Is being vegetarian more "natural?"


| 3 Comments

My roommate has been a vegetarian since last year, well on and off that is. Every week, she changes her mind depending on if she caves to her cravings for certain foods. My friends and I find ourselves cracking jokes about it constantly, "so what are you this week?" I admire people who are truly 100% vegetarian; they must have some sort of willpower to never eat meat. I could never become vegetarian because meat has been in my diet since a very young age.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/u15/Vegetarians%201.jpg

http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/u15/Vegetarians%201.jpg

Many Americans live an unhealthy lifestyle (shown clearly by the obesity epidemic), and many people assume that vegetarians live a healthier lifestyle. But is this necessarily true? Sure, vegetarians do not eat McDonald's BigMac and 7-11's hotdogs, but that does not necessarily mean the other foods they don't eat are healthy. Vegetarians could be eating candy all day long, which in the end can result just as unhealthy as meat can.

The Washington Post offered me an insight I have never thought about before. Apparently, vegetarian diets have been said to be more "natural." But the article offers support for why this is simply not true, and it all goes back to the time when people's only way to obtain food was to grow their own and hunt animals. Evolution, including how our diets evolved, allowed society to grow and develop, and it started off very basic. These two options of food were the "natural" way of eating; therefore, this article argues that eating meat is what allowed humans to grow so incredibly.

Archeologists and other scientists argue that our brains would have never been able to develop like they have if everyone was vegetarian starting millions of years ago. "At the core of this research is the understanding that the modern human brain consumes 20 percent of the body's energy at rest, twice that of other primates." Therefore, eat and cooked foods were necessary in order to give their bodies the necessary nutrients to be able to grow. We need a certain amount of calories to have energy to last us throughout the day. Nowadays, it is "a piece of cake" to obtain those calories! You can even eat all the necessary calories you need in a day in one sitting, say with a McDonald's value meal. But back then, it was not as easy to obtain the calories needed because of scarcity of resources and food. In that time, if someone was vegetarian, they would have had a lot harder time surviving because there were just so few options of what else they could eat. If they did not eat meat, they would have not obtained enough calories from vegetables, fruits, roots, etc. to fulfill their nutritional needs.

This is not to say that being a vegetarian is unhealthy. It could very well mean you live a healthier lifestyle, but this is not solely because of the fact that you do not eat meat. It is how your diet as a whole is compared to that of someone who does eat meat. According to Mayo Clinic, anyone can live healthily and still grow as a vegetarian: children, elderly, men, pregnant woman, etc. The important thing is to know what foods to eat to receive the nutritional intake that is needed.

http://www.21stcenturyvegetarians.com/Images/PageImages/Where_Do_You_Get.jpg

http://www.21stcenturyvegetarians.com/Images/PageImages/Where_Do_You_Get.jpg

I knew there were variations of vegetarians, but I never knew to what extent. Apparently, there are 4 kinds. 1) Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included. 2) Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs. 3) Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs. 4) Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products -- and foods that contain these products. Are any of you guys vegetarian? If so, which kind would you consider yourself?

http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/19200000/why-go-vegetarian-vegetarians-19285465-280-230.gif

http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/19200000/why-go-vegetarian-vegetarians-19285465-280-230.gif

On the other hand, there are possible insights as to why it might be healthier to be vegetarian. According to Brown University's Health Education Department, vegetarians have lower heart rates and a lesser chance of getting cancer. This could be because meat often has many additives that are not healthy for our bodies. Many times, the meat we eat from restaurants are packaged in factories with contamination or where the meat is not handled properly. All these possibilities lead to the fact that it is possible vegetarians due lead a healthier lifestyle, however; this still does not mean their eating habits are "more natural." The question that we will never know the answer to is: What would society be like now if people never ate meat? Would the world population be much less? Would people be much dumber because their brains evolved? I suppose the intelligence factor could be tested with someone who has been vegetarian for their whole life vs. someone who has eaten meat their whole life. But, there would be too many confounding third variables such as genetics, education, study habits, lifestyle, diet, etc.

What diet do you consider "more natural?"  Why? Both sides can rightfully be argued, there is no right or wrong answer, only opinions.


3 Comments

I find this subject extremely frustrating. This is one of those things where clear evidence points to early humans being hunter-gatherers. Even our current anatomy points to us as being omnivores. We have sharp canine teeth to tear. If we were naturally supposed to be vegetarians our teeth would be quite different.
Comparison
Vegetarians are usually forced to take supplements as well since they usually tend to be deficient in a few vitamins and minerals.

Just saying...

Here's a link to a pretty good paper.
Humans are Omnivores

I think this is a very interesting blog post. However, I was looking around and found this website stating that many vegetarians do not suffer from iron deficiency or lack of other vitamins. (http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.htm). If vegetarians work to eat foods such as spinach and beans, they can receive the same nutrition they would if they were eating meat. While I agree that eating a typical meat-inclusive diet may be more natural because of evolutionary reasons, I think that being a vegetarian can be equally as healthy.

According to your blog, the vegetarian seems much better lead to the fact that it is possible vegetarians due lead a healthier lifestyle. I read a 1999 metastudy combined data from five studies from western countries. The metastudy reported mortality ratios, where lower numbers indicated fewer deaths, for fish eaters to be 0.82, vegetarians to be 0.84, occasional meat eaters (eat meat less than once per week) to be 0.84. Regular meat eaters and vegans shared the highest mortality ratio of 1.00. The study reported the numbers of deaths in each category, and expected error ranges for each ratio, and adjustments made to the data. However, the "lower mortality was due largely to the relatively low prevalence of smoking in these [vegetarian] cohorts". Out of the major causes of death studied, only one difference in mortality rate was attributed to the difference in diet, as the conclusion states: "...vegetarians had a 24% lower mortality from ischaemic heart disease than non-vegetarians, but no associations of a vegetarian diet with other major causes of death were established." And I searched many other study on the internet, they all indicated that the vegetarian can make people live longer. However,the reason is still unknown. Here is a interesting journal that focus on the "meat-free revolution to help save the planet", if you'd like to take a look at:
http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/meatfree-revolution-to-help-save-the-planet-20090522-bi4q.html

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