Throughout history we see that human beings have been nourished by animal products as well as by plants. Although I´ve searched high and low and left and right I´ve found “believable” arguments on both sides, to try to answer the question – Are we omnivores or herbivores? If a person consumes meat, he or she can defend that choice by simply citing that stone age man ate meat. On the other hand, people who are vegetarians or vegans can claim that we are biologically connected to the plant eating great apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, urangutans, etc. Some “humans” may not like the idea but the scientifically accepted Theory of Evolution, by Charles Darwin, explains that it is so.
When the Stone Age arrived it allowed man to make tools, including arrowheads and spears. As a result, we were capable of hunting and killing animals that were physically stronger and faster than we were. That led to a dilemma because, although we have pre-Stone Age coronary arteries and intestinal tracts, which evolved over millions of years…we were now consuming meat. According to an article in Psychology Today, The Truth About the Caveman Diet “The caveman diet is a great diet if you want to live to be 30 or 35 years old. That was the adult life expectancy until very, very recently (indeed, it wasn’t until well after the advent of agriculture that life expectancy began to rise—in agricultural communities!). We know this from skeletal evidence. Individuals older than 40 at death are very rare in the Paleolithic record.” The article goes on to say, “It wasn’t that the caveman diet killed these people. It is just that almost no one lived long enough to develop the medical conditions we associate with long-term consumption of large quantities of animal protein and fat. Thus, just because cavemen did it does not mean it is good for you.”
In other words, even if we agree that humans have been omnivores for a large part of their history, because they did not live long enough, we cannot automatically conclude that eating meat today is our healthiest choice. Furthermore, the meat we eat today, except for a few exceptions, is not the same as the meat that Paleo-man ate. Remember, he was a hunter…chasing after and killing wild game. The “game” was constantly on the move and “fit as a fiddle”, in order to avoid being hunted down by man or any other predator. As a result, most animals were muscular with a very low body fat percentage. For example, a wild antelope generally has a Body Mass Index, which measures body fat, of 7%. Today, with the establishment of factory farms, cows carry 30% body fat (mostly saturated). For business…fat is good, because it “fattens” the wallet. Also, hormones and foods that fatten cows, chickens, pigs and goats, are replacing the foods that nature meant these animals to eat. Combine that with the ingestion of antibiotics, fed to these animals, for disease prevention, and it is clear that today´s factory farm animals are a far cry from what our meat eating ancestors consumed.
SO WHICH IS THE HEALTHIEST CHOICE…TODAY?
1) Populations that consume plant based foods are healthier and live longer than populations that are meat based. They include the 5 Blue Zone cultures, written about in the NY Times Best Seller, “The Blue Zones” and discovered by National Geographic explorer, Dan Buettner (Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica and Nicaria, Greece). Other examples are populations living in the rural communities of China, Japan and parts of Africa. They have been thriving on plant based foods for centuries.
2) Populations that eat mostly animal based products (i.e., the Standard American Diet) continue to be at higher risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer´s, high blood pressure, etc.
3) More and more athletes are finding that changing from meat to plants has not only improved performance, but their health as well. They find that eating plant based foods boosts blood flow and oxygenation of their muscles for better endurance while taking advantage of plant food´s anti-inflammatory effect to speed their post-workout recovery. When Tennis star Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren´s syndrome, an autoimmune condition, a whole food vegan diet helped her defeat the condition and get back into winning form. Other athletes, such as NFL football stars Tom Brady and Tony Gonzales have been able to extend their careers. At the age of 88, Fred Distelhorst was the oldest man to climb Mt. Kilmanjaro, one of the world´s highest peaks and at the ages of 68 and 64, Jannette and Alan Murray circled Australia by running 365 marathons in a year!
A) Although we do have the choice between omnivore and herbivore, we do our best when we begin to substitute Whole Food Plants for meat.
B) Ideal levels of LDL (BAD) cholesterol is only seen in herbivores.
C) Ideal normal average weight is mostly seen among herbivores.
D) The healthiest human gut bacteria is found in herbivores.
E) The healthiest and longest living people are found in Plant Based societies.
“In our culture, behaving like an omnivore may be normal…but it´s also normal to be sick