Why No meat?
When we turn to the scientific literature, we find animal products do not promote good health. The rate Americans consume meat is not only unsustainable, but also harmful. We eat food as a whole. Focusing on one nutrient ignores the big picture of the food. While meat has protein, it has zero antioxidants, fiber, or phytochemicals (necessary for health & found in only plants), it contains cholesterol (our bodies produce all the cholesterol we need), meat has saturated fat, heme iron, IGF-1 (Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 that promotes tumor growth), industrial toxins, hormones (found naturally even when the animals are not given "added" hormones), and more negative components. Eating meat is correlated with heart disease, chronic disease, cancers, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, aging, Alzheimers, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts and the list goes on. Plants, on the other hand, contain vital nutrients and antioxidants that fight free radicals and keep us healthy! Basing our diets on whole plant foods while avoiding animal products will optimize health and promote longevity.
What about protein?
On average, most American's get much more protein than needed. Over consumption of protein is harmful, especially when the source is animal products. Plants have the correct ratio of protein that a human needs. If you are eating a plant-based diet, you will be getting more than enough protein as long as you are eating sufficient calories.
Fun Fact: 97% of Americans are deficient in fiber! Rather than discussing protein, we should be asking, "Where do you get your fiber?"
What about Calcium & Dairy?
Calcium is found abundantly in plant foods. However, the body cannot correctly process dairy products. If you examine the relationship between dairy consumption and osteoporosis, you will see there is a strong correlation between drinking milk and eating cheese and hip fractures. We would expect countries eating the most dairy to have the least osteoporosis, but in fact the opposite is true! In addition, dairy has been shown to increase risk of all cause mortality.
We are much better off sticking to plant sources of calcium, like leafy greens, beans, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes!
What about fish?
Just like meat, fish contain cholesterol and saturated fat. In addition, due to industrial pollutants, fish, especially larger fish like tuna, are increasingly more contaminated and with toxic substances. They have been found to contain PCB's, dioxins, mercury, and more. Fish is not an ideal food. Omega 3's are found in plant foods such as freshly ground flax seed, walnuts, and chia seeds. A high quality algea-based DHA/EPA supplement is a great lifestyle addition to protect our brain.
WHY NO OIL?
Oil is simply not a whole food. It is highly processed, 100% fat, promotes weight gain, and is stripped of basically all of it's beneficial nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. All oil, even extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, is correlated with the restriction of our endothelial function of our blood vessels which contributes to heart disease.
Oil is absorbed extremely rapidly by our bodies and is considered a “fast food.” Studies show that people eating oil eat MORE food than they would eat if there wasn’t any oil present in the meal. Because oil is such a concentrated source of calories and lacks fiber, our stomach’s receptors that should tell us when we are full do not register how much we have eaten with oil. Our bodies did not evolve eating man made oils and our biology drives us to over eat because we cannot gauge how much we have eaten with oil.
Contrary, people eat LESS food when nuts and seeds are included in the meal (and all of the calories from the nuts and seeds aren’t even absorbed by the body)! It is much healthier to get "healthy fats" from whole food plant sources such as nuts, seeds, and the occasional avocado!
We have all heard that sugar is bad for us, but is this true in all cases?
Is there a healthy sweetener? If so, what is it?
Is it coconut sugar? Maple syrup? Honey? Agave? Brown rice syrup? Sugar in the Raw? Artificial zero calorie sweeteners? Organic cane sugar?
All of these sugar "alternatives" contain very few nutrients. Despite marketing claims, our bodies don't see much of a difference in the sweeteners listed above (with the exception of artificial sweeteners which are very harmful in other ways). We might think we are eating a better option by buying products with coconut sugar or honey, but they are all metabolized very similarly. These calories lacking in beneficial compounds contribute to weight gain and less than optimal health.
What about sugar in foods such as dates, sweet potatoes, berries, bananas, apples, etc?
When sugar is attached to fiber, such as when it in the form of whole foods, the fiber significantly reduces the rate of sugar being absorbed by our bodies which in turn lowers the glycemic index of the food. These foods also contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber.
Next time a recipe calls for sugar, maple syrup, honey, or some other added sugar, consider using date paste (dates blended with water), mashed bananas, berries, or another whole fruit or vegetable to sweeten your food! Knowledge is power.
What about sugar?
What about Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, & DHA/EPA?
Yes, individuals eating a plant-based diet should supplement with Vitamin B12 which is produced by microorganisms in the soil, not animals. We used to get sufficient B12 when we ate straight from the soil, but with cleanliness standards, we no longer get that so supplementation is wise (regardless of whether or not you are vegan)!
A large percentage of Americans are deficient in the sunshine vitamin due to our modern lifestyle, living in colder climates, and regular use of sunscreen. You can get your levels checked at your doctor and or supplement with a high quality source of Vitamin D!
Some individuals can convert ALA into DHA/EPA, but it is very individualized. To be safe, DHA/EPA from a clean, algea-based supplement is a good idea to supplement with!
What about other supplements?
Nutrients in plants work synergystically. When combined, they are more powerful than when eaten alone. Trying to isolate certain vitamins and stuffing them in pill bottles ignores the reaction that occurs when eaten together in whole foods with thousands of other phytochemicals that are not included in the pill. In addition, supplements such as Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Iron, Copper, Selenium, and more have been shown to be harmful when isolated and taken in pill form. The billion dollar supplement industry is not well regulated and therefore we as consumers are unsure what we are actually getting in a bottle and whether it has been tested for safety. It is important to reach for whole foods rather than a supplement to fulfill your nutrient requirements!