Don't deprive your inner caveman
Q: I know you prefer the Paleo Diet as an approach to eating, but does going "meatless" have any merits? My daughter has recently declared that she's now a vegetarian, and I'm worried about the impact on her health.
GR: I talk about the protein-rich Paleo Diet so often, you might think I get on my "soapbox" just to bash vegetarians!
The truth is, after having worked with many patients that have stopped eating meat, I'm not totally against this lifestyle choice.
I'll even admit that the documentary Forks Over Knives makes a compelling argument in favor of it, as it explores a large-scale study that showed that cancers occurred much more frequently in China's meat-consuming areas versus its plant-based communities.
I'm also aware of the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, who has shown that a plant-based diet (plus other healthy lifestyle choices) can lower the buildup of plaque on the cardiac arteries.
Now, I'm not denying that there's some merit to be found in vegetarianism that's backed by science. But I do feel that for the health and wellbeing of myself, my loved ones, and my patients, consuming SOME meat products would be a better overall option than giving up meat entirely.
And the decision to be a vegetarian has so many pitfalls that giving up meat and other animal products is WAY more than a lifestyle choice -- it's a medical decision.
That means that anyone considering making such a radical change in their diet needs to be followed closely by a physician.
But not just any ol' doc. Even that trusted family doc you've been with for years may not be able to thoroughly evaluate a patient who's become a vegetarian -- especially in making sure that the levels of nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron aren't dipping.
As I shared with you in the December issue of Nutrition & Healing (check your inbox!), I see lower levels of vitamins like B12 and minerals like iron in vegetarians all the time.
And there are lots of other crucial nutrients in meat-based foods that most vegetarians cannot get, too.
Skipping out on meat can even make you depressed!
Now, some vegetarians (and would-be veg-heads), however, aren't entirely focused on the health benefits of banishing animal proteins from their diets.
There's a not-so-minor ethical consideration at play here, too.
Of course, I'm not pleased about the cruelty that some of these animals endure. That's one of the reasons I always encourage my patients to source their meat locally, ideally from an organic farm where livestock are grass-fed and poultry are free-range.
It's not just a better environment for animals than those "factory farms."
When the use of antibiotics and hormones is forbidden... and the farm animals eat more closely to what THEIR ancestors ate... the actual cuts of meat you'll get will be much healthier for YOU.
Have you got a BEEF with MEAT? Share your story with me by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.