From carnivore to semi-vegetarian

IN MY childhood years in Antique, my late mother would often come home from the market with fresh beef which she would cook on different days in different ways.  I loved la-uya or beef stew with bone marrow, now better known as bulalo.

In the 1970s when I was working as an entertainment-beat reporter and columnist in Metro Manila, I loved attending press conferences. Those where the days when the late Dr. Jose Perez would serve meaty lunches – beef and pork concoctions – at his Sampaguita Pictures’ compound on Valencia Street, Quezon City. Rarely were vegetables served, but so what? In those days, I had to force myself to eat vegetable meals. I had no appetite for them.

It’s the other way around today. I may not like the taste of certain vegetable preparations, but I’d always eat them, albeit without eliminating minimal meat.

I have no alternative but this semi-vegetarian lifestyle. More than a decade ago, my chest x-ray revealed that I was suffering from atherosclerotic aorta. There was a time when I thought I was dying of heart disease due to unprecedented dizziness, body weakness and muscle pains. My doctor said that as a senior citizen, I should slow down on meat and other fatty foods if I wanted to live longer. Thus, I resolved to be a semi-vegetarian because I could not stand the thought of meat abstention.

Resisting expensive drugs that could induce side effects, I decided to spend more time reading books and articles on vegetarianism. I read that strict adherence to vegetarian diet could reverse inflammation of the arteries. I complied half-way – no “strict adherence” for me, since it’s healthful to eat fish. Occasional beef or pork I find unavoidable.

Historically, vegetarianism sprang from philosophical and religious beliefs. Followers of Hinduism and Buddhism have for centuries avoided animal flesh because of the belief in the sacredness of life and the reincarnation of souls into the bodies of other animate beings. The Seventh-Day Adventists preach vegetarianism purely for better health. The Roman Catholic Trappist monks also practice vegetarianism for a different reason: to fulfill vows of austerity and self-sacrifice.

Modern vegetarianism entered public consciousness during the 19th century, specifically in 1847 with the establishment of the Vegetarian Society in Great Britain, which also taught that killing animals is both cruel and unnecessary; and that using available land to raise vegetables, grains and fruits instead of livestock makes better economic and ecological sense.

Today, scientific studies show that diets rich in fatty animal foods may contribute to the early development of diseases, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

The plant-based diet has the advantage of being low in saturated fats, cholesterol and salt, but most vegetables can be lacking in essential nutrients received from meat, fish and poultry. The good news, however, is that certain grains like mongo are as rich in protein as meat. An excellent substitute for milk is fortified soy bean.

In the United States, the American Dietetic Association recommends that vegetarians take vitamin and mineral supplements always. Advantages aside vegetarians risk having low levels of certain nutrients which they should be careful to include. Plant foods are naturally lacking in Vitamin B12. So, vegans who avoid dairy products and eggs need a regular source of this vitamin.

Many Hollywood stars have publicly embraced vegetarianism. To quote Alice Silverstone, “Since I’ve gone vegetarian, my taste buds have opened up to a whole new world.”

As a semi-vegetarian, I see to it that I eat fruits and vegetables with each meat meal. (


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