The question of what we are really meant to eat is a loaded one with lots of different opinions. Our friend Jim Glackin recently took a great stab at answering this question in a discussion thread on facebook where, among other tactics, someone played the “Paleo” card on why it is natural for us to eat meat. We’ve decided to republish Jim’s response here.
“The thing about humans is that we are highly evolved omnivores. We have adapted to survive according to whatever foods are available. When fruits, nuts, and plants are plentiful, we eat plants. When meat, fish, poultry is available, we eat animal foods. We are highly adaptable. It’s what makes us survivors. In the winter, for instance, when plants are not as available, herbivores starve out and die. When prey are not available, carnivores starve out and die. Humans can eat whatever is available. However, humans are also highly evolved thinkers. We are uniquely evolved to be able to store foods in times of plenty for times of famine. With modern farming and food distribution, there is absolutely no need for animal based foods. We are perpetually in a time of plant-based plenty. So, from an animal welfare/rights perspective, there is absolutely no nutritional need to kill and eat animals. None.
But, let’s set that aside and talk about nutrition. What is optimal for humans? We are evolved thinkers, so we don’t have to instinctively grunt down whatever food source we find sitting in front of us. We can actually choose to eat what is nutritionally optimal. As we all know, animal based foods cause heart disease, strokes, angina, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. This is not under question. You never hear anyone with any of these diseases being told to cut back on the plants. Ever. The dietary restrictions are all around meat, dairy and eggs. That alone would indicate to a thinking person that these animal based foods do harm. So, you get the next line, “Well, yeah, LARGE amounts of animal based foods do harm. Everything in moderation.” True, just like large amounts of heroin and cigarettes do harm, but moderate amounts are fine, right? No, moderate amounts still do damage, but it’s a game of Russian roulette. Many people get away with it and many do not.
The number one cause of death in the US is heart disease. Of the top 5, almost all of them are caused by animal product consumption. The number one prescribed drug is a statin drug. Over 50% of all Americans are on regularly prescribed drugs. I read a comment from someone posting about a doctor who died of an amino acid deficiency, and so this person feels the need to decry the vegan diet. This, even though she has probably known dozens, if not hundreds, of people who suffer and/or have died from heart disease, strokes, etc. Seems rather selective to me.
What is moderation? In 1909, the per capita cheese consumption was 3.6 pounds per year. Now, in 2012, the per capita consumption of cheese is TEN TIMES HIGHER! The same goes for beef, chicken, and egg consumption (on varying degrees). We Americans eat significantly more animal products than have ever been consumed in human history. Where our grandparents consumed meat, dairy, and eggs sparingly, and generally as a flavoring (pork cooked in beans), Americans now eat animal products as the main dish, with small sides of vegetables (Pork chop with a small side of beans). We are the fattest and sickest country in human history, and we also consume more animal products than any group in human history. But, hey, a doctor died of an amino acid deficiency and she was VEGAN!!! LOL!
Why doesn’t moderation work anymore? Where our great grandparents and our ancestors ate truly moderate amounts of animal products, they lived to the ripe old age, on average, of about 60 years old. Now, certainly not because of our diet, we are living into our 80’s, regularly. A lifetime of truly moderate animal product consumption is not as likely to catch up with someone who dies at 65 years old. However, a lifetime of moderate animal product consumption will catch up to an 80 year old. If plaque can build up in your coronary arteries to the point where they can close off and cause angina or even a heart attack, just think of what goes on in the capillaries and arteries in the brain!! Starting in our early 40’s, thanks to moderate levels of animal product consumption (not carrots and broccoli), we start to have micro strokes in our brains. These tiny infarctions go unnoticed, but build up over time. Eventually, we lose motor skills, memory, cognition, etc, until we die. In modern levels of animal product consumption, we are starting to experience these brain infarctions as early as our thirties and, with childhood obesity, even in our twenties. Dementia rates are almost getting to epidemic levels. Dementia is one of the top 5 killers in the US.
We are not at the top of the food chain. We are at the top of the evolutionary chain, which means we are intelligent enough to consume foods that are most healthy for us and not just consume what we believe we should eat because the USDA, the Cattleman’s Beef Association, the United Dairy Farmers, and the Egg Board have pounded this into us from our earliest memories. We are the most intelligent species, but probably not the smartest.”