Let me just say before we get started that if you are currently eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, AND it’s working for you, then by all means continue with it. HOWEVER, I personally determine “working for me” as I am happy with my body composition (I like how I look and feel), I’m capable of handling whatever physical challenges I present myself with (if I go play basketball with friends I can keep up) and I have no health problems (if I go to the doctor and get my bloodwork done, they ask me what I do). IF you’re only eating plants and nothing that ever had a pulse and you can check off all 3 of those boxes then by all means, have at it.
Now, for the rest of you who are beginning to contemplate going down that road for whatever reason, as I always do with my blogs I am only here to provide information. Nothing more, nothing less. So, let’s dive in.
Protein. Which mostly comes from animal sources. Is there protein in plants and nuts and legumes? Sure, but those are not complete protein sources. Those are what we call non-essential amino acids. Animals make protein that have ESSENTIAL amino acids. The difference between non-essential and essential being obviously that the essential amino acids are ones that we must consume. We do not make them and essential amino acids can only be derived from animal proteins. So, is it necessary for a human being to consume animal protein? In a nutshell, yes. Are there plenty of people who do not consume any animal products and have good health? Yes, however, I would lean more toward that being the exception and not the rule.
Fat. Which also mostly comes from animal sources. Do things like avocado and olive oil and nuts have fat in them? Yes, but again the essential kind – the kind that human beings need to consume are typically found in animal sources. Fish oil and the fat associated with grass fed beef are just some examples.
Now, you must be thinking, “but we have to eat fruit and vegetable too to get vitamins and minerals.” Wrong. This is straight from a PHD who is also a world renowned author and researcher so check her information not mine at www.zoeharcombe.com But, she states, “the lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life is apparently zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.” The reason for this? There are plenty of vitamins and minerals and even more so per serving in meat and fish than there are in fruits and vegetables. Meat and fish are way more dense in every b vitamin, folate and vitamin a. Only broccoli has more vitamin c than meat or fish. They are also much more dense in minerals such as: calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. If you have the time, I strongly recommend watching Dr. Zoe Harcombes presentation on CrossFit’s YouTube channel. Just type in CrossFit Zoe Harcombe and she has a great chart that has the vitamin and mineral profile of all these things.
Human beings have been surviving on this planet without the need of carbohydrates for eons. Think of some civilizations such as the Inuits who only ate whale and whale blubber, yet when studied by academics, they found no history of coronary heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Being a vegetarian or vegan may WORK, but it certainly isn’t OPTIMAL for human beings. And, you really have to ask yourself why it’s working. What were you eating for breakfast before? Sugary laced cereal or perhaps a bob from Whataburger? Did lunch stop being the sandwich with the equivalent of 8 slices of bread? Is dinner no longer the pizza with pepperoni? Did you happen to just do away with processed foods, or is it really that you aren’t eating bacon and eggs for breakfast like you hadn’t been anyway?
Think about your optimal.