Please Don't Tell Me What I Should Eat

I once had a conversation with a woman in one of the local food coops. We talked about how her daughter has a genetic seizure disorder (although not epilepsy). This mother had tried numerous things to help her daughter control the disorder. The only thing that works for her daughter is the raw food diet. The woman I was talking to clearly did not think that the raw food diet is for everyone. She just knows that it works for her and her daughter. I was happy that she didn't insist that everyone be on the raw food diet, although there are people who do think this is the way everyone should eat. (If you want a different take on the raw food issue, I suggest the book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham. He discusses how cooking changed our evolution.)

It is not limited to avid raw foodies. There are vegetarians, vegans, paleo, and keto people that think this way. I tend to want people to eat a diet that works for them. I do get annoyed and tired when people tell me that for the good of my health and the good of the planet I must give up eating meat. Well, that won't work for me. 

I decided to write this post because I recently read a blog post by someone who has chosen to become vegan. Most of the post was about a wedding that she attended. She, however, added something she found on Instagram about the reasons to give up meat, the implication seemingly to be that everyone should be vegetarian if not vegan. Sigh.

I went to a group session put on be a medical intuitive in the 1990s. She spent 3 to 5 minutes with each attendee and told us what our bodies wanted. She looked at me and said: "Eat more meat, no wheat, no dairy, and you don't digest beans well." I did not have the chance to talk with her about the full implications of this, and it has taken me since then to find the diet that works for me. Now soy is the worst of the beans for me. I won't describe my reactions, but I am one of the not so lucky individuals who is allergic to soy. (It is one of the 8 major food allergens.) Other beans are not quite so hard on me, but my gut doesn't like them.

I have, over time, slowly given up a number of foods. It was after I tested positive for thyroid antibodies (yup, my body is apparently attacking my thyroid) that I came across what is called the autoimmune protocol diet. Yes, I do cheat. But I have finally lost most of the weight I put on because of comfort eating because of stress and grief. I would not, however, tell everyone to be on this diet. It means giving up a whole slew of things: grains, nuts, beans, seeds, spices from seeds, eggs, dairy, and nightshade vegetables. Peoples reactions are on the order of "Oh my god. What can you eat?" Obviously there's a lot of fruits and vegetables. There are even things like cassava and coconut flour as well as gelatin as an egg replacer if you want to bake. The one thing I have trouble giving up is chocolate. It would be good because it is from a bean.

Having to give up grains, beans and nuts means that animal protein is my source of protein. Something I definitely need is protein to live. Do I want to eat all or mostly all red meat. No. I eat a lot of chicken, turkey and salmon burgers. I'm thinking about bison meat again.

I know that many vegans or vegetarians are on these diets because they believe that the planet is better off without raising cattle, sheep and the like. Factory farms are bad for the planet, no 2 ways about it. (I think mono cropping is equally bad.) But, not all animals are raised in factory farms. Not all manure is just piled up and not used. Much of history saw much smaller operations with the manure being used as fertilizer. In fact, there are apparently echo systems where the soil tilth improves with free range animals. Wikipedia says:  


Soil tilth is its physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting or growing a crop. Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, rate of water infiltration and drainage.

I saw a TED talk in the past few years. I wish I could remember the speaker's name. He had been influential in the elimination of cattle in a certain area of Africa. He had come to the conclusion that he was wrong and is now advocating the return of cattle to repair the damage to the echo system that had been caused by the removal of cattle.

Daphne Miller, MD, talks about tilth in her book Farmocology: Total Health from the Ground Up. She literally means from the soil up. Each chapter revolves around her research and her visiting a farm to work and talk with the farmers. One farmer talks about having improved the tilth of the soil by moving his cattle from pasture to pasture. I believe he then moves in his chickens.

I would bet dollars to donuts that having free range bison helps the remaining prairies and grasslands. I have the sense that their hooves dig up and help aerate the soil. They most likely help fertilize the plant life with their poop. But, to tell the truth, I'm just guessing.

What are the unintended consequences of everyone going on a vegan or vegetarian diet? And, what is to happen to all the cattle species if we stop raising them? Will we let them die out and lessen the biodiversity of the planet? What about sheep? No more wool? And, so on.

Most selfishly, what about the health of people like me whose bodies react with inflammation and other side effects for eating a diet that isn't healthy for them?

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The photograph is by Lukas Blazek and was found on unsplash.com
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