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Whether to eat a Vegetarian or meat diet?

Updated on February 22, 2014

Many people wonder if they should eat a vegetarian diet or a meat based diet. That is a good question and one with strong proponents on both sides, with both sides being hotly debated. I have often read and written about nutrition a lot as well as listen to many free health podcasts. And the answer of course is that it depends.

There is a spectrum of individual metabolic types. Some people are genetically predisposed to be able to metabolize meat and fats better than others. Other people are genetically predisposed to be better able to extract nutrients from plants than others.

So everyone is on a spectrum with vegans on one end of the spectrum and pure meat eaters of the other end of the spectrum. Like any bell curve, there are very few individuals that can do well on a vegan diet. And there are very few individuals that do well on a pure meat diet.

I have written how most people should be on a primarily plant based diet. I have also written about the possible problems of a pure vegetarian diet. But of course, there may be a few individuals that do well on those diets. So you can guess that my opinion (and this is only my opinion at the time of this writing in early 2014 and opinions can change over time), is that most people should have a combination of vegetables and some meat (but mostly vegetables).

The ratio of that combination that is optimal for you will depend on your metabolic type. Some need very little meat and other needs more.

The reason why we have such a large range from meat eaters to vegetarians is that humans evolved over many different parts of the world. Eskimos evolved a metabolism that is well adapted to processing fats and meats (because there are no fruits and vegetables in the snowy north). Others evolved in the tropics where there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

Vegetable or  meat diet?
Vegetable or meat diet?

How to figure out Vegetable to Meat Ratio

How do I tell if I am on the vegetarian end of the spectrum or on the meat eating side? You have to get in touch with your animal instinct and let that tell you.

Animals are not told what to eat. They naturally knows what to eat if they are free to roam and find food on their own. A lion (which is a carnivore) will not touch a salad even if it was starving. That is because the lion metabolism is not adapted to processing plants. It is adapted to metabolizing meat and fats. And it can eat meat all day without getting high cholesterol.

A rabbit (which is a vegetarian) if allowed to fend for its own food will not touch a steak even if there was nothing else to eat. So of course, when experimenters force feed rabbits with saturated fat, the rabbit will develop atherosclerosis.

Humans are omnivores, and fall in between the spectrum of lion and rabbit.

Some people argue that humans eating cholesterol (as in eggs) does not raise cholesterol levels in the blood. However, there are a small percentage of the population (known as hyper responders to cholesterol) that consuming cholesterol does affect cholesterol levels. Perhaps these have a more vegetarian type metabolism.

Some people argue that humans need to eat some animal products (such as fish) in order to obtained essential pre-formed DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids because humans are not able to covert well the ALA omega-3 from flaxseeds to the usable form of DHA/EPA. But I have heard elsewhere that are some few individuals that can make this conversion well.

That is why nutrition is such a controversial topic and so hotly debated. Both sides are correct -- to a certain extent. It depends on the individual person that you are talking about. Just like it depends on whether we are talking about lions or talking about rabbits.

Experiment with Vegetarian versus Meat Diet

The lion and the rabbit don't have to read books titled "Eat This, And Not This". They don't listen to nutritional blogs and they don't have philosophical debates about food like we do.

They have a natural instinct dictated by their particular metabolism. And we do too. The problem with us is that we have lost touch of this natural instinct because it is over-ridden by our analytical pre-frontal cortex that causes us to think too much.

If you are healthy individual, you might want to try this experiment to get back in touch with your natural instincts.

For a day or two, eat a pure vegetarian diet. Do you crave meat at the end of the day? Are you hungry? If yes... There you go, that is your natural instinct kicking in. I have heard several instances of vegetarians coming out of vegetarianism due to such a strong craving for some animal product. Your body is telling you that you need to meat protein. If you continue eating like that, you may get nutritional deficiencies. If no, then maybe your metabolism is more of a vegetarian type.

Then for a day or two, eat large portions of meats at every meal. Do you start gagging at the end of the day? Sick of meat? Can't eat anymore? That is your body's natural instinct telling you that your particular metabolism can not metabolize that much saturated fat and protein. If you continue eating like that, you will get atherosclerosis or high cholesterol or homocysteine levels.

Of course, I say preform this experiment only if you do not have any pre-existing medical conditions. For example, you can not perform this experiment if you have gout or kidney issues or had gall bladder removal surgery or other various conditions (because you are not supposed to consume such large amounts of animal protein or on a restricted diet).

Macronutrient ratio

Another source of debate is the macro-nutrient ratio between carbs, protein, and fat. Difference sources argue different percentages. Again, it depends on your metabolic type and you need to go with your body's innate intelligence. Eat mostly vegetables. Eat protein if you crave protein and until you don't feel like it anymore. And eat some safe carbs if you feel a bit hungry and crave a bit of carbs.

The most important thing is to eat natural whole foods that come from nature. If you eat natural foods, your body instincts and your hunger signals will tell you what to eat and the right amounts.

If you eat processed food, the whole feedback mechanism that is so well built into your body gets all screwed up. That is because humans have not been exposed to processed food on an evolutionary scale such that it had developed the natural adaptation and feedback mechanisms for it. And plus manufactures use advanced science to alter the food in such a way that makes you keep wanting more of it (over-riding your natural feedback tendencies).


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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 3 years ago

      Yep. Thanks for the feedback.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There certainly needs to be balance, regardless whether you eat meat or not... mind you, I can't imagine not being able to eat chicken :) Meat eater here.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 3 years ago

      @Minnetonka Yes, I like the balanced moderation approach. I find that I like the particular balanced diet suggested by Paul Jaminet's "The Perfect Health Diet", whose book and website you can find to learn more.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 3 years ago

      @manatita44 It is possible for a vegan to meet the protein requirement as long as they eat the right combination of plants and beans together so that their bodies can combine the nine essential amino acids to make the protein that it needs. Although it does require a bit of time and work to ensure that this is the case to avoid deficiency. The bigger issue for vegans is finding a source of vitamin B12 which the body can not produce on its own and is not present in plant foods. That is why some vegans solve the problem by adding eggs (and cheese if they can tolerate dairy), which is a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acid within one egg) and is also a source of B12.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Great article on Vegetarian or Meat diet. I agree with you that our body tells us what we need. I feel that a combination of meat, veggies and fruit is the best way to go. I've known some friends that are vegan and they just don't look healthy to me. Everything in moderation is very true in this case. Thanks for the great information.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      You argue your case well, and I like that. Many people will fall into the categories that you discussed, and so your advice is encouraging, not to mention well researched.

      If I can just mention that the Yoga philosophy practitioner, sees everything from the standpoint of Consciousness. Some say energy or vibration, but the Yogi calls it Consciousness. All things have Consciousness at varying levels, and the Consciousness of fruit and vegetables, is said to be milder and gentler than that of the animal, including fish.

      That said, we say in Yoga philosophy that what matters most is 'sincerity of purpose' or 'purity of intent.' The heart, the heart ....

      Still, Most traditional practitioners of Yoga, recognises the need for protein and other nutrients, and you will find them using milk, cheese and eggs. Again I return to Consciousness, as these foods are milder in Consciousness or vibration than the animal itself.