What I Think of Meatless Mondays

www.mypicshares.com

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:

How well do you know your food? Find out!

What are traditional foods?

The grass-fed meat challenge: busting myths about meat

14 Comments

  • July 26, 2011 - 10:16 AM | Permalink

    We usually do two “meatless” days a week. About once a week, we have stock instead of actual meat. But it still comes from meat. And on Fridays we have fish. Again, still made from an animal.

    I believe we should be sparing with the meat we eat because it’s expensive, both in dollars and in energy. A creature did have to die for it, a creature closer to us than plants are. But it doesn’t mean “don’t eat it,” but more “eat every part.” For instance, eat the meat and the organs and turn the bones and connective tissue into stock. Or eat whole dairy, not just the nonfat part while throwing the fat away. That’s just wasteful.

    Meat is too precious to be spendthrift about. I think that’s something our ancestors understood, while we moderns have picky eaters cutting the fat off their meat, spitting out gristly bits, and refusing organs. I don’t think that’s very respectful of the animal’s life — and I’m no animal-rights activist! Just a frugal good steward of the earth.

    • July 26, 2011 - 9:03 PM | Permalink

      Sheila – you sound like a woman after my own heart. I love your meatless alternatives, sounds a lot like our house. I really do believe sustainable meat is not damaging on the environment, but it’s always a good idea to conserve and make your food stretch further. Especially in this economy, as I said above in the post.

      We definitely *do* need to be more frugal, not waste, and make use of all parts of the animal. The nose-to-tail eating our ancestors were so familiar with has fallen by the wayside and people don’t understand nor appreciate all the uses fat, bones, organs, skin, gristle, and marrow has for our health as well as other uses. That’s one of the things that gets me the most about the EWG’s recommendation to eat low-fat dairy. That’s completely wasteful – taking away the most nutritious parts of the milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. and then adding chemicals into it to make it taste better. Yuck! Not to mention all the packaging and marketing.

  • July 26, 2011 - 10:20 AM | Permalink

    I wonder if they see there is a contradiction in what they put out: waste less meat and cut out fat. Cutting out fat sounds, to me, like wasting, unless you’re using it to cook. Doubt that they are thinking of that.
    The other day I was talking with a friend on Facebook who had posted an article about the “green” properties of food. Of course plants won over animals. I did point out that this wasn’t true if you had local meat but had to ship in beans, which she agreed with. (She actually sounded like she agreed with me more than the article but I think she had other reasons for posting it.) The article, in its green, also mentioned eating lower fat animal products. No statement as to why it might help, just continuing the meme of low fat=healthier=more green.

  • July 26, 2011 - 4:40 PM | Permalink

    Soli – people are quite habitual in their repeating of the low-fat mantra, and I don’t even think that many give thought to whether it actually makes sense or if it’s just something they believe is true because they’ve heard it so many times from health care professionals and other people in the healthcare communities. And yes, cutting out meat is wasteful, but again, this is a standard belief that’s been in the system so long, people don’t stop to think what a contradiction it really is.

    I’m still having conversations with people who think cholesterol medication is necessary for many people to take, and they don’t make the connection between cholesterol production in the body and inflammation, which is exactly why our bodies produce cholesterol in the first place. So if we are eating obese meats from factory farm environments, we’re going to get inflammation in the body. Because this is what many people consume, the blame automatically goes to all meat, with no thought to the differences between factory and sustainable meat. When the body produces excess cholesterol, though, from eating these meats, it’s not the cholesterol that’s the problem, it’s some underlying issue in the body which is making the body sick – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. all caused by metabolic syndrome. Sustainable meat should not cause inflammation in the body, but should support health and well-being.

  • November 9, 2011 - 12:40 PM | Permalink

    Great run-down. I, too, have taken EWG to task for this on my site and on their Facebook page.

    My understanding of their position on the low-fat dairy thing is the matter of toxins in fat. So yes, if you’re consuming factory-farmed dairy, you will presumably consume fewer toxins. Of course, we know how wrong-headed that is in the first place, but EWG is looking at the issue myopically and not holistically.

    I just wish they had consulted other opinions before issuing their dietary guidelines. The American public is already bombarded with so much bad and confusing information.

  • Matt Marion
    November 9, 2011 - 1:45 PM | Permalink

    This blog prompted me to do a tiny bit of research and what I found was that almost all the other sites I looked at had “and we need the nutrients found in animal fats such as fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and K,” in reference to monounsaturated fats and were of the opinion that animal fats, saturated fats (not including fish) are no good for us (I specifically avoided vegetarian sites and went for sites such as pro biking and other ones where extreme optimal health is a must).

    This confuses me. Are animal fats (saturated fats) good or bad? The other sites list coconut oil as having the least amount of mono/poly unsaturated fats and a huge amount of saturated fat (though it’s listed here as an alternative fat). Lard and tallow, being saturated fats, are also on the not so good list.

    Now, I understand all in moderation so I assume that if consumed in moderation, the author is being truthful but I must say, I’m having a hard time finding anything that says that saturated fats are good fats.

    Background: I am a software developer (not a rich one as might be seen in movies and other fictional places where developers still make loads of cash, now the salary is less than an auto worker on average) with a family of 4 and we try as hard as possible to eat whole and natural ingredients, all organic and as local as possible. We can’t visit farms as we don’t use cars (until we can afford a hybrid or electric that we can charge with our bullfrog power, no car for us) but also have a conundrum in that if we drive out to a farm we are merely trading one healthy action for another unhealthy one (while becoming more healthy ourselves, we pump cancer into the air, if driving, and therefore hurt others and potentially ourselves).

    I wish I had the guts to start a farm, I want to so bad. I love hard physical labor, it feels so good at the end of the day, and I love nature and I love to help and to provide for others, it’s the perfect match but how does one start a farm without having a tonne of savings?

    Cheers and wicked blog, my wife and I both follow on facebook and read almost every entry.

    Matt M

    • Kathy
      June 26, 2012 - 6:01 PM | Permalink

      Matt, there are MANY resources available to you regarding Urban Homesteading. You don’t need a farm to feed your family. That’s a myth. At the turn of the century nearly everyone had at least some small vegetable patch. Even in cities, people planted edible container gardens on their fire escapes. Please, please, please look into the topic. I don’t know where in the country you’re located, and you’ll need to research which plants will do well where you are, but vertical gardens take up very little space and produce vast amounts of food. Container gardening frees you from the labor involved in weeding your garden, and so it takes up far less time than traditional gardening. Start small and add to your output as quickly as you desire. We live on 1/10th of an acre of land in a suburban neighborhood and we are 100% self sufficient for our plant based dietary needs. Also, Tufts University has an outreach program to help people who want to start farms get going called the “New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.” Even if they can’t help you directly, I’m sure they can get you in touch with someone who can.

  • November 9, 2011 - 5:55 PM | Permalink

    Matt – many thanks for your comments. I’m glad you are enjoying my blog! Even if you avoid the vegetarian and vegan sites, you’ll still find the pervasive philosophy about fats, meat, and cholesterol is to say that it’s unhealthy to consume. People all over the world consumed fats, proteins, meats, and cholesterol for thousands of years before medical science came along and started to say that it was bad. Did you know that heart disease in the numbers we have now was almost unheard of in this country until the 1920s? Dr. Weston A. Price discovered in his travels in the 1930s that all healthy populations who weren’t consuming modern, processed foods such as vegetable oils, white flour and sugar were eating native diets and traditional foods, including heavy consumption of healthy fats from birds and animals on pasture, as well as seafood, organ meats, fish eggs (where available), and raw dairy products.

    Here is a good link to some information about saturated fats from the WAP Foundation, and Dr. Mary Enig:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/importance-of-saturated-fats-for-biological-functions

    And here is another post about saturated fat from Mark’s Daily Apple:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/

    One from Natural News:

    http://www.naturalnews.com/027865_saturated_fat_health.html

    From Dr. Joseph Mercola:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/09/08/saturated-fat.aspx

    And Nourishing Days:

    http://www.nourishingdays.com/2009/10/dr-eades-on-7-reasons-to-eat-more-saturated-fat/

    This post on my site talks about the nutritional importance of dietary fats, including saturated fats and cholesterol for all aspects of health. We need it for our hormones (endocrine system), brains (moods and nervous system function), cardiovascular function, skin, hair, eyes, digestion (to help absorb nutrients), :

    http://agriculturesociety.com/healthy-living/the-importance-of-dietary-fats/

    When researching this topic, you should know that most conventional doctors wouldn’t be caught dead saying that saturated fats are healthy, so it’s a guarantee that if you consult any of these sources, you are likely to get the same answers over and over again, vegetarian or not. And also realize that many of these sources are heavily influenced by vegetarian ideals and the plant-based view of health. Now, that is not to say that plants are not okay to eat. But if you are going to eat them – or grains – they should be an accompaniment to your meal and properly prepared – cultured or fermented, and grains soaked, sprouted or fermented to make them digestible. These foods contain phytic acid which is a nutrient inhibitor (keeps minerals from being absorbed and can actually leech them from bones). Fermentation, sprouting, and soaking neutralizes the phytic acid and makes these foods more digestible. Foods with saturated fats contain fat-soluble vitamins which also help us to absorb the nutrients in vegetables and grains, legumes, etc.

    One of the main reasons conventional medicine shuns fats and cholesterol is that these substances are vital to our health, and there would be nothing in it for the conventional medical industry if everyone ate the right foods and was healthy. There would be no more people making appointments to have their cholesterol checked, nor their weight assessed, or medications prescribed…and much less open-heart by-pass surgery. All of these are enormous profit-making activities. It may almost seem too diabolical that the medical industry would want to keep the population sick and coming back again and again for treatment that don’t really cure disease, but it’s true nonetheless.

    Also, most studies done on those consuming saturated fats and the ill effects caused by these substances on the body are looking at factory farm and commercial animal products. These foods vary vastly from the pasture and grass-fed, humanely raised meat, poultry, eggs, and meat products. Here’s a link to Eat Wild which discusses these differences:

    http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

    When you compare the factory-farmed version of a steak, eggs, fatty pork, chicken, or turkey, the differences are like night and day. Factory-farmed meats and meat products contain antibiotics, hormones, pesticide/chemical fertilizer residue, and these animals and birds are usually fed genetically-modified feeds like corn, soy, and grains.

    The other huge differences lie in the nutritional composition of the foods themselves. Animals and birds raised on feedlots are lacking in many essential nutrients because of their environments. Animals and birds on pasture are a rich source of Omega 3s, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, and also CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Omega 3s and CLA are essential for brain, heart, endocrine, and also antioxidant value to destroy free radicals in the body. The fat-soluble vitamins support nearly every function in the body including bones, brain, nervous system, digestion, immunity, and cardiovascular/circulatory function. These nutrients are sorely lacking in our modern food supply. So if you were to claim that saturated fat caused disease, what you would really mean to say is that conventional, obese meats and meat products are the culprit, as those are really what is studied and used in those pieces of research – due almost entirely to their unbalanced and lacking nutritional composition, as well as all the added chemicals and toxins I mentioned above.

    You can lament the fact that you are driving out to a farm to get meat, that you are putting pollution into the air…but, if you buy from factory farms you are doing that ten-fold due to the pollution they produce just to keep running which destroys the environment in many ways – air, soil, water, etc., and also the fact that you are destroying your own health by consuming it.

    I understand about wanting to have your own farm, this is something I also hope my family can achieve someday. I don’t know what the answer is though about the expense and trouble of getting one started. All I can say is, look for opportunities to get involved in farming wherever you can – with friends, neighbors, or maybe your local farmers from whom you purchase food. Many people are looking for help to trade for food and welcome the opportunity to get local folks involved helping to run their farms, as it is a big job and farmers can always use more help. This might give you a glimpse of what farm life is like and whether it is for you and your family. Or maybe you can find a situation where you can homestead land on someone else’s property in exchange for working their farm land with them. I’ve heard of people doing this and it actually happens more often than you would think.

    I hope this is helpful to you. :)

  • November 11, 2011 - 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Well written, as always, Raine.

    I had to chuckle at your comment about doctors not being caught dead saying saturated fats are healthy. I suspect many of them will be “caught dead” from living/promoting just the opposite.

    Since switching my diet to include more fat, including a tablespoon of coconut oil before each meal, I’ve lost over thirty pounds. My hair is thicker and softer, and overall health is better. I will never again buy into the low fat mythology.

  • SwampRat
    November 12, 2011 - 3:40 PM | Permalink

    I think the idea is stupid! I LOVE meat and enjoy eating the Creatures the Lord Himself put upon this Earth for me to feast on! Going “meatless” one day a week to be “green” is the dumbest thing the left over hippies (and hippie-wannabe’s) ever did…..oops, except elect that moron to the Oval Office……

  • March 19, 2012 - 9:03 AM | Permalink

    A terrific post again, but all your posts are terrific!

    I would like to point out that traditional herding practices, which are used by many grassfed ranchers, actually restore grasslands and watercourses, even restoring them on land that used to lack soil and water. Grazing animals play a crucial role in ecosystems, and created the grasslands of earth. Grass keeps soil from growing away, and encourages the growth of trees and other plants, which encourage the formation of streams and rivers, and make it possible for good soil to exist, which makes crops possible.

    An example of how this works would be the great plains of the United States and Canada, once one of the most fertile regions of earth. Huge herds of Buffalo, closely packed so they could protect each other against predators, would move from area to area.They would eat all the existing grass, dig up the earth with their hooves, push the grass seed deep into the dug up earth, fertilize the land with their manure, and move on. By the time they returned, the earth had been renewed, with better soil and richer grass. Grass that kept the soil from blowing away.

    Holistic land management, as developed by Allen Savory, has restored millions of acres of grasslands in Africa by using grazing methods based on the wild herds, Even streams and long dead rivers have come back in these areas. Most of the grassfed farmers I know use the intensive grazing and pasture rotation methods developed by Savory, based on the natural herd patterns that created the rich soil we need to raise food.

    Yet EWG and the anti meat fanatics ignore the crucial role played by grazing animals.

  • Kathy
    June 26, 2012 - 6:17 PM | Permalink

    The issue is two fold in America, I think. The quality of the meat we consume is, on the whole, nearly poisonous. We raise our animals in highly stressful conditions and feed them things they aren’t supposed to be eating. It changes the chemical composition of the protein and the fat and it accumulates chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides in the meat. Meat from a stress free animal allowed to eat its natural diet and NOT exposed to the previously mentioned chemicals will be more nutrient rich and contain healthy levels of essential fatty acids. That’s our first problem, our meat is basically poisonous. The other problem is volume. Even if the animal products are clean, too much is still too much. In the 1920′s people were eating animal products as a regular part of their diet, but they ate far less animal products than we do today, mostly because it was too expensive to eat more of it. As meat has gotten cheaper (because of the disgusting agricultural practices that have been adopted to get as many animals crammed into as little space as possible growing as fast as possible on the cheapest food possible) people have been able to buy and eat more of it. Animal products are nutrient rich, to be sure. I’m proud of the health values of our home grown eggs and meat, but animal products are calorie dense as well as nutrient rich in comparison to [unrefined] plant products. It’s not just refined sugars than cause diabetes. Blood tests of people who follow the Atkins diet have shown that despite ingesting very few carbohydrates, their resting insulin levels are still highly elevated and their blood sugar levels fluctuate as much as people who consume diets high in refined and simple carbs. Loading up to high a percentage of your diet with animal products, even clean ones, is still unhealthy. Everything in moderation… which is essentially the message your promoting, I suppose. We need to eat clean animal products, but also eat less of them than we typically do.

  • June 27, 2012 - 2:56 PM | Permalink

    If we eat clean, sustainable animal products, we are getting nutrient-rich foods, as you stated, and this causes our bodies to have to consume less because we are getting what we need from a smaller amount. We consume such large portions of meat (hence the huge portion sizes in restaurants) because we can’t get full on just 5-6 ounces of meat. That’s why many people over eat, in fact, because they eat nutrient-bankrupt foods and then their bodies are still hungry, crying out and starving for real nutrition.

    Great points in your comments, by the way about other foods contributing to diabetes. Metabolic Syndrome is a wide umbrella health issue which many symptoms fall under – heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke diabetes, and they can indeed be caused by foods that many people don’t typically think of as not being high in sugar. Just look at Morgan Spurlock who ate McDonald’s food for 30 days (from the documentary SuperSize Me). His doctors tested his liver at about 2/3 of the way through the experiment and found his liver to be in the same condition as that of a binge alcoholic…and alcohol has the same effect of producing a fatty liver as sugar consumption. It’s all related.

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