Vegetables, save us!

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Want to feel healthier and help fight global warming? Go vegetarian or vegan!

When I stopped eating meat in February 2005, my indigestion disappeared, I lost 15 pounds and I had more energy. Three years later, all of those things are still true. So when my omnivore friends complain about being tired or that their stomach hurts or they want to lose weight, I suggest cutting meat out of their diet. For the ones who listen, that usually does the trick.

Statistics consistently show that vegetarians and vegans live longer, healthier lives than their meat-eating counterparts. Cholesterol from meat, dairy and eggs clog omnivores’ arteries, increasing risks of heart attacks, and heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States.

June 7-14 is Try Vegan Week PDX, so don’t procrastinate! This Northwest Veg-sponsored event offers vegan lectures, grocery store tours, a movie screening of Earthlings! narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and mentoring for omnivores on how to become herbivores the healthy way. The best part? All of the events are free, except for the vegan prom “Purple Rain” that is Friday, June 13 at the Secret Society Ballroom. Visit www.tryveganpdx.com for a detailed list of events.

If you are too busy with finals, contact www.peta.org for a free vegetarian starter kit. Portland is the best city in the United States to be vegan because there are a ton of delicious food choices. Food Fight, New Seasons and Whole Foods keep vegetarians and vegans well fed with tons of delicious grocery options. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are listed at www.nwveg.org, www.vegdining.com and www.happycow.net.

Also, many of your favorite restaurants can be “veganized.” Thai food with tofu and vegetable sushi are some of my personal favorites, as well as Burgerville’s new, local and vegan Harvest Burger. Just ask the restaurant if you’re not sure about their vegan and vegetarian options or if certain items contain animal products. The cashier or waitress may give you a bewildered look for a moment but most are more than happy to go ask the cooks if they have any doubts.

Not only will your body thank you, so will the environment. At www.goveg.com, there are several astonishing statistics about how not eating meat combats global warming. Just one of these eye-popping factoids is that eating one pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving a Hummer 40 miles. Animal agriculture, a huge industry raising billions of animals, causes an enormous amount of methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Both gases are several times worse for the environment than the carbon dioxide emitted by trucks that haul the meat across the country to grocery stores. Therefore, eating local, organic produce rather than meat products takes us one step closer to counteracting global warming.

In addition to being the ethical and responsible thing to do, going vegan or vegetarian is also trendy. Actors from Kristen Bell to Pamela Anderson are vegetarians. Vegan cookbooks Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch have both rocked the New York Times’ bestseller list. Plus, Oprah Winfrey just announced that she is going to try being vegan with what she calls “the 21-day cleanse.” The vegan cookbooks and Oprah’s 21-day menu found at www.oprah.com will distill any fears that vegans “just eat rabbit food.” I have never seen a rabbit enjoy a Gardenburger followed by a Tofutti Cutie for dessert.

Go vegan or vegetarian to save the earth and to live a longer, healthier life. There’s absolutely nothing to lose, so try it. You might like it.

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