Meat and Animal Products for Health
Vegetables and fruits are healthy and should be a the primary portion of everyone's diet.
However, there are health benefits to eating some animal products in addition to plants.
- need for complete protein sources
- fish and seafood are good source of omega-3
- Meat provides vitamin B12 and other minerals
It is true that animals in feed-lots are cramped, and are not treated well, and are not fed their natural diet, and may contain hormones and antibiotics.
Therefore, when choosing animal products, it is best to choose products such as meats and eggs from pastured-raised animals or free-range animals. Second best is from grass-fed animals. These are not as great as pastured raised since they can still be in cages and be fed grass. But at least they are fed grass which is closer to their normal diet rather than grains.
These products will have much better fat profile and will be healthier. When choosing fish, go with wild fish instead of farmed fish.
Kurt Harris writes that ...
"I think consumption of quality animal products is the sine qua non of a healthy diet. ... Grass fed ruminants, pastured butter and eggs and wild caught cold water fish are the kernel of a healthy diet..."
where "sine qua non" originates from Latin and means essential ingredient.
Dr. Al Sears gives 5 tips for boosting glutathione, our body's most potent antioxidant and detoxifier. The tips includes eating meat, fish, and eggs.
Although some amount of protein from animal products is important. More is not better. Many health experts are saying to eat adequate but not excessive protein.
The book Digestive Health with Real Food writes ...
"The truth is that vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, soy, and nuts, can be very hard to digest, especially for an already-impaired digestive tract. The proteins in soy are highly allergenic, while beans and lentils are high in FODMAPs and starches that can feed a bacterial overgrowth. Animal protein is a safer, superior option ..." [page 114]
Need for complete protein
There is a difference between "complete" and "incomplete" protein sources. Animal proteins tends to be more complete than plant proteins.
Proteins breaks down into amino acids upon digestion. The body needs nine essential amino acids that must be obtained from food since it can not be synthesized de novo. These are tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine+cystine, phenylalanie+tyrosine, valine, and histidine.
Furthermore, there are a set of "conditionally essential" amino acids that the body can synthesis in limited or insufficient amounts: arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, histidine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
The problem with plant-based proteins is that they tend to be "incomplete proteins". Plant based proteins lack one or more of the mentioned amnio acids. Beans may have one type of essential amino acid, but not all the essential amino acids. And nuts may have another type of essential amino acid, but not all of them. So vegetarians must know how to piece together a set of plant-based foods that covers all the essential amino acids. And they need to eat a variety to get the full set.
Quinoa is on of the few plant based food that contains "complete protein".
According to Nora Gedgaudas in the book Primal Body, Primal Mind in which she says that no primitive culture ever adopted a vegetarian diet by choice [page 16].
And on page 224, she writes ...
"Far and away, the people with the most damaged and intractably dys-regulated brains and nervous systems I have seen or dealt with in my practice have all been vegans, with strict vegetarians a close second - hands down."
Marcelle Pick in a Hawthorn University webinar says that people with adrenal fatigue needs to have good protein source at every meal (more than what can be obtained from plants).
Dr. Kilmer McCully writes in The Heart Revolution that ...
"depending only on plant for protein is not a good idea because the protein is inferior. I would suggest getting two to three servings of protein from meats, fish, poultry, eggs, or cheese, every day." [page 38]
Need for Essential Fatty Acids
Excessively low fat diets may not have enough essential fatty acids such as omega-3. This can lead to impaired neurological function. Also you need fats in order to absorb fat-soluable vitamins like vitamin D, K, A, and E. Nora Gedgaudas talk also mention that natural dietary fat is the most brain stabilizing nutrient.
Many people already know of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid. Although there is a form of omega-3 known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) in plant products such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. They are not the DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and the EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) form of omega-3 that is found in cold-water fish. And the brain is especially hungry for the DHA form of omega-3 to function optimally. I discuss more about the action of DHA form of omega-3 in brain health in another article here.
Meat and Fish Are Healthy
Although the body can convert ALA into DHA, the conversion is limited and not particularly efficient (especially if there is a high consumption of omega-6 which completes for and uses up resources for the conversion of omega-3).
It is estimated that under ideal conditions, certain individuals may be able to convert at most 6% of the ALA in flaxseed oil to EPA. And the conversion to DHA is even less at around 4%. [page 101 Primal Body, Primal Mind]
In article titled "Why fish stomps flax as a source of omega-3", Chris Kresser says that ...
"Vegans and vegetarians are especially prone to be poor converters of ALA to DHA."
Good source of DHA omega-3 comes from sardines, salmon, shrimps, and other seafoods.
In a Hawthorn University webinar, they also mentioned that it is a good idea to eat fish. Getting omega-3 from flaxseeds may not be enough. The presenter Erin Chamerlik believes in a low carb diet and in eating more fats including butter (which is an animal product). She especially like KerryGold butter which is made from the milk of pastured cows.
Animal products for good brain function
In the video about healthy brain function, Dr. Mercola especially like the DHA omega-3 fatty acids in krill which also provides the antioxidant astaxanthin alongside. As mentioned in the video, the brain not only needs DHA, it also like to have enough nutrients like phosphatidylserine and choline. Sources of phosphatidylserine is from organ meats such as liver and kidneys as well as muscle meats and some seafoods. You can get choline is from eggs.
The Perfect Health Diet writes that ...
"Animal fats are rich in phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol; but plant and dairy fats are comparatively deficient."
The appendix of the book The Perfect Health Diet has a section "For Our Vegetarian Friends" which provides more way in which vegetarian can optimize their health. This includes supplementing with B12 and choline and consuming whole-fat milk or cream. It advises to decrease omega-6 consumption in order to optimize the conversion of ALA omega-3 to the long chain DHA/EPA omega-3 and to try phytoplankton microalgae oil and Spirulina as a vegetarian source of long-chain omega-3.
Book: "The Vegetarian Myth"
Plant based foods are a poor source of the protein amino acid typtophan. Tryptophan is the pre-cursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in the regulation of mood.
In the book, The Vegetarian Myth, Lierre Keith writes ...
"...there are no good plant sources of tryptophan. On top of that, all the tryptophan in the world won't do you any good without saturated fat, which is necessary to make your neurotransmitters actually transmit." [page 10]
She herself was a former vegan, but not anymore after long-term diet without animal products have harmed her health. In her own words, she wrote the book ...
"as a cautionary tale. A vegetarian diet -- especially a low-fat version, and most especially a vegan one -- is not sufficient nutrition for long-term maintenance and repair of the human body." [page 9]
Although anxiety and depression can result from a multitude of causes and so it can not be generalized. But for some people, anxiety and depression can be linked to a deficiency in saturated fat. Yes, that's right. We need some amount of saturated fat.
AnxietyCentre.com writes ...
"a strict vegetarian diet, such as vegan, where all animal sources of food are eliminated, may lack saturated fat that has been linked to depression in certain people"
Similarly low cholesterol may also be linked to depression in some people. Although, the body is able to make its own cholesterol. By consuming cholesterol, your body will not have to make as much. Plant foods do not contain cholesterol.
Need for vitamin B12 and other minerals
Vitamin B12 (along with other B vitamins) plays an important role in metabolism, formation of red blood cells, and maintenance of central nervous system, and brain health.
Source of B12 is found in meats, eggs, shellfish, and poultry. There is only limited B12 in plant sources. Vegetarian and vegan should have their B12 levels check and consider taking B12 supplements.
Vitamin B12 also helps regulate homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine is a biomarker associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. When we consume more methionine than our body needs, it gets converted to homocysteine. The body is self-regulating and will turn the homocysteine into cystathionine which the body can safely excrete via the use of B6. Or it can turn homocysteine back to methionine via the use of B12 and folic.
Although meat protein contains more methionine than plant protein, the meat also contain the vitamin B12 that will help reduce homocysteine levels back to normal.
"Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition..."
The book Nourishing Traditions writes that ...
"Usable vitamin B12 occurs only in animal products." [page 28]
It mentions that none of the higher order animals are strictly vegetarians and all primates eat some animal products. Gorilla for example, eats insect eggs and larvae from the leaves.
Meat has high nutrient density
In the book Your Personal Paleo Code, there is a chart on page 70-71 summarizing Dr. Lalonde's analysis of the nutrient density of various foods. They are as follow with the food highest in nutrient density listed first...
- Organ meats
- Herbs and spices
- Nuts and seeds
- fish and seafood
- lamb, veal, wild game
- vegetables (raw)
- eggs and dairy
- processed meat
- vegetables (cooked or canned)
- plant fats and oils
- grains and pseudograins
- animal fats and oils
- canned grains
Looks like meats are higher in nutrient density than vegetables, which are higher than in grains.
In the book The Paleo Answer, there is actually a section titled "Vegetarianism Can Be Hazardous to Your Health". Dr. Loren Cordain, author and pioneer of the Paleolithic diet says that ...
"Without supplementation, vegetarian diets simply don't work and invariably cause multiple nutrient deficiencies" [page 52]
These include deficiencies in B12, omega-3 fats, zinc, iron, iodine.
Although many plant foods have zinc, the phytate in grains, beans, soy, and nuts (which comprise a large part of a vegetarian's diet) binds to zinc making it less absorbable into the body.
Iodine is the trace mineral that the thyroid needs in order to produce the T4 and T3 thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Iodine can be obtained from plant-based foods such as sea vegetables and strawberries. The other iodine containing foods are from animal products such as yogurt, cow's milk, eggs, and mozzarella cheese. Fish and shellfish are another source of iodine.
Some Problems with Vegetarian Diets
A study found that a vegetarian diet is associated with an elevated risk of depressive and anxiety disorders. Some plausible mechanism may be that vegetarian diets are sub-optimal in DHA omega-3 fat for the brain, zinc, selenium, and proteins with complete essential amino acids.
As Emily Deans commented about the study:
"It is also possible that the nutrient deficiencies common in vegetarian diets (the most robustly studied being long chain omega 3 fatty acids and B12, though I think zinc and creatine and even too low a cholesterol could also be issues) could accelerate or worsen pre-existing mental conditions."
As one example, B12 deficiency symptoms may include anemia, panic attacks, nervous disorders, weakness, loss of balance, and numbness in extremities. It may be a good idea for vegetarians and vegan to consider taking certain supplements, such as vitamin B12 and omega-3.
Chris Masterjohn tells of his story of vegetarianism on his site cholesterol-and-health.com about how he developed symptoms cavities, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They all disappeared when he went back to animal-based foods.
You can hear Sally Fallon talk on the Extreme Health Radio about the benefits of traditional diets that included organ meats in the below YouTube...
Another story is that of John Nicholson as told in his book The Meat Fix: How a Lifetime of Healthy Living Nearly Killed Me!
He was a vegetarian for 26 years and a vegan for many of those years. He ate mostly polyunsaturated fats and whole grains. He ate no cholesterol nor animal fats. However, he was clinically obese, had high cholesterol, and very ill for the majority of those years with IBS (Irritable Bowels Syndrome). He tells of his transformative experience when he ate steak after ending his vegetarian way of eating. He attributed his regained health to the addition of animal products in his diet. He said that his IBS symptoms disappeared 24 hours after eating meat.
Even his brain worked better. He had increased mental sharpness, was more relaxed, and less stressed.
Stephanie Seneff talks about the benefits of sulfur for health in the below video. Animal foods such as eggs, meats, seafood are good sources of sulfur. She believes vegetarian and vegan diet is not healthy for that reason.
Lierre Keith was a vegan for 20 years starting at age 16. She talks in the Underground Wellness podcast about how this way of eating damaged her permanently. In the podcast and in her book The Vegetarian Myth, she explains why the human body requires nutrients from animal products.