Beyond Broccoli: Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work
By Susan Schenck, Lac
Much confusion exists today concerning what constitutes a healthy diet. Fad diets come and go, many of which are politically and economically motivated. Since our food supply has become centralized, (created, shipped and stored for us) people have gradually lost the natural instincts to forage for and to raise natural unprocessed foods. This unnatural separation from our food supply has dulled our intuitive faculties, resulted in poor food choices, and has produced a world of physical, spiritual and emotional suffering.
In the book “Beyond Broccoli”, the author, Susan Schenck, tackles the controversial and increasingly popular diet trends: vegetarianism and veganism. Having been a strict vegan for 6 years, followed by a year of vegetarianism, Schenck began experiencing health problems which she later attributed to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies produced by her exclusion of animal based protein. Beyond Broccoli is written from this unique perspective of experience and gradual deterioration of health.
The author divides the book into five major sections, each section consisting of several chapters. The sections included are: 1. The Vegetarian Mystique 2. Evolution of the Human Diet. 3. Finding Balance in Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins. 4. Morality, Spirituality and Sustainability of Eating Meat. 5. What’s for Dinner?
In chapter one Schenck shares her personal experience when following a raw vegan diet. While the author feels that veganism and vegetarianism are valuable aides in short term detoxification, she has experienced first hand that these diets, which exclude most or all animal protein, are not healthy long term solutions for most people. She relates to us how in the beginning of her vegan experience she gained abundant energy and felt very healthy. Schenck now feels that this increased feeling of well being was due to the detoxifying nature of a plant based diet….and that it is the long term exclusion of animal products that begins to take it’s toll on many. I found this to be an important point for those considering embarking on a vegan or vegetarian diet. After several years of excluding animal protein, Schenck’s health gradually began to deteriorate. She discusses some of her symptoms and talks about the vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which she feels, may have caused these symptoms.
The author covers the myths surrounding vegetarianism and has researched into the origins of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Weston Price was very interested in the primitive groups who ate very minimal animal foods or none at all. Schenck shares with us a quote by Weston Price that reveals what he discovered in his research.
“ As yet I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods. I have found in many parts of the world most devout representatives of modern ethical systems advocating the restriction of foods to the vegetable products. In every instance where the groups involved had been long under the teaching, I found evidence of degeneration in the form of abnormal dental arches to an extent very much higher than in the primitive groups who were not under this influence.”
The author advocates balance in the diet and encourages the consumption of animal protein (sometimes raw), healthy fats, nuts, berries, plenty of fresh and preferably raw vegetables, apples and berries. She also thoroughly discusses why she feels the addition of grains to the diet should be limited. Schenck’s opinons are based on research and she backs up all of her ideas with documentation.
The book also includes detailed and interesting discussions focused on the politics of agriculture, the sustainablility of raising animals for food, the quality of protein in animal products versus the protein found in grains and vegetables, what specific foods are especially good for brain function, and the digestibility of different foods. Another important topic covered is diabetes. Schenck links the exponential rise in diabetes to the emphasis on grains, and other high carbohydrate foods, in the American diet.
The author also includes the sensitive issue of the morality or ethics of eating meat. I thought she made an interesting point when she speaks of the long drawn out chase when animals hunt each other down in the wild and the fear that the animal being chased must be experiencing. She compares this scenario to animals that are more quickly and hopefully humanely killed by humans. Schenck expresses it this way… “We should raise animals on farms in natural sunlight, letting them express their animal beingness. It is said, “Let them have only one bad day in their lives,” the day in which they die. This day is unavoidable, domesticated or wild. Such animals on a traditional farm will live longer than they do in the wild and suffer less tortuous deaths.” We are also reminded that the world is set up in a way that all life feeds off of other life and that by denying this fact we are denying nature’s wisdom. When we disregard nature’s laws we will always suffer the consequences.
Schenck hopes that after reading her book vegans and vegetarians will try to include at least some animal protein into their diets. However, realizing that not everyone will want to do this, she includes a section advising what foods vegetarians and vegans should include and avoid.
I found “Beyond Broccoli” to be a very comprehensive and important examination of the subject of what we should be eating and why. It is equally important for us to understand how politics, population, and economics influence government nutritional advice. Schenck has done an excellent job in revealing the probable motivations behind nutritional propaganda. If we can understand these factors which influence what we eat then we will be better armed in determining what diet advice we should incorporate into our lives. I found “Beyond Broccoli” to be a very enjoyable and informative book which should be of interest to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.