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Defending the carnivores

Are you a meat lover?

Modern fads and diets might sway you in a different direction because it seems as though everything is going “plant-based”, “vegan” and “healthy” and there’s less and less support for diets that include a high amount of protein from animals (apart from omega-3 rich salmon, of course).

But perhaps that’s simply on the face of it.

Protein is an essential macronutrient because it is a major structural and functional component of the body for muscles and hormones. The average person needs around 0.6 - 1.0 g/kg/day protein, as long as you include a variety of different protein sources, and that your energy intake of the diet is sufficient to meet the energy you use in a day.

If you are exercising your protein need could increase between 1.0 - 2.0 g/kg/day - this is all dependent on your goal. Research shows that anywhere between 1.6 - 2.2g/kg/day.

For this reason, protein is crucial for anyone who wants to live a healthy life, and a lack of protein can lead to a number of illnesses and diseases.

Yes, it is true that protein can be found in chickpeas, as well as even quinoa, but the main way that we get protein is from animals – namely, lean meat, beef, poultry, and fish. The quality of the protein you get from these sources does vary, where animal protein provides you with both nonessential and essential sources, whereas plant sources will only give you some protein (making them incomplete).

Cow's grazing | DNAfit Blog

So, why are many vegetarians and vegans under the impression that we were never meant to eat meat?

Well, evolution is a funny thing. 

Around 6 million years ago our ancestors could walk, but still ate fruits and vegetables, perhaps some nuts and seeds. After a while, say 2.5 million years ago, we had developed into fully fledged omnivores and were eating meat and foraging for fruits and vegetables and tubes and whatever else was on offer.

Fruit and vegetable box | DNAfit Blog

It isn’t quite clear why this is, perhaps it has something to do with the availability of food, our ability as skillful hunters or a taste for animals, but humans definitely have traits of both herbivores and carnivores. 

For one thing, we have canines and require vitamin B12 that is derived from animal sources. On the other hand, we have an enzyme named sucrase that is responsible for digesting fruits. The long and short of this all is that humans are omnivores, and both a high protein diet and a vegetarian diet are possible today due to our ability to supplement what we need to stay healthy.

Another interesting fact about meat eating in a recent Forbes article is that our ability to smell decayed and rotting food could be due to us starting out as scavengers of meat (maybe our ancestors feasted on dead carcasses before they started hunting their own food) and then moving away from that.

It is due to these understated facts and cues that point us in the direction of our meat eating past, and present.

A study in Nature continues the rhetoric that “meat eating isn’t bad” by essentially stating that if we hadn’t started eating meat, we may not have developed into the humans we are today.

Sure, there has been research that links meat eating with a host of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and higher mortality but it doesn’t take into account the other environmental factors at play.

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Many people all over the world are unhealthy because they eat a diet high in processed food, sugary drinks, smoke and are sedentary in their lifestyle. If anything, these factors contribute more to disease than any other. It is easy to pass this off onto meat eaters due to the fact that many vegetarians and vegans get their food from natural sources and eat well.

But, a diet such as the Paleo diet has demonstrated how you can eat a diet that is high in lean meats and saturated fats from good natural sources, while including everything that vegetarians eat and live a very healthy lifestyle.

Lastly, one thing that we must touch on is the “human” or emotional aspect of not eating meat. To many people who turn to veganism, their main reasoning is that farming practices are inhumane and abusive towards animals such as cows and chickens, and that it is unsustainable. This, right here, is justified and is the reason for the upturn in farming animals in more organic environments and feeding them natural foods rather than pumping them with hormones and antibiotics.

Sure, it is a complex issue and one that will take some time to rectify due to the high demand of meat products worldwide but conversely, we life in a cycle of life and death and do what we need to do to survive. It’s unfair to label people who eat meat as more savage than vegans and justify it by using the “meat is murder” argument because all sorts of ecosystems need to die in order for all of us to live in the modern world.

However, this is not meant to devolve into a debate about morals and ethics but a simple explanation of why humans today are omnivores and need to include every macronutrient into our diets in order to survive and maintain balance. Your decision to not eat meat, or to eat meat is a personal choice and humans are all free to choose how we live. And what’s great is that meat is healthy, contains many vitamins and minerals that are crucial for us, and it’s simply very difficult to turn down a medium rare rump steak or thick, chunky biltong because, instinctively, there’s this trigger inside of us emanating from the depths of our subconscious that knows it’s good.

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