The foundation of a healthy life, part 4: meat, vegetarian or vegan
Over the years I have regularly been asked whether it is healthy to eat meat or to live as a vegetarian or vegan. There is no easy answer to that question.
When you only look at the needs of our bodies, the answer is quite simple. We are made for an omnivorous diet, so both vegetable and animal products. Our teeth and digestive system are designed for this and our natural diet therefore logically includes meat, fish and eggs. In fact, we humans would never have developed the way we did if we hadn’t eaten all this. We owe our brains to it.
Once you have seen it, you cannot un-see it
But it is precisely these brains that make eating the food we were made for not always the most obvious choice. After all, we are aware of what our eating habits mean to other animals, or at least could mean. For me, this creates dilemmas when it comes to those types of food that come from animals.
Thing is, nowadays we do not come by our animal products like we did originally. Once animals at least had their freedom before they ended up on our spits over our fires. We regarded them as equal and respected them enough to treat their lives reverently. These days, they do not only lose their freedom, we treat them in a way that is usually far from defensible and often downright cruel.
I think that is exactly why we have completely shielded the production of meat, eggs and dairy from our daily lives. That way, we don’t get to see what precedes those steaks and cheeses in the shops. We don’t really want to see it either. The often horrific conditions in which animals are kept and slaughtered cannot be reconciled with our conscience, our social disposition and our sense of compassion.
If we were to be confronted daily with the suffering that precedes the animal products on our plate, many of us would no longer be able to eat a bite. The awareness would put us under so much stress that it would become unhealthy. But we aren’t confronted with it, which means that a larger part of mankind is allowed to consciously repress the knowledge, while another part is too empathetic to ignore it.
Getting your needs in tune to your conscience
As said, there is no easy answer. We all need, to some degree, meat, fish and eggs for a healthy and balanced diet. That is a biological fact. Part of humanity also needs dairy. However, the factory farming industry is so cruel that, for many people, it is no longer an option to go along with that. In organic livestock farming, conditions for the animals are better, but the lack of freedom and use of coercion which are irrevocably associated with our way of producing food can cause this not to be an option for you either.
A clash with your conscience can just as well make you ill as a virus can. It’s can therefore be a better choice to become a vegetarian or vegan rather than just continuing to consume animal products. However, claiming that people can do without animal products, as some vegan movements do, is going too far in my book. A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle without supplementation irrevocably leads to deficits and thus imbalance and disease.
It’s hard to eat a balanced diet without leaving out essential foods, let alone when you’re excluding such important food groups. That doesn’t mean that vegetarianism or veganism cannot be the right choice for you, but be aware of the risks and avoid shortages through proper replacement and supplementation.
And now it’s matter of you finding out which diet suits you
There is so much more to say about food that I could write a book about it. I invite you to investigate and find out which diet is right for you. How do you give your body what it needs?
It will not always be the exact same. In times of illness, stress or other abnormal circumstances we need different things than in times of health. The trick is to learn to listen to what your body tells you. This way you learn what is normal for you and when there is reason to assume that you need to make adjustments. This is a process that takes time but also will give you the most valuable type of time: time spent in health.
More on this topic in the next blog…