Reader Question: Vegetarianism

The great thing about this blog is that I’m the boss. I’m the head honcho, the big cheese, the Supreme Commander of my little corner of the interwebs. The great thing about having four readers (Hey mom! Hey sis! Hey Justin Bieber and Justin Bieber’s mom!) is that there’s very little risk of backlash when I do a little shuffling. Therefore, I can switch things up at will. I’m replacing today’s promised Deer Chili recipe with a reader question that I got this week. I think it’s very much worth addressing, so here it is:

 

…I really respect what you’re doing here. My fiance and I however, are vegetarians. We eat as much locally grown vegetables as we can, but still tend to buy frozen Morning Star burgers and fake chicken. We’d like to get away from any manufactured soy products, but need it for the protein and such. Do you have any suggestions? or any Cavegirl vegetarians that can suggest things?
 

 

This is such a great, important question. I’m so happy this reader asked. If we are to have a healthy population, each individual must be informed as to how their particular food ethic can be carried out as healthfully as possible.

My feelings on Vegetarianism and Soy are pretty well-ingrained. While I believe I possess the same compassionate gene that makes vegans, vegetarians and locavores alike concerned with the treatment of animals, I’ve channeled that emotion a bit differently. I do my best to manage nutritional considerations – (Iron, B vitamins, trace minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K2, vitamin A, vitamin D) so that I can live my best life – WITH my love and appreciation for animals and my desire to see Agriculture (Big A, implying the Soya and Grain industries) understand the implications of the destruction of topsoil. I love supporting small farmers who love their animals as much as the land.

Pastured cattle. This is what they're meant to eat.

The reason I buy my meat locally, from farms I can visit and farmers I know, is because I can assure that my meat had a nice, simple, healthy life before it meets its end in the quickest, least stressful way possible. US Wellness Meats (found here) is a Missouri-based company with these same values.

 Bravo, reader, for wanting to back away from the soy. Traditional diets including very small amounts of fermented soy show very few negatives, but today’s soy is vastly different – soymilk, edamame and tofu, oh my!  – and they are consumed in dangerous quantity. While soy is the only complete plant-based protein I’m aware of, it comes packaged with a variety of detrimental effects for the thyroid, estrogen levels, nutrient uptake, and fertility. Even the breast milk of vegan mothers is of dramatically lesser quality than mothers who eat nourishing foods like eggs, pastured animal fats, cod liver and fish oils, butter oil, and pastured meats.

Today's soy production. Not a natural process.

Based on my research, I believe animal protein (“complete protein,” meaning all amino acids are present) is a fundamental building block of our existence, and I believe I have valid physiological and evolutionary platforms to support this. Humans are omnivores.Young couples in traditional cultures were fed copious animal products, cream, eggs, and other high-fat traditional foods because they understood such foods promote fertility and healthy pregnancy. It’s tough to argue on the point of nourishment of a newborn.

The BIG caveat? I don’t think grain-fed, factory-farmed meat is optimally healthful. I don’t believe it’s what we’re meant to eat; and I understand why a compassionate approach to eating guides many toward vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s imporant to understand, in the case of both factory meat eaters and vegetarians, the trade-offs you’re making nutritionally. I don’t feel the need to explain those things here – I just found out about an amazing thing called Google that has an astonishing capability to do volumes of legwork for you!

From a nutritional standpoint, a vegetarian diet composed largely of  grains, soy (NEVER a good thing) and artificial products is not health-inducing. Neither is an omnivorous diet based on these things. A veg diet that’s plant-based is tough to sustain for some and easier for others; If you feel great, more power to you – just keep an eye on energy, mental acuity, and physical indicators of health like abdominal fat to be sure your diet is serving you well.

My advice? Steer clear of fake meat.

I do understand compassionate vegetarianism, and the answer to this reader question depends on what the reader is open to!

If a vegetarian is open to eating fish or pastured eggs, that’s the ticket. Eating those at least 3 times per week is mandatory. It’s easy to find local eggs through sources like EatWild. Local, fresh eggs last forever in the fridge – I buy cartons at a time and have kept them around for 3 months with no problem. Supplemented with plenty of veggies, avocado, berries, and plenty of fat from coconut oil, coconut milk and olive oil (in that order) sets a great stage for good pesce-ovo-vegetarian health.

A mobile hen house for free-roaming pastured hens.

Healthy Traditional Hindus made vegetarianism work by using plenty of raw dairy products (NOT supermarket dairy) like butter and Ghee. If you’re open to lacto-vegetarianism and have good sources of ghee (check out my Doing Dairy Right post), this is a decent route. I get my Ghee from Pure Indian Foods. They ship. Again, plenty of veggies, avocado, and some berries.

If you’re not open to any of the lacto/pesce/ovo options, I would suggest reading up on protein combining to ensure you get a proper balance of amino acids (not for everybody, but I think it’s an informed route), but DO NOT eat beans or grains until they are soaked or sprouted (more info here). Soaking and sprouting disables SOME of the enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients inherent to beans and grains, which is critical for vegetarians looking for alternative sources of protein. If you’re willing to eliminate gluten, which I recommend, cut out wheat in favor of rice and gluten-free oats (most commercial oats are cross-contaminated with wheat).

It’s critical to get enough fat. Low-fat diets based on the ADA’s standards are uniformly unhealthy. Use Ghee; if not Ghee, use coconut oil, and add some cold-pressed olive oil to round it out.

Some great recipes involving Ghee here.

I hope this is helpful!

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5 Comments to “Reader Question: Vegetarianism”

  1. That was so well written! I wish my sister (who is a vegetarian) would read this. Unfortunately she is not to open minded in this regard.

    • Trixie, thanks so much! As much as I love the Paleo/Primal/Appreciative living ethic, I am disturbed by how un-accepting some folks within the community are toward vegetarians. I am sympathetic to vegetarians (though I feel both our bodies AND the earth are better served when we act as conscientious omnivores) and I think they, as much as anybody else, should be fully informed as to how to achieve the best health within their moral code.

  2. hi-five for this one i dig it!

  3. Just stumbled across your blog trying to find information on no-poo (I love my hair now!) and want to add that I have one piece of advice for vegetarians. Don’t do it! I know. Very narrow-minded of me, but after being one for fifteen years (three of those vegan) I can say with absolute certainty that it nearly destroyed my health and the health of my child. Thank goodness she was eighteen months old when I discovered Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions. I have been eating that way (started gluten free six months ago and getting ready to eliminate most grains) for two years and I have eliminated (completely eliminated) a diagnosed case of OCD, chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia and some other nutritional deficiencies. I really don’t think many people do well on a vegetarian diet and I am more aware (and more interested) in humane animal husbandry. I’m also much more aware of the health of the animals that provide my raw dairy and pastured eggs.
    I love your blog. It’s been fun reading.

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