Readers Mike and Danielle wrote last week inquiring as to what vegans can do to stay on a Primal Health path. The full letter is below, but I will draw from a few quotes first to give my thoughts on specific elements.
As you know, I am an omnivore and believe we have clearly evolved as omnivores. (For the record, my wife eats fish and certain protein powders, but is otherwise “vegetarian”; my 13-year-old son is 100% vegetarian and has never eaten flesh in his life; my 16-year-old daughter is omnivorous). Most evolutionary biologists will tell you that there has never been a culture that existed entirely without animal products of any kind, although apparently some Hindu sects claim to have done so. I question even that.
Is such a thing possible? Some of you are vegetarians, while others are confirmed steak-lovers, and we’ve had some lively debate about meaty matters in the last week! But there’s no question that factory farming is not what’s best for the earth, animals, or humans, either. Is there?
Check out which states have the most factory farms, and then tell us what you think!
Last week I outlined my basic philosophy of nutrition, informed by my evolutionary biology knowledge. Or, as I call it, Primal Health. The lifestyle is simple: peer into the past at how our robust ancestors lived and take some notes from the DNA handbook (well, I’ll do that part).
Before the advent of agriculture, before the industrial revolution, and certainly before the modern era of fast food, long commutes, and sedentary office jobs, humans had evolved into the amazing creatures that they still are. To say we’re amazing isn’t anthropocentric – all creatures are amazing in the sense that they are finely tuned to survive in their niche. We are no different. For the delicacy of our skin, eyes, and bones, the susceptibility to environmental and emotional stress, and the infectious side effects of communal living, we are remarkably resilient. But it’s really our intelligence that has gotten us this far. Are we powerful? Well, not really, compared to apes. Sturdy? Again, nope. Our young take longer than just about any other mammal to mature (and also come with tuition bills). But brains? We have massive, enormously complex brains.
My Primal Health philosophy is really a marriage of ancient and high-tech. I believe we should harness the power of our knowledge, tools and intelligence to maximize human health and longevity. And the place to start is in our ancestral blueprints – our DNA – which haven’t changed in 10,000 or more years.
Great, Sisson. What does this mean for dinner?
Early humans were omnivorous (though in fact, there’s a bit of scavenger in the old DNA as well). I don’t consider my diet the Caveman Diet, as that’s a bit of a misnomer anyway. Rather, my “diet” is simply the very natural lifestyle I adhere to based upon what our genetic composition (that DNA blueprint) tells us about our highly successful evolution and adaptation. I attribute many, if not most, of our health problems – including mental health conditions – to a diet and lifestyle that’s severely out of sync with human physiology. I’ll be discussing the implications of this for exercise and stress in further articles, but today, let’s talk about the tastier aspects of primal health: what’s for dinner?
I am not a vegetarian and I do espouse responsible meat consumption: organic, free-range, and emphasizing fish and poultry. However, I have plenty of family members, friends and staff who are vegheads, and while I’d sooner die than return to Vegan Island, I get where they’re coming from and I respect their choices. I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree. I would say let’s get into a “spirited” debate, but I think Dubya owns that one.
I believe in nutrition and fitness from what can best be understood as an evolutionary biologist’s perspective, and I therefore support animal protein in the diet. My background in biology, years in pro sports and my own personal experience and research support my view, which I’ve tagged Primal Health.
Here’s a list of great folks with whom I disagree but really dig. If you have a suggestion for the list, let me know. If you like mock meat, well…you’ve got my pity!
The (Growing) List
Don’t shoot the messenger. Weird name, even weirder cartoon-cow-on-carrot action (yeah, I know) but still a great site and vegan-friendly health news resource. Totally unoffensive, entertaining content. UPDATE 6/09/07: This site has been relaunched in a blog/podcast-friendly platform as TasteBetter. Check it out.
I don’t tend to agree with Mark’s views (and I’m not referring to myself here…SoulVeggie is run by one Mark Sutton). But for guys who think vegetarianism is a “girl thing”, or for noodle-armed wimps, you’d be wrong. As I always say, real men eat lettuce. Vegetables don’t meow, guys. Try them out sometime.
A Veggie Venture
Every day, a new veggie basks in the spotlight of the Veggie Evangelist. A simple, useful, tasty site proving that vegetables are about a lot more than iceberg and baby carrots.
One of my staff’s favorite veg bloggers (I confess, it’s mainly because she eats a salad for lunch every day and insists, like us, that this habit is anything but boring). Veggie links, news, recipes and anecdotes with a personal touch.
Vegan Lunch Box
An excellent blog from a health-minded SAHM that includes book reviews, nutritional advice, and usually-healthy vegan recipes. It’s worth a look.
Live in New York? Follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle (or just like healthy food)? You best be gettin’ to Super Vegan. A Zagat guide for the minus-meat group.
What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway?
A lot of Tuno instead of tuna. If you like mock meat, you’ll love this blog. Aw, hell, even I love it.
I’m biased – this doc is a runner. A very cool personal blog from a vegan M.D.
[tags] vegan, vegetarian, best vegetarian blogs, lifestyle, meat [/tags]
Every once in a while, I am alternately stunned and amused by what I see being promoted in the name of good health. I had one of those “stunningly amusing” episodes when I took an eight-day vacation with my family to an all-vegetarian health and adventure retreat in Costa Rica several months ago. We had joined a group of 125 headed by Dr. John McDougall, an accomplished and well-respected physician who uses a strict vegetarian/vegan lifestyle to address disease states in his patients and (ostensibly) to promote better health among the general population. I wasn’t too keen on attending, strict carnivore that I am, but I’m always up for an experiment of one and, moreover, I was convinced by my mostly-vegetarian wife and her vegan parents that our extended family would enjoy a nice tropical vacation together. And the food promised to be so yummy… so I made the leap with my wife, two kids, the in-laws and some cousins. First off, I must say, I did have a very enjoyable time in Costa Rica with my family, rafting, diving, zip lining and hiking…but after what I witnessed during my stay, I can assure you that I have never been so certain that the Primal Blueprint way of eating – which I have embraced for over 30 years now – is the best way to achieve and maintain excellent health. Frankly, I was appalled at both the information being disseminated during this event and at what I saw being served at every meal in the name of “health food.” I am an omnivore and always have been. Carrie, my wife, was a vegetarian for fifteen years until I convinced her about five years ago to starting adding fish to her diet to get more protein. She still considers herself, in the words of the Outback Steakhouse guy, a “semi-veg.” My wife’s parents have been strict vegans for nearly thirty years and are ardent followers of Dr. McDougall. McDougall’s own story involves having had a severe stroke at age 19 from which, at 59, he still limps. He became an MD and eventually realized that diet was an important part of the health equation. He’s a very likable and charming guy. I had a few superficial discussions with him, even attended a few of his nightly lectures. His heart is certainly in the right place, but I fear he is leading people down a wholly inappropriate dietary path. At the risk of oversimplifying, the basis of his program is that almost all starch is good, all fat is bad and meat of any kind is deadly. It is, in his words, a “starch-based” diet, high in grains and legumes. The attendees were generally divided into two groups: those who were fairly new to the program – many of them had some serious weight to lose – and those who had been on the McDougall program for several years. Many of the latter group, I gathered, had come to McDougall originally with … Continue reading “My Escape from Vegan Island”