There is an overabundance of information on diet and nutrition in America. You might say to yourself that you would like to find out what is the best way to feed yourself and your family. You purchase a book, and read cover to cover. But what you have gained is not necessarily an accurate representation of our dietary needs. For example, pick up one book on nutrition and you read “carbs are evil!! avoid at all costs!”. Another book says: “Meat and dairy are the real demons, be a Vegan!!” Still another book recommends “eat a ‘balanced’ diet” which incorporates meat, veggies, carbs and dairy. This method mandates a quarter of your diet should be meat, one quarter grains, one quarter veggies, one fourth fruits, and one fourth dairy (if you are counting, that makes five fourths – welcome to the new USDA food pyramid!) I am strangely skeptical about anything that the goverment recommends, so clearly, I cannot accept these guidlines without some serious proof. But each of these methods have convincing arguments and if you research only one of those methods, you would be convinced that you had found the answer to weight loss, diabetes, heart disease and even world hunger. But if you study an alternate view, you will find claims just as convincing that contradict everything you read in the first place. So what is a person supposed to do? How are we supposed to eat and why?
The answer, I think, lies in what you hope to accomplish by your diet. Are you trying to lose 20 pounds in a hurry? Or are you trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the long run? Quick weight loss experts typically mandate a high protein, no carb diet. Forbidding fruit and most vegetables, they hope to starve your body into losing weight. Their mascot is the lion-lean, muscular and fast -a carnivore. They claim that a low fat lean meat diet will reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and vitality. But what they really mean is that when you lose 40 pounds, your risk of heart disease goes down and you have more energy because you are not carrying around a 200 pound body. Many of the healthy changes in this diet typically come from cutting out processed foods. They advocate shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and avoiding all the aisles. This is great advice for people who think mac n cheese and instant rice constitutes a meal. People who live on the standard american diet and suddenly switch to a low carb diet will definitely lose weight and feel better and healthier. But over time, their cholesterol will go up and they will begin to experience fatigue, autoimmune disorders (including thyroid and diabetes) and an astronomically higher risk of cancer.
The second option is what the US Goverment currently recommends; a balanced diet incorporating fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy. By the way, when they say ‘protein’ what they mean is meat. After all, protein is found in dairy too…but apparently that merits its own classification. And completely ignored in this meal plan is the fact that plant based foods are rich with protein. So it seems rather silly for them to call it ‘protein’ when what they really are advocating is meat. That argument aside, I have always thought that the balanced approach is best. After all, God did not forbid meats and obviously the problem is with excess; everything in moderation is good. But what do we define as ‘moderation’? How much meat and dairy would be dangerous? And are we really getting enough nutrients from those recommended servings of veggies? I think it is important to look at what everyone accepts as the best sources of nutrition, ones that have all the benefits and no drawbacks: fruits and veggies. Every day I read an article talking about a ‘new’ study that shows that blueberries prevent Alzheimers, broccoli prevents cancer, carrots are good for eyesight, etc. etc. Obviously, these are well known facts by now. Why they continue to research it, is beyond me. Oh, I know; is it because we still have the highest morbidity rate in the world when it comes to cancer ? Oh yes, that’s it. But how can this be? If we are the most privileged country in the world, with access to all the food we want, why are we dying of these diseases? Clearly, there is more to it than that. Admittedly, few people follow the recommended dietary guidelines. But we all know that too much animal protein can lead to heart disease and cancer. So let us look for a moment at the research that indicates what a ‘safe’ amount of animal protein (eg meat and dairy) is.
All of the research that I have done indicates that that amount is less than 10% of our daily intake. This is the recommended amount for those who wish to avoid heart disease and cancer. Ten percent is considerably less than what americans typically eat today. For a person on a 2000 calorie diet, this would be about 40 grams of protein a day. This means that your three recommended serving sizes of dairy every day, plus a couple of eggs, would put you over your limit. That doesn’t even count the meat you are supposed to eat: one fourth of your plate at each meal, according to choosemyplate.gov. A small 10 oz fillet mignon would run you about 50-60 grams of protein all by itself - well over your daily limit. Don’t bother with the cheese and bacon on your baked potato; or the dressing and cheese on your salad. Or the eggs at breakfast; or that glass of milk and that butter on your toast. Get the picture? If we know that we have to keep our diet at 10% or less of animal protein to prevent cancer and heart disease, than why does the USDA recommend eating 25% of our diet from animal protein? Crazy.
The third and final dietary plan is a vegetarian or vegan diet. While I have never enjoyed meat, and going vegetarian would be an easy change for me, I must confess that giving up milk, cheese and sour cream is a different story. But those who advocate a Vegan lifestyle point to Casein (the protein in dairy) as one of the most toxic proteins to the human body. Our highly processed dairy products are regarded by our cells as a threat to our bodies. In response, our cells attack the dairy molecules and try to kill them and rid our body of that threat. But the casein protein is so similar to our pancreatic cells, and other organs, that it often becomes confused and turns to attack our pancreas, thyroid, and other organs as well. This is an autoimmune disease. And if dairy causes it, it makes sense that cutting it out could be your best option for curing yourself. The science is there; in greater detail than I care to admit. The ironic thing I have noticed about researching the other two dieteary plans is that there seems to be little or no science behind it. These people make convincing and logical arguments for why their plan is the best. But without hard facts, we could logically work our way into a very wrong conclusion. What seems to make sense, is not always right. The only one of the three arguments that seems to have an enormous amount of research and science to prove its effectiveness and safety is the Vegan diet. Their mascot is the horse: lean, strong and fast – a vegetarian. Also very convincing.
What I am after is the truth. I don’t want to read any more books or hear any more convincing arguments about how we should be eating and what would cure all our health woes. I have struggled for two years with a progressivley worsening thyroid disorder and I am tired; I want to stop feeling awful and I want to get well! I have tried every healthy diet out there - including one that cut out all grains, beans, nuts, dairy,meat, and most veggies too. This left me nothing but greens and a few veggies to eat. Which I was not supposed to mix. I could only have greens or a veggie; heaven forbid I mix the two; the whole diet would go wrong. This was honestly too hard and I didn’t stick with it more than a few days. But I cannot imagine that God intended for us to avoid the fruits and veggies. Something inside simply screams out that that is wrong. He didn’t make apples and bananas as forbidden fruits just to tempt us…as I recall, there was only one forbidden fruit in the garden and it was probably something different from anything we’ve ever seen. I cannot get on board with any diet that calls fruits and veggies bad. I just want the truth. And so for this, I turn to the greatest source of truth I know: the Bible.
Believe it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about food; what we should eat and what we should avoid. The Old Testament gives a long list of dos and don’ts about meats. Many of which are now recognized by the medical community as a healthy standard of which meats to avoid. But this list of forbidden meats in the Old Testament is then in the New Testament declared ‘clean’ and good for food. (although I think God is trying to prove a greater point here and these forbidden meats should still be avoided and only consumed on occasion) But how often did these people eat meat at all? It seems to be more of a celebratory thing; killing the fatted calf for a special occasion or when company came from far away - a rarity in those days. After all, it was very hard to preserve meat in a hot climate. It had to be eaten rather quickly. And you couldn’t have an endless supply of goats and cows on hand to slaughter; only the very wealthy might have access to that luxury. So what was their main staple diet? Grains. Fruits. Vegetables. And, if you lived by the sea, you might have fish. But I decided to go back even further, to the book of Genesis: to creation before the Fall. What were we supposed to eat before the world went wrong?
Genesis 2:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth wherin there is life, I have given every green herb for meat.”
Interesting. In the world he created, there was never supposed to be killing of animals for meat; in fact he calls the fruits and herbs the ‘meat’ for all living beings. I suppose this means that even the lions were not carnivores. I think it is interesting that he does not forbid any plants at all. It is all good for food. I don’t think he mentions counting calories either. If you were hungry, you would just eat, and that was that. So simple! So much freedom! But when did meat come into the picture? Only after the fall of man; when the world became fallen…when the ground was cursed:
Genesis 3:17-19 “…cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.”
It makes sense then, because the ground is cursed, that man might not be able to get all the food he needs from plants. He might toil the soil and work hard, but then a storm might come and wash away all his fields of grain. In the winter, without access to fruit or veggies, he might be forced to turn to animals to supply food for his family. So it seems that they ate what they could from the ground and supplemented with meat as necessary. In fact, when God provides the Israelites with food from heaven it is some strange type of grain that cooks into a bread. He is ‘The Bread of Life’. But he provides them with quail on occasion. Again, mostly a plant based diet with meat on occasion. And so it continued this way for thousands of years. Even early americans did not typically eat meat except in winter, when there was no fresh produce to eat. In the summer they ate Grains and fresh fruits, greens and vegetables. If they were wealthy enough to own a cow and chickens, they ate milk, cheese and eggs as well. In the winter, they killed the pig or cow and used it to get them through the winter, along with a few wild deer or a bear. They would also eat their stored grains and cheeses all winter long. And so we see that never before has an entire population been able to consume any amount of meat they want…they might have eaten as many grains and veggies as they could, but there certainly wasn’t meat every day-or even every month. This then is consistent with the science of keeping your animal proteins to a tiny percentage of your diet. One more thought on this; most of our teeth were made for chewing grains and vegetables. Only four of our teeth are sharp enough to tear meat…this is roughly 10% of our teeth. So it makes sense that we would not eat large portions of meat.
When I have been on a low carb, high meat diet, I have always felt there was something wrong about it. But with the Vegan diet, I feel like it is the way it was meant to be. The way God intended. I have been Vegan for 2 weeks now and it is the easiest diet I have ever attempted. I really enjoy it! I find so much variety and enrichment and I feel so much better. I am not opposed to the occasional meat or dairy, but I don’t want it to be part of my daily diet. And I do have one other thought about dairy: God promised the Hebrews a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’. So I can’t believe that he meant for us to avoid dairy altogether. Probably it has more to do with the way we process dairy these days that makes it toxic for us. I think perhaps Raw milks and cheeses would be a beneficial addition to our diet. But there hasn’t been a great deal of research on this topic. Most studies involve only the pasteurized milk – which we know to be toxic and should be avoided altogether. The main argument against animal protein is that when we exceed what we need for growth, it becomes toxic to our body and causes all sorts of health problems. Because my children are still growing, and I feel that it is hard for them to get all the necessary nutrients from the veggies that they won’t eat, I think they actually need the dairy and egg products. But not in the typical american quantities. As long as they are still growing, I plan to incorporate eggs and dairy into their diet in limited amounts. And hopefully, over time, they will learn to love veggies as much as I do.
So how should you eat? Try a Vegan diet! Make a breakfast of fruit, a salad for lunch, and grains and beans for supper (think stir fry or jambalaya without the meat). Try fish once a week, instead of meat at every meal. Cut out the dairy for sure! If you have access to raw milks, they can be very beneficial for young children. Eat as many fruits and veggies as you want! You need all the vitamins and nutrients in them. They are remarkably hydrating to your body as well. If you still need more convincing, or if you want to see the proof behind the Vegan diet, there are a number of books you can read:
The China Study – very detailed and in depth – a lot of science but still down to earth enough for the average reader
The Kind Diet -by Alicia Silverstone – short & sweet and written in very simple language, easy to read and includes a bunch of recipes. This won’t give you the science and research behind the diet, but it will provide many convincing proofs.
The Skinny B***h – Yes; that says what you think it says. I can’t believe they named a book that! I hesitated to even read this one myself; it has a ton of profanity in it, but it also is a very easy read – I read it in a day- and it gives a lot of detail about what goes into the slaughterhouse killings of the meat we consume (that’s enough to make you vegan right there!)
There are a lot of other books you could read, but these are a good place to start. Just a note, when you are reading The Kind Diet and The Skinny Bi**h, you will hear a lot about cruelty to animals and the environment. Don’t roll your eyes and skip that section. God commanded us to care for the animals, to care for the earth. And when you read what really happens to these animals, how they live and how they die, you will see that we are not doing as he commanded. It seems that every time you hear someone say something about cruelty to animals or protecting the environment, the Christians all roll their eyes and talk about the socialistic agenda. Well I’m sorry that these beliefs happen to be held by the wrong political party, but shame on us for not being the first to promote the ideas. We should have been first in line to prevent unnecessary cruelty to animals. And we should care about the environment enough to not waste the resources he has given us. When you read about how these animals are mistreated, you will feel as guilty as I for allowing this to continue. And we are enabling this by creating an excessive demmand for meat. I’m not advocating a boycott or anything; but I am saying we should cut down on our meat intake. If I haven’t convinced you yet, think about E Coli and other fun diseases you can avoid by skipping meat.
One last thought; meat and dairy might be okay to eat in a perfect world, but in the presence of carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) it dramatically increases our risk of cancer. And since we are all exposed to dramatic amounts of carcinogens (in our water, food, etc) we need to take very seriously how much animal protein we consume. And though I advocate eating organic produce to avoid chemicals and pesticides, you should know that meat has 400 times the amount of chemicals and pesticides as ordinary produce. So if you are eating a lot of meat, you might as well skip the organic apples; there’s enough damage done by the meat to make the apples irrelevant!
Ps. I am NOT advocating a cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch diet. Your grains should be whole grains and you should eat lots of fruits and vegetables. You shouldn’t be eating packaged food at all! I had a friend tell me once how excited she was to discover that Oreos were Vegan (!) and then go on to describe how disappointed she was that they hadn’t lost weight on their Vegan diet. Fruits. Veggies. Whole Grains. Got it? This diet is best for your health, and best for your waistline too.