I’m mentally preparing myself for this one. Because it’s inevitable I’ll receive at least a few heated comments on this post. But that’s the cool thing – you can say whatever you’d like in your comment, the same way I can post whatever I’d like on my blog. So just keep that in mind if you don’t agree with what I have to say. And do try to be at least semi-courteous. You may or may not want to speak your thoughts to my face, but do remember that we are all people here, not just some nameless, faceless computer bots with gravatars.
So veganism. Generally defined as a diet and lifestyle which includes no animal products or animal by-products whatsoever. No meat, dairy, eggs, honey, etc.
I want to make two main points here about why I believe a vegan diet is not a healthy one long term. I’m not here to debate the ethics or morality of eating animals. Full disclosure: I am an omnivore. I eat meat. And I don’t believe it is cruel to do so. But that’s because I also believe all animals should be raised in an environment conducive to their health and well-being, i.e. not CAFO operations or battery cages.
I don’t believe a vegan diet or lifestyle is ecologically sustainable, either. If you want to delve more into that, I highly recommend reading Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Polyface farmer Joel Salatin. Life changing book.
So point number one about a vegan diet:
If You Don’t Do it Right, Don’t Do it at All
Did you notice that cheese puffs or white bread aren’t animal products? Do you know some vegans or vegetarians who are more like carb-etarians or junk-ans? Just because you don’t eat red meat or cow’s milk doesn’t mean you are automatically healthier. (By the way, the vast majority of all those ‘scientific’ studies that say red meat causes cancer were done using CAFO beef. Of course animals kept in confinement standing knee deep in their own poop, and being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and being fed a completely abnormal diet of corn and candy wrappers will produce some nasty meat that can absolutely cause disease in your body. Same thing goes for pasteurized cow’s milk. But I digress . . . )
Here’s the deal – when done right, a vegan diet makes a fantastic detox diet in the short term. Scads of people have switched from a junk food diet of processed and fast food, replaced it with a vegan diet full of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes and have seen their health improve drastically. All those foods are incredibly healthy superfoods! And the vast majority of people in the Western world would do well to abide by that sort of a diet for a few weeks or months.
But (and this brings me to my next point) a long-term vegan diet is not a wise way to go. Many people (like John Nicholson) find their health deteriorating at a rapid rate when following a vegan diet.
A Vegan Diet is Not Nourishing
This is so fascinating to me. Did you know that without plenty of healthy fats in your diet, you are not able to assimilate and absorb the nutrients in fruits and vegetables? This means you can eat kale and bell peppers until you are green in the face, but if you’re not consuming enough healthy saturated fat, it’s like you didn’t even need to bother.
And where do you find these healthy fats? Sure, you get them from coconut, avocado, almonds, and olive oil, but these sources are not always in season, not always convenient to purchase in your area, and are not always present in your diet in a high enough quantity on a given day to meet your body’s requirements to function properly. After all, 60% of your brain and nervous system are made of fat. We need fat for proper brain function, nerve signal transmission, and hormone balance!
But butter from grass-fed, pastured cows is rich in saturated fats, vitamin A, buytric acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA – a powerful cancer fighter), and lauric acid. Grass-fed, pastured beef itself is also rich in these same nutrients, as well as being a fantastic source of protein, amino acids, and vitamin B12 – which vegans must take as a supplement (a required nutrient our bodies don’t create – we must get it from animal sources).
Omnivores Healthier Than Vegetarians in Indigenous Cultures
I read an awesome anecdote about my main man Weston A. Price over on The Healthy Home Economist’s blog (she wrote a great article about how 75% of vegetarians return to eating meat). The study Price documented is very telling about how a vegetarian or vegan diet is unsuited for humans. Here she is in her words:
Dr. Price traveled the world in the 1920′s and 1930′s visiting 14 isolated cultures in the process. During this adventure which he documented in great detail with amazing pictures in his masterpiece Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price concluded that while the diets of these natives varied widely, nutrient dense animal foods high in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K (also known as Activator X) were the common denominator. Consumption of these animal foods were revered in these communities as they bestowed vibrant health, ease of fertility, healthy children, and high resistance to chronic and infectious disease.
This discovery was a disappointment to Dr. Price who had expected to find the vegetarian cultures to be the healthiest cultures of all. But, the vegetarian cultures he examined displayed more degeneration than the omnivore cultures which surprised him given that these vegetarian cultures did indeed have superior health than the Americans of his day.
A sad commentary on the state of health in the Western world with our plastic, packaged, chemical-filled foods, but a true insight into the path to optimal health – it includes animal foods!
If you are looking for quality sources of sustainably raised beef & dairy, check your local farmer’s market (find one near you on the Local Harvest website) or have it shipped to your door from Beyond Organic.
I also want to highlight an absolutely beautiful, almost poetic look at this topic from Kristen of Food Renegade. Her post, Why I’m Not a Vegan, spoke volumes to me about this issue. I think you’ll find it well worth reading.
What has been your experience with a vegan or vegetarian diet?