|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 217 ]
A study of the physiology of the human digestive tract plainly reveals that it resembles that of other herbivores within the animal kingdom, not that of carnivores. In short, we are not built to properly digest meat!
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The book Food For The Spirit, Vegetarianism in the World Religions, points out that "many nutritionists, biologists and physiologists offer convincing evidence that humans are in fact not meant to eat flesh."
Some of those convincing arguments also include the fact that physiologically, people are more akin to plant-eaters. For example, carnivores (meat-eaters) do not sweat through their skin, and body heat is controlled by rapid breathing and extrusion of the tongue. Vegetarian animals, on the other hand, have sweat pores for heat control and the elimination of impurities.
As well, carnivores have long teeth and claws for holding and killing prey. Vegetarian animals have short teeth and no claws.
Furthermore, the saliva of carnivores contains no ptyalin and cannot predigest starches. Saliva of vegetarian animals and humans contains ptyalin for the predigesting of starches. Flesh-eating animals secrete large quantities of hydrochloric acid as well to help dissolve bones in their diet, which vegetarian animals and humans do not. This book continues:
"There are many such comparisons, and in each case humans fit the vegetarian physiognomy. From a strictly physiological perspective then, there are strong arguments that humans are not suited to a fleshy diet."
A group of eminent doctors called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), founded in America in 1985, has gathered to change the U.S. consciousness on human nutrition. The PCRM, supported by thousands of physicians and tens of thousands lay persons states in their literature:
"A vegetarian diet has been advocated by everyone from philosophers such as Plato and Nietzsche, to political leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Gandhi, to modern pop icons such as Paul McCartney and Bob Marley. Science is also on the side of vegetarian foods. A multitude of studies have proven the health benefits of a vegetarian diet to be remarkable."
The PCRM literature also lists a host of health benefits of a vegetarian diet, including the following:
The yogi would find nothing new in these assertions, as the cultural and medical traditions of India have known full well the health benefits of a vegetarian diet for millennia...
- Preventing cancer: "Numerous epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that vegetarians are nearly 50% less likely to die from cancer than non vegetarians."
- Preventing heart disease and lowering blood pressure.
- Preventing and reversing diabetes.
- Preventing and alleviating gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis.
- Preventing and alleviating asthma.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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