Should you go meatless?

I spend a lot of time watching documentaries about food, because they can be hilarious and very entertaining. I mean, who could ever forget “Supersize me”? I noticed a trend lately among food documentaries that’s extremely pro-vegan or vegetarianism.  I must have watched at least six or so documentaries recently about some form of plant based diet, vegetable juicing or simply asking you to go vegan for ethical reasons. The famous one’s include “forks over knives” “Fat sick and nearly dead,” by Joe Cross, “Cowspiracy” by Kip Anderson, and many others.

I have listened to most of them on their message and it’s very convincing at times. Proponents of plant based diets in “Forks over knives” argue for amazing health benefits from weight loss and all the way to curing illnesses. Joe Cross in his documentary “Fat, sick and nearly dead” tells the story of how he used to be overweight and suffered from autoimmune disease, up until he began ‘juicing’. That, by the way is not a doping innuendo. This is a term that refers to the process of literary extracting juice from vegetables and fruits. Doing this for a certain amount of time without eating any other food, resulting in significant weight loss and in the end, no longer having the autoimmune disorder. “Cowspiracy” tackles a more complex or controversial issue of ‘climate change’ and environmental effects of commercial livestock. It simply encourages people to think about how over-consumption of meat has such magnificent effects on the environment, and is not so much a diet guide. But still admirable non the less.

At first glance it all seems way too anecdotal. As someone who’s been through medical school, its very difficult to watch this without being frustrated with the lack of medical research surrounding the claims. There’s no evidence out there suggesting that human beings are not supposed to eat animal protein, cooked food, or consume dairy products, and there’s definitely no evidence that avoiding animal protein altogether is a magical health bullet. However, that does not mean that all of it is useless.  I definitely hate the lack of scientific method presented in these claims but I remain open minded. Although I have my doubts, there’s still some things we can learn.

Every nutrient found in animals, is available in plants.

It took me a while to get this because we are constantly bombarded with information about how you need milk for calcium and beef for protein or iron, as if these nutrients don’t exist elsewhere. Every plant product including carbs have in them an amount of protein, perhaps not comparable to meat but still present non the less. The key is; beef is not synonymous with iron or protein, nor is calcium with milk, etc

You can’t overeat veggies 

It would take an enormous amount of cabbage or spinach to consume 2000 Calories worth. By this logic, you are less likely to pack too many calories with your meals. However, increased consumption of animal proteins will result in high calorie intake.

Too many unknowns in corporate livestock

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Outside of the nutritional argument is an even more important reason. When it comes to meat that we get from big agriculture, there’s way too many unknowns than we can keep track of. The problem off-course, is that this is a profit driven industry. So we keep playing catch-up, trying to decipher the latest industry experiments, which end up being experiments on our health. The website alternet.org has an article on this subject, highlighting some really unlikely substances involved in meat production. The list includes antibiotics, and the use of which has now resulted in an increase in antibiotic resistance or MRSA specifically. This is something we used to associate to hospitals only. Hormones have been used extensively, so much that we now talk about links to breast cancer or early puberty. Cleaning chemicals like chlorine and other substances that include heavy metals and nitrosamines, and not forgetting mad cow disease, as the list keeps growing.  Some people suggest grass fed, naturally raised livestock. The brutal reality is that at the rate we consume meat today, there isn’t enough land to produce meat from grass fed cattle for all meat lovers. The only reasonable solution is to cut down consumption, or eat chemically bathed, hormone injected, antibiotic fed meat.

Forget the labels 

There’s plenty of good reasons to cut down on that animal protein. Movements such as ‘Meatless Mondays’ are taking root and I have personally made some changes to my diet. However, this does not have to be an all or nothing decision and we do not have to put a label on it. Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarians, smoochmetarians, who cares? Learn where your food is coming from, and eat a balanced diet, in combinations that make you happier, healthier and better. Do not choose your diet so you can fit a label.

 

 

 

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