We’ve stopped eating mammals

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What do Paul McCartney, Mike Tyson, Albert Einstein, Denzel Washington, Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Bale and (among women) Natalie Portman, Arianna Huffington , Betty White, Olivia Wilde have in common?

They’re all vegetarians. And stumbling in the Internet on a list of famous vegetarians living and dead strengthened my resolve to cease eating mammals, which my wife Getsy and I have decided would be our new diet, even lifestyle.

I was precise in writing “we’ve stopped eating mammals”, as we’re only gradually becoming vegetarians. We’ve stopped eating only pork, beef, and other four-footed creatures. Technically, we’ve decided to be “lacto-ovo vegetarians”, who still eat eggs and dairy products —the most common type of vegetarians. (Vegans are purists who don’t eat eggs and dairy products.)

Right now and until that time. which I hope will be soon, when we really get to be very determined, we still occasionally eat chicken and fish, on the (flimsy) excuse that Japanese sashimi are after all the daily fare of Okinawans, which scientific reports say are the healthiest humans on earth. So we’re technically just “semi-vegetarians” at the moment.

A vegetarian rally: I’ll have to join them next time.

A vegetarian rally: I’ll have to join them next time.

Like Tyson, our biggest reason for going vegetarian is that we’ve found too mentally taxing such diets as Dukan (our last such) and South Beach since these require very close monitoring of what you eat on a particular day or period of days. It’s just too much work. Just dropping bacon, hamburger, steak and similar such obviously fattening foods seemed to be the simplest and “doable” of diet regimes.

And after researching about vegetarianism, we thought that after our past lifestyles, it’s time to go really healthy. Only in the past few years have there been more incontrovertible studies based on large samples on the benefits of vegetarianism:

• A study of 70,000 people in Great Britain concluded that over a six-year period, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely to die from any disease.

• A study conducted from 1986 to 1992 by Dean Ornish, MD, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and kept off that weight 5 years later. That info that they kept the weight off was very significant for me as I’ve read reports that most of the popular diet programs such as Dukan and South Beach have been found, yes, to reduce one’s weight quickly. However, more than two-thirds of those who went through such diets recovered their old, even heavier weights in just a year’s time. That’s exactly what happened to me.

• Based on a study of 45,000 Britons, vegetarians have healthier hearts than people who eat meat or fish.

That last benefit is particularly important for me because heart-disease DNA has been in our clan, and I did have my own bout with a very serious cardio problem. That should have pushed me to give up on my favorites, cheeseburger and steak, years ago. After all vegetables, fruits and nuts contain nearly zero of the kind of fats known to clog up one’s arteries.

Actually, I became a vegetarian—a lifetime ago—when I joined a meditation group that was into so-called Kriya Yoga. At that time when vegetarians were vegetarians mostly because of religious reasons, it was so difficult to keep off beef and pork, since these are Filipinos’ staple.

The kind of fresh salads with European and American dressings are part of Filipino cuisine, and during that time it was even hard to buy in groceries the kind of fresh lettuce common now in supermarkets. In the Filipino psyche, eating vegetables raw means you’re either dirt poor that you can’t even afford to buy pork or chicken.

At that vegetarian period of my life, the Manila Sanitarium (now called the Seventh Adventist Medical Center) in a street in Pasay was a refuge. The Adventists were strict vegetarians so they had a vegetarian canteen in their hospital that served unbelievably delicious (and creative) vegetarian dishes. They also had small grocery that sold what’s called “vegemeat,” made from soybeans made to look like meat loaves and sausages. But after eating it day in and day out, vegemeat came to have that distinct taste as if one were eating paper.

It could be easier to be a vegetarian this time around. Supermarkets almost always have stocks of fresh vegetables in their coolers. This is because the cigarette-smoking baby-boom and drug-crazed hippie generations of the 1950s and 1960s have become more health conscious now, trying to eat as much vegetables and fruits as they can.

There has also been the lowering, even lifting in some categories of customs duties of imported food products. As a result, vegetarian products from Taiwan and South Korea intended for their Buddhist populations who follow the traditional Buddhist vegetarian injunction are now being imported into the country.

Thank God (or Buddha?) for vegetarian food from Taiwan. Taiwanese tofu is so delectable that you can’t classify them as the same food as locally—or Japanese-made—tofu. Deep-fried Taiwanese-made vegetable wontons made me forget I had gone vegetarian. Imported gluten has also made possible such vegetarian food as imitation chicken nuggets served with vegetarian “oyster sauce” and fish, with its skin made of seaweed.

In my last vegetarian period, the only vegetarian “restaurants” at that time—at least to my knowledge—were the Manila Sanitarium canteen and a hole-in-the wall carinderia in Quiapo, which served a delicious peanut-filled fresh spring roll. The headquarters of the Theosophical Society of the Philippines near the Welcome Rotunda landmark in Quezon City had its vegetarian canteen but often was closed.

I googled the topic and I was surprised that there are now 45 vegetarian restaurants in Metro Manila, with one Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant even having its branches in the “food courts” of several SM malls. (If ever you’re in Tagaytay City though, there’s an excellent vegetarian canteen on Emilio Aguinaldo highway run by a Hare Krishna devotee’s family.)

That vegetarianism hasn’t become mainstream though is reflected in the fact that nearly all of this kind of restaurants aren’t on restaurant rows but in some out-of-the way streets.

One big benefit of vegetarianism, which is quite a welcome one for us, is that you’ll save a lot of money. Give up bacon, ham and steak—especially the very popular Angus and Wagyu–and you’ll be surprised that your food budget, both in and out of the house, is cut by half. And you’ll also be healthier.

There’s another emerging reason why I think I’ll eventually be an honest-to-goodness, no-fish-even vegan.

With Congress exposed as a House of Thieves, with this Presidency the most evil yet still popular, with the Chief Justice put in her post at a cost of P3 billion in bribes, and with mainstream press seeing nothing wrong, I’m starting to give up on my ethos since my activist days of my youth of helping save the country.

Maybe I’ll just help save the planet instead. And as vegan Paul McCartney said, the very valid explanation for which you’d have to look up yourself:

“If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat.”