Monday, April 9, 2018

The Case Against Vegetarianism

Vegetables, it turns out, in some instances, can be harder to digest than dairy and milk.

I recently had another diverticulitis attack - after having eaten a falafel sandwich with a side of hummus.  That's a double-dose of chick peas, or as some call them, garbanzo beans.  Falafel is basically ground chick peas, deep fried.  Hummus is, well, chick peas, ground up with some olive oil.   Tasty.   I love falafel.  Falafel no longer loves me.

My last run-in with falafel was at the New York State Fair.   King David's - a restaurant on the Syracuse University campus I used to frequent when I was a student there - had a booth at the fair.  I had a falafel sandwich for old time's sake and in a few days, I was in a hospital in Alexandria Bay, New York, in deep pain, having a cat scan, which illustrated how irritated my lower intestine was.

What gives?

As it turns out, some vegetables are pretty indigestible, at least initially.  And chick peas, in particular, are hard to digest.   You read that right, some vegtables are very hard for people - particularly some people - to digest.  This cracks me up, as vegetarians are always telling me that the human body "wasn't designed to digest dairy or meat" - as if they had an in with the designer and knew the score.   And yes, meat can be hard to digest, too, particularly in large quantities.   But so can vegetables.  From the link above:

Beans contain a category of sugar called oligosaccharides. The types you find in garbanzo include raffinose, ciceritol, and stachyose (4). Unlike grains, these are hard for our bodies to digest. 
They are too large to be absorbed in the small intestine, so they pass on through to the large intestine – where your gut flora will ferment them to break them down. 
This fermentation results in the production of gas, including hydrogen and methane (which smells awful). While some people fart less than others after eating chickpeas, no one gets a free pass. 
This is because all humans lack the enzymes necessary for digesting them any other way. Many mammals can break them down just fine – with 100% of it occurring higher up in the small intestine (5). But we as humans can’t and never will be able to.

Fascinating stuff.  Your body can't digest this stuff, but instead has to rely on a symbiotic reaction with some bacteria in your "gut" to break down these sugars through fermentation (hence the farting).  If your body lacks the correct bacteria - whoops.

But it just isn't chick peas, but a lot of beans and other legumes.  Nuts also, can be hard to digest for some folks.  And then there are root vegetables.   Our "farm share" lady gave us some sun chokes, which are the bulbs of some ditch lillies, I believe.   Both Mark and I ended up bedridden for two days with severe stomach cramps, after eating them.  Later on, we found out they can be very difficult to digest and can cause gastrointestinal distress.

But wait, vegetables?  Vegetables are good for you!  And every vegetarian and particularly vegan has lectured me on the evils of meat.  Meat kills you, they tell me.  Meat causes all the problems in the world.  Meat eaters cause wars, sexual harassment, violent crime, rape, and even voting Republican.  It's worse than bread!  And I am serious about this - vegetarians I know have said these things to me.  Evil Meat!  Horrific Dairy!  Destroying the world and causing global warming with all those cow farts!

What about vegan farts?   Apparently there are a lot of them.

The point is, extremism never works.  This whole idea of "eat one thing, but never eat another" makes no sense.  And in finances, the same is true.  People seek out gurus to tell them the one secret to wealth - as if you could pull one lever and make all your dreams come true.   But you can't.

The real answer is like food.  The answer isn't in eat-all-of-this and none-of-that.  Being gluten-free isn't going to transform you overnight.  Going meat-free isn't either.  The answer to accumulating wealth isn't just "save money" but also "cut expenses".   And this means a little of this, and a little of that - and constantly evaluating what you are earning, saving, and spending - and realizing you will make mistakes over time.

But over time, things accumulate.  Moss grows on a rolling stone.   And wealth accumulates.

I'm not saying I'll never have falafel again.  But maybe next time, just a little bit, instead.

Kicking back broth!