out to me many years ago in his little restaurant then on 9th Avenue and Lincoln, it is all in how the meal is prepared. The creative culinary possibilities are endless. His vision of having a completely vegetarian-raw food culinary experience has definitely reach great heights. Vegetarian eating is certainly no longer just for health-food enthusiasts and people living in a commune. According to 'The Vegetarian Times' over seven million people in America are vegetarian. In a 2008 study, the publication reports that over half of those inclined to either an all or mostly vegetarian diet do so for health reasons.
Still even with those high statistics, the majority of meat-eaters is heavy, not just on the scale, metaphorically speaking, but of actual consumption in terms of meat production. According to The American Meat Institute, the total meat and poultry production in 2012 reached more than 92.9 billion pounds, up 600 million pounds from 2011. The debate over meat and dairy consumption is on-going in some medical circles as mentioned last year in the Huffington Post.
The few people I know personally that have converted over to a vegetarian diet, such as Sonoma resident Kathy Ostram, say that they do not miss meat at all. "Really, I don't miss it," she said. "Oh, in the beginning when I started I did, especially if there was the aroma of a burger on the grill wafting through the air."
But now Ostram believes her sticking to a vegetarian diet has helped her maintain better health. Yet, one thing though some vegetarians, like Ostram found hard to give up entirely is cheese. "Tofu cheese, she said just doesn't make it."
And, while serious vegetarians try to cut back on dairy, (this what a vegan diet is) cheese is one thing they indulge in once in a while in their vegetarian diet.
Despite what Esselstyn says in his book about soy, I am not completely sold on soy. I have heard lots of pro versus con about it, especially for men. The use of soy derivatives in processed foods has grown over the past decade.
Also, Esselstyn says to be careful about consuming too much fruit juice. Yes, fresh squeezed fruit juice is healthier than something bottled, cooked or canned. But everything in moderation, "A glass of OJ contains more sugar than a soda pop," says Esselstyn. The Times of India agrees as it notes on its diet and health page, "drink orange juice in moderation...(because of its naturally high sugar content). In fact, since orange juice is fairly high in calories, avoid drinking too much of the stuff."
The debate about whether vegetable juice is better than fruit juice goes back and forth. But again the emphasis is on freshness, wholeness and 'moderation.' And, several sources have noted that eating whole vegetables and fruits has vital benefits, because they contain enzymes, vitamins and of course, fiber.
And, like many Esselstyn points out that obtaining protein from a plant-based diet is not only more humane to animals but is ecologically more sound for the environment of the planet.
Philosophy professor Andea Borghini, like Esselstyn and other vegetarians believes it is more ecologically sound to promote a vegetarian diet. Yet, the debate as to whether or not vegetarianism is more ethical, Borghini welcomes the dialog. "The argument is not that in every context eating meat makes more sense; but that in some contexts it might. And that is sufficient to claim that vegetarianism cannot be defended on the basis of some universal principle, true in virtue of sole rational considerations. The specific ecological conditions shall be factored as well." Borghini while not a complete vegetarian, does understand the importance of a vegetable-rich diet.
In addition to articles for About.com and other publications, the professor, lecturer, author also teaches a course in the 'Philosophy of food' at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
No doubt eating less meat is more healthy. And, while it is perhaps impossible to convert everyone into vegetarians, the message Esselstyn and others are saying is, simply, America needs to eat more healthy foods. And, that means more fresh vegetables on the plate.
I am interested in trying some of the recipes Esselstyn features in his book like the split figs with cashew cream and caramelized onions. Also, his mention of 'Zeb's Waffles" made with rolled oats, walnuts, flax seed and orange zest, just to name a few ingredients, sounds yummy and satisfying.
An interesting best-seller read, and Esselstyn has lots of examples of how to introduce more fresh produce into one's daily routine and eating habits. For more information about Rip Esselstyn's book visit the "My Beef with Meat" web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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