Myth busting – Part 8
Myth: We must eat vegetables to be healthy, but we can live without meat.
Truth: Actually, it’s the opposite. We can live on animal foods alone, but it’s very hard to live on plant foods alone.
This myth-busting series is in danger of becoming a manifesto for meat eaters, and that is not my intention!! I feel the need to state – I love vegetables!!! I still recommend the MND target for vegetables and fruit intake is 17-a-day! And I am not trying to put a downer on the vegetarian choice!
But the truth is this, while half the human race are intolerant or sensitive to gluten in one way or another, I’ve never met a single person intolerant to chicken. I’ve never heard of anyone with a salmon intolerance. I’ve never heard of anyone allergic to mackerel.
Some people are intolerant to eggs, and many people are intolerant to dairy (food Mother Nature evolved for baby cows, not for adult humans) but very few healthy people have any kind of intolerance to meat, poultry or fish.
Following on from Myth busting – Part 7
You see, once we get through the claws, teeth and fur, that animal is all done with the whole ‘defending itself’ thing and we can crack on and eat pretty much anything we like – all its organs, it’s muscle meat and the fat deposits under its skin. Don’t be afraid of eating animal fat if it comes from naturally-reared animals, such as wild game, open-ocean caught fish, pastured livestock and free range poultry. Inuit peoples traditionally ate an 85% to 90% fat diet, high in seal blubber, and they often ate rotten fish heads, and they were mostly clinically obese (an Eskimo has to keep warm you know) and yet heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes were completely unknown in their culture until they adopted a Western diet, high in grains and added sugar. We can also eat the blood (think black pudding), the bones (we can chew soft bones for the marrow, I often do this with chicken bones) and most of the connective tissues, which are a bit gross to chew, but they boil away in a broth and we get nutritious collagen and more from them.
You can see, how the notion that ‘all we need is plants’ combined with the myth that ‘eating saturated fat from animals makes you fat’ made for a world where pretty pictures of nice colourful fruits and vegetables growing in the sunshine have been used to sell us an image of abundant good health – earthy, natural, sunshine and bright colours.
Meanwhile, the notion of a savage carnivore sinking its teeth into a hunk of bleeding animal flesh has been used to convince us that animals are best kept as pets, not raised for food, and somehow eating meat is ‘dirty’ and evil, a sin.
But in fact, the reality is the opposite.
Man can live on meat alone
As you surely know, there are three macronutrients in our food – proteins, fats and carbs. In very broad terms, meat and fish tend to be high sources of protein and fats, and very low in carbohydrates and fibre. Conversely, vegetables tend to be high sources of carbohydrate and fibre, with ‘some’ protein. Some plant foods are high in fat, such as avocado and nuts, for example.
Biologically speaking, we must eat proteins or we will die. We must eat fats or we will die. But we can in fact live without carbohydrates. Carbs are not an essential dietary food group, we could live without them. Animal foods offer the most complete proteins and some of the best fats (think fish oils and eggs).
Personally, however, I don’t recommend living without carbohydrates! If you go low enough on your carbs, you’ll suffer vile moods, you’ll be miserable (chocolate makes us happy! That’s funny…but true…it’s no coincidence that most ‘comfort foods’ are carbs!) you’ll likely have vile smelly breath and your shit will probably really stink! But it’s entirely ‘healthy’ and likely in prehistoric times, where early man lived in cold Northern climes, winter months would have meant an almost entirely carbohydrate-free diet, living only on animal foods for weeks and months at a time.
Anecdotally, I read about tribes living traditional hunter-gatherer lives and they often talk of how everyone is hungry and miserable when they are living on plants alone…but then after a kill, when bellies are filled with meat for a day or two, everyone is happy again. This I have read about time and again, about traditionally hunter-gatherers all around the world.
Many vitamins and minerals are only available from animal sources (most notably and well known is vitamin B12) and many micronutrients are massively more bioavailable from animal foods than from plant sources. For example, vitamin A is 12 to 24 times more bioavailable from organ meat than it is from plant sources, because vitamin A from animal foods comes in a different, and more biologically potent, form (retinoids in animal foods, versus carotenoids in plants). Vitamin D is not found in plants at all. EPA and DHA, a series of essential fatty acids, are only found in animal foods, mostly in oily fish.
The truth is, you can live on animal foods alone, but you can’t live healthily on plant foods alone without supplements. Combine this with the fact that more than 90% of plant life on Earth is unsuitable for human consumption, whereas we can eat almost any animal, fish, bird or insect out there save for a few nasty poisonous fish, frogs and insects, and you can see that in reality, animals are the most abundant, nutritious food source Mother Nature provides for us.
Availability of edible plants
The overwhelming majority of plants we consume today have been selectively bred over a thousand years of farming. A few thousand years ago, most of the edible varieties of vegetable that we enjoy today, either didn’t exist at all, or were much smaller and less tasty, but farmers have bred them into the big delicious vegetables we enjoy today (bananas, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, broccoli, apples, and so on). And thousands of years ago, there were far fewer fruits available. Most big fat sweet juicy fruits we enjoy today are entirely ‘man bred’ by 500 years of farming, using ‘selective breeding’ practices.
And don’t forget, it’s all the refined processed grains that are ‘making everyone fat and diabetic’ and it’s the gluten causing half our auto-immune problems!!
OK, enough beating on poor plants for one day!
Just don’t be blinded by images that plant-based diets are our saviour and friend, while eating animal flesh is some kind of ‘hedonistic sin’ that will give you cancer, because those fallacies are completely out of whack with Mother Nature and all the scientific and nutritional evidence. (Meat and cancer – read the reality here.) I see ‘vegetarian raw food detox retreats’ being sold and all the images are of baskets of fruits and vegetables, rich in colour and variety, it’s all ‘sunshine and colours’ selling you an image of good health.
Don’t buy into the ‘detox bullshit’ that is so over-used today!
Listen, your body can detox itself. They sell these lies that somehow meat and processed foods is ‘toxic’ and you need to eat vegetables to ‘detox’ but there is absolutely no scientific truth to this at all. I recommend not eating processed foods because they are nutritionally poor compared to fresh whole foods, and they represent everything that is wrong in our disconnection from Nature and where our food comes from…but they are ‘safe’ to eat, and they rarely contain anything ‘toxic’ that needs to be urgently purged from your body.
What is toxic is cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption and a diet high in refined sugar.
Don’t buy into the idea that you need to go on some kind of retreat in the sun to detox. A retreat in the sunshine is very nice, but the ‘detox’ bit is bullshit. You have a liver, you have kidneys, you have lungs and you have skin, and these wonderful organs are detoxing your body all the time, every day. If they stop working and “you become toxic” you’ll know, very soon, as the nurse leaning over you in hospital will explain.
If you attend one of these retreats, then the best thing it will probably do for you is to give you a week off eating processed food full of sugar and drinking alcohol! No wonder folks lose weight!
If you feel the desire to go on a health retreat then come on one of mine, and get some real education! Change your paradigm, and don’t be fooled by the marketing lies that you see advertised all around you.
Sidebar: last point on animals – eat the pig, because given the chance, it would eat you. This is another thing people forget. A lot of the animals our vegan friends get all doe-eyed and sentimental about protecting, such as pigs and chickens, are omnivores too, and if they could eat us, they would. Now don’t get me wrong, you know I’m an animal lover, I love pigs and chickens and hate to see them or any other animal mistreated, but this is science now, we are all about truth here today!
It’s all too easy to think a pig is a cute little thing that shuffles around in a field all day looking for plants to eat, but that’s not what pigs do! Pigs use their big tough snout to dig in the mud to find worms, beetles, bugs, slugs, snails, plants, roots, insects, spiders, flowers, anything. They’ll eat almost anything, including a lot of what we throw away as rubbish. It’s so sad that we waste food and landfill the discarded produce, when pigs are omnivores, and would be happy eating most of the food we waste and throw away – from vegetable peelings to uneaten burgers, you name it. If human flesh was available, pigs would happily eat that, too.
Obviously it’s hard to prove that, but it is true.
No one wants to be eaten alive by a pig, no one wants to hack a limb off and feed it to a pig to test this out, and no one wants to donate their deceased loved ones to being used as pig food just to test a theory! However, there have been various incidents over the years where farmers or children have fallen into pig enclosures, knocked out and bleeding, and been eaten by their own livestock. And there have been a number of recorded incidents where ‘gangsters’ fed their enemies, dead or alive, to pigs. Pigs will eat humans, quite happily.
Chickens are the same. Forget these ideas of chickens eating corn, chickens are voracious omnivores, and they love eating meat. Chickens left to range freely will spend their time scratching up the dirt looking for worms, spiders, insects, bugs and slugs, snails, frogs, toads, small rodents, and anything else they can get hold of. Unlike the pigs, I don’t think there has ever been a case of a farmer being eaten by his own chickens, but if you fed human flesh to a bunch of hungry chickens, I bet they would eat it without hesitation.
One organic farmer I was chatting to told me that he used to help conduct farm inspections to certify that eggs sold as free range, sold at a premium price of course, were genuinely free range. He said the first thing to look for is the ground – if it’s covered in lovely healthy looking grass, then you know the farmer is lying and the minute you leave, he’s feeding them corn. If chickens are truly free range, the ground will be bare dirt, the grass will all be dug up and gone, as the chickens spend all day clawing at the ground, digging for bugs and worms.
So while many portray our eating of other animals as cruel, it is worth remembering that most other carnivorous and omnivorous animals on Earth would happily eat us, given the chance.
I want to reiterate that this Myth Busting mini-series is NOT an attack on vegetarianism and it is not meant to be ‘a meat-eaters manifesto’ so I hope it’s not coming across that way. I am simply trying to restore some balance to the world of healthy eating. Remember, Mother Nature’s Diet Core Principle 7 – eat only plants and animals. Our goal is to get 50% of our calories from naturally-raised animal sources, and 50% of our calories from organic plants. Both are equally important.