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When I was around 19, I decided to become a vegetarian. I had read a pamphlet about the benefits of it, especially about how factory farming is cruel and bad for the environment. I had a whole new perspective on animal foods, plus I had never really liked meat my whole life.
So I stopped dairy milk and switched to soy for a while, and then almond (thank goodness I hated the soy). But I ate all of those fake “meats” made from soy and heaven knows what else. I ate lots of carbs, but I also ate a decent amount of fruits and veggies. At that time, I didn’t like eggs but I did eat dairy. I didn’t know about organic or GMO back then so it was just a vegetarian version of the SAD diet. So sure, it wasn’t “perfect” but eliminating meat from my diet definitely didn’t benefit my health. I was still in pain 24/7, had gut issues, sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, weight problems, and the list goes on. Nothing magically changed for me when I stopped eating meat, like all of the health “gurus” claim.
When I started to learn about mineral balancing, I read at least 50 articles just on copper “toxicity” and EVERYTHING CLICKED. My life-long aversion to meat was explained! It is an extremely common occurrence for people to stop craving meat when they have low stomach acid (low zinc) because they cannot digest it and the body knows it. My short stint with taking a zinc supplement almost immediately solved this. I was actually craving meat for the first time in my life. After 6 months of eating beef again, my iron, ferritin and zinc levels were all ideal, after being severely deficient in all of these for close to a decade.
My experience with all of this made me realize that while we all have different bodies, there truly are nutrients that you can ONLY find in animal products. Now I am very pro-whole food based BALANCED diets. Eliminating any food group (unless there is a real allergy or intolerance) makes no sense. In my quest for the “perfect” diet, I found the Weston A Price Foundation and what they preach makes perfect sense to me. Organic, grass-fed beef and dairy, free range chicken and eggs, organic and non-GMO produce, and properly prepared grains- like our ancestors. All of these foods have different nutrients that we need, and some of these nutrients are more bio-available in only animal products.
There are so many nutrients that you will either only find in animal products, or they are just much more bio-available. I’ve picked a few of the most important ones to go over.
One of the BIGGEST lies we have been told is that beta carotene is the same as vitamin A. While beta carotene is an important nutrient, it has to go through a process to be converted into retinol. In order to make this conversion we need a healthy gut, healthy liver and gallbladder (bile flow is the KEY), and certain enzymes and nutrients (like zinc). Even a person in 100% health will still not get a full conversion of beta carotene to retinol- some experts say we need at least 6 times the beta carotene to be able to use it for retinol. Some say it is up to 12 times more beta carotene than retinol! Read my whole post on vitamin A here.
Taurine is one of the most essential and versatile nutrients. It is technically a non-essential amino acid but many people are set up for deficiency. Taurine plays a role in liver health, diabetes, weight management, heart health, brain health, and eye health.
If you are overweight, hypothyroid, or have been a vegetarian/vegan then you are more than likely lacking in taurine. Taurine (liek several other nutrients) is most abundant in animal foods. Eggs, fish, dairy, organ meats, beef and poultry. The average recommended dose is 1000mg a day of taurine. You can easily get this from 3 ounces of cheese or cottage cheese. Cottage cheese has 1700mg per cup! Milk and yogurt have about 400mg per cup. (Are you noticing a trend in the amount of taurine dairy has? I do NOT believe dairy is as bad as it is made to be- it is the quality of the products as well as the state of your gut health that is the issue).
Zinc is yet another nutrient that is more abundant in meat. Because of phytic acids in grains and plant proteins, zinc absorption can be blocked. Zinc is needed for at least 300 different enzyme reactions in the body. We need zinc for digestive enzyme production, vision, adrenal hormone production, immune system health, neurotransmitters and more. Read more about zinc.
The absolute WORST issue that develops from diets that lack in animal products is copper dysregulation. You can read all about copper dysregulation here, but the basic reason why this issue occurs is because we need animal based retinol to create the copper binding protein ceruloplasmin, which also plays a huge role in iron metabolism. Without this copper binding protein, copper can become both toxic and deficient. Copper is present in all tissues of the body, and it is an important antioxidant- so we NEED to support it’s production. We also need strong liver health to create ceruloplasmin and our livers depend on high quality meats and eggs that give us sulfur and certain amino acids.
I could go on for days about the nutrients that we lose on a vegetarian diet. These 4 above are certainly some of the most important ones that need to be taken into consideration. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a BALANCED diet. I am not telling you to eat meat at every meal, not even every day. But cutting it out completely is not a good idea. Replacing real food with supplements and claiming it is the same thing is absurd, which is what is needed to be a “healthy” vegan. I completely understand the ethical reasoning behind it, but the effect that it has on our health is terrible. You can be an ethical meat eater- just like our ancestors were for thousands of years.
Not only do we miss out on these nutrients, but most non meat eaters add a significant amount of soy to the diet. Soy depletes many nutrients, especially iodine and magnesium and it creates SO many hormonal issues. Stay away from soy please!
Read about some more nutrients that you miss out on with a meatless diet:
- The Vegan Brain
- Stories from people that gave up veganism
- Why Meat is Good for You- Chris Kresser