Some Thoughts for Vegetarians that You May Not Want to Read
Why meat might not be that terrible of a thing…
So this is a friendly letter to my vegetarian friends. As I write this part of me says, “Why the crap am I even writing this article to vegetarians?”
If you are morally attached to being a vegetarian, then you are going to do it.
So be patient, but I am just going to share why we were genetically made to be carnivores. You can then disagree with me if you like and move on your merry way.
In fact, you may still like the experience that is Know My Body, but just disagree with this portion of it. Also totally ok. It is your body and no one should tell you what to do with it.
I do think that at least one of you out there may say, “Well heck I will test it out and see what happens.” Or they may be asking themselves, “Is a vegetarian diet healthy?”
This post is for that person.
It gives that person a “why”. A reason to at least test the waters away from a vegetarian diet for a month or more and see if they feel better, are in better shape, or get better results out of their exercise.
What Grains and Sugars Mean to Vegetarians and All of Us
As I mentioned, our bodies were made to eat animal protein and not vegetarian diets. We did it for several billion years and as you can tell from our discussions here on the site, while people died younger because of the lack of modern medicine, they were generally healthier, stronger, and aged much slower by eating high amounts of animal protein.
This all changed in the past several hundred years with the agricultural revolution. Obesity rates have skyrocketed and will continue growing, which all leads to higher risk in heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, autoimmunity, and countless other really bad things. Most doctors agree these diseases are due to a high level of obesity. So the 6 bajillion dollar question is, why do we get obese?
Without getting into too much detail, a lot of this has to do with sugar and grains. Thanks to Corporate America and the government, we have a lot of options. Sugar and grains often come together in a suicide sandwich that we eat constantly.
Bottom line is that both of these guys help to spike insulin levels, which retains more fat. This also means less energy, more small, dense LDL cholesterol, which promotes high blood pressure, and I can go on…and I will.
So you can eat sugar and grains and even limit them. You may be fine, but that is like saying you are fine with a few cigarettes. Not always true.
Just like tobacco, crack, and alcohol, our dear friends grains and sugar kick off dopamine, which makes us addicted to them. With high insulin levels it holds back other satiating (I’m full) hormones like leptin and PYY. Without leptin and PYY, we want more food. So take a fun guess what happens when we crave something and there is nothing to tell us we have had enough. We eat more of it. This addiction is the foundation for obesity.
All of this can mean less energy to go biking in the park, not looking great in those tight fighting clothes, and less confidence to go make a difference in life compared to what you could have.
But What About Beans and Dairy?
I know usually you say, “Well I can get my protein sources through dairy (unless vegan), beans and rice.” Well the amounts of protein in beans and rice are minimal and they don’t come with the full profile needed for essential amino acids. What is worst is the give and take that comes with all three of these foods. Beans, grains, and dairy still have way too many carbohydrates and gut irritating properties that lead to inflammation, more body stress, and more fat being retained. Dairy also has insulin-spiking issues just like grains. All of these issues create the vegetarian risks that we want to avoid.
So that leaves you with fruit, vegetables, protein and fat. I don’t need to convince you about fruit and vegetables. That is our common ground where we can always hug and what I think is a major reason for the benefits of vegetarianism.
I am probably fine with you when it comes to dietary fat as well. The exception may be LDL filled fats or what are commonly known as saturated fats. So let’s start there.
Fat, animal or dietary fat, whether saturated or unsaturated, have what is called large, buoyant LDL fat. This is the kind that doesn’t get stuck in arteries causing plaque, but instead floats merrily along minding it’s own business. The plaque forming LDL or small, dense LDL as we mentioned, happens thanks to grains and sugars.
In fact, it is the HDL levels that are a bigger predictor of cardiovascular disease. The higher the HDL, which comes thanks to both saturated and unsaturated fat, the lower your risk of cardiovascular and heart issues. If you want bigger proof look at our society and the reports by the CDC and other organizations. We did a great job cutting our fat consumption in the past 40 years thanks to government initiatives, but somehow magically our obesity skyrocketed from 1 in 9 being obese 1 in 3 today.
Ugh…Animal Protein? Really?
Ok so being fat was the major concern with dietary fat and I did a kick-ass job of showing how that thought process is dumb. Now that dietary fat is checked off the list, let’s talk about why animal protein is good for you.
The most important thing is that animal protein helps us get those basic building block, all 8 essential amino acids that your body can’t create on it’s own. These 8 guys help to build your muscles, bones, and major organs. Or maybe I should just say, “your body”. As Gary Taubes mentions in Why We Get Fat, “…meat contains all the amino acids necessary for life”.
While you can get all the protein you need from wheat, Marvin Harris of Columbia University mentioned that 175 pound man would need to “stuff himself” on more than three pounds per day, whereas he can get the same level of protein from three-quarters of a pound of meat. With animal protein you can always get more nutrients with less calories.
What is great is you can get a bunch of other necessary nutrients. Animal protein contains all of the essential fats and high quantities of omega-3s (DHA and EPA) to maintain proper fatty acid balance between omega-3 and omega-6. This means less of that gut irritation issue that I mentioned grains, beans, and dairy cause.
Animal protein is also a strong source of 12 of the 13 essential vitamins in large quantities. Calcium, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, and zinc to name a few. Also vitamin B12 and D can only be found in a food source through animal protein. You just can’t beat the nutrient punch that lean, grass-fed meat packs.
On top of a larger amount of nutrients, protein has less of an acidic nature compared to dairy, grains, and legumes. So as Dr. Loren Cordain notes, more of the nutrients from animal protein are absorbed in your cells, tissue and organs compared to dairy, grains, and legumes. The evidence keeps mounting!
Animal protein also helps to regulate your hormones like insulin to naturally eat the right amounts, and not over do it like you can with addictive grains and dairy.
So What Do I Do?
The bottom line is all of this is just words. Scientific evidence will constantly battle on asking, “Are vegetarian diets healthy?”, but it might as well be “Blah blah blah”.
When asking, “Should I be a vegetarian” or “should I eat animal protein”, it really comes down to how does it make you feel. What makes you lean? What gives you a lower body fat percentage? What gives you more energy?
You can come tell me today, “Cade I am eating a vegetarian diet or vegan diet and I have never been healthier.” Great! I love it and I love you.
You very well could be healthier than ever. This could be because of genetics, limited grains, or limited sugar you have in your diet already. I really believe that a vegetarian diet is better than majority of the diets that our friends and family are subscribing to. So I am not going to knock you.
The question you have to ask yourself is, “Is this the best I can have?”
- Could I be leaner and have more energy to do well with my work?
- Could I finally shop again for certain sizes that used to fit me a few years ago?
- Could I be a stronger health influence on my family?
The list goes on and becomes very personal to you. And you have to ask, could you feel better?
You won’t know unless you try. I did.
A vegetarian diet is very hipster and it matched well with my Apple laptop, but when looking at the vegetarianism pros and cons, the vegetarian benefits to me didn’t outweigh the value I was getting by including lean animal protein in my diet. I have had more energy, better health, better mood, and I just looked sexier by eating a diet that includes animal protein compared to when I didn’t.
In fact, the question now is whether I get enough protein! Obviously you probably won’t find out about any long-term chronic disease short term, but see if after a month or two of incorporating fresh animal protein if you have more energy, sleep better, or have simply a better disposition.
Also get blood work done to check your HDL, LDL and fat levels. I know this may be rough to handle, but our ancestors were mean enough to spend a couple million years eating meat. Maybe if they spent that time chewing on fruits and roots, then I would be in your boat. The truth is, we just weren’t made that way and we haven’t evolved that way.
I could finish this with something like “Buck up. Circle of life.”
I am not going to. I will instead say do what will make you happier and give you the most fulfilling life. From experience, I recommend throwing in some grass-fed animal protein. Test it out at least for a month and let me know what you think.
Whew…so are we still friends? (Arms extended for loving hug)
In the next post, we will explore what a “low-carb diet” means and how you can make it work.