No, I haven’t read the book. But I want to.
For the most part, I believe that a largely plant-based (and high-raw) diet seems to have been proven to trump a diet higher in animal products time and time again. However, I’ve been thinking recently about the fact that amongst all these studies comparing the two, most of what I have read has shed little light upon the non-Westernized diets higher in animal products.
No matter what I believe about the perfect human foods being just simply fruits, vegetables, young coconuts and possibly nuts and seeds, throughout history, populations have thrived on various diets that nutritionists today would point the finger at being high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-meat, high-plant etc. One race might exist largely on sweet potatoes, while another base their diet around organ meats. We were gatherers before we were hunters, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been hunting for a long, long time. The point being, no matter what our ideal dietary situation, humans have evolved as omnivores, genetically adapted to many diets. However the Western diet is clearly not one of them.
History has shown that each time a new population has started to adopt a Western diet, high in processed animal products, refined grains, convenience foods, preservatives and additives (all of which seems to go hand in hand with a lack of fresh raw fruits and vegetables), their health tends to deteriorate and the incidence of chronic Western diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and some forms of cancer increases.
Here in Australia, it was only when generations of Australian Aborigines began to reject their traditional diet – typically high in animal foods such as organ meats, fat deposits and bone marrow along with tubers, vegetables, seeds and fibrous fruits – in favour of a Western diet, that they began to exhibit signs of severe heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
In another pocket of the world, the Kitava, a traditional Melanesian society, lives mostly upon native tubers, fish, coconut and fruit (note: no grains or processed carbohydrates, and with around 66% of their caloric quota derived from fat). Heart disease appears to be completely absent in this population, despite their consumption of animal products.
Grains are tricky. I haven’t believed that humans were meant to consume grains (originally) for a while now, and grain products today by and large tend to be highly processed with plenty of nasty additives. The more I learn, the more I start to see that perhaps grains on the whole are in fact a far worse dietary choice for us than organic, minimally processed animal products (which yes, flies in the face of the mainstream idea of a healthy vegan diet*). When I read The China Study, I rushed to eliminate animal products from my diet as much as possible. However in hindsight, this was the kind of ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking I try to avoid (although too often fall into the trap of, clearly!). Animal products don’t automatically equate to ‘bad’, nor do vegan options (including grains, soy etc) correspond with ‘good’ in terms of health. Just in the way that I think it’s a shame when raw foodists shun all cooked foods in favour of an ‘all-raw’ label, as I believe that cooked vegetables are far easier on the body than some dense, raw concoctions. By the same token, there are high-quality grains that are easier on the body, for example millet, quinoa and sprouted grains.
I by no means will ever vilify carbohydrates, after all, the human body runs on carbohydrates (fruits supply this need perfectly). I do not believe that we need the large amounts of protein that are marketed to us, and I do believe that we can meet our protein needs via a whole-foods vegan diet (which, alongside some complete proteins, supplies adequate amounts of amino acids from which the body is able to synthesize usable proteins). However, I do not really think that the consumption of animal products (at least the high quality ones) are to blame for the state of the health of the Western world. There are definitely environmental arguments for gravitating away from the consumption of animal products, as well as strong ethical considerations. But (and please correct me if I am wrong) I don’t anymore believe that there is a strong health argument for eliminating all dietary animal products when we live in a less-than-perfect world to begin with and so too our diets (ie we no longer live in a world where we do, or arguably could, exist solely on tree-ripened fruits, organic vegetables, young coconut, pure air and sunshine).
I’ve pointed out before the benefits of highly alkaline, negatively charged foods, as opposed to those with a positive, acidic charge. While fruits and vegetables are pretty much the only foods that are alkaline on their own, it is wrong to think that a meal comprised of plenty of vegetables (some raw) and a little lightly cooked high-quality meat, eggs, cheese, grain etc cannot be an alkalizing, cleansing meal.
I do not agree with how most animals are today bred, raised and used for food, be it directly or indirectly in the case of eggs or dairy products. However, the effects of modern soy and corn-based agriculture are equally devastating. I applaud the handful of providores that are striving for proper farming practices (both land and sea) and delivering ethically produced, quality products, usually to the detriment of their own financial gain when up against cheap factory farms and modern mass-processing. I choose to support these select organizations that farm with heart.
In terms of my health, I am no longer hung up on the thought that a diet completely devoid of animal products is the most beneficial. Certainly, I believe a healthful diet must be raw plant based, and this is what I strive for.
*Of course, if veganism is a goal for someone for ethical or religious reasons, then by all means, veganism can be done right. However I don’t believe that a vegan diet full of refined grains and soy is a more healthful option than an omnivorous diet containing high-quality animal products – far from it.
Enjoy your Christmas day and dinners!! xx