Thursday, December 4, 2008

Carnivores, Omnivores, and Veggievores

This is in response to a note a friend of mine posted on Facebook and as the comment section of Facebook is almost useless for a non-linear asynchronous debate I decided to write down a few thoughts here.

The note itself, which I won't bother reproducing here in interest of space was a sermon detailing my friends belief in a lower meat diet. Not necessarily vegetarian, but lower meat. Now the note itself I agree with 85% or so, but one of the comments made by another friend of mine really got me thinking, and in turn inspired this post. The comment is as follows:

"And yet, vegans live 4 years longer; vegetarians 6. Those who brush their teeth, another 6... Women who don't marry: 2, men who do: 3. Meat eaters -- 0."

My initial response was to do a quick Google search and based on the results of the search I realized that there are simply way too many studies, none of which agree 100%. So I decided to fall back on my own personal, anecdotal experience.

Most of the studies agree that a meat intensive diet is not the most healthy lifestyle. This was certainly not a surprise. What I find interesting is what is the definition of a meat intensive diet? I don't eat meat with breakfast, often my lunches are leftovers from the night before so if there was meat for dinner there is often meat for lunch, and dinner tends to follow the meat, carbohydrate, veggie pattern.

On top of this I take a multi-vitamin and should get back into the habit of taking fish oil and Glucosamine and Chondroitin for my joints. Fish oil, interestingly enough, comes from fish, a food that most vegetarians swear off.

However, I digress. My issue with vegetarianism is simple. As most vegetarians live the lifestyle it makes no sense. Biologically we are designed to eat a mixed diet. There is not a nutritionist in the world who would say otherwise. However, as with the studies above it's hard to come to a consensus on what a mixed diet is. I lived with a gentlemen who was a militant vegetarian. However, he had done countless hours of research and understood what he should be eating and why. His diet was very expensive, comprised in a large part of organic and whole foods, he got his protein from beans, soy, and quinoa.

He also has minimal muscle mass and bad joints, he won't take supplements, or fish oil, as they come from animals, and so suffers with chronic joint pain and has trouble exercising for any length of time. Consequently his blood pressure and resting heart rate are fairly high.

However, I know that one case cannot an argument make and most of the studies out there will say a vegetarian diet is healthier. However, a true vegan diet can carry more risks then benefits. As with any highly restrictive diet there are numerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies observed in the vegan population, especially if they do not take some sort of multivitamin supplement. However, I won't get into Vegans here as this post is already too long.

Lastly, why am I not a vegetarian. For those of you who don't care feel free to stop reading now. I like meat. I like pork, chicken, turkey, fish and beef. Yet I understand the effects of my lifestyle. I eat a diet that is low in sodium, I exercise regularly, and stay well hydrated. My resting heart rate in in the mid 50's and my blood pressure is the envy of people half my age. Could I be this healthy and be vegetarian? Probably. Could I lift weights three times a week, run, and play Judo on a low protein vegetarian diet. Probably not, or at least not without a radical overhaul of my daily eating habits. I guess the point I'm trying to make, and the point I try to make to all the Vegivores out there is that their lifestyle is not my lifestyle, and in fact is not a desirable lifestyle for the bulk of America, and certainly not a desirable diet for anyone who want's to maintain a significant muscle mass.


I would suggest two books as required reading for every Carnivore, Omnivore or Vegivore.

1) The Omnivores Dilemma.

2) In Defense of Food.

Both are simply amazing guides on the how, the why, and the what of food. How food is marketed, what foods we should eat and shouldn't eat and why we need those foods. Neither are fad diets, and both present a radically simple view of food in America and how we as human beings should be eating.

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