VEGETARIANISM: SOME MISCONCEPTIONS
By this point in your life, you have almost certainly come up across someone practicing vegetarianism, a vegan (or at least a vegetarian), or possibly even given the lifestyle a “shot” yourself.
As a Lifestyle and Wellness Coach I can appreciate the majority of the reasons that one may be interested in this endeavor, especially the ethical commitment, moral convictions, and environmental challenges that factory/industrial farming and animal testing may bring.
But I would like to speak to you about veganism/vegetarianism and your health, which is completely separate matter.
The following is the given definition of veganism at wikipedia.com:
“Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind. The most common reasons for becoming a vegan are ethical commitment or moral convictions concerning animal rights, the environment, human health, and spiritual or religious concerns. Of particular concern are the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources required for animal farming.”
You know what? I have no issues with that at all!
People can have their own thoughts on spiritual and religious concerns, and that is great, but
I do take issue with the teaching that veganism and vegetarianism are the healthiest approaches to optimal health.
I hope to show you that the extreme choice of veganism/vegetarianism, over a period of time, can and will be harmful to your health, and has been proven so by numerous anthropological and scientific studies.
In all honesty, how should I answer the question, “do you think it is best for an omnivore to follow a herbivore diet?” Huh?!
Here are some of my thoughts, interspersed with the thoughts of Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP (The Myths of Vegetarianism, westonaprice.org ; 2003):
MISCONCEPTION #1: Meat-eaters have higher rates of cancer than vegetarians.
There have been some studies that have shown a connection between meat eating and some types of cancer. But…there have also been studies done that have shown a connection between a vegetarian diet and cancer as well. As you have heard from me before, you can pretty much find a study to support any hypothesis. But let us take a look at why these studies done on meat have been coming up with such undesirable results.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges with these studies:
Meat has meant anything from “animal fats” (study by Dr. Ernst Wynder used vegetable oil/reminder: vegetable oil: bad), cold cuts, and highly processed sausage; 2. Cooking methods were never considered when demonstrating a connection between meat and cancer; added chemicals and burnt meat; 3. The health of the meat product was never taken into account (What was the animal forced to consume? Amount of exercise? Amount of sunlight?); neither was the quality of the diet of the animal that was being ingested (chemicals, hormones, antibiotics being passed on). These are all important factors, because there are all sorts of tribes that while consuming their traditional foods (Masai, Inuit (Eskimos), Swiss, etc.), had little to no cancer issues and all while on a high protein/fat diet. The Masai and their diet of meat, blood and milk and the Eskimos with a diet of fish, fish roe, sea oil and blubber have been extremely healthy until recently when their total environment has changed and they have been forced to consume a diet of processed foods (the so-called Western Civilization Diet, ugh!).
Though you may see the claim that a diet rich in plant foods like whole grains and legumes will reduce one's risks for cancer, research going back to the last century demonstrates that carbohydrate-based diets are the prime dietary instigators of cancer, not diets based on minimally processed animal foods (it wasn’t that long ago that we ate tons of butter and grass-fed beef and had no to a low incidence of disease/butter was replaced with margarine and vegetable oil/quality meat was replaced with highly refined sugar, wheat, corn and soy).
That is the important phrase right there: minimally process animal foods (or all foods for that matter). Tribes of the past had amazing health and life expectancy for a few reasons, and one of the major ones was that they only consumed animals that were living on fertile soils with no chemicals and when butchered they were MINIMALLY processed if at all.
It is true that the mainstream health and vegetarian media have done an effective job of "beef bashing," that most people think there is nothing healthful about meat, especially red meat. In reality, however, animal flesh foods like beef and lamb are excellent sources of a variety of nutrients as any food/nutrient table will show. Nutrients like vitamins A, D, several of the B-complex, essential fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, iron, taurine, and selenium are abundant in beef, lamb, pork, fish and shellfish, and poultry. Nutritional factors like co-enzyme Q10, carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid are also present. Some of these nutrients are only found in animal foods, meaning, plants do not supply them.
MISCONCEPTION #2: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from plant sources.
Here is the most damaging of all of the misconceptions. If a vegan does not supplement their diet with vitamin B12 they will eventually acquire anemia, and possibly severe and nervous and digestive system damage. If you believe you are acquiring your B12 through algae, tempeh and brewer’s yeast, think again. In case you are wondering, the food MUST have a bio-available form of B12 for it to be of any benefit to you (algae and tempeh do not/brewer’s yeast is fortified). If you have to rely on fortified foods and supplements, how healthy is THAT diet anyway? Seriously.
Are you wondering about the B12 that is formed by the fermenting of certain foods in intestines? Once again, this form is unusable by the body. Are you wondering about the vegans who live in certain parts of India? Well, the B12 there comes from insects, larvae and residue left on the plants (an actual country that doesn’t pollute their foods with pesticides (yet)). If you doubt this, take a look at the Hindus that migrated to England and came down with anemia within a couple years (insect residues had been completely removed in England). If you want a reliable and absorbable source of the vitamin B12 you will need to consume animal products, especially organ meats and eggs (from healthy animals, please).
In closing, I would like to make a couple points: 1) If your diet is perfect for you to attain optimal health, you will NOT have to supplement it (B12); and 2) attaining improved health over a short period of time with a “clean” vegetarian diet (I am NOT saying this is best) is not the same thing as adopting a lifelong nutritional lifestyle that will leave you depleted of necessary nutrients.
Remember, if you are true vegetarian, you are not a lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian or even a lacto-ovo vegetarian. So, not only do you not eat high quality and healthy meats, you also do not consume grass-fed raw cow or goat milk as well as healthy and happy pasture raised chicken eggs. You are missing out on a ton of nutrients.
All because of what? Our society is telling you that fat is bad? If that is so, take another look. You have been misinformed.
Like I said, if someone feels that strongly about the health of the animal and that conviction leads the to become a vegan or vegetarian, I have no qualms. None. But, that is a complete different issue than not consuming healthy animal products because they are supposedly “bad” for us.
And then believing and proclaiming you are healthier because of it!
Learn More at
Vegetarianism: Part II