cholesterol, diet, and choices

I have said for a couple years now that I am morally, ethically, and emotionally a vegetarian ~ but my taste buds are complete carnivore. —Boston Pobble

I often joke that I only eat meat because it generally comes to me in a way that bears no reminder of the animals themselves. —Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

I am envious of people who can thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Wish it were me! I Love all things veggie, and only eat meat to feel better. —Lea Ann Savage, the Vitamix Lady, writing about metabolic types

  • My friend Lynn lost a lot of weight after joining an Overeaters Anonymous group that advocates the elimination of all refined flour and refined sugar from one’s diet and by diligently following that regimen.  She eats beef and chicken, even though her husband is a vegetarian for ethical reasons.
  • Mollie Katzen, the famed writer of vegetarian cookbooks, admits that she eats meat because her metabolism requires it.

When I had my physical in late August, my doctor, who loves to brag about being a pescatarian with ideal cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, made the point that if you do choose to eat meat, it doesn’t really make any difference if it’s chicken, beef, or pork. There’s no virtue in choosing chicken over beef, he said. And if you look at it from a strictly cholesterol perspective, that’s true. You really have to look at the individual cut of meat. There are some cuts of beef that have lower cholesterol than some cuts of chicken.

Here’s a more or less random sampling from the USDA database.

food cholesterol per 3 oz serving
Beef, flank, steak, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, choice, cooked, braised 60
Pork, fresh, loin, whole, separable lean only, cooked, braised 67
Pork, fresh, loin, tenderloin, separable lean and fat, cooked, broiled 80
Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, enhanced, raw 50
Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted 72

Now there are other considerations. From a Frances Moore Lappé Diet for a Small Planet perspective, it takes a lot more grain to make an ounce of protein in a cow than it does in a chicken. But still, I have to admit that I think my doctor has a point and that there is no real virtue in eating chicken rather than beef. And Lappé’s point, after all, is not that you should eat chicken rather than beef, but rather that you should eliminate meat from your diet altogether.

There’s no general agreement as to whether everyone could be a vegetarian if they put their mind to it. What I infer from my doctor’s comments is that he thinks everyone can. Donna, moderator of the very active Yahoo! Vegetarian Group firmly believes that to be the case. On the other hand, note Lea Ann’s comment above and my notes about Mollie Katzen and my friend Lynn. There does seem to be a case that some people, at least, have metabolisms that require meat.

I have to say that I resonate very much with both Boston Pobble’s and Fran’s comments. I am very sensitive to both the ecological and ethical arguments and am very sympathetic to the vegetarian perspective, but I do enjoy my meat.

It is an issue with which I have been struggling for years, and for which I am not likely to find resolution soon.