When I approached some Chinese friends in Singapore to observe November 25 as a ‘meatless day’, they remarked, “How will we be able to live without taking meat for a whole day?”
They got the shock of their lives when they learnt that I had not tasted meat even once in my life. And when they saw me walking briskly—they had to run to be able to keep pace with me—they were amazed.
It is believed that you cannot get sufficient protein from a vegetarian diet and that meat is the only source of protein. Once at a session, while I was referring to the advantages of a low-fat vegetarian diet, a man stood up and objected that no one could get enough protein without eating meat. When I asked him what protein was, he fumbled and answered, “I don’t exactly know what protein is, but I know that everyone needs it.”
“How much protein does a man need?” I asked him.
“I cannot tell you exactly, but we need lots and lots of protein for keeping the body alive,” he replied.
Many of us, I am afraid, are unaware of the real needs of the body. Protein is present in every living thing. After water, it is the most plentiful substance in the human body. Its function is to help build the organs of the body. The protein needs of every person are different, and depend on the person’s weight, sex and nature of work. However, a person doesn’t need much protein. In fact, if you take more protein than required, it leads to degenerative diseases. Those over 20 years of age can calculate the amount of protein they need per day [in grams] by multiplying their weight [in pounds] by 0.36. For instance, if you are 25 years of age and you weigh 110 pounds, your daily protein requirement is 110 x 0.36 = 39.6g or say, 40g. On an average, most individuals need about 45g protein in a day. And all the protein you need is available in milk [preferably skimmed], curd [yoghurt], cheese, lentils, soy beans, peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Point is, you don’t have to worry about your protein. “A good rice and beans dish, with some cheese, can be just as nourishing, less expensive, and lower in fat than a steak,” writes nutritionist Earl Mindell in the Vitamin Bible.
Moreover, I believe the protein present in vegetarian food is superior to that in meat. According to nutritionist Christopher Gian Cursio, “vegetables are primary sources nourished by the sun and soil, while meat is a secondary source nourished and sustained by vegetables.” Most animals killed for food live on a vegetarian diet. Why, then, must we not go to the source of nutrition—vegetarian food?
Besides, protein is not the only thing the body needs to be healthy and strong. It also needs minerals, and vitamins, which are found in the right type of vegetarian diet consisting of grains [cereals], grams [legumes] and greens, with nuts, milk or curd and honey.
We are unaware of our body’s nutritional needs. It reminds me of Roman philosopher Seneca’s words that are truer today than ever before: “More people are killed through the stomach than by the sword.”
P.S. 25th November is observed as ‘Meatless Day’ all over the world on occasion of Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday.
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