Backyard Apothecary: Local Trumps Vegetarian

Local Trumps Vegetarian In The Quest For Health And Sustainability.

There is a common sentiment amongst so-called health foodies that vegetarianism is healthier for the body—and the planet, than omnivorism. When one considers the reality of factory farmed meat and seafood, in which animals are fed hormones, antibiotics and/or anti-fungals, along with genetically engineered feed laced with the remains of other animals, possibley irradiated after processing, then shipped across the globe to land on your dinner plate, then yes, this is definitely a scenario of unsustainable and unhealthy food.

But consider the alternative, a commercial veggie burger. Soy isolate, extracted from a genetically modified bean that was sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, grown in a field that once was a South American rain forest, and then shipped back and forth across the continent, until it ends up on your dinner plate. Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound more healthy.

Consider also that soy is a food with dubious health benefits. While it is currently being promoted as a miracle food, in fact, it was originally farmed as a rotation crop, to fix nitrogen into the soil, and was not used for consumption except when it was fermented, as in miso, natto or tempe. Asian countries didn’t consume as much soy as they are currently famous for, and that which they did consume was fermented, and alongside fish and other meats rather than as their staple protein. Unfermented, soy is lacking in many essential amino acids, making it an incomplete protein that actually requires more nutrients from our bodies to digest than it provides us. Eating unfermented soy in large quantities, such as tofu, edamame or soy oil, leaches calcium and vitamins B and D from our bodies during digestion. The well promoted lysine in soy is totally destroyed by the processing soy goes through. Read the ingredients on your average soy milk bottle. It is not a whole food but a highly processed one. Unfermented soy also contains many toxic compounds considered anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, which inhibits iron and zinc absorption, and trypsin inhibitors, which interfere with protein absorption and can cause pancreatic imbalances. The phytoestrogens in soy, while healthy in moderation, can cause hormonal imbalances and are dangerous when fed to developing children, as in soy formula. Other plant sources of phytoestrogens are far safer.

But soy is, of course, not necessary for a healthy vegetarian diet. It is merely being marketed as a safe and sustainable alternative to meat, which is sadly untrue. It is very possible to eat a well balanced and nourishing vegetarian diet, full of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. That is, if that’s what your body type thrives on.

Despite current warnings against the consumption of too much meat or animal fats, these foods are necessary for many people. Our brains and nervous systems require cholesterol to develop and function properly. It is the lubricant between neurons, making a lack just as deadly as an excess. Consider the traditional diets of people such as the Inuit, which consisted largely of meat, with very few vegetables and virtually no grains. These people were healthy and fit, and it wasn’t until they began eating a diet of refined flour and sugar that epidemics of diabetes and cancer began to plague them. Just as their are many different races of peoples, there are differing metabolic types, and many thrive on large amounts of protein and fat to be lean, strong and healthy.

In my quest for healthy living, it has become apparent to me that eating locally grown or raised foods, and foods in their whole, unprocessed form, feels far better to my body than eating factory processed and packaged foods, no matter if they are meats or vegetables. I am an omnivore, and I firmly believe that a chicken raised nearby on grass and bugs, supplemented by organically grown Canadian grains, is more healthy for me and the planet than any processed vegan product.

Raised as a vegetarian, Rose Dickson has gradually become a locavore/omnivore. She is an artist and writer with a passion for natural health, and a self-taught herbalist specializing in local, urban wild-crafting and do-it-yourself medicine. She loves showing people how to use the wonderful weeds that grow in their own backyards, and can be reached at