Vegetarian No More!
Four years ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian for the primary purpose of eating healthier and to live in a way that aligns with my respect for animals and the Earth. For somebody that deeply cares about the Earth and living healthy, I never thought I’d see the day that I would be eating meat again and feeling good about it. Through grace and a growth mindset I have better understood the necessity to incorporate animal products in my diet.
We live in a world that constantly feeds misinformation on what’s healthy and what isn't. The Game Changers, vegan and plant-based athletes, many of the people I admire for their lifestyle of respecting animals had me convinced that achieving optimal health and peak performance while respecting the planet could only be achieved by eliminating animal products. Health food companies advertise items that resemble ‘real’ food and appear to be better for you, but in reality have little to no nutritional value (mock meats, impossible burgers, veggie patties, tofu nuggets, egg whites, tofu eggs). Listening to my body and doing some of my own research has helped me understand that highly processed foods containing MSG, high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, white flour, soy products and aspartame are the biggest detriment to our health (not animal products). Many of these artificial preservatives are included in the modern/western diet. To achieve optimal health it is necessary to eat in such a way that maximizes nutrient density and minimizes preservatives and artificial ingredients. In my opinion, an entirely plant-based diet is not one that follows this principle.
The last four years of my life were spent believing that a vegetarian/vegan diet was better for my health. It turns out that a vegetarian diet is not necessarily better...The need for natural animal fats in the diet–for everything from cellular energy, to protection against cancer, to an upbeat/happy mood is often under-looked in western/modern dietary culture. Salads and greens don’t necessarily constitute a nutritious diet and total nutrition doesn’t come from leafy vegetables alone. While most vegetables do have a high concentration of nutrients per calorie, vegetables ultimately don’t have a high caloric density. For instance, getting the recommended amount of iron from broccoli would be impractical. Since vegetables are so low in calories, it would require a day’s worth of eating broccoli to consume the same amount of iron found in a tablespoon of liver. Without the nutrition animal products provide, many physiological/biological processes in the body can be compromised.
The last four years of my life were spent believing that the consumption of animals for food was inhumane in every regard. Well, it turns out that there are ways to raise animals humanely before they become food. An animal who lives a noble life can be better suited as food rather than simply dying and decomposing. Yes, many could argue that humane slaughter is oxymoronic; but even if cows and chickens died and decayed after living a noble life, they are better served feeding a few human beings than going to ‘waste.’ It is important to understand that there is a lot of misregulation and there are varying degrees of animal (mis)treatment throughout the world. Recognizing that some people will want the worst, and some people will want the best for the treatment of animals is essential. I consciously make the decision to only eat from meat and seafood distributors that ethically raise and slaughter their animals. All those who eat meat ought to educate themselves on the various processes of animal slaughtering in modern culture.
Healthy eating revolves around maximizing nutrient density. Getting the most out of each bite comes from understanding ancestral/indigenous diets. Traditional diets maximize nutrient density, and modern diets minimize nutrient density. No traditional or indigenous culture deliberately chose to forego meat in their diet (i.e, nobody was voluntarily vegetarian/vegan). Indigenous cultures recognized the importance of consuming animal products for energy and sustenance. The biggest difference between the modern and traditional diet is that one is full of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K. These vitamins are critical to our well being and are found in organ meats (ex: liver, marrow, tongue, blood, fish eggs, egg yolks, butter, pork fat, goose liver, duck, pastured cheese). Vitamin A is foundational for preventing cancer and infection, and regulating the endo/exocrine system. Hormonal disruptions, autoimmune disease, difficulty dealing with stress and regulating blood sugar are all symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin K is known as the ‘great calcium regulator.’ It is important for putting calcium and phosphorus in the right places and keeping it from depositing in the arteries and soft tissues. An immediate change my friend noticed when she began consuming foods rich in Vitamin A was the complete eradication of cholinergic urticaria. Often, she would experience hives throughout her body upon sweating and/or exercise. The increase in Vitamin A was able to provide her exocrine system with the support needed to operate normally during exercise.
Whether you follow a plant-based, carnivore, paleo, Mediterranean, or gluten-free diet, the most dangerous is one with high protein, no carbs, and no saturated fats. This is a diet that relies heavily on vegetable oils and consequently converts protein directly into saturated fats (if saturated fats aren’t consumed, they’re produced). This diet is not conducive to well-being in any regard.
As a society we ought to prioritize sustainable nutritional habits. This simply cannot be done eating highly processed, refined, synthetic, or singularly plant-based diets. Eating Vitamin B-12 from a pill to maintain veganism isn’t natural. The consistent alternatives and unnatural supplements needed for nutrition on a plant-based diet is an unhealthy mentality. It is not how our ancestors evolved to survive. The basic list of foods that one should include to properly allocate Vitamins A, D, and K include: butter, egg yolks, cream, cheese, animal fats, organ meats, shellfish, fish liver oil, fish eggs, and oily fish. When paired with vegetables, fruits, and properly prepared grains in quantities that support exercise/sustenance, this way of eating maximizes nutrient density. Making the switch to real food and real nutrition is a must. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you!