Many of the blogs, articles, and arguments regarding diet are very radical, one sided, and emotionally charged. They pull us this way and that...Our ego loves to seek support and validation that we know the way and it must be the best way for everyone. Although there are certain staples proven and understandably healthy for humanity as a whole (more vegetables, organic, etc), the simple fact is there is no one size fits all diet (vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc). We are all incredibly bio-individually and energetically unique, therefore I urge you to first openly abandon any previously held convictions you may have before reading further. My hope here is to shed light from a more balanced and sound perspective, so that you are better able to make informed and intuitive decisions on the fuel you wish to nourish your body, mind, and soul with.
First, the main arguments regarding the consumption of animal products:
‘The China Study’
Many who hold strict vegetarian/vegan views still hold The China Study as the authoritative “proof” that eating meat is harmful and is the link to many or all diseases. First of all, the very title of this book is inaccurate as it was not a study but a comprehensive set of observations; Dr. Campbell never tested his theory in a controlled trial. He himself states that, “univariate correlations in a study like this means, for example, comparing 2 variables–like dietary fat and breast cancer–within a very large database where there will undoubtedly be many factors that could incorrectly negate or enhance a possible correlation.” This vegetarian bible is an observational study comparing one variable to another (univariate correlations) which as such, deems meaningless data. Correlations do not prove causation. This ‘study’ did not take into account the hugely important cultural or anthropological differences and bioindividuality amongst the human race. Additionally, it did not discriminate between CAFO farmed hormone injected corn/grain/soy fed animal products vs that which is organic ethically and pasture-raised, which are actually entirely different foods.
When choosing a vegan lifestyle based on the belief that it is not ethical or in religious agreement to consume animal products, this is of course the right of the individual. If one is avoiding animal products because they are against the animal abuse of our standard industrialized farming, this is also extremely valid, yet there is further information to understand this stance and the options available, more fully. There are in fact other ways to fight the monstrosity of CAFO farming while still being able to consume nourishing animal products. By avoiding the traditional factory farmed meat and instead supporting your local organic farmers that produce Free-range, Grass-fed, Pasture-raised meat and dairy you are still supporting the ethical treatment of animals, being conscious of the environment, as well as providing your body vital nutrients that the right animal products can provide. We are part of the circle of life, and believing that we can sidestep away from that can and often does cause deficiencies and imbalances in the microcosm of our bodies as well as in the macrocosm of life; so it is your choice where you place your highest values.
Evolutionarily speaking, anthropologists have discovered that high-protein animal based diets were necessary for the development from hominids to the larger brains and greater intellect of humans. Our teeth and digestive systems are also designed for meat consumption. However it takes tens of thousands of years for our genes to adapt to a change in environmental and dietary patterns, so who’s to say we are not evolving away from meat consumption eventually? But because our bodies are currently still designed as carnivorous beings, yet our minds have evolved with higher and more conscious intelligence, perhaps a marriage between both worlds is ideal to live in healthy and conscious agreement with our bodies and the animals. Food for thought.
Nutritional- A Big Discussion
Animal based foods differ from plant based foods in that they are ‘building’; they build your muscles, bones, brain, organs, and immune system. Plants foods are ‘cleansing’; they cleanse, alkalize, and detoxify your body. It is essential to listen to the signals your body is giving in order to determine when it is in need of being in a ‘cleansing’ state versus a ‘building’ state; staying in either for too long can compromise optimal bodily function and promote disease and distress. We are not static beings, thus it can greatly compromise our health and brightest expression of ourselves when we box ourselves into impermeable categories that don’t flow with the varying needs of our ever-changing human form.
Deficiencies often found in long term Veganism/Vegetarianism:
The first attack we often hear is that vegetarians/vegans are starved of protein. On an individual basis this can of course be true, however if done properly there are many wonderful sources of protein beyond just meat. Land and ocean vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all options for protein content and a healthy lifestyle; however meat does provide a much higher density of the vital macronutrients of protein and fats, so a ‘Veg’ does need to consume more to gain the same amount protein.
Fat insufficiency is a common problem amongst vegetarians and especially vegans. Healthy dietary fats are essential to our health, and in fact is actually an ideal source of fuel for the body without the inflammatory effects that carbohydrate fuel causes. Our brain is comprised of fat, so any deficiency in our diet leads to starvation of our very brain cells, leading to severe cognitive decline like dementia. Good fats are essential for cell membrane integrity, boosts your metabolism, breaks down stored fat by activating PPAR-alpha and fat burning pathways through the liver, satiates appetite more fully and stabilizes blood sugar, boosts mood and motivation, stimulates muscle protein synthesis, nutrient absorption, and more. We can support these functions with avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, fish oil, etc; but animal fat does have additional benefits to mention, particularly in its gut healing properties, vitamins A/D/K, arachidonic acid, DHA, choline, cholesterol, and healthy saturated fat.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a fatty acid found in fish and mollusks; it is a neuro-nutrient and essential for a healthy brain; the vegan algae source is often filled with toxins. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is anti-inflammatory throughout the body, as well as mood/hormone balancing. It is a difficult and slow process for the body to convert plant sources of ALA to the essential EPA form (a 1:45 ratio) and to get therapeutic amounts, so it is much more bioavailable to obtain from seafood source such as krill oil.
Additionally, carnitine, creatine, choline, phosphatidylserine, CoQ10, B12, rGH, zinc are the most common vital nutrient deficiencies found in long term veganism. Choline for instance is a precursor to the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine in the brain, which is responsible for memory and other cognitive functions; this nutrient is only found in organ meats, animal fats, or raw egg yolks. B12 deficiency can cause permanent nerve or neurological damage; there is essentially no active and available B-12 in any vegan food. Zinc is essential for clear thinking and healthy sexual performance. You can get K1 from greens but our body very poorly converts it to K2 (the form the body utilizes, and which is found in meat). Supplementation is an option of course for these, however a general rule for optimal health is getting our nutrients from food sources first, and then supplementing as ‘frosting on the cake’ to fill in any gaps if necessary.
To produce sex hormones we need cholesterol, which we get from animal meat, fat, and eggs. Deficiencies can take years to manifest and can lead to depression, sex hormone deficiencies, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Cholesterol is essential for the brain, as well as a precursor to all steroid hormone production. If cholesterol is too low we cannot utilize the sun to generate sufficient levels of vitamin D, which then leads to increased risk of cancer, immune problems, gut permeability, etc. For further information on cholesterol and the myths associated with the good vs. bad, see my cholesterol article.
Dairy foods are often in debate regarding whether they are natural or healthy to consume after weaning. We know that human breast milk is a complete perfect food designed for human infants, and especially the colostrum, which provides an overwhelming host of benefits found nowhere else in nature, including: immunoglobulins, immune modulating factors, growth factors, and a rich array of other nutrients. Throughout history, ancient people across the world have consumed raw milk from cows, sheep, and goats well past being weaned by their mother’s breasts. Raw dairy from grassfed animals has high levels of CLA (reduces body fat and cancer risk), EFA’s, probiotics, immunoglobulins, growth factors, Vitamins A/D/K2/B6/B12, enzymes, amino acids, and is a complete protein source.
This article is not anti vegetarianism or veganism, as those lifestyles can be managed in a healthy way and be greatly beneficial, particularly during times of needed cleansing. Ideally we should adopt and maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle in agreement with nature, so that our bodies are in homeostasis and we don’t really need strict cleansing states. Most often when we remove an entire category of food, something else gets overcompensated, and over extended periods of time leads to dysfunction.
The more we remove the processed unnatural foods from our diet, the better able we are to listen to what our body wants and needs, and this changes throughout our cycle of life with the ebbs and flows of stress and other factors. For health and ethical reasons, ideally avoid processed and inflammatory foods, GMO, gluten and soy, factory farmed meat and animal products; instead choose organic produce/nuts/seeds/grains/legumes and organic ethically treated meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Eat a largely plant based diet but listen to your body; if you’re craving or dreaming about fish, eggs, fat, meat, etc, than your body is starving for something vital. If you feel like you need to be in a cleansing state, adopt a vegan diet for a period of time, then when you have cleansed and are ready to feed and nourish your body again, continue a lifestyle of the purest freshest organic plant and animal sourced foods.
Ultimately, if you seek to understand which diet is best suited for your unique body, abandon any previously held convictions you may have, remove the processed unnatural foods, and begin to learn to listen to your body. Let your body tell you what healthy foods you were designed to eat. This should ideally not be a static diet, as our needs change when we are combatting stress, toxins, environment, etc. Go with the flow and listen to the wisdom of your body and enjoy the balance of nature’s creations!
NOTE: Animal protein has been consistently shown to be vital for optimal formation and functioning of the developing brain of infants! So it would be my recommendation to not push veganism/vegetarianism on a newborn or child, but to let them adopt that lifestyle for themselves later on in life if they so choose.
How to Begin Introducing Animal Products into Your Diet:
Bone broths are EXTREMELY healing to the gut.
Supplementing with Glutamine to help heal the gut lining that often becomes leaky over time with a nutrient restricted diet.
Colostrum is a superfood, created to nourish newborns like nothing else. This amazing food balances the immune system, boosting it if it’s underactive and calming it if it’s overactive as seen with autoimmune problems! Colostrum is packed with vital nutrients and growth hormones, promoting a healthy mind, immune system, gut, and hormone balance. It can be found in powdered form from grassfed cows, after their calves have had their fill. I recommend NuMedica’s ImmunoPRP, and just add it into a superfood protein shake.
Concentrated Whey and Goat protein powders
Probiotic rich foods such as fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc) and kefir to nourish the gut with beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion and immune support.
Sources and Resources:
Dr. Campbell-McBride, N. Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia. November 2010.
Gates, Donna. The Body Ecology Diet; Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity. 1996.
Dr. Price, Weston. various articles
Check out http://www.localharvest.org to discover local organic farmers and markets near you.
Lindy and Grundy in LA is a great butcher shop dedicated to supporting local family farms with ethically raised organic grassfed meat.