The term “Meatless Mondays” has become synonymous in health communities with “going green” and having a lesser impact on the environment, and its supposed positive effect on human health.
You’ll see this highly marketed term used in many places, and especially where vegetarian diets are promoted. While I’m not necessarily being critical of vegetarian diets, I’d like to discuss the reasons why these ideas are simply untrue.
The Environmental Working Group has just come out with The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health on their web site. To have a better impact on the environment and our health, it is recommended that we:
- Eat less meat and dairy
- Eat greener meat when you do eat it
- Eat more plants
- Waste less meat
- Eat lower-fat dairy products
- Speak out
Eating more plants and grains doesn’t improve your health
Animal products from sustainable sources have more nutrients and are more bio-available for digestion, period. If you can’t digest the nutrients in the food you eat, your health will suffer. Plants and grains contain phytates which inhibit the absorption of nutrients – especially minerals – in the body.
To increase digestibility, plants should be eaten with animal products or cooked (such as with butter, olive or coconut oil, or lard) to make them more easily digestible. Cultured and fermented vegetables are even more easy to digest, but the EWG and most other sources of health information don’t mention any of these important facts.
Many people have issues with grains, and because grains are monumentally different than they were in the historical past, this has caused and contributed to a lot of health issues such as gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and many digestive as well as auto-immune issues.
Contrary to what many health and nutrition web sites are saying (yes, even some real food health sites), grains should be eaten quite sparingly or avoided altogether – especially if you have health issues and digestive compromise. If you do eat grains, they should always be prepared properly through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. Read this informative post from Archevore, Avoid Poison or Neutralize It about why soaking, sprouting, and fermenting don’t adequately remove all phytates from grains.
Low-fat foods are recommended for consumption by many health sources. But, low-fat foods are changed from how they occur in nature, and in many cases have the fat content replaced with sugar, chemicals, or a combination of the two. They are also usually pasteurized and/or homogenized, which denatures delicate proteins and enzymes necessary for digestion. Low-fat foods are not good for our health and can actually cause health issues to occur.
Fats and cholesterol are critical in our diets. Our brains are almost entirely comprised of fats, and we need the nutrients found in animal fats such as fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and K, minerals such as zinc (often lacking in vegetarian diets), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), minerals like zinc, iron, and phosphorus, and Omega 3s (just to name a few) for nearly every aspect of health including mood and nervous system function, circulatory/respiratory, endocrine, digestive, reproductive, skin/eyes/hair, eliminatory, and detox.
In the 1930s, Dr. Weston A. Price discovered as he traveled around the world to study the diet of various populations that all groups who consumed a regular source of clean animal fat in their diets had the most vibrant health. These populations, who ate no processed foods consumed TEN TIMES the amount of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 than those living in developed countries from animal foods.
Grass-fed meats are a superior source for these nutrients. We are hard-wired to crave fats and proteins, which provide us not just with with critical nutrients but also lasting energy (you can’t say that about carbohydrates, which burn through our bodies very quickly). They stabilize our moods and blood sugar, and provide an indispensible support for our metabolic systems.
If you have issues digesting meat, Dr. Thomas Cowan suggests consuming it with a gelatin-rich, home-made stock from the bones of animals to help digest the nutrients. This allows your digestive tract to become healed so that it can then absorb all the valuable nutrients found in meats. Home-made stock is an excellent calcium source, which you will need if you aren’t consuming dairy products.
Does eating meat give us cancer and heart disease?
(UPDATE: March 2012)
A recent flawed study put out by Harvard School of Public Health tells us that eating meat will decrease our life spans. I wrote a post about this, showing in detail why this study has many holes in it. One of the main reasons is that this study and many others like it don’t take into account the vast nutritional differences between factory-farm meat, which is mostly what people eat, and healthy, grassfed meats from animals on pasture. As well, humans have eaten naturally-raised meats for thousands upon thousands of years, which has allowed humanity to not only survive but thrive.
Does eating less meat save the planet?
Currently, the most common method of meat production is performed in horrific and artificial conditions. Animals and birds are in small spaces, not allowed to roam, graze, forage or engage in natural behaviors. They are pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics, and fed corn, soy, and grain which is cheap and makes them fat quickly. Commercial farming pollutes and destroys everything in its wake, producing carbon gases at nearly every stage in the process, which absolutely contributes to the industrial overheating of the planet.
Sustainable, grass-fed farming is good for the environment and does not contribute to climate change or global warming. Once again, EWG ignores critical research showing that different types of farming produces different results. As pointed out by Anna Lappe in Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at The End of Your Fork and What you Can Do About It, grass-fed farming actually “produces a net benefit, as well-managed grazing can help store carbon in soils.” Her discovery revealed that “converting some of the land currently used for feed production to grass-fed beef production, emissions per acre would be significantly lower.”
As far as saving the planet…how exactly does eating low-fat dairy accomplish this? Creating low-fat foods is an artificial process which requires chemicals and toxins used in their manufacturing and production. So, I challenge anyone to prove exactly how this is good for our health or the environment.
Does eating less meat save money?
No doubt, meats and meat products are typically more expensive than plant foods. No argument there. But what are you getting for your dollar when you buy animal products versus plant products? If you refer to Nourished Kitchen’s Nutrient Showdown, you’ll see that when you compare plant and animal foods for nutrient content (using information from Nutrition Data), animal foods win hands down. To get the maximum nutrients, one of the best places to put your food dollars is in sustainable animal products.
When you eat real, grassfed and sustainable meats from healthy animals on pasture, the meat is packed with nutrients, and you will naturally eat less. But if sometimes you need to eat more, don’t feel guilty about it. If you are doing it occasionally to save money or stretch your meat out, that’s just fine. I’m all for saving money, and in this economy, every dollar counts.
You can easily replace meat in any meal with traditional, healthy fats such as raw dairy from healthy cows on pasture, coconut, or olive oil. You can also have an economical and nourishing dinner cooking vegetables and rice or potatoes using bone broth, lard, or tallow from healthy animals on pasture. That’s right. Even though it’s not “meatless”, it is nonetheless delicious, nutritionally superior, and satisfying – contrary to what mainstream medical and health sources tell us.
More information on nutrient-dense foods that support vibrant health: