ESSENTIAL BENEFITS OF ANIMAL FOODS - a post I created for my veggie friend who was ready for change?

Updated: May 5



  1. The sheer importance of QUALITY animal foods to our optimal health and the evolution of man/woman.

  2. The importance of preparing our plant foods TO ENSURE THEY ARE BIOAVAILABLE, because otherwise they may do harm.


I was given the idea for this blog post when a friend who has been vegetarian for 15 years became interested in change. This was a day I was hoping to come, but unsure of how it would go about.


For me, I was just like: "okay well, eat some meat, or whatever" .. but that is not too compassionate of the situation. Adjusting lifestyle is difficult without a pure whole-hearted reason or the motivation to do so for a better cause.


In this particular situation, my friend doesn't like the idea of actually eating flesh, but at the same time feels like something is missing, but is unsure if diet is related? I conveniently just read the book The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino ...and am deep into binge-watching Vikings.

Can we thrive without the whole-animal consumption that our ancestors evolved with? Will we be missing out on some key nutrients for optimal health?

Animal foods vs. plant foods


There are some mixed opinions about animal foods. We have a trendy plant-based movement encouraging the importance of minimizing meat and dairy while in conjunction maximizing the consumption of plant foods for health benefit. On the other hand we have an underground movement of carnivores emerging, claiming the opposite. With such contrasting opinions, are we all really that different and unique as humans? What about a diet that isn't so extreme?


I've been following YouTube accounts for many years and in the recent year there has been an ever-increasing number of ex-vegan Youtube channels converting their content to carnivore-like or keto/paleo eating styles after admitting health consequences due to eating a plant-centred a.k.a. 'plant-based'/'plant-strong' diet for too long. Claims like digestive pain, acne, hormonal loss (low sperm count, amenorrhea, fibroids, etc.), thyroid imbalance, low energy and a general consensus of 'feeling off'- all complete opposite effects to their initial bout into plant-based eating. I too experienced similar uncomfortable side-effects when I was vegan, and I was in complete denial it could be related to eating too many plant foods.


When I was still trying to hold onto being Vegan, I believed there could never be such a thing as 'too many plant foods', HOW could that be?

Perhaps, too much fibre and a possibility of antinutrients counteracting my body's natural rhythms.


So is it true? Can we get out of balance without enough animal foods?


Perhaps you have heard about the carnivore trend? Even a celebrity like Joe Rogan has widely shared his experience eating a diet largely of game meat, inviting guests onto his #1 listened-to podcast, people who live off-grid, ancestral lifestyles and are also well-known 'bio-hackers', doctors and clinicians.


As mentioned earlier, I recently read a book called "The Carnivore Code" written by doctor Paul Saladino, who eats a diet entirely of animal foods and wrote a handbook to help others guide themselves on the journey too. In the book he writes about different levels of being a carnivore, some including modest amount of lettuce, sprouts and fermented foods, but still mimicking the eating habits of the original man/woman, who feasted on meat, skin-to-tail, fasted regularly and only ate plants out of necessity and balance- and none of the farmed fruits and veggies we have today, just various natural species of berries and wild leaves.


The Carnivore Code depicts Saladino's personal experience, various clinical tests and epidemiology studies his research team is conducting and famous ones throughout history that have shaped our global idea about eating. Together, the book, Saladino's social media and his medical practice are a controversy to the mainstream messages we have learned about medicine. You might think: darn eating meat all-day, every-day must clog your arteries and what about vitamin C!? He busts these thoughts with straight up facts, proving how all essential nutrients can be somewhere, many times found in organ meat. Just like I've written on this website, Saladino writes about the common diet misconceptions around saturated fat, cholesterol and demonizes the processed veggie oil industry and the detrimental side-effects of excess sugars lingering within our body. Above all he reinforces the idea that animal foods are actually the most metabolically balanced for our body, since they contain all the same nutrients and run similar metabolic processes as our own. Want stronger muscles? Eat muscle meat! Want to nourish your liver? Eat a liver! Overall Saladino's work challenges and provides evidence against the common information about plant nutrition, a.k.a the 'eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can' phenomenon and even claims that plants have evolved to contain toxins and pesticides to protect them against predators that eat them- aka us.


This was something I noticed in my own body when I began to incorporate more whole animal foods in my diet and focused on reducing the surplus of fibre that had been associated with my plant based diet goals. As my digestion grew stronger, I noticed that much of the farmed veggies and whole grains were inflammatory to my body, causing gas and upset if they were not prepared or cooked properly and dairy became a great source of fuel when I fermented it into yogurt, ate cheese and prepared ghee. This really showed me how important food preparation was for digestion. How could it be that I now I opt for an unbleached refined flour, versus that hearty 12 whole-grain I grew up thinking was super healthy?


Antinutrient OR plant toxin?


Through my education in nutrition I have learned about various toxins in plants and have blogged about them in my up-incoming post about 'antinutrients'. Phytic acid? Oxalate? Do you recognize these? Antinutrients are plant compounds that instead of supporting our body's function, they inhibit it. Most commonly, we are told antinutrients bind to minerals in our digestive system and prevent absorption from taking place. Over time the continual consumption of them can lead to mineral deficiency and system imbalance! Keep following my social media for an up-to-date post on antinutrients.


In the Carnivore Code, Saladino takes it a step further though, he writes that eating plants has mearly been a survival technique by our ancestors when meat was not available. His research via bone and tooth samples, and through historical and modern studies, show us how the cultivation/farming of plants has been the decline of human physique and metabolic health over the course of human history. Pretty insane read!!!


To be taught at a young age that broccoli is one of the healthiest foods- and only then to be shown research in Saladino's book that it's actually slowly breaking down my DNA and disrupting my thyroid function is some pretty heavy information. Going into the read, I was fairly opened minded to what the Carnivore Code had to say, with some previous knowledge and intuition it enforced 2 messages that I have continually expressed on this website:

  1. The sheer importance of QUALITY animal foods to our optimal health and the evolution of man/woman.

  2. The importance of preparing our plant foods TO ENSURE THEY ARE BIOAVAILABLE, because otherwise they may do harm.


The book the Carnivore Code was a doozy, it was exaggerated, somewhat humorous and to be honest another to add to the extremist diet-book list. I think there was some great information in there but it was very one-sided. I think that our life is more than what the pre-agricultural peoples lives once were, we have art, pass-times, hobbies, sports, food celebrations and so much more than just eating meat to survive.


That being said, I have gathered some information I think is crucial for us to understand as a society to ensure we all have an opportunity at optimal health. The nutrients below are crucial for our productive survival and are not to be underestimated!


As I stated at the beginning of the post, this was written for someone who was interested in hearing about the nutrients they may forgo if continuing a meat-less diet, or diet with very little animal foods, and largely plants.


Nutrients unavailable in plant foods:


B12

  • I always think of B12 as a nervous system vitamin. It's key for iron absorption, energy and sleep patterns. It is needed for cellular metabolism, methylation and cell division. Deficiency is strongly related to neurological disfunction, research is being done for deficiency being a correlated with multiple sclerosis, depression, and Alzheimer's dementia.

  • Our top sources: dark meat but also in white meat, eggs, dairy, and fermented things! Try homemade yogurt and kombucha, it's biologically active and bacteria produce B12. It's in blood too. The best part about getting your B12 from food versus popping a pill is that whole foods contain synergistic nutrients.

  • Plant version of B12?- Dried algae can be a source of it. That being said you would have to eat LOADS of algae to get the RDA in B12, so an animal source is definitely a short-cut for optimal levels in the body, especially for active people! I recommend spirulina or chlorella tablets for insurance, Brian & I take them mostly everyday since algae is said to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet!! I wrote a blog post on it here.

  • Cricket powder (from ground crickets) is another option for B12 since it is the crushed insect and we get the whole nervous system, which is comprised with B12. This is new and becoming a trend, check out your local grocery store to see if they have it in stock! It's pretty delicious in a banana peanut butter smoothie.

OTHER B's

  • B2/riboflavin - hard to obtain in significant amounts from plant foods alone due to reduced bioavailability. RDA is 2-3mg. Spinach is the richest plant form of B2, it contains 0.2mg per 100g. Animal sources are richer and contain 3mg of B2 in 100g of liver or kidney meat. (Saladino, Carnivore Code, 2020)

  • B6/pyridoxine - less absorbed from plant foods. For example: fibre reduces bioavailability by 5-10% and when bound to a glucoprotein like in cruciferous veggies reduced bioavailability by 75%. (Saladino, Carnivore Code, 2020)


HEME IRON

  • In plants, iron is found 'non-heme' meaning it is naked without the porphyrin ring that surrounds iron in animals (and humans), called 'heme iron'. This iron found with a ring + oxygen forms hemoglobin and is carried all throughout our body! The non-heme iron is less absorbed in our digestive system and results in a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia.

  • For example: iron in steak is absorbed at roughly 20%, chicken 18%, liver 15%, soybeans 7%, lettuces 4.4%, corn 3.8%, spinach 1.4% (Insel, Ross, et al. Nutrition, 2010) So just to put that in perspective because I like balance, without having an animal source the increased quantity of plant foods needed to achieve optimal iron levels would result in a lot of fibre!

VITAMIN A/ RETINOL

  • Only found in plants in the form of beta-carotene, which is not vitamin A retinol the active form in our bodies, beta-carotene is the precursor. 21 units of beta-carotene is needed to equal the biological value of one unit of vitamin A retinol.

  • Deficiencies in retinol are related to night blindness, reduced eye sight, skin inflammation and fertility issues.

  • Top sources of vitamin A retinol are in dairy and fatty meat. Consuming both animal foods with retinol + plant foods with beta carotene is how I keep my levels up!


CHOLINE

  • Not found in plant foods in significant amounts. Can be produced endogenously but not in optimal amounts. Used by the body in neurotransmitter formation and methylation of DNA.

  • Top sources are in egg yolks, liver, kidney and muscle meat.

  • RDA = 500mg, although some research suggests more is optimal, 5 egg yolks=600mg.. 1 pound of broccoli= 500mg (Saladino, Carnivore Code, 2020)


CREATINE

  • Found in muscle meat and brain. Generally known as a nutrient for muscle recovery, injury healing and optimal brain functioning. Used by the body to store energy in phosphate bonds which is what we can use to make ATP quickly (ATP is the energy currency among our cells).

  • Top sources are muscle meat. No such thing as a plant source. You can try a supplement but at the end of the day unless you are an athlete and need an excess compared to the average Joe, eating animal foods is the most economical and best for assimilation.

  • One study placed people on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet for 26 days and found that doing so caused a significant decrease in their muscle creatine levels (PubMedSource).

  • "45 adult vegetarians found significantly improved mental performance when they were given 5g of creatine per day (the amount found in 1pound of red meat) for 6 weeks in a double blind, placebo controlled intervention" (pg.110, Saladino, Carnivore Code, 2020)


CARNiTINE

  • Can be made endogenously but not for optimal functioning. Helps the body shuffle fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for oxidation- a.k.a energy production from fat.

  • Not found in plant foods. Top sources are red meat, but still white meat, dairy and organ meat.

  • There has been a link between the body's ability to use fat for fuel and levels of depression: "Fat-based metabolism is particularly important in the brain, and levels of carnitine are lower in the brains of humans during periods of depression." (pg. 113, Saladino, Carnivore Code, 2020)


CARNOSINE

  • Found in muscle meat. Can be formed in the body but not in sufficient amounts. Carnosine is an antioxidant molecule known to reduce the formation of glycation (when excess sugar molecules attach themselves to protein and lipids aka fat), a process associated with diabetes, dementia, heart disease, etc.

  • Can be formed by the body with the use of amino acids histidine (found in plant foods, dairy & eggs) and beta-alanine (only found in meat). However, the need for both those pre-cursor amino acids to be present can diminish supply if the body is not consuming the best source: animal meat.

  • Vegetarians and vegans have 50% less carnosine in their muscles compared to omnivores. (Healthline)


TAURINE

  • An amino acid/sulfur compound found in brain, heart and kidneys, but also found in muscle meat. It is commonly supplemented in energy drinks and athlete formulas.

  • Plays a role in muscle function, bile salt formation, and antioxidant defences. Similar to carnosine above, it plays a role in preventing glycation.


VITAMIN K2

  • Needed for healthy and strong bone formation/density, teeth and joints, it is also important for arterial health since involved in the clotting processes.

  • Found in grass-fed animal meat (higher amounts red meat) and grassfed dairy. K2 is much less absorbed from plant foods because it is found in the form K1/phylloquinone. K1 is found in brassica vegetables and seaweeds, but easier absorbed when fermented.


VITAMIN D

  • Our body produces it with sunlight from the fatty acids in our skin, there are also 2 types we can consume: D2 (from plants and less absorbed) and D3, easier absorbed and found in the fatty bits of animal foods who have had exposure to sunlight and eat fresh grass.

  • Fatty fish, liver, grass-fed dairy and algae are also sources.The vitamin D supplements we buy in the store are synthetic.

  • A study showed that "free-range eggs, which were laid by hens allowed to roam out in the sun, contained three to four times the amount of vitamin D than the eggs of hens that were raised indoors" (Healthline-via PubMedsource)


OMEGA 3

  • Found in animal brain tissue (90% of the fat in our brain is made up of it), grass-fed animal meat & dairy, and algae- like the spirulina and chlorella I mentioned at the beginning of the post. Commercial meat and dairy do not show optimal amounts of omega 3 because the animals are not exposed to the outdoors where they have access to fresh grass and sunlight!!!

  • The form of omega 3 found in plants is the precursor alpha linolenic acid/ALA and must be converted to our body's active forms: eicosapentaenoic acid/EPA, docosapentaenoic acid/DPA and docosahexaenoic acid/DHA.

  • When we hear about getting our omegas from plant sources, like chia, hemp, walnuts and flax seeds, this can be somewhat misleading. The active forms of omega 3 must be assimilated by our body from the oils in these foods- that is why the quality, including freshness and storage is greatly important to ensure the oils are not oxidized or damaged in any way. Buy from a trusted source, read the packaging date and store in the fridge or freezer. If you grind them for easier consumption, consume within a week from a sealed jar in the fridge. Consuming rancid oils, is not beneficial for our body’s function and can also be detrimental!! More on that in a blog post here.



Protein

  • Animal foods contain 'complete' protein structures, meaning they have high amounts of all the essential amino acids (which are the building blocks of the protein strand). Plant foods are known as 'incomplete proteins' because they do not contain high amounts of all the essential amino acids. As well, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains contain antinutrients in the form of protease inhibitors to prevent our body from fully absorbing the amino acids that are available, resulting in less protein actually obtained from the food.

  • Due to these protease inhibitors the absorption rate of amino acids is much lower in plant foods. Take a look at the graph shown above to see a demonstration of this. The graph shows the DIAAS index, the digestible indispensable amino acid score, a.k.a it gives us a sense of how much protein in a food can actually be used by our body.

  • What about combining plant foods to create complete proteins- the whole rice & beans, nuts & legumes, corn & grain idea? Based off that graph above and the amount of fibre consumed to gain adequate protein amounts, it would be wise and my recommendation to take an interest in learning the traditional techniques to preparing plant foods for optimal digestion & assimilation, such as soaking, rinsing, fermenting, sprouting and cooking to gain access to the available amino acids. Further, I would take the recommendation to pair plant foods with adequate animal protein sources to ensure our body has the opportunity to build complete protein strands for optimal functioning.


That is all for now! I hope this post has had some interesting ideas to think on and further about, until next time.

Samantha