In my search for the truth in health, one of the main controversies I’ve encountered has to do with whether meat and animal products are healthy for us. I’ve seen Forks Over Knives and I think it’s a great documentary, with thought-provoking research and many convincing points – I absolutely recommend it. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it examines the claim that most, if not all, degenerative diseases could be prevented and may be even cured by switching from our current animal-based, processed foods diet to a whole-foods, plant based diet. I agree with almost everything in the film, especially the healing abilities of proper nutrition, but I’ve had a few hesitations. History tells us that for thousands of years, humans hunted animals for food, which enabled them to survive, thrive and populate the earth with healthy children. Not only have humans hunted for generations, but they have developed ways to cook animals in a way to extract every possible bit of nutrition from them. Our ancestors fully understood the nutritional benefits as it helped them grow strong and protected them from disease. I don’t believe that we just happen to like the way meat and dairy taste, but that it tastes good for a reason.
When I wrote about my inspiration, I mentioned that the basic theory for healthy eating centered around authentic world cuisine. When I say world cuisine, I’m not talking about the Italian fettuccine alfredo or Chinese sweet and sour chicken you might get at a restaurant today; I’m talking about the traditional, homemade & homegrown food from nations all over the world. And when I say traditional, I’m not referring to Grandma’s fried chicken or chocolate chip cookie recipes made with Crisco; we’ve got to go back a few hundred years before scientists started creating fake foods that saved cooking time and money. Many of the traditional ingredients and methods of cooking happen to be the ones you find in common across the world and across history, as they were the most successful for maintaining and improving health. Today, the best example of cuisine that has remained mostly unchanged in modern times is French. The reason? They’ve always been kind of, well, arrogant, so their ingredients and techniques have remained the same for ages and continue to be studied by chefs in culinary school today. When I think of French cuisine, I think of many foods in the Four Pillars: slow-cooked meat, rich broths, and healthy fats; I wonder if it’s a coincidence that they have much lower risks of heart disease and are known for being thin rather than obese, quite opposite of two of the worst epidemics we suffer from in America today.
All that said, let’s get to the point: why I’m not a vegan. First of all, I fully understand and respect that some people have strong beliefs in protecting the rights of animals and don’t eat them for those reasons. In fact, I too have a serious issues with how most animals are farmed today, in unbelievably cruel and unsanitary conditions, as well as the fact that they are given unnatural hormones and harmful antibiotics. I could rant for hours on the topic (and recommend lots of documentaries if you’d like to see it for yourself), but, basically, that’s the reason I have chosen to only buy organic, hormone and antibiotic-free, pastured/free range (plus raw and local, when possible) animal meat and products. I also agree with the problems of environmental effects that modern farming due to an animal-based diet has created, but I also think the same can be said for produce farming – we are destroying the nutrients in our soil and plants with pesticides, toxins and genetically modified seeds.
Veganism and vegetarianism are not certainly not bad, and I absolutely believe that you can live a life full of nutrition and enjoy many benefits to your health. These diets rightly put the focus on whole foods and plants, instead of depending on meat and dairy for nutrition. However, I want to make a case that there are health benefits of animal meats and products, when they are from good sources and cooked properly, as well as point out a few differences I’ve found between a vegan diet and an authentic world cuisine diet:
1. Animal meat cooked on the bones and broth made from animal bones provide essential nutrients, mainly collagen, to our joints, ligaments, tendons, arteries, skin, and hair.
2. Animal organs are extremely rich in vitamins, often more than can be supplemented with fruits or vegetables.
3. The anti-cholesterol and low-fat campaigns are myths. We need healthy fat in our diets, and nature (not science) makes the best, including butter, eggs, and bacon.
4. We’re born dependent upon milk and it should remain an important part of our diet, as long as it’s organic and raw (or fermented like yogurt and cheese). Pasteurization and homogenization destroy the probiotics and fat molecules that help us maintain strong digestive tracks, immune systems, brain function and bones.
5. Wheat (unless it’s sprouted) becomes a staple for many vegans, who turn to bread and pasta as fillers, and, even if it’s “whole wheat” or “multi-grain,” it’s not quite as healthy or natural as it’s advertised to be.
6. Lastly, while definitely not true of all vegans, the lifestyle often necessitates the use of many processed, manufactured foods to supplement meals for those that don’t know how to cook or have trouble incorporating all the necessary nutrients to a vegan diet. These processed foods contain many harmful ingredients, mainly soy, vegetable/canola oils, and sugar.
I’ll be expanding on these points in future posts. I’m so excited to share what I’ve discovered in the coming weeks and hope this has peaked your interest a bit. If you want to keep up with future posts, you can subscribe to my blog on the sidebar to the right to get an email whenever I post something new. And, I’d love to know, which of the topics above are you most interested in learning more about?