Top 10 Reasons Not To Become a Vegetarian
There’s been a trend in recent years of everyone and their brother hopping on a proverbial train labeled “Vegetarianism.” As the population has paid shrewder attention to health and nutrition, it seems that one of the most touted lifestyles is any collection of vegetarianism, most specifically veganism, which eliminates any addition of meat or dairy products in one’s diet. Meats have been condemned for the alleged predispositions one will have to heart disease and various cancers due to the consumption of saturated fats.
In the 1950s, a breakfast that included greasy bacon, three egg omelettes and steak was seen as typical. “Diet” wasn’t a word that was common in American vernacular and “gym rat” would likely be associated with an actual rodent as opposed to a fraternity member with a penchant for pumping iron.
Over several decades, America’s views on health and diet have changed drastically. Vegetarianism is no longer a rarity and it seems that every other week a member of Hollywood’s elite (or at least reality television) is touting veganism as their diet of choice, along with various “cleanses” (note: don’t do a cleanse). For many, acquiring a gym membership is as crucial as having a credit card, and the word “bacon-wrapped-cheddar whatever” is synonymous with dropping an “F” bomb.
It is interesting that vegetarianism has become so much of the hype for combatting diseases when instances of heart disease and various cancers are at an all-time high and have led to more mortalities than they ever had during decades where meat was considered a staple of all dishes. The truth of the matter is, food processing and various artificial ingredients are much more likely to be contributing to health detriments than a healthful steak or lamb shank. While everyone believes meats and dairies have become unhealthy, the truth is quite the opposite. Meat consumption can actually lead to a decreased risk of various medical conditions and can help to maintain weight. Let’s take a look at the 10 ways vegetarians have gotten it all wrong.
10. Our Ancestry Is Rooted In Eating Meat
Back in the days our primitive ancestors lived — around 2.5 million years ago — behaviors were much more instinctual. There were no “fad” diets, just a diet that consisted of hopefully finding a worthy specimen to kill and eat in order to stave off starvation. In other words, it was a simpler time.
Other than eating meat as a survival technique — and because that along with the occasional twigs and berries were all that was at our primitive ancestors’ disposal — Pete Ungar of the University of Arkansas made the discovery in 2003 that Homo sapiens “had much sharper teeth than their most likely immediate ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, which posits that our ancestors were born to consume meat. The steep crests of primitive humans cannot be found in various omnivores, and even chimpanzees and gorillas “which consume mostly soft foods such as ripe fruit and almost no meat” do not have as steep and sharp of a crest in their teeth. The sharpness of the crest of our teeth is clearly designed for cutting and tearing of tough textures that are characteristic of meat.
There is more to the story of evolutionary reasons for keeping meat as a staple in the human diet. When Homo sapiens brains increased in size during the Ice age, their digestive systems also became smaller so that they would need less energy in order to survive the long, harsh winters of the Ice Age, which made food scarce. There were very little plant options during this time, and meat became the primary source of primates’ nutrients and energy.
According to Holistic Help, the advent of agriculture is one thing that has begun to change our evolutionary assets in a negative way. Holistic Help vetted Dr. Barry Groves for more insight, and he posited that, “ The brain has become 11 percent smaller since the introduction of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. Many of the calories in the diet that once consisted of nutrient-dense foods, like the high-fat animals of the Paleolithic era, were substituted with mineral-depleting grains. This has robbed the brain of the energy it needs to maintain its large size.”
9. Consumption Of Red Meat Can Prevent Certain Deficiencies
Marbly red meats are a favorite entree several in restaurants across the nation, and also considered a “guilty pleasure” by many due to the high amount of saturated fats, as well as beef’s omnipresence on fast food menus across the globe. The processing of red meat in chain restaurants has been instrumental in giving this protein and vitamin-rich food a bad rap. However, red meat purchased from grocery stores that has labels like “grass-fed,” “organic,” “ethical,” “hormone-free” and/or “unprocessed” can serve as an essential part of one’s diet and decrease the risk of physical and mental health ailments such as anemia, jaundice and dementia to name a few.
Red meat is rich in vitamin B12, a vitamin that can only be found in meats, dairy or poultry products and is essential to the operations of the central nervous system. A deficiency in this vitamin can give way to a litany of health issues such as dementia that can decrease quality of life and longevity. Deficiencies in B12 can be insidious, as people can go years without feeling the effects. There are few tastier ways to ensure you are getting enough of this essential vitamin than to “beef” things up at dinner time with a home-cooked burger or filet mignon.
8. Vegetarianism Does Not Necessarily Help With Weight Loss
Many people have taken to vegetarianism not for political reasons, but for weight loss reasons, as vegetarianism has been touted as a great weight loss regimen. This is not necessarily the case. In fact vegetarianism can actually lead to weight gain.
As a personal anecdote, I’ll reference an ex of mine who practiced vegetarianism. When you think of a vegetarian, you’re likely thinking of someone who eats tons of organic fruits and vegetables, a plethora of nuts and beans for proteins, and a smorgasbord of healthy complex carbohydrates like brown rice or quinoa, all aligned in a beautiful rainbow of health on a plate like one of those featured in many a picture on veg blogs. The reality is that you don’t necessarily have to be healthy to be a vegetarian. You just have to exclude meat (and dairy as well if you are a vegan). My ex boyfriend the vegetarian had a steady diet of vodka, tofurkey, hash browns, and Oreos (which are completely vegan, by the way) to support his vegetarian lifestyle. In other words, he wasn’t in the best of health.
Vegetarianism and veganism do not provide the same satiation that a diet including meat does. Because meats provide complete proteins as well as fat, you will feel fuller longer. In fact, met actually can aid in a weight-loss program and even expedite benefits gained during exercise.
According to Men’s Health, “When you eat, your body has to expend calories to digest the food. Protein causes this inner fire to burn the hottest, followed by carbohydrates, followed by fat. Animal proteins increase thermogenesis more than vegetable proteins, so the best calorie-burning foods are lean meats. So eat some protein at each meal—build your dinner around lean chicken, beef, or pork. That way, you’re burning the most calories through digestion at the end of the day, when your metabolism is slower.”
7. Meat Probably Doesn’t Cause Cancer
One of the most touted reasons to steer clear of meats — particularly those high in saturated fats — is the alleged increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Not only were cases of cancer, heart disease, AND obesity much lower during decades like the 1950s — where meat was a staple of every mealtime — recent research has shown that both saturated fat and cholesterol actually pose benefits to the body. According to Authority Nutrition, cholesterol is an essential molecule and yes that includes both HDL (or “good cholesterol”) and LDL (otherwise known as “bad cholesterol”). “When we get a lot of cholesterol from the diet, the liver just produces less of it instead, so the total amount doesn’t change much. In fact, in about 70% of people, cholesterol has negligible effects on cholesterol in he blood. In the other 30% (termed hyper-responders), there is a mild elevation in LDL cholesterol, but HDL (which is protective) also goes up.”
Authority Nutrition goes on to note that saturated fats can be beneficial by “decreasing risk of stroke” and results from studies and data collection have aggregated to show that saturated fats do not have an impact on cancer risks and heart disease.
6. Not Eating Meat Is Bad For The Environment
Say what?! That’s right. Look, as an animal lover myself, it always feels a bit morbid to be a proponent of handing out death sentences to livestock. I can empathize with those who are put off by the idea of eating meat due to both their love of animals, and the abhorrent conditions of some (some not all) farming industries. The fact of the matter is, however, not only do we currently have a choice of selecting meats and dairy products that are from farming industries that allow “free-range” and do not include the use of hormones or GMOs, but to eschew killing cattle for meat production would actually be detrimental to our environment. Yes, that’s right, the methane produced from livestock is more potent than the deadly gas known as carbon monoxide. Moreover, soy and tofu products have always been regaled in vegetarianism (I don’t know if there’s a single person that orders tofu without a self-important grin plastering their face. Hey, I’ve been guilty of it myself) but tofu production actually exacerbates environmental harm. According to a study from Cranfield University, “Switching from British-bred beef and lamb to meat substitutes imported from abroad such as tofu and Quorn would increase the amount of land cultivated, raising the risk of forests being destroyed…The researchers concluded: ‘A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.’”
Speaking of tofu…