The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Be Smart. Eat Your Veggies

Never mind that business that soy products my might make your kid gay. If junior’s chowing down on tofu and turning up his nose at meat, it might just mean you’ve got a bright kid on your hands, according to a study suggesting that bright children are more likely to become vegetarians.

It’s official – vegetarians really are smarter. But it is not because of what they eat. Bright children are more likely to reject meat and opt to become vegetarians when they grow up, a study has shown. Clever veggies are born not made.

The finding helps explain how a team of vegetarians won the BBC Test the Nation competition in September, when they beat off competition from six other teams including butchers, public school pupils and footballers’ wives to achieve the highest overall IQ score.

… Researchers from the University of Southampton who conducted the study agree. They suggest that vegetarians are more thoughtful about what they eat. But they say it is unclear whether bright children choose to become vegetarians for the health benefits or for other reasons, such as a concern for animals, or as a lifestyle choice.

The scientists began investigating the link between IQ and vegetarianism because people with higher intelligence have a lower risk of heart disease, which has long puzzled doctors.

There are a few other interesting bits of information, including a finding that vegetarians are likely to be better educated and of “higher social class.” If you ask me, I think that makes sense in part because those two factors make more likely to be able to spend much time thinking about what you eat, and to put more effort in buying particular kinds of foods. You probably have a grocery store in your neighborhood, maybe even a Whole Foods, and/or transportation to get you there and back home.

But, it’s easier to eat healthy if you live in the suburbs, where there are grocery stores and health food stores, and have the money to spend. In other words, it’s easier to make healthier choices when healthier choices are readily available. When they’re not, it’s not.

The United States may be the land of plenty, but in many parts of the country–particularly the low-income neighborhoods–fresh fruits and vegetables are hard-to-find luxury items. Grocery chains resist opening stores where sales of high-markup gourmet products can’t be guaranteed, and they often close existing supermarkets in poor areas. For residents of these neighborhoods, the choice comes down to traveling long distances to buy groceries or shopping at expensive corner stores that sell high-fat, high-sugar convenience food and little or no fresh produce. The consequences are the wages of poverty: diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Or when you can’t afford to make them.

“It’s a question of money,” Drewnowski said. “The reason healthier diets are beyond the reach of many people is that such diets cost more. On a per calorie basis, diets composed of whole grains, fish, and fresh vegetables and fruit are far more expensive than refined grains, added sugars and added fats. It’s not a question of being sensible or silly when it comes to food choices, it’s about being limited to those foods that you can afford.”

… Many strategies for health promotion over the years have presumed that good nutrition was simply a matter of making the right choices. Drewnowski noted that access to healthier diets could be sharply limited in low-income neighborhoods simply because of the food environment and the nature of the available food supply.

“It is the opposite of choice,” Drewnowski said. “People are not poor by choice and they become obese primarily because they are poor.”

So, while I was a bit tickled by the “vegetarians are smarter” story line, I wanted to acknowledge there is a little more to the story. People make smarter choices not just because they’re smarter, but because those choices are within reach.

3 Comments

  1. I think another part of this problem is that some people do not know how to prepare basic meals from scratch. A pot of beans and some rice(paired with some frozen veggies) provide a lot of meals at a very low price. Add a few dry herbs and you can have a great meal. I would guess that there are some programs out there that attack the problem from this angle but I don’t know of any off of the top of my head. There is no better feeling that cooking your own meals.

  2. My hubby who eats vegetarian 90 percent of the time is always commenting that eating healthy costs a LOT more than eating junk.

    A burger, fries and a coke is half the price of a healthy salad. And far easier to find!

    We’re luckier than most because the Pacific Northwest is home to a lot of healthy restaurants and we can afford to eat there, in addition my cooking skills are such that I understand the amount of fat, starch or protein of a dish I’m cooking.

    Others aren’t so lucky. If you drive across this once great nation it would be difficult to find healthy food served in restaurants as you travel, but I can assure you there’s a McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen or fast food outlet at every freeway exit luring you in with large signs and cheap food.

  3. I was vegetarian for three years of my life, but I enjoy meat and fish far too much to have given it up forever.

    However, I agree: eating healthy is expensive unless you’re lucky enough to live on a farm and raise your own meat and produce, as I am. But I need fresh greens, so in the winter, I’ve got to cough up the cash at the market and avoid the cheaper canned goods.

    As for vegetarians being smarter: Umm. Okay.

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