“What are you talking about!? humans are supposed to eat meat. Clearly, our bodies aren’t meant to eat only fruits and vegetables. Plus, what do you think our canine teeth are for?”
How many of you have heard this age-old debate one time or another?
You’re at a party.
You’re at work.
2 people are having a debate about what humans are meant to eat.
It’s a classic.
Right up there with religion and politics.
“In the red corner, we have Meat Eater!”
“In the blue: Plant-eater!”
Most times (in my experience), the meat eater uses protein and canine teeth as their primary weapons of argument.
On the other side, plant food person cites and quotes information they have just learned about. Often from a new vegan raw foods documentary, they just watched on Netflix.
The battle rages, phones are whipped out, Google is used, questions are answered, but to no avail. Neither person wins. Both are left without a clear. answer.
I’m not here to tell you who is right, what I am here to do is give you some pointers for whichever way you lean, democrat or rep…I mean, meat eater or plant eater.
Let’s get into it.
People’s diet likes/dislikes can be unique to their bodies physiology
This isn’t to say some of us are strictly built to consume meat, or strictly built to consume fruits and vegetables. Our bodies have many traits that would like us to herbivores, although humans clearly have a great fondness for meat. Our bodies digest both, yet some of us love broccoli and bananas, while others love a 24 oz T-bone steak. Then what is the defining factor that leads someone to like one type of food over the other?
The answer may be in our genetics
Researchers at Cornell University have found a genetic variation they said appears to have evolved in populations that favored vegetarian diets over hundreds of years, according to the Washington Post.
Meaning, people of certain cultures are genetically programmed to like a vegetarian diet over the traditional western diet (high in red meat, dairy products, and refined foods).
The same way our genes decide our hair color, they may also be deciding our nutritional choices.
The Washington Post article goes on to state, This genetic variation might actually be detrimental to people’s health if they are to stray from a vegetarian diet. Claiming, straying from a vegetarian can make these individuals more susceptible to things such as inflammation because their bodies were optimized for a different mix of inputs.
So, what if you are one of the many without this genetic variation? Lucky you. Your diet retains its freedom. Meaning, eat what you prefer and you will not feel the same consequences because your body isn’t adapted to eat only vegetarian.
On the flip side, many people crave meat
Your body may urge you to turn into the hamburger joint more often than most. This unexpected meat craving you often experience can sometimes be attributed to our body’s state of being.
People with iron deficiencies often crave red meat
Red meat contains high amounts of iron. Iron helps the body transfer oxygen in the form of red blood cells. Women have sometimes experienced red meat cravings prior to, or during their menstrual cycles. Similarly, your body may crave meat when it is not receiving adequate amounts of protein. Protein helps the body build and repair tissue, as well as helping construct other important body substances.
At the end of the day, your body has a big say in what you crave, and what you consume. So, no matter how much of it you attribute to free will or moral choices, sometimes your body itself overrides your autonomy, and silently manipulates your food choices.
From a health perspective, eating vegetarian has an edge
When it comes to our anatomy humans are perplexing. Going back to the argument above, our bodies do little to sway the debate in either sides favor.
In the meat eaters defense :
- Humans have sharp canines (Which could be a lonely anatomical carry over from our ancestors of old and indicative of a heavy meat diet in our misty past)
- Highly complex bodies that need the abundance of complete proteins found readily available in meat
- An insatiable craving for meat (Mcdonalds, Burger King, Wendys, Carls Jr, etc!!)
- Evidence supporting the consumption of meat as a key factor in humans evolutionary growth (Science says humans were scavengers early in our evolutionary development)
On the contrary,
Vegetarians credit :
- Flat molar teeth as evidence supporting the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Molars help grind and smash fruits and vegetables
- Our elongated intestinal tract to help digest fruits and vegetables
- Humans non-predatory early life disposition
- The plethora of health benefits accompanied by consuming fruits and vegetables
As you can see, both sides offer valid points. So, who’s correct? Well, technically they both are. Humans are technically classified as omnivores. similarly, there are nutritional benefits to eating fruits, vegetables, and meat.
BUT, if there is one factor that can be used as a deal breaker it’d have to be the overall health benefits from either respective diet.
Fruits and vegetables contain far more beneficial nutrients
Meat does provide people with some beneficial nutrients. Iron, B complex vitamins, and complete proteins (to name a few).
These all provide the body with much-needed nutrients that help the body with its daily functions. On top of that, I think most of us can agree that meat tastes pretty damn good. However, when looking at the complete nutritional composition between the two fruits and vegetables clearly take the cake.
Fruits and vegetables are full of advantageous vitamins and minerals your body needs to perform at an optimal function
Many people do not ingest enough vitamins and minerals to meet the daily recommended level.
Failure to do so can lead to a long list of problems with your health.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure, and decrease chances of cancer, according to Harvard chan school of health. Diets complete with fruits and vegetables also help aid the body in digestion and vision.
Consuming fruits and vegetables regularly gives your body what it needs to operate effectively. Consequently, avoiding debilitating problems that arise when not enough of them are consumed.
The high level of vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables perform different duties throughout your body.
A good diet does include a wide range of foods. Different foods provide the body with different forms of nourishment. At the end of the day, fruits and vegetables provide your body with more helpful things than hurtful things, the same can’t be said for meat.
High meat diets are high in other things too
High meat diets have been shown to correlate with high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and elevated levels of cholesterol.
Although, not all meat is created equal
Chicken and turkey contain fewer saturated fats than beef and pork. This is because their muscle is external to their fat. Meaning, the muscle (meat) and the fat are separated. This allows the fat to remain out of the meat.
(Not to mention fish! Fish is a wonderful source of lean protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Wild fatty salmon, tuna, and cod to name a few)
Beef and pork contain higher amounts of saturated fats because beef and pork muscle is marbled with fat
Meaning, fat seeps into their meat. So when a piece of meat is cut from a cow or pig, pockets of fat are present in the meat as well. Hence, when you eat this meat you are consuming fat as well.
Cuts of meat marbled with fat are said to taste better than there non-marbled counterparts.
Among the fattiest cuts of meat you have:
- New York strip (up to 59% of its calories from fat)
- Skirt steak (up to 55% of its calories from fat)
- Pork spare ribs (up to 69% of its calories from fat!)
Consequently, these cuts are also some of the most flavorful.
My stomach growls when writing about them.
On the flip side, skinless white meat chicken breast and turkey breast are known to be healthy alternatives in the meat department. Albeit, less tasty.
My stomach growls have ceased.
Skinless white meat chicken breast contains up to around 10% of its calories from fat.
Skinless turkey breast contains about 11% of its calories from fat.
The calorie differential between poultry and red meat is staggering whilst, the taste (to some people) is as well. As a result, people tend to choose the fattier cuts of red meat due to taste.
If you would like to be more health conscious I’d recommend you start eating poultry instead. If white meat poultry isn’t necessarily your thing, I get it. I’ve met dozens of people who don’t like the taste of white meat chicken or turkey.
But come on people, it is 2019 and food recipes are everywhere!
There are hundreds of recipes out there to get started. Recipes that can turn your chicken breast into a culinary masterpiece.
Eat it all
So, which path should you choose?
The answer really is up to you. Look at your preferences, look at your bodies needs, and choose accordingly. Although, I believe a good balance creates the optimal diet.
Fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet. The high vitamin and mineral content keeps your body performing ideally, as well as protects you from the debilitating ailments that can occur when not enough is consumed.
Fruits and veggies are free from saturated fats, and low in calories. The high fiber content helps with your digestion by keeping your intestinal tract clean and running smoothly.
When it comes to meat.
Try to stick with skinless white meat poultry and fish.
And, try to limit your intake of red meat.
Occasional splurging is okay. Red meat tastes fantastic when cooked right. Also, devouring a double-double cheeseburger from In-n-Out is just so satisfying, and…American.
But, don’t make this a habit. There is just too much evidence that red meat is unhealthy when consumed in excess.
Although, at the end of the day I do believe we are humans and not robots. I think life should be enjoyed, and this means eating things that tickle your tastebuds. Just try to remain health conscious at the same time.
Red meat should be consumed as a reward, a rarity. If made into an everyday thing it loses its luster.
All the things you consume should be in moderation. Even too much of a good thing can be bad.
So, next time you hear people debating about whether humans are carnivores or herbivores get in the middle and scream, “YOU’RE BOTH CORRECT” and go on your merry way.