Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Omnivore? How does one choose?

As a plant based nutritionist, I often get asked questions about why I choose a vegetarian lifestyle and what the best meat to eat would be, from a health perspective.

I don’t like to tell people, good or bad, yes or no, should or should not. Everyone is different, with different needs and health goals so you will need to decide what is best for your body (and for the Earth =)

Having said that, it’s helpful to be informed when making choices so below are some factors to consider when making healthy choices on your meats (and plants=) 

*my personal opinion on choosing plant based is at the end of this article.

diet model

1. Including meats

Environmental Impact:

Factory farming is a big contributor to greenhouse gases and depleting our water resources

e.g. 1 pound of beef uses 1,581 gallons of water to produce (approximately 100 showers). By the way, a pair of jeans uses 2,866 gallons of water.

Learn more about water usage at Water Education Foundation.

Ethical Issues

The living conditions of animals bred solely for human consumption is cruel and disease producing, leading to a large amount of antibiotics and hormones pumped into these animals.

e.g. around 70% of antibiotics used in the US are given to livestock

Nutritional Benefits or Disadvantages

Upwards of 75 percent of the antibiotics fed to farm animals end up undigested in their urine and manure. Through this waste, the antibiotics may contaminate crops and waterways and ultimately ingested by humans.

My suggestion when choosing meat: 

First choice: Wild Game/Meat (eg. wild fish, deer, quail, kangaroo), this is as back to nature as you can get

*wild game is generally higher in protein and lower in fat

Second options : grass fed beef, organic chicken 

2. Including fish/seafood

Environmental & Ethical Impact

Fishing practices are still not being regulated or enforced resulting in around 25% of sea animals victims of by catch

Nutritional Benefits or Disadvantages

On average, polychlorinated (PCB) concentrations in farmed salmon are 8 to 16 times higher than in wild salmon. In fact, farmed salmon is far more toxic than beef containing  4 times the PCB’s.

My suggestion when choosing seafood: 

First choice: wild, sustainable fish, seafood

*smaller the fish, the less mercury : e.g. sardines, sole, trout

3. Including Vegetables

Environmental  Impact

lack of diversity (monocrop farming) and degradation of topsoil means that more forest area is likely to be cleared for agriculture land. 

Nutritional Benefits or Disadvantages

Researchers on 43 crops found statistically reliable declines from 1950 to 1999 for six nutrients — protein, calcium, potassium, iron and vitamins B2 and C. (research by the US Department of Agriculture) 

My suggestion when choosing vegetables:  

First choice: choose organic and choosing seasonal more times than not will also be supporting smaller farms that are not practicing monocrop farming.  

Second options: hydroponics

Other options: wash well, soak veggies in veggie wash, salt water or vinegar water

Remember to eat the rainbow

Read more HERE on best options from a health perspective.

If we delved into all of these topics, the discussion would be too lengthy for this article. But the general conclusion is that our food system has some serious flaws and challenges to both our health and the environment.

The passionate vegans have their valid arguments but often overlook the way their plants are being farmed and grown, albeit the impact of it is far less on the environment than factory farms.

The problem lies in our consumption, or rather, over consumption of food in general and our reliance on specific foods.

We no longer eat according to season and as globalization increases trends that focus on a specific food also impact the environment. 

It’s really simple, go back to eating foods from nature, grown naturally.

My personal opinion is that factory and industrial farming of any kind should be avoided (banned rather) whether it’s an animal or a crop. Animal cruelty is one aspect we are familiar with, but many do not realize the environmental and health impact of industrial farming and monocrop farming.

Therefore, living in Hong Kong and considering the costs and access to wild or/and organic meat, along with my health goals (minimizing toxic load, being a 2x cancer survivor), I have chosen to live a plant based, vegetarian lifestyle, which includes organic eggs to meet my protein needs.

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