Special Diets/chicken and fish
I have not eaten red meat for a month now, and I am feeling a bit better. Colorectal cancer and heart disease runs in my family, and my dad and uncles ate a lot of red meat. I have lost a bit of weight, and my digestion is better.
I feel I am slowly trying to walk the vegetarian way, but am still eating poultry and seafood.
I cannot find a good reason, apart from the ethical treatment of chickens and farm raised fish, to exclude them. I have never heard of someone getting obese or heart disease/cancer from eating chicken or fish-as opposed to red meat.
Since I am an older guy, with no desire to become a chef, it is easy to make a turkey sandwich or open a can of sardines.
If there were legitimate health reasons to give up seafood and fish I would.
Do you know of ant, and do you think I should keep up being a non red meat eater? Thanks!
Great to hear that your own gut instinct to cut red meat out of your diet has borne fruit! If you are feeling better for it, then you know you are doing the right thing.
From a holistic and alternative point of view diet is a very personal affair, as a constituent of the path of self-development. It remains very personal as to how much weight we should give diet in preventative medicine: can one food group cause illness or promote longevity? Modern conventional nutritional research has one take and spiritual science (Anthroposophy or Aryuveda, Taoism eg.) may have another. What they all have in common is the wish to find balance and support healing or prevent recidivism.
From (my) holistic perspective, diet is actually a method for soul-perfection. Variying approaches tend to agree that the quality and quantity of what you ingest is above all important, which is a nice holistic starting point. We can virtually correlate our happiness, productivity, and wellbeing to how we nourish ourselves.
Trying to impede (genetic) predispositions for illness is tricky. Trying to say anything too generic about something so individual as cancer is especially tricky. Holistic medicine always took cancer as a very personal statement from the soul and required a much larger but personal context or biograpy to know what course of therapy is best. Fortunately, modern science is coming round to this idea that cancer is the final manifestation of an integral (and not yet explicable) imbalance and it is starting to look at life-styles and attitudes over molecular science in search of curative measures. Diet fits in here, because it functions as a bridge between inner and outer worlds and can reveal how you feel or how conscious you are about yourself and your surroundings.
There are, of course, a few general specifics we can state about what makes a healthy diet, but only a few facts are really hard and fast or applicable across the board. Diet is very personal and people are very varied. Many factors come into play, as the history of man’s nutritional pattern and the varied pattern over the globe demonstrates.
On the whole, we have become over industrialised and consume too much (depleting and destroying our natural resources and bounty). This problem is illustrated quite unambivalently by some atrociously callous practices in the dairy industry and animal farming, the humongous numbers of people on our planet subject to starvation, the desertification and the vast destruction of irreplaceable eco-systems (rainforest etc). But it will not help us much if we become overly activist: change has to begin at the heart of each individual for it to last and evolve into a wholesome new way of being. So education and self-awareness is key.
With the desire to help people make up their own minds, I can present to you some observations from the Anthroposophic field of thought on the topic of meat.
Some people can live to a ripe old age and enjoy a happy and healthy life happily with the inclusion of (red) meat in their diet. But I think it is fair to say that for the western, modern man it is important to avoid (regular quantities) of bad meat-products. We may think of fast food, which would include chicken, but also fish. The problem is not only one of mass market processing, with all the detrimental additives (salt, sugar, flavourings, perservatives etc), and (yukky saturated or hydrogenated) fat used to "enrich" and spice up the otherwise fairly bland flavour of meat, but also the toxins which you consume (which come with the animals: their hormones, their anti-biotics, their gen-modified feed, their heavy metals, their viruses etc). I cannot urge enough that you are doing yourself and the globe a massive favour by opting for organically farmed food. I know it may seem demoralising at times to buy a more costly product while the multi-nationals are still visible from space with their refineries, or factories all lit up, and the earth threatens to collapse into massive sinkholes for all the rapacious mining, but change starts with one: without any there cannot ever be many.
Archeological, pathological, anatomical studies give us varied outcomes, but across the board, man is and always has been an omnivore, and he is not designed to go on a wolf’s diet: people who are forced to eat animal products exclusively (due to their habitats, think of some tribal or ethnic groups around the world) tend to have health issues. There will be paleo-cave-men types harshly disagreeing with me that (raw) meat is not the way forward; and I have no urge to persuade them otherwise, but they too will be living in a world of luxury with the best quality meat available, and additional health measures at hand.
Anthroposophical nutritional guidelines will advocate the use of meat for the elderly and infirm, just like chinese medicine includes the classic chicken soup as a remedy. Fish is source of easily digestible protein, held sacred enough to serve as a pious meal for Catholics. With seafood, however, the problems begin. These creatures (crustations and molluscs) are scavengers and this makes them less desirable. It may be one of the reasons that shrimp is not eaten by orthodox Jews, e.g., or that allergies with seafood exist, while other meats seldom give outright symptoms. In any case, crustaceans are a quite acidic food by nature, whereas white fish or chicken (boiled) is more alkaline and neutralises the blood PH level. I cannot heap all fowl onto one heap, so easily, since duck and goose are very heavy and full of saturated fat. Also less alkaline are oily fish, but we find in salmon, tuna and mackrell, herring, sardines, trout the valuable amino acid omega 3 and vitamins A and D, which we have trouble sourcing in abundance elsewhere unless we are die-hard vegetarians who go specifically in search of them (for omega 3: flax or hempseed, walnuts, soy oil). So, it can be advisable to include fowl and fish 2-3 times a week in your diet if you are not expert in combining vegetarian foods (these combinations are essential for you to extract all the right minerals, vitamins).
There are two ways we can proceed in our examination of what is the "right" food to eat. We can take a medical approach and an ethical one. The latter is extremely complex and largely subject to political-economical and media propaganda, generational trends, religious emphasis, and variable theories put forward not infequently with quite a serving of ego. There are only a few thorough researchers within the alternative field who really ask esoterical questions that may help us to see ourselves in a new light. Of these few I find interesting enough, I pick Rudolf Steiner as a spiritual scientist, who has stood the test of time with some inobtrusive suggestions (and considerable foresight) to put a few more ideas on meat your way.
First of all, he stipulated one cannot not eat oneself to heaven and being too morally upright about anything often alienates one from the most important purpose of life: to be a part of the brotherhood of Man. He even said outrightly: "vegetarianism without spiritual striving leads to disease. It’s not a matter of back to nature but through nature to spirit." Very inspirational, I find, leaving everyone free to do as much striving as they can.
While he would advise against eating meat and fish if you wanted to strive particularlyl for a more spiritual world view, he warned that this was not for all. He explained (at length and in detail I will omit here) that there are animal elements which effect the more subtle aspects of our being when eaten. He taught us that our digestive system tackles meat very differently to vegetable matter. In the digestive process we need to strip both substances of their OWN nature to convert them into a nourishing, neutral sap we can then replenish our bodies with. This divesting process strengthens our digestive system, plants more so than meat.
A sluggish or apathetic, or neglected system may be one of the underlying conditions for the manifestation of colon cancer and other disorders which begin or reside in the metabolic system (lower pole). A robust system fed on plants boosts your head pole. Not that you become brainy, but your thinking becomes calm, composed and holistic. The fast business man’s light lunch (salad and water) makes sense. If you accostom yourself to a (predominantly) vegetarian diet you will feel more energetic.
An animal is less "foreign" to the human body, but therefore less work is done on the substance and more of this "foreignness" (insubstantial) is sluiced into our system in an intangible manner. It may be that many illnesses are stimulated by such intangibles... There is an aversion for pork in several religions, perhaps because the pig is a fairly intelligent animal, and has a body compatible to ours (think of organ transplants) but the thought of introducing its otherwise lower nature into our system is a very attractive idea. The fact that pork is very prone to transmitting bacterial infection adds to this.
At the same time, we learn, all things animal have a rigidifying or sclerotic effect upon us. To go into the esoteric details for this would go to far here, but modern science writes arterial sclerosis, cholesterol problems, heart disease, and even simpler symptoms like constipation down to unsensible meat consumption. Equally, there are colonic diseases which react unfavourably to plant matter (celiac disease notably or Crohn’s): it takes a lot of esoteric science to explain why a diet based on meat (typical for industrialised countries) ultimatel needs to be reversed if we are not to regress spiritually. Clues to the spiritualising nature of a vegetarian diet can be found int the popularity of vegetarianism with monks, yogis, and spiritual teachers (notably vedic tradition and Buddhism, but also the sober Cistercians e.g.).
To put it very esoterically, the flesh of another living being dries one out, in a sense, shrivelling up the spiritual buds; even atheists or humanists have this spiritual potential which can go to ruin, and often activism or extreme dietary theory is some counterbalance for generations of cerebreal motivations (to eat meat).
Can we really find our meat-industry or even fishery ennobling? Few will condone battery chickens, yet, most countries still have this method of rearing dominate the industry. May we note the overriding reluctance iin modern man to hunt, kill, hack, skin, etc, an animal for food oneself. Present in women even more so than men. This is another sign that meat belongs to a very earthy life, for which the male has been more purpose-built, originally.
The act of killing a living being is either a brutal or insensitive act or an act which is preceded by a spiritual conversation with oneself (moral justification) and performed with solemn respect for the other being’s sense of pain and position in the group (not a nursing, providing mother) – and there is usually the intuitive need for a ritual, as was commonplace with the ancient Greeks, for example, offering a portion of the animal upon the altar of the gods; and we can also point to kosher or halal slaughter.
In my own deliberations as to what makes better food in a range of choices, I believe we may be able to distinguish between happy (juicy) meat and sad meat which dries you out all the more. I feel, a fish in free waters may be "juicier" than one aqua-farmed, eventhough, there are green concerns about over-fishing in open seas. If I am to eat a fish, then I would rather honor its life to the full and use it as the bringer of great cosmic tidings to my subtle body, and not settle only on a tasty morsel. I am not sure the animal develops as "naturally"as it could in the ocean; and it may lose a quality of life (energetically speaking) in a basin.
This to illustrate how one can flirt with ethical points of view as intricately as one likes. A lot of the information out there can be biased or inaccurate.
Consumer demands must change. But they will not fundamentally unless we become more aware of our OWN nutritional needs from a more holistic overview. This bella-vista must be morally upright or give note of some kind of spiritual hygiene, in order to be a view you can stand over proudly. Once you close your own front door, and are faced with preparing a meal, the brutal cattle sheds and carcinogenic pesticides are soon forgotten. As you already have indicated yourself, it is not so easy to change one’s ways just to do the right thing (and not be party to wrong things). We all appease our conscious in such sneaky, small ways.
The best thing you can do if you are happy to include (white) meat and fish in your diet is to become aware marginally of animal rights and ecological issues and choose organic and local products. Think of the farmers, the land (eco systems), the carbon emissions etc and choose fair-trade or farmer’s market products, if you can. It may not keep everyone in business but it’s great for your personal karma!
I would argue, that all farm animals are "red" meat, for the same type of blood/organ systems that determine their nature, and I would make a clearer division between four footed animals and the rest rather than anything to do with cloven hooves, or colour on your plate. Then again, what about crocodile, snake, osterrich and dog? Common meats in other parts of the world. Or game (hare, rabbit, partridge, pheasant, venison etc). Were does one draw the line? And why? Esoterically we then also look at the very nature of the animal (what does it eat, what kind of intelligence or predisposition does it show). This is to emphasise the cow over the beef, the deer over the venison.
Having decided which animals are okay for you, one can next turn to labelling of the cuts you buy. One must remain critical of eco-certifications. My interest in bio-dynamics has me double check on which corners might be cut; I remain vigillant of sub-standard organic farming. People are not stupid, especially not if they have made an effort to learn and spend a lot to change their ways, and a sixth sense tends to kick in, so soon, we will all become more critical. I even expect a new hesitation and perhaps a growing fatigue with this new wave of environmental awareness and health consciousness for a bit, while we sort out the real truth of what direction we need to move into. We may need a new understanding of ourselves first, and it will have to be one which is based on highly sensitive self-knowledge.
Despite some troubling developments, I am optimistic that, on the whole, we have become much more spiritual about diet since since the Flower Power days, when vegetarianism was introduced more widely into the west (including animal rights activisim etc). Notwithstanding, gluttony and hedonism are rife, and obesity, diabetes, or organ failure related to poor diet as well as wastefulness of resources, pollution, and animal cruelty are symptoms of an anti-spiritual, selfish and ignorant (negligent and inert) disposition. And on the other hand we find extreme types of diet, such as veganism, raw-food, fructarianism, and even liquidarianism, fasting, or inedianism (no food or drink, ever, at all!). But this continuum of extremes is ususally a sign of a pendulum newly pushed into motion, and it will simply take a while before we even out our approach to healthy, spiritualised eating and we collectively become more conscious of what it is to be man – and how to become a BETTER man.
Illnesses serve as prompts (to get better). Once we begin to work on self-improvement, it is hard not to continue. But there may be many ups and downs, and lengthy periods of stagnation. That is all good. Since you have embarked on the path of critical inquiry into what makes the right diet for you, I feel it is appropirate to leave you with a few more pointers on the difference between including and excluding animal flesh from your diet. I restrict myself to Anthroposophical musings, presented by Rudolf Steiner, in an attempt to find a suitable diet for cancer patients.
Man originally became a meat eater, because this nourishment serves to help bind man better to earth. This was necessary in the past when man was more spiritual (think of pre-Christian times). The iron found in the blood of mammals is an incarnating metal. Anaemia proves this point (not enough iron makes us feeble, ungrounded, faint and pale). We associate meat more easily with a male diet (vikings or medieval knights gnawing away at racks and joints of meat!), and indeed the male is more often partial to meat than the female, with a greater need of iron, and a more physical (musclar) being .
There is a classic anatomical factor which determines whether you are a meat-eating type: a longer intestine maked a good vegetarian digestive tool (and often belong to people with agrarian, peasant stock genes). But a more spiritual factor is to look at the temperament of a person. Food can harmonise the 4 tempraments (the Ayurvedic nutritional philosophy works with 3 main constitutions).
Animal foods influence our nerve-sense system predominantly. The blood tends to thicken. Vegetable sustenance will not irritate or overly-stimulate this system. So people under stress are wise to cut back on all animal flesh – to free themselves of a more automated, lower nature. One finds indiginous, tribal people with an overridingly vegetarian diet to be less bellicose; their courage and ingenuity is often more creative and self-reflective.
Indeed, you hit the nail on the head, cutting out all meat does require much inventivity and study (cookbooks, trying out new products, reading up on nutritional needs). It is never just about attaining a new result, and any health benefits largely lie in the process of changing your own consciousness and sustaining a new effort. Indeed, it is probably quite healthy to experiment with your diet a few times in your life. Each experiment would have to begin mildly and span an extensive period of time. One must acclamatise. In this light, it sounds very wise how you started off slowly with just cutting out the red meat. This is an organic and intuitive approach which will lead you towards a very honest self-appraisal and keep you interested in the many issues involved in dietary choices.
If you are specifically interested in the type of diet that may best support recovery from cancer, it is a lot more complicated. We could need to take a look at earth-binding and lunar-influenced foods and avoid these. Cancer is often a call to take a more spiritual attitude to life and consider yourself in a more imponderable and eternal light. But I shall leave it at this, for now, encouraging your inquiries without feeling specifically compelled to persuade you to go any step further with your abstinence.
I hope I have given you some food for thought as to where and why you might one day like to make more nuances to your diet. I remain open to any further questions if you should ever come up with of any.
Wishing you all the very best, and may you continue to recover with optimism.
Enjoy whatever you eat, and celebrate these daily blessings!
My warmest regards,