Beware of basing your diet on ideology

Vegetarianism vs. factory meat-farming? We have lost our instincts about what is natural to eat. No other animal has philosophical discussions about the subject. Choosing a diet based on ideology can get you in big trouble if your ideology doesn't match your biology.

What do humans eat naturally? Our teeth are like chimpanzees' — chimps are largely herbivorous, but occasionally kill and eat small animals. We now know gorillas also eat small amounts of animal food, but mostly leaves and shoots, needing to eat almost constantly, with a bony skull-crest anchoring their huge jaw muscles.

Anthropologist Louis Leakey thought that humans evolved because we ate meat and used fire. Cooked (partially predigested) meat and vegetables allowed eating less, chewing less. The bony crest disappeared, letting our brain expand. Before we were human, we stood up and chased our prey with spears.

All "primitive" cultures ate some meat, if only a little. Agriculture built ancient civilizations, with grains the staple food source, but meat was welcomed when available. Traditional Chinese medicine has 2,000 years of scientific experience with the energetics of food and human health, recommending cooked vegetables and grains as the bulk of the diet, with smaller amounts of meat and other foods, such as fruits, nuts and raw vegetables, as supplements. Three ounces of meat per day is enough. It makes biological and ethical sense. Buy from local producers. If you choose a vegan diet, you need three cups of cooked beans to get the same amount of protein; and eat fermented foods and take care of your intestinal flora to avoid B-12 deficiency. Feel a little spacy and crave sweets? You are probably protein deficient.

If you can get around your ideology, have a little animal food when your body asks for it. It's your biology talking.

— Kim Bonsteel

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7 thoughts on “Beware of basing your diet on ideology

  1. travelah

    Well, Leakey’s questionable specualtion aside, I generally agree with the need for moderation in what we eat. A lot of red meat is certainly not healthy and how we raise and care for livestocks is vitally important. Most of us, including myself at times, don’t look at our diets carefully. Personally, I love a good pulled pork sandwich although most people realize that should be had in moderation. My wife pushes the fruits and veggies and I bake the breads and we both indulge in local farm raised meats as we see fit.

    Now, when a vegan goes on the offensive with nutcake silliness, well, I just toss a beautiful, marinated rib eye on the grill just in celebration of his freedom of speech.

  2. chops

    We live in a different world, now. Today, there is little that is “natural” in the mass production of modern meat food sources.

    For many, biology rightfully takes a back seat to ideology.

    Biology has to adapt to the environment. Maybe our evolution has taken a turn due to our lifestyles. We no longer chase food. Few among us exert the kind of energy that goes along with primitive life. Food is more accessible than ever. (As are supplements)

    Perhaps our evolved intelligence leads to dietary decisions that emphasize responsibility to a sustainable future. Our struggle for survival necessitates this.

    I agree that it is important to be mindful of our evolutionary past, but we must also look to our evolutionary future.

  3. Dave

    I agree that it is important to be mindful of our evolutionary past, but we must also look to our evolutionary future.

    So you think you can change millions of years of evolution with a conscious change in your diet? I think you don’t understand evolution or basic biology.

    Trust me, as a former vegan, a strict vegan diet can be as harmful as too much meat. Vegans who think their specific dietary choices are somehow ‘saving the world’ need to wake up and smell the industrial agriculture. I’m glad that it works for some, but I tire of the implications and even insistence that it can and MUST work for all. That is ludicrous.

  4. chops

    Dave, I’m surprised that you don’t think it makes a difference.

    You know, if everyone in the world started drinking water instead of Pepsi, don’t you think there would be less pollution, better health, etc.? We wouldn’t “save the world” through this one act, but it would make some difference.

    Well, so what do you specifically dispute: that sustainability doesn’t make a difference, or that eating more vegetables isn’t more sustainable?

    As for evolution,… I understand that natural selection is centered around our habitat. Don’t you? As long as our population and agricultural practices have an effect on our environment, then humans have a hand in the outcome of our own evolution. I never claimed that it would take less than a million years, either.

  5. Dave

    No, chops. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I just think it’s a silly, absurd notion to think that we can “change” our genetics by choosing to eat a vegan diet, as you imply above.

    I also take exception with your incorrect assertion that a vegan diet is somehow more ‘sustainable’ than a well-rounded diet. That is only true if you compare the worst aspects of industrialized meat production with the best aspects of small-scale veggie production. Obviously that is an unfair comparison. Stop pretending your dietary choices are “better” than others and stop trying to pretend you are saving the world by making such arbitrary lines in what you choose to eat.

  6. Jeff

    Millions of humans on our planet who are happy to get ANYTHING to eat would be amazed to know that we Americans have bitter arguments over the dietary choices of others.

  7. john

    Exactly, Jeff. The important thing about food is that there should be some. And make that ‘billions’.

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