This is a hotly debated topic. I am not discussing the impact on the environment or religious views in this post, but rather I am looking at what our body needs are. Are we as humans’, herbivores (exclusively plant eaters), carnivores (exclusively meat/animal eaters), or are we omnivores (both plant and animal eaters)? I am going to throw a new term into the mix… “nutrivores” (where we choose food based on nutritional value).
The science, whether we approach it from an evolutionary angle, an ethnographic one, or comparative anatomy and physiology show without a doubt that we are omnivores. We are designed to eat both animal and plant matter. But I am going to throw in some caveats.
- We are designed to only eat whole, real food versions of meat. No processed meats, no fake meats, no chemical-laden pretend meat! I’m not saying you can’t have your salami. I am saying that the salami you eat needs to be pure meat maybe with some herbs then salted, dried, or smoked to preserve it, not with chemical preservatives.
- The ratio of meat to vegetables should be approximately 50:50 by calorie, not volume. This means the energy you get from your food should be 50% from meat and 50% from plants. In volume that means about ¼ meat to ¾ plant food. This is approximate because there are some plants that are more energy-dense, ie. Sweet potato is more energy-dense than lettuce, and bone marrow has three times the energy of steak.
Why do I suggest we need meat and plant food?
We get different nutrients from meat compared to plant food. Some nutrients are poorly found and absorbed in meat vs plants and vice versa.
- Vitamin C
- Carotenoids (lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin)
- Diallyl sulfide (from the allium class of vegetables)
- Flavonoids (anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, proanthocyanidins, procyanidins, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin, flavonones)
- Plant sterols and stanols
- Isothiocyanates and indoles
- Prebiotic fibers (soluble and insoluble)
- Vitamin B12
- Heme iron
- Pre-formed vitamin A (retinol)
- High-quality protein
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin D
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)
You may see that animals’ foods have omega 3’s EPA and DHA, and think… “don’t plant food like chia and flax seed contain omega 3?” Yes, you would be correct, but the omega 3 in chia and flax is in the form of ALA. This form of Omega 3 is the shortest chain of fatty acids that are classified as omega 3. Technically, your body can turn ALA into DHA and EPA. But the conversion rate is poor (approximately 3%). Some people will be better converters than others. But it will mean your body has to convert all the ALA from the flax and chia (that you have to eat in bucketful’s) in order to create the required levels of EPA and DHA that your body needs for healthy blood viscosity and healthy cell walls. EPA and DHA in cell walls are vital communicators to control and balance inflammation and the immune response.
There are nutrients in plant food that is also hard to find in meat. Like Vitamin C. There is technically vitamin C in fish roe, raw liver, and eggs. But how much of these foods do you eat? And is this optimal? This is why I like the term “nutrivore” (coined by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne). If our body was searching for vitamin C and it was readily available in the apple on a tree, would I not just eat the apple?
As humans we need nutrients, we need them for our cells to perform their roles so that we can remain healthy. Our bodies can make do without some nutrients, but is that optimal? Is just not dying truly living? I aspire to more. I want to give my body everything it needs to live its life to the fullest. I want to live to a ripe old age as a healthy person. If I can prevent a lifestyle-related disease by eating a diet rich in nutrients from a variety of clean and healthy plants and animals, I will do so. It is not a sacrifice for me to choose fresh real food in lots of variety, colours, and sources. I will choose to eat snout to tail for optimal nutrition and to prevent waste of an animal’s life, and I will choose organic crops for the preservation of our land. These are my choices. You can choose for your body, your planet, and your beliefs about what you want to do. I just want to provide you with some information to base your decision on.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Anthea Holder
(Chiropractor and Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner)