We have had several vegetarian/vegans on the site recently.
And I think there is value to engaging in intellectual debate.
So, What I am asking for is scientific/ intellectual arguments for the value of the Vegetarian diet with respect to optimal health. In particular I'd love to hear from former paleo followers who have made the switch.
To be clear, I am not asking for: "Because animals have a right to live" -- That's off topic for this debate.
How is the vegetarian diet optimal for the health of the human race?
asked byCD (26217)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on March 21, 2013
at 03:21 PM
The problem I see though is that in general people are coming from the same place. That being a low variety low nutrition high toxin modern diet.
Hence you find people moving from a poor diet to a high variety high nutrition low toxic fresh produce diet which also includes new found interest in other supplemental health habits and activities.
So take the average thirty-year-old and get them to go from eating three cups of vegetables a week to three cups of vegetables a day, enrol them in activities (i.e. yoga, running, body-weight training), give them a support network of like minded people (i.e. online community/ meetups), give them a new worldview and purpose (i.e. environmentalism, health ideologies), provide them a new identity (i.e. paleo/vegan/vegetarian), introduce a spirituality (i.e. whateverism) and you will provably give them another 20 years of life.
Simply I do not think you can isolate the health benefits of 'x diet' that easily. I do think though we can look at the science and make statements such as the likelihood of toxicity. (i.e. protein consumption above 600kcals per day), or possibly complications related to low nutrition (i.e. micronutrients).
Anyone who has been around the nutrition world has read stories of people coming from a modern diet into any other fresh produce focused diet and had fantastic results. But you also read people eating some unbalanced diet (vegan/paleo) and having problems much later. I HATE the phrase 'balanced diet' because it is not defined and relative to what imbalance?
Find the best vegan diet which covers all the bases and you will be in great health, but from what I have read thus far it takes more work. A excellent vegan diet will probably trump a poor paleo diet. I honestly don't think just eating muscle meat, a bag of spinach and stick of butter a day will get you to good health. It will displace toxic foods you were consuming before, but compare that with a really thorough vegan diet full of fresh produce variety and the vegan diet would win. (I honestly believe that).
Here is one of the best balanced posts I have ever read: http://paindatabase.com/ask-kamal-stabby-vegan-diet
As many of you know I am very much convinced by the PHD: http://perfecthealthdiet.com which I believe is worth buying and reading through thoroughly. The Jaminet's have done their homework and provided years of information to think through, including a bibliography of the original material that produced the text and thought.
I live with a raw vegan flatmate and she has some of the best eating habits I have seen. She in general beats me hands down in terms of variety and effort. Where I will cook a steak with two green vegetables, sweet potato, and some non-starchy vegetables; she will be grinding various seeds, shredding different greens, fruits, adding various raw ingredients, etc.
I do question the amount of fat she eats, but I she makes a hell of a lot more effort then I do. Do we get the same nutrition, possibly. Do I eat more toxins due to browning my steak, possibly.
My point being though that if there was such a thing as a perfect vegan diet, I think in general it would be harder work then a perfect diet that includes animal products. Does the toxin inclusion in the meat diet offset its benefits against the possible deficiencies in a vegan diet? I am not sure.
One thing though that still convinces me even sympathetically is that the history of the development of humankind included the consumption of high nutritious foods (i.e. animal products) which triggered the development of stronger bodies, brains and minds. This also included the discovery of cooking and processing ingredients. Also the argument of human breast-milk macronutrient percentages to me makes a lot of sense in contrast to say eating a 80/10/10 diet for example. I just do not see how that would be most helpful.
Anyway I was a former vegetarian, but I would be the first to say that it was a poor vegetarian diet of basically very low fat, pasta, salads and green vegetables. Since I started eating a PHD, my vegetable consumption has gone from < 5 cups a week to > 10 cups a week and my health at 32 (my birthday today actually!) is better than it has ever been.
on March 21, 2013
at 03:58 PM
Thanks for starting a civilized thread on the subject. We've had to many vegetarian trolls on the site and too many anti-vegetarian bashing threads as well. You are correct to separate the moral implications of meat eating since that's very subjective and is covered in other threads here, I think.
The general observation of vegetarians is that they are significantly healthier than the consumers of the standard American diet. Most of the paleos here are too, which indicates to me that meat is a non-issue in general. As antithetical as our two viewpoints are, we have a lot in common. The first is, we try to eat a lot of fresh vegetables, organic if possible. Anyone eating a lot of nutrient rich vegetables have the double benefit of good nutrition and low calories, combined with NOT eating other stuff. If you have a huge salad at lunch, you're less likely to eat a bunch of sweets and french fries and such.
We also agree that the way we treat animals isn't good. Both good vegetarians and good paleos agree that the factory farms where animals are treated horribly and fed the wrong stuff is bad for both the animals and the humans. The major difference is that we eat the animals after raising them right. Once again, that's a moral quandry for another time. So, we both try to shun poorly raised meat and factory farm animals. Once again, vegetarians are avoiding food that's not so great for you.
Probably the most important factor that helps both vegetarians and paleos is that we are aware that food influences the body and health. Paleos are different than a lot of standard diet meat eaters because we're not just shoving bacon in our mouth without knowing what it may or may not be doing to us. Of course, if we had all the answers, this site wouldn't need to exist!
I've seen a lot of unhealthy vegetarians who just assume that non-meat products are good for you and pay no attention to what else they're eating, but I feel that there's a large amount of them that are forced to pay attention to their diet just based on the fact that they're trying to find out the ingredients to see if it's acceptable or not. After a few years of reading labels, you're bound to pick up on the unnatural additives and artificial trans-fats and start avoiding them.
I personally don't feel like being a vegetarian is the best choice for a long term lifestyle, but the emphasis on eating vegetables (hopefully), avoiding poorly raised meat, and eating less artificial ingredients is a lot more healthy than many other eating habits out there.
on March 21, 2013
at 02:09 PM
Well I'm not vegetarian or vegan (anymore), but I currently believe paleo is wrong in two regards.
- Limiting tubers (I think that for the most part any limitation is wrong), it's my understanding that tubers are available basically year long ( correct me if I'm wrong).
- Putting dairy in a maybe box (fermented dairy especially), yogurt has been shown to be protective against cavities , same with cheese. They both also tend towards increasing bmd and bodybuilders who include a calcium source when they were otherwise lacking tend to see more improvements.
There are some other discrepancies I have, but those are the 2 main ones.
on March 21, 2013
at 04:01 PM
Stephen R. dairy is NOT a calcium source. That is an advertizing gimmick used by the dairy industry. You need magnesium to absorb calcium and dairy is a very poor source of magnesium.
on March 21, 2013
at 03:28 PM
i went from eating a cooked vegan diet, to HCLF raw, to cooked paleo, and eventually settled on a raw paleo diet that consists mostly of raw fruit and vegetables, whole fats from plant and nut sources, and raw fish.
i felt great on HCLF, but i feared that the lack of fat in my diet would eventually have a negative effect on my body. the raw paleo diet that i've been following for the past 3 months has me feeling better then ever. i honestly feel i could thrive on a meat free diet that's high in plant fats, but i enjoy fresh sashimi and i look at the japanese diet as a testament that fish is nothing but beneficial. i know a lot of people on here fear carbs, but that's not the case for me. i barely exercise (2 mile bike ride 5 days a week) and i have no trouble maintaining my weight. i eat a lot of mono meals of fruit. bananas, mangos, pomegranates. whatever is in season. a huge salad at night, one or two avocados a day, a whole coconut 2-3 times a week, a handful of nuts here and there, and fresh sashimi 1-3 nights a week. i think the higher fat intake is necessary to maintain my blood sugar levels, though. and i'm sure the protein helps, too. i've been monitoring my blood sugar levels and they've been great so far.
as for the benefits of eating mostly vegan, my skin glows, i feel energized with no peaks or crashes, i only need 7 hours of sleep, my mood has improved, my anxiety has almost disappeared, my body looks more toned, i have virtually no body odor, and i just generally feel cleaner.
on March 21, 2013
at 01:37 PM
I thought I'd share my Veggie->WAPF experience.
My very first foray into nutrition started in high school and the information I was receiving from both SAD sources (USDA, FDA, Mayo Clinic, Webmd, Corn Growers of America, Monsanto, etc.) and also vegetarian sources (PETA, random vegetarian/vegan blogs, vegetarian recipe sites., etc.) was crap.
SAD, interestingly enough, tells us to avoid foods that would lead us to consume more meat and dairy. Dairy is more favored than meat, according to CW, but it's still not fully "approved." At least not in its regular form, processed dairy seems very acceptable in CW.
If you do "SAD-research" you'll inevitably run into the fact that saturated fat, cholesterol, bovine hormones, animal hormones in general, plague the food supply and cause heart disease, cancer, etc.
So after I "learned" that Saturated Fat was bad, I did the obvious thing and lowered the amount of fat in my diet. I also ate lots of wheat during this time, it kind of replaced "filling foods" like meat and eggs (I was never huge on eggs, but I did eat them.) Pretty soon, I was subconsciously lowering the amount of animal foods I was eating, simply because if you're trying to avoid fat you try to avoid regular animal food consumption. It's very simple.
Then I went into veggie territory and learned how cows were being tortured and little delicious baby chickens were being turned into nuggets. I learned about CAFO farming and all of the disgusting infectious contaminants in dairy, namely all the puss and antibiotic residue and hormones I was ingesting. At this point, my head was being pounded in with more animal foods = cancer tripe. So I sought out vegetarian alternatives (I was never a vegan, because even as a vegetarian I realized veganism was retarded.
I started buying those processed soy/corn mock meats. That shit fucked with my GI tract, I think. After a while, I didn't really think much about food. I had a few "Accidents" during my vegetarian like when I didn't know gravy was made out of meat, because we always had mushroom gravy at home and my parents neglected to tell me that gravy can also be made out of meat. I still consumed lots of greens and fruits though. My household always consumed lots of veggies like beets, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, greens, etc.
Realistically, the vegetarian diet is not difficult to follow once you forget meat. I never really "struggled" to avoid meat. Being a veggie DID lower my weight, but I think that was just because of calorie deficit and I walked a LOT in high school. I mean a LOT, I probably walked more in a day than people walk in a week. But after a few years of stupid vegetarianism, I started to notice a few health problems up.
Suddenly, the energy I had from vegetarianism (I WOULD say that vegetarianism gave me more energy, but it was mild at best and it didn't last) dipped below. Everyday, I started feeling sleepy and sluggish and like I was 2 steps behind everyone. I remember skipping school a few days because I was just so sleepy - that was partially because I was tired and also because I think the vegetarian diet + caffeine were messing with my sleep schedule somehow. My internal clock was just off-kilter.
So I did more research and basically came to the conclusion that everything I ever learned about nutrition was wrong and that these so-called nutritionists online don't know shit and their advice kills people.
on March 21, 2013
at 06:26 PM
I don't believe that a vegetarian diet is optimal for health. A diet which includes meat is closer to optimal, due to protein and bioavailability of animal-processed micronutrients.
That said, vegetarianism is a diet that millions can survive on, at low cost. Meat calories are 2-10x more expensive than rice/beans/potatoes/wheat and vegetable oil because meat is higher on the food chain. It takes a lot of vegetables to raise a pig.
on March 21, 2013
at 02:21 PM
Articles like this seem to be a dime a dozen: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/plant-based-diet_b_1981838.html . Some highlights from it are:
- Nearly a decade of extra life -- that's what you get when you move away from eating animal foods and toward a plant-based diet.
- Dietary cholesterol intake -- only found in animal foods -- was associated with living a significantly shorter life and fiber intake -- only found in plant foods -- was associated with living a significantly longer life.
- After Dr. Ornish's team showed that the bloodstreams of men eating vegan for a year had nearly eight times the cancer-stopping power, a series of elegant experiments showed that women could boost their defenses against breast cancer after just two weeks on a plant-based diet.
- Kidney failure, our eighth leading cause of death, may also be prevented and treated with a plant-based diet. The three dietary risk factors Harvard researchers found for declining kidney function were animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol, all of which are only found in animal products.
Look, you want to live like your ancestors or whatever, I think that's great, just slightly ignorant.
on March 21, 2013
at 04:23 PM
I've heard a raw vegan diet can treat cancer due to alkalinity & an animal based ketogenic diet also can even though it would probably be acidic, i believe both because both have reports of working in humans
I'd love to be a vegetarian as i agree with it from an ethical/spiritual pov, i spent years eating nothing but minimal seafood & veggies, but i just feel & look healthier eating some red meat & animal fat, even Gary Taubes expressed that it's unfortunate that it's animal fat that is good for us
As soon as i started eating more meat i saw my gaunt pale face plump up & get some color back into it, the Ornish study has been debunked because so many factors took place in the study, not just 'animal product vs plant'
The main arguement for paleo is that we evolved to eat animal products, but the best counter arguement IMO is that we have not stopped evolving and in a spiritual sense eating less animals makes sense & evolution is ultimately a spiritual process (IMO)
on March 21, 2013
at 02:31 PM
Hey, I'm one of the new ones so I guess I should use this to introduce myself :D In the first place, please excuse my poor English skills as I'm not a native-speaker.
I guess my life, from a nutritional view point, could be divided in four phases:
Until 21 yr old I didn't like almost any single healthy food, I always was eating crap: chips, snacks, fried things, sugary things, didn't touch any single veggie, plenty of pasta and rice (from processed sources) and the only thing that may have been indeed healthy: meat, it was always heavily processed. I also didn't like exercise, so as you can guess, I became fat (not morbid but I guess between 25-30% BF with some boobs, love handles and a very round shaped face).
Then somehow since my relationships with girls were a mess (well I didn't have any) I decided to do something about it. I joined a gym and started bodybuilding. I saw results in few time so I researched a little bit (been one of the firsts here having internet access when they were only 33.6K modems) and started learning about typical "clean" bodybuilding style of eating with lean meat cuts, lots of eggs, high protein cuts in general with low-fat and plenty of starchy carbs or a few ones depending upon bulking or cutting. I did pretty well like this and started to get a nice body re-composition for about 2 years or so. I had some trouble with my gut feeling full and bloated most of the time and went see the docs but I never got a clear answer. Got some meds to avoid gases and went on.
One day I started to think about animal freedom and rights and became vegetarian. I want to say that being into bodybuiding I was pretty aware that animal protein was the best and I didn't do it for health concerns but absolutely for my beliefs as I saw it as a possible handicap for my goals. But I loved animals and wanted to give it a try. I became ovo lacto so some protein and B12 will be available and I used a whey shake post workout and before bed that granted some quality protein, and I thought that everything shall be ok. This lasted 5 years and until very recently (January 2013 or so).
...And now I'm back eating animal food and experimenting with Paleo.
Why did I came back and forgot about my beliefs and animal rights? Well, as I said, I was always struggling with gut issues and feeling pretty bad with bloating, gases and also a general sense of inflammation, everything hurt for no reason. One day, doing some research, I found about the possible concerns about grains in the diet. I became aware of lectins and phytates and that was like a 'switch' for me. Also the harmful omega 6 and trans fats. I was having most of the symptoms described by many people with grains. During all this time, I was fluctuating with my carbs intake, wanting to get below 10% body fat put me into low carb for cutting. I then started to realize that when eating less than 150-200 gr a day of grains my digestion was apparently a lot better so everything started to fall in place.
Until I though that a balanced diet of grains and greens with dairy and eggs and some other veggie targeted products could supoprt a healthy lifestyle I had no problem sticking with vegetarianism because I wasn't either craving meat and only problems I may had were explaining every now and then to people why I did this and dealing with difficult restaurants, but that was all.
But the very moment I started to look bad at grains and legumes, everything became very difficult. Now I was in a very restrictive kind of diet. I upped a lot my veggie and fruit intake which I didn't care a lot but It really started to feel pretty weird. Now I was telling people that I didn't eat meat plus... grains! "So what do you live on?" people asked me. "Good question.." I thought to myself.
Also, during my hardest days of both bodybuidling hard and endurance running to beat my 10K PB of 35:24 I started to fall into aenemia and chronic fatigue. Even with iron supplementation and a bunch of supps for sports performance I struggled to get through it.
I also was into very weird situations like giving advice to some friends that I knew they ate meat so they could take advantage from my advice but not to myself. Also sometimes when eating at a restaurant or in christmas, I couldn't eat anything more than bread or cereal/sugar based stuff because everything else was animal food, but by then I knew that the other stuff would be superior nutrition-wise, but I just sticked for my beliefs, while still holding anaemia and training harder than anyone sitting there...
So I finally found it too weird for me to stick like this and decided to make the shift. I must say that I think that many positive things I've been experiencing this 4 last months may come not just by adding meat back but by having cut the bad stuff, I think that's the most important, and I guess one could live a more or less healthy life with some good practices with at least ovo-lacto-vegetarianims. In this other thread I have given some advice based on my experience.
But frankly, live is easier now and I do feel better, my digestion has improved a lot, I don't feel that inflammation response no more and even my performance seemed to have went up again before being struggling for a year and a half, I got a PB this last weekend on the Marathon with a 2:47:58!
I shall do some blood tests so I can have evidence that everything is in check but at least I can tell I feel pretty well!