Kind viewers, this is Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. Today, we will meet Dr. Eric Slywitch, a medical doctor and nutrition expert in Brazil who follows a raw vegan diet. He is also the author of “Nourishment Without Meat”, a book on eating in a nutritionally sound manner. (Alimentação Sem Carne)
While studying martial arts as a young teen, Dr. Slywitch noticed that his teachers did not eat meat and were strong and healthy. He thus adopted the meatless diet at the age of 14. From that point on, he was determined to understand the role of plant-based foods in optimizing health.
After attending medical school and receiving his degree, Dr. Slywitch did postgraduate work in clinical nutrition. Today, Dr. Slywitch oversees matters relating to diet and nutrition at two hospitals in São Paulo, Brazil and serves as a coordinator for the Multidisciplinary Nutritional Therapy team at Santa Marina Hospital. He informs other physicians and nutritionists about nutrition therapy and the benefits of the vegan, meaning animal-free way of life. Dr. Slywitch also directs the Brazilian Vegetarian Society’s Department of Medicine and Nutrition and is a Svatântrya Yoga teacher.
The following is the program featuring Supreme Master Television’s interview with Dr. Slywitch.
Supreme Master TV: So, tell me, what exactly is it to be a vegetarian?
Dr. Slywitch:A vegetarian is a person whose nourishment comes from sources that do not include the death of an animal. So, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat any kind of meat: no cows, no pigs, no chicken, no fish, no snails, whatever. So, this is the common point in all vegetarian diets. Those who eat no animal products at all are called strict vegetarians. In nutritional terms, vegans and strict vegetarians have a similar diet, but vegans also do not use any kind of products from animal origin. So, a person who is a vegan will use no leather in his or her clothes, no silk, no wool. Such a person will look for cosmetics that were not tested on animals, and all products that involves neither animal contact nor animal suffering.
Supreme Master TV: From your experience, what are the reasons that make people become vegetarians?
Dr. Slywitch:Basically, there are three reasons for people to be vegetarian: The first reason in Brazil is for ethical reasons. We have some studies that show that more than 50% of the people become vegetarian for ethical reasons. In my clinic, that percentage is even higher. Seventy to eighty percent of people who go to my clinic are vegetarians for ethical reasons. What is ethics in this case? The person considers the animal as a being entitled to his rights, and the main right is the right not to suffer. So, raising animals for meat, milk or related products causes animal suffering. Therefore, under this point of view, those people refuse to take part in this process. This is the ethical view.
The second reason is health. And this reason is really strong because we have many published studies that evaluate vegetarian people’s health and prove that the benefits are outstanding compared to people who eat meat. The third is the environmental reason, which is getting really strong nowadays, because of more and more evident changes in the planet. That is because raising animals brings an environmental impact! And we have data from FAO publications that give us very clear data to prove this. So first, from all human activities involving food production, livestock is the main source of environmental degradation, contamination of water resources and production of toxic greenhouse gases.
And another very interesting point that the FAO reports show is that, of all agricultural areas on the planet, 30% goes to livestock and another 36% goes to food production for livestock, so 66% of all agricultural areas of the planet are being used for livestock.
So, this causes a lot of impact, not to mention that if you take the area used for livestock and use it to grow other foods like grains, you will get tons and tons of food versus some kilos of animal meat.
HOST: What do we need to do to make sure we are meeting our nutritional needs? We’ll find out when Healthy Living returns with more from Dr. Eric Slywitch of Brazil. You’re watching Supreme Master Television.
HOST: Thanks for rejoining us on Healthy Living for our discussion on dietary choices with vegan nutrition expert and physician Dr. Eric Slywitch from Brazil. What should a person following a vegetarian or vegan diet keep in mind to ensure their body is nutritionally in balance?
Supreme Master TV: So, let us discuss about health now. If a person has chosen to be vegetarian. From now on, do he or she need to take special care of the health needs or it’s simply taking meat off the diet and that’s it?
Dr. Slywitch:It depends. A person who eats meat yet has diverse and balanced eating habits will have good health from the moment that she takes out the meat. The main substitute of meat that we can consider are beans. They contain adequate amounts of protein, iron and zinc. So, the consumption of beans would be a primary issue. A person without an adequate diet will need some adjustments to have a healthier diet. These adjustments are easy to make, nothing complicated, really easy. So, there are issues that deserve care in a vegetarian diet, but generally it is very easy to be adopted.
Supreme Master TV: Separating myths from truths, the first thing people ask is, “You don’t eat protein?”
Dr. Slywitch:This is one of the biggest myths that exists about the vegetarian diet. Studies with human beings show that it’s completely okay and viable for you to keep a diet only of vegetable protein without any problem. We have no scientific studies published with any vegetarian population showing lack of protein. In the clinic, I never saw a vegetarian patient with lack of protein. I do blood tests to evaluate this and really, there is no deficiency. This is a myth about the vegetarian diet and it’s about time we start to change our views, for such old-fashioned ideas make no sense.
Supreme Master TV: And what about other nutrients?Are there any which are more important for vegetarians, which need more attention, like iron, for example?
Dr. Slywitch:Well, iron is a nutrient that is really in the news. Everyone has to be careful about iron, vegetarian or not. It is estimated that one-third of the world population suffer from lack of iron. Iron is a mineral that has a really difficult absorption and we can get it in two forms: It can come protected, so when you consume iron it is in a protected ring, which we call heme iron.
There is another form of iron without this protection ring, which we call non-heme iron, and it suffers more challenges in its absorption. So, for example, if you consume it with vitamin C, you absorb it well. If consumed with coffee or black tea, the absorption won’t be good.
We have scientific studies that evaluated ingestion of iron in vegetarians and non-vegetarians showing two important points: First, absorption of iron quantity in vegetarians is greater or equal to the people who eat meat, so the myth that the vegetarian diet is poor in iron is really a myth. And the second point, vegetarians tend to consume almost twice the vitamin C than people who eat meat, which really facilitates the absorption of this iron. And the final point of this discussion is scientific revision studies about the lack of iron in people who eat meat and in vegetarians. These studies show the same thing; that is, there is no difference in quantity of vegetarians in terms of percentages of having anemia and in people that eat meat. It’s the same. So, it’s a myth.
Another crucial point for vegetarians deserving a lot of attention is vitamin B12. This vitamin is only produced by bacteria; no animal can produce it. The good news is that we have a storage of the vitamin in our liver that can last years. All vegetarian pregnant women and children should take B12 supplements. And in adults, we have to keep an eye on the levels of B12 in the blood, so that the person may choose to take B12 supplements with frequency or only when needed. Those supplements may be taken orally. You can get an injection too, which is very practical. If the person has adequate levels of the vitamin, one injection every six months or a year is enough for your B12 necessity. It is found in any pharmacy, it’s cheap. So, it is a very convenient way for you to control your vitamin B12 level.
Supreme Master TV (f): I am a strict vegetarian, can I simply go ask for a vitamin B12 injection? Will I have any problem?
Dr. Slywitch:No, no problem. There are no reports about B12 being toxic. That is, if your B12 level is already good and you take a big dose of B12, there has been no research showing that you’ll have intoxication. But the best measure to take is to know the B12 level in your blood. If your level is low, then you need to first restore it to the normal level, and you may need several applications of B12 till you reach the normal level. And after that, you only do maintenance. So, it is important to know how your level is, so that you can decide to take B12 to restore your level or just do maintenance because the dosages are different in these cases.
Dr. Slywitch: We can say that the vegetarian diet is the best method of health promotion. There are many reasons for this. Removing meat is not the only issue. In general, we find that vegetarians are those with much better nutritional awareness. So these people also have a tendency to eat better - more wholesome food, more fruits, and vegetables. So there is this concept in the vegetarian diet that the person has a better intake of food in terms of quality and quantity.
HOST: He offers excellent advice on how to switch to a vegan, meaning animal-free diet and provides valuable information on the many associated health benefits of not eating meat.
Dr. Slywitch: Calcium is also very important for us to keep track of. It is not enough to know only the amount of calcium in the food, but also its bio-availability. That is, how much you can absorb by eating that food.
So the main concern is being able to have foods that have a better absorption of calcium in good quantity. Among them, we have tofu. Its percentage of calcium is the same as milk, 30%. And when you compare calories between cheese and tofu, 100 calories each, the amount of calcium is very similar. There is a group of plants that are called cruciferous or brassica. When you eat these plants, you can absorb up to 60% of the calcium contained. In our standard cuisine, we have cruciferous plants like broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, mustard greens. They have good absorption and also a good percentage of calcium. Other than these leafy vegetables, cress and rock cress are also important, escarole or chicory too.
HOST: Dr. Slywitch gave some examples from real life research demonstrating that vegetarians avoid many of the chronic diseases which afflict meat eaters today.
Dr. Slywitch: There are many studies evaluating the health of vegetarians. They are large population studies.
So, in general, what do these studies show? Cardiovascular diseases, right? A compilation of five studies comprising of 76,000 people, showed that men had a 30% reduction in vascular diseases like heart attacks, for example, and women of 20% when compared to meat eaters. Regarding cholesterol levels when comparing people who eat meat, the ovo-lacto-vegetarian has a reduction of around 14% and the strict vegetarian around 35%. There is no method that is so amazing in reducing cholesterol like the adoption of a strict vegetarian diet.
HOST: The good doctor also cited another study involving members of the 7th Day Adventist Church, most of whom do not eat meat and avoid intoxicants.
Dr. Slywitch: About other evaluated illnesses, there was a study was published on them, with 34,000 Adventist people. So, they were able to exclude tobacco addiction and consumption of alcohol? They are risk factors. It was observed that: people who eat meat had a 88% higher chance of having large intestine cancer, and 54% higher chance of prostate cancer. These two cancers stood out, even though others showed reductions too. These two were the most significant ones. The people who ate meat in these studies had twice the incidence rate of diabetes of vegetarian people.
HOST: Dr. Slywitch helps people understand that no matter how busy they are, eating healthy is not a challenge.
Dr. Slywitch: Every day I see people with a very busy and hurried life. They want to be vegetarians, but they face some difficulties because they are busy every day. As my own life is very busy, I offer some help.
Well, let us think of a menu close to what Brazilians prepare, okay? There are many other exotic and different combinations as well, but let us think in practical terms. The morning meal, for instance, can be whole wheat bread. We can easily find breads with 100% whole wheat flour. And what goes with it? There are also many possibilities. You can make tofu paste, for example. The tofu ends up being the base of the paste, and we can season it with many things. So you can add olives, dried tomatoes, ginger, and carrots. You can make pastes with different flavors and spread it on the bread. You can use tahini, which is sesame butter mixed with sugar cane molasses, for instance, whose flavor reminds one of peanut butter. So this would give a nicely prepared sandwich. To drink, one could prepare natural fruit juice but add to the juice by putting green leaves in the juice, like for example, peppermint, cabbage, and cress. So a person can make their own orange juice with these leaves and drink this. You can even add calcium in this drink.
HOST: If you are still hungry a bit after eating in the morning, but it is not yet time for lunch, what should you reach for?
Dr. Slywitch: For a morning snack, there are many possibilities. One can eat a wholesome cookie which we can find in markets. There are rice cookies, which are wholesome rice without fat, not fried, and has nuts, almonds, pistachios, fresh fruit, dried fruit. There is the Swedish bread, for example, that you can carry around easily as if it were a cookie, that you can take anywhere. If a person is out in the streets and happens to pass by a bakery to order a shake, but instead of milk, orange juice and a piece of avocado can be added instead to the juice. So, there are some practical possibilities a person can use.
HOST: Dr. Slywitch then moved onto lunch and gave some terrific suggestions.
Dr. Slywitch: For lunch, a basic dish, right? Like a strict vegetarian dish, you take the plate and divide in half. One half you put salad, with emphasis on darker green vegetables like rock cress, cress, broccoli - so larger and darker greens. The other half of the plate you divide in half, you can put grains, especially the wholesome ones. So it can be corn or wholesome rice or wheat grain, if you can get it. In some places, you’ll find wholesome spaghetti. And the other part would be foods richer in protein, like beans. Beans of the Brazilian kind are the most popular. So it would be a main component that you would use. It could be the tofu, could be nuts, almonds and so forth.
For dessert, one could eat fruit. A juice drink would be closer to the style of Brazilian cuisine. The afternoon snack can follow the guidelines for the morning snack.
HOST: A Brazilian style vegan dinner is definitely something to look forward to!
Dr. Slywitch: The dinner can follow the same proportion for lunch. But many people like a snack or soup, so you can use the same proportions to make this into a snack or soup. So, for example, half of the plate continues being salad, the other half that would be of wholesome grains or, say, wholesome bread. And the part that would be beans, one can put hummus, for instance, which is a paste made of chickpeas with tahini and a little garlic. So, it is already a combination of the grains and the foods richer in protein. One can make soup, pea soup, lentil soup, using grains as a base and adding vegetables, with legumes in the soup.
So, like this, you have a basic idea of a menu. This would be a guide for a healthy menu, especially focus on the pure vegetarian food.
HOST: We thank Dr. Eric Slywitch for providing his invaluable expertise on keeping our bodies nutritionally balanced and healthy with the plant-based diet.
Dr. Slywitch: My name is Eric. I’m a physician, a specialist in nutrition, and a vegetarian for sixteen years. The vegetarian diet is not only an appropriate diet, but highly recommended. So, be veg, go green, and save the planet.
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"Nourishment Wothout Meat", Please visit