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Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Ten-Percent-Carnivore Rants About Conceptualizing Diet

OK People, let's get ready to RAMBLE!

Heh heh heh.

Here comes some ranting.

I'll call it rhetoric just because it sounds better, and it is my aim is to be persuasive, after all...

Anyway, let's get down to it; I know you're dying to hear it!

So, if you've read much of this stuff you'll note that I am not vegan.  That doesn't stop me, however, from making vegan dishes frequently.

I like veganism.  It's laudable.  And in order to eat a healthy, balanced, diet, I think all humans should eat solely plant-based regularly, and often.  I do.  In fact, if you're like me, then if you do, you'll feel good about eating well so often that you don't feel guilty when you have some meat once in a while...

Myself, I try to go for a 2:4:1 ratio of days in any given week wherein I eat vegan:vegetarian:carnivorous.  Mind you, this is just 'days', and not 'meals'; if you assume 3 meals per day, then it is probably closer to 12:8:1 to maybe 10:8:3 kind of thing (out of 21 meals per week)...

So, in a very glib, barely empirical, sort of way, I suppose you could say I'm roughly 48 - 57% vegan, 86 - 95% vegetarian (48 + 38 = 86% - 57 + 38 = 95% --- vegan IS vegetarian obviously, so these get added together), leaving only 5 - 14% carnivorous.  Take the mean of that and let's just say I'm 10% carnivorous.  Also, that means, I am mostly vegan.  Hmmm... I find that interesting actually...

If you want to classify it at all.  And I actually don't.  I know it looks like I do, because I just did some introspective calculations there... but these are just my own observations after having adopted what I consider to be a relatively balanced diet.  I'm not policing it or anything, nor do I go around calling myself a 'ten-percent-carnivore'.

The (unfortunate) fact is, that these days, everyone seems hell-bent on labeling and classifying diet... so it's understandable—and I think entirely forgivable—for most of us to at least think about it this way once in a while.

Personally, in my humble opinion, I believe that the human stomach has evolved quite efficiently for our planet/environment over the past few hundred thousand years.  Such that it is actually ridiculously good at getting nutrients from whatever you put in there.  There are some exceptions of course... one of my favourites is cellulose.  That shit just goes right through us.  But I suppose not being able to get many nutrients from cellulose is a decent trade-off for not having 4 stomachs (I'm lookin' at YOU, ruminants!)

An example I am often reminded of, is Pandas.  Pandas are technically omnivores who just choose to be vegans... and they are not ruminants.  So their stomach anatomy is not too different from our own (I'm sure it is... but just for this purpose let's relax)... the point I'm trying to make is that -- in order for them to survive and get enough nutrients for their massive bodies with their 'not-suited-to-cellulose' stomachs like ours, they need to eat laughable amounts of plant matter.  Like all day.  Every day.

Of course, I'm not saying a plant-based diet is just cellulose.  In fact there are some pretty powerfully-packed plant foods out there.  Nor am I saying that in today's evolved and international food industry, vegans can not get all the nutrients they need... they can, if they're smart, and diverse with their sources.  But, I will say that, in order to get enough of all the nutrients we've evolved to need, vegans really should be eating a lot of food.  Large quantities.  If you can do that, good on you.  Personally I find that difficult.

Our stomachs are actually great at pulling stuff out of food, whatever that food is.  In fact, this causes problems because for a while there we started getting really stupid with how we process our foods.  Chemical additives, preservatives, stabilizers, hormones, antibiotics, etc.  I worry more about consuming that shit than any other dietary concern.

I feel like adding something here.  I do not want this conversation to deal overtly with the topic of GMOs... but I will say this and be done with it.  I do not feel that genetically-modified-organisms are bad, or unhealthy, inherently.  I mean, all of our crops and livestock are technically genetically modified.

It's called artificial selection, and we've been doing it for millenia.

It's what has led us to produce the huge amounts of agriculture we do today, and there's nothing wrong with it.  Just because we're smarter now than we were when we were tying desirable shoots of plants together, doesn't mean the principle (or effect, really) is at all different.

So, if we can make a plant more pest- or drought-resistant by altering its genome, I'm all for it.  Especially since this change is achieved naturally.  This food is organic and natural, and no longer needs huge amounts of man-made chemicals applied to it in order to reach decent yields or to remain sustainable.

So, what I am far more preoccupied with these days is not whether my food came from a plant or an animal, or whether that organism's genome got to its current state naturally or artificially, but in fact, what sorts of processes were involved in taking that food to table, and whether it should be considered "food" at all... (read ingredient labels, people.  PLEASE!!)

It is my opinion, therefore, that we should be more concerned with classifying diets based on 'natural' vs. 'processed'.  Actually, I believe that might be more important than the 'animal' vs. 'vegetable' debate.

Natural foods vs. unnatural (yes, I'm going to say that) foods.  If you need to add a stabilizer to keep your product from falling apart over the span of a few days, maybe that's not really supposed to be food.  And if you need to add preservatives to your food to keep it looking fresh, maybe you need to get smarter about transporting your food... or just live without getting your produce out of season.

Indeed, I feel like we should revert back to a more 'seasonal' approach to our foods.  I mean, I love raspberries, but if not eating them in January saves copious amounts of money, and jet fuel, I'm OK just eating them for the six months they actually grow locally.

So, 'natural' foods are 'organic' but 'organic' food isn't necessarily 'natural'.  Take for example, some 'organic' soup.  The ingredients could be 'organic tomatoes, organic cane sugar, organic red pepper, etc.  but at the end you might see something like... sodium benzoate... or potassium sorbate...  Don't think that that organic soup is 'natural'.  That "preservative" just ruined the entire thing, in my opinion.

Plus, it has always been my cooking style to make things from scratch.  This started as the need of a picky eater to see and touch everything that went into his food, but it has evolved to valuing a minimalist diet.  If I buy a can of processed pasta sauce, not only do I run the risk of some crazy shit being in there, but I also do not get to control what is in there.

I like control.  :)  So I like eating un-processed... or 'natural'.

But, in a conversation wherein people are calling themselves vegans and vegetarians, I would certainly receive some strange looks if I called myself a 'naturalist' or something.  Maybe I should come up with a term?  I don't know...

Again I'll say I don't really care about 'terms' or 'labels'... but I do care about eating healthily.  And the bottom line is that I consider processed foods unhealthy.

So, IMHO, the smartest thing the North American diet needs to adopt is not necessarily a switch to veganism, but rather a switch to only natural foods.  I think that would achieve the largest results the quickest.

That said, I think it would be in every human's and the planet's best interests if we started to cut back on meat consumption.  I would argue that the most compelling argument for veganism, at least for me, is the environmental impact of keeping that insane biomass sustainable.  The land-size and fuel required for livestock 'crops' is woefully inefficient.  So, re-conceptualizing how we farm animals is not just a question of 'if' but 'when'.  We just won't be able to support meat consumption for the entire planet.

I wish I could adopt a vegan diet.  Hell, for that matter, I wish I could adopt a RAW vegan diet.  I think that, on paper that shit is where it's at.  The unfortunate fact, however, is that I recognize that I do not have the willpower, determination, nor even the patience to sit down and eat several pounds of vegetables per day, just to get my nutrient quotient.

What I find far more manageable, instead, is to just be smart about what I eat.  Limit those things which are harmful, and maximize those things which are healthful.  Avoid man-made or artificial chemicals or processes.  And keep it balanced.

I don't feel bad about my ten-percent-carnivorism.  In fact, I feel like my diet is reasonably OK.  I get all the health benefits of a balanced diet (let's face it vegans, if carnivores are being fair to you, you should do the same, and admit that there are actually a LOT of great nutrients in meat, sure there's a lot of bad too... but let's be fair) without relying too heavily on any one source to sustain my system.


In order to remain fair and for due diligence's sake, I will also say that I like how animal products taste.  I have been known to love a cheeseburger.  I also have pizza like at least once a week.  Does that mean I should call myself a 'pizzavore'?

Life is too short to worry about 'what if?' or to accept correlative research data as causative.  But, even if we do accept it as causative, we have to accept that this research is still just dealing in probabilities.

If you eat a diet heavy in animal protein, will you die of cancer or heart disease?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We all of us know that one old relative who lived to be 90 and ate absolutely terribly, surviving problem-free on a diet of meat and potatoes.  Some of us have several examples of this.

If you eat a diet low in animal protein, are your chances of developing cancer or heart disease lessened?  Yup, research has shown a correlation between these things.

If you eat a diet completely bereft of animal protein (veganism), are your chances of developing cancer or heart disease lessened?  Absolutely!  The data shows a very strong correlation of this.  But... does it mean you for certain will NOT get cancer or heart disease?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

So... playing the odds... you are absolutely better off avoiding animal protein in your diet.  But personally, I'd rather take the middle ground, and enjoy animal protein as a treat once in a while, all the while still enjoying a statistically lessened chance of developing cancer or heart disease.

Good enough for me.

Because you know what else life is too short for?  Living without ever knowing the taste of cheese.


If you made it all the way to the end of this rant, you're either procrastinating from doing some work you really should be doing, a family member, or you're insane.

But in any case, I'd like to thank you for listening to what really are just my own opinions (so please just take them as such), and encourage your own thoughts on the subject, so please comment below...

After all, a lack of education, awareness, and dialogue on these subjects is the largest impediment in re-conceptualizing the North American diet.