A significant amount of people have changed their diet based on my advice, so I feel an obligation to provide updates when I make changes. The debate over the past two weeks, along with additional reading sparked by it, has caused me to change my diet radically.
Before I get into that, I want to explain why I eat what I eat, so that people considering changes based on my opinion can make sure that my goals align with theirs. I choose what I eat for long term health and longevity. That's it. I love animals and think they should be treated kindly, but if factory farmed meat would make me healthier, I would eat it. Taste is important within the range of healthy foods, but if styrofoam packing peanuts were the secret to health, I'd be pounding them down. I don't eat to gain association with any group or subculture. Whether I'm considered vegan, vegetarian, paleo, carnivore, or anything else doesn't matter to me.
I'm not trying to be right yesterday, I'm trying to be right today. Sometimes that means admitting that I was wrong and making the best change I can. I base my identity around adapting quickly to the best information I can find, not clinging to the previous best information.
Also, I don't care how much money I spend on healthy food. If $5 buys me a meal that's somewhat healthy and $10 buys me a meal that is completely healthy, I will pay the $10. The act of eating is amongst the most intimate processes we undergo. The food we choose alters our bodies, minds, and futures. That makes it a top priority financially and otherwise. I once read an exchange where someone asked someone else why healthy food was so expensive. Because it's more valuable, he replied.
So that's my criteria. If your goals are the same, the research I do might be of value to you.
With that out of the way, I have started to eat meat again.
Specifically, I am eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish which are raised in a natural way. That means wild caught fish as well as meat which is fed its natural diet. Almost all cattle in this country is fed corn, which is not what cows are supposed to eat. They have ruminant stomachs specifically designed to eat grass. The properties of the resulting meat are wildly different: the Omega 3 to 6 ratio, for example, is about 1:3 or better in grass fed beef, but is more like 1:20 in corn fed beef. Grass fed cows actually roam in fields, which keeps them healthy. Confined corn fed cows don't exercise and are pumped full of antibiotics to stay "healthy" (a.k.a. not dead).
The main reason I made the switch is this: there are too many people an each side of the fence. Half of nutritional scientists say that meat is the best thing ever for you. The other half say that it will kill you. On the other hand, EVERY nutritional scientist says that refined carbohydrates will kill you.
How is it that EVERYONE knows how bad refined carbs are, but there are so many varying opinions on meat? My own deduction is that meat is an insignificant factor in longevity. If it was a major factor, like refined carbs, it seems as though it would be very easy to prove. But it isn't. Part of why it isn't easy to prove is because longevity and health are interrelated with a huge number of other factors. I've read about dozens of studies where it was later proven that other factors (usually disease or refined carbs) have interfered with the results. Refined carbs push through the complexity because they are so bad, but meat doesn't.
A pattern I saw as I read more about diet is that while scientists know exactly why refined carbs are bad for you, they can't explain why meat is bad for you. Some studies show correlations, but I haven't found any information on the step by step molecular processes that explain how animal products could cause harm. On the contrary, I read one fascinating and detailed account of how meat affects cholesterol (HDL, LDL, VLDL, and apo B particles). It explained how animal fat is processed by your body, why meat is actually healthy for you, and how it appears not to be healthy if you only watch HDL and LDL.
I've been making other smaller changes to my diet since I last addressed the issue. I don't drink smoothies, because the fiber is destroyed in the blending process, thus converting the fruit into a simple carb. I don't eat any sweetener, including agave nectar, because even these "healthy" sweeteners turn out not to be healthy by any standard other than the glycemic index, which is just one factor. The simple rule I keep coming up against is this: "don't mess with the food". Eat things as whole and as close to their natural state as possible. Everything I've been reading about meat falls neatly into the same pattern. It's healthy for you as long as you don't mess with it by raising the animals in unnatural and unhealthy conditions, turning it into chicken nuggets, etc.
I still think that an unprocessed vegan diet is a very healthy diet. I've come to really enjoy it and I expect that a large portion of my meals will conform to it. It's far healthier to eat no meat and no refined grains/sugar than it is to eat both. But I now believe that the diet I was eating can be improved by eating meat, so I will do so.
Be Open Minded
I hope to maybe prevent it by writing this, but I anticipate radical comments from both sides. Vegans will feel betrayed and meat eaters will feel vindicated. Instead, I hope that you'll consider using this debate as I used the original debate between T Colin Campbell and Denise Minger: as a spark to examine the choices you make and make sure that you're doing what's best for yourself.
Since I haven't been eating meat since having a camera, I couldn't find any pictures of meat. So instead there's a picture of me sitting on the head of a water buffalo in Panama. Todd took the picture, which makes me feel slightly guilty about the TYNAN watermark on it.
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just a thought. but the reason why there may be so many scientists on 'both sides of the fence' are simply because, some work independently of agri-business and the meat industry and some are paid huge salaries and/or kickbacks from the meat industry. if you decide to meat meat...have at it. but your reasoning seems to reflect an unfortunate propensity for being easily swayed by whatever viewpoint is popular at the moment. it doesn't matter if 50 doctors are saying smoke crack for your health and only 1 is saying it'll kill you. you have to do your own research and at the end of the day "make up your own mind".
"the fiber is destroyed in the blending process" . . . Seriously - that is like saying that chewing destroys fiber. Fiber is fiber because of it's molecular structure - how do you reconcile the existence of soluble powder fiber with this belief. Also what journal article did this come from. . . Scientific American?
I think that a lot of the commenters have missed the boat here. Your post wasn't about the merits of eating meat so much as it was about keeping an open mind and deciding the best path to take based on the best information you have. Ideally, that's what we all would do, but the real world doesn't work that way. Far too many folks are willing to let CNN or another "information source" do their thinking for them. That's how we end up with people eating in an ideaological manner, or even living that way. Your posts are about living authentically, according to that best information that we can get, and our own *rational* interpretations of that information. Kudos to you for having had the courage to do just that.
Regardless of whether it is proved that eating ("good") meat is healthier for you, I would remain vegan because, like you, I love and respect animals. The difference would be a matter of integrity (that is, acting in accordance with my values in relation to animals).
All sentient beings have the right to live (and die by their own choice). Killing can only be justified in cases of self-defense.
Good morality is logic-based. The only "moral meat" is from animals that have died from natural causes... or animals that you were forced to kill out of self-defense (including humans, because really, what's the difference? One has a silly taboo attached to it, and one does not due to widely accepted inconsistent logic).
I WOULD eat eggs (my favorite meat), if and only if I had my own chickens that I treated as family members/pets and there was scientific proof that there were no unhealthy side-effects to it. But then again, my chickens might not appreciate me taking their eggs, so I'm not certain if I'd give up veganism even for that.
A rendition of John Galt's famous line:
"I swear by my life, and my love for it, that I will never sacrifice my life for another life, nor sacrifice any other for mine."
I read this yesterday... I do wonder if you have considered this perspective.
Live by results. No rules, just right. No diet.
You're body gives you response indicators with whatever you eat. Negative responses indicators can show up, or rather, will be evident, within minutes, hours, days, or weeks, but usually not more, if you're in tune with yourself. And hence you can nip a problem in the bud by discontinuing whatever was causing the problem, as long as you have choices.
The more quickly evident negative response indicators are cracks in the skin rashes, digestive problems, circulatory problems, some flaky skin conditions. These indicators will typically show before longer term indicators such as changes in ones nails or hair or unique changes in skin tonality qualities.
Also, many peoples' bodies will have 'phases' of dietary practices, even instinctually/naturally. And that can be related to seasons, age, climate, activity levels.
Gary Taubes does not explore the political forces at work behind the push to replace animal products with grain products.
Why was Ancel Keys pronounced Man of the Year by Time magazine when he claimed to have proven that, for example, butter will kill you and the new synthetic butter substitute agribusiness just invented (margarine) will save your life?
It's a long story, but I'll give a short version.
After WWII, American agribusiness found that they could produce unlimited quantities of grain very cheaply. They got the government to pay farmers NOT to grow grain to prevent the price from approaching zero. This continues to this day.
At the same time, the chemical industry invented processes to use grain as a feedstock to produce a synthetic butter substitute, margarine.
They found that whereas a pound of butter sells for four dollars and requires three dollars and fifty cents of ingredient to produce, margarine takes only twenty five cents of ingredients (hydrogenated grain oil) to produce.
The challenge: how to get people to eat margarine, and how to get them to pay the same price they paid for butter.
The USDA and the American Heart Association paid scientists to "discover" that butter is deadly and margarine is a lifesaver.
Fast forward to today and margarine (hydrogenated grain oil) has been proven so deadly that it is a criminal offense to feed it to humans in the entire state of New York.
Of course, agribusiness has found that if they change the chemical formula of margarine, they can avoid criminal liability, and this they have done.
The reason "science" has told us that grain products are good is that scientists are paid by the USDA, a consortium of grain producers, the AHA, a consortium of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
This is just one example of many about how we got where we are. There is no money in animal products. Grain products have given us the highest profits in the history of human endeavor.
Commercial fishing is not unsustainable. However, the way many commercial operations are run is unsustainable. I think it's an important distinction to make.
As evidence I offer the Alaska commercial fishing industry from 1900 to about 1950 compared to commercial fishing 1950 onward. Alaska's fish population was nearly wiped out in the early half of that century by practices like fish traps at the mouth of primary rivers catching nearly 100% of fish, unrestrained trolling, and no seasonal limitations on fishing.
Today, however, the fish population thrives (though there are areas that, even today, are quite sensitive). Both commercial and recreational fishing is tightly regulated, with the number one concern being the health of the fish population, not the wallets of the fishermen.
So it can be done correctly, if the society cares enough to do it correctly.
If you're worried about it, look for Alaskan fish or any other fish that is handled in a responsible manner. It tends to carry a premium, but it's also pretty much the highest quality fish you can buy.
This is a very intelligent post and a good example of solid reasoning by a non-specialist to make informed choices for themselves. Your observation about everyone agreeing on the topic of refined carbs is just a very smart way to think about it. I have a fairly similar attitude towards diet and nutrition as you describe here. After reading tons of stuff for years, I firmly believe an omnivorous diet is best.
I occasionally mention my diet, which has spawned some questions in a recent thread as well as in my survey results.
So this week I'm going to explain my diet in detail, focusing on what I eat, why I eat it, and the facts behind the food.
The ideas aren't mine originally, and I'm certainly not the only person to eat this way, but I call it the MaxDiet because there is no formal name for it, and from the research I've done it appears to be the best possible diet.
First off, I want to say that I hate how people use the word “diet”. My blood boils when I hear someone say something like ,”I gained a few pounds, looks like I need to go on a diet.” Such a statement implies that a diet is a temporary way of eating healthier until you lose a few pounds, then you can go back to eating whatever you want.
The way I see things, your diet is how you always eat. It is long-term, which means that you need a diet you can live with. Temporarily eating in a very restrictive manner only makes you crave unhealthier foods even more, and promotes “ballooning” or constantly going up and down in weight. Ballooning is an unhealthy, stressful way to live. A healthy diet is one that you can live with for your whole life. This means that restriction and bland health food products are not an option, as it would require tremendous willpower to stick to. Conversely, the other end of the spectrum, with cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and the like, is also unsustainable because of the associated health risks.
What does all of this mean? The optimal diet is one that is healthy for you and that you enjoy eating. That almost sounds too easy. The reality is that it is slightly less easy than it sounds. The hard part is wading through all of the conflicting dietary advice and figuring out what is actually healthy for you. Then, you can prepare meals that you enjoy while incorporating these dietary ideals. This is exactly what I did to create my diet, which I have named The Healthier Diet, in the spirit of this blog.
The Healthier Diet combines elements of traditional dietary advice with some more unconventional ideas. I would say if anything, it is closest to the Paleo Diet, but still very different. The Paleo Diet gets a lot of things wrong, especially when it comes to fitness, but it also gets some things right. My Healthier Diet is based on a few core ideas. Mainly, that the prevalence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and cancer present in modern society is not a product of a high-cholesterol diet, but a result of eating too many refined sugars. I’m too lazy to find a citation on this but feel free to do more research if you would like. I won’t go into the science here, but there are three main takeaways:
1. Dietary cholesterol alone has little effect on blood serum cholesterol. Only when large amounts of cholesterol are consumed along with saturated fats will your blood cholesterol levels rise. One of the main places the Paleo Diet fails is that it doesn’t restrict saturated fat intake.