The Infinite Argument – Is Man Vegetarian Or Carnivorous?


Note: This argument considers human diet relating to matters of health, efficiency, and bodily survival. It does not draw conclusions from arguments such as environmental impacts, animal rights, or a moral/ethical dilemma. The question is specific to what is man, not what man should be, or what man could be.

I was raised in a Greek household – like in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll find that lamb is intrinsic to our culture. Animal protein was served at every meal, red meat was on the menu as often as 6 times a week. I vividly remember asking my father about being vegetarian – it was as though I had committed heresy, the word ‘vegetarian’ considered blasphemy.

“Vegetarian? You can’t do that! Humans only began to evolve once we started eating meat, it’s food for the brain! We’d still be in caves if it wasn’t for meat, the body can’t survive on mushrooms and carrots! Quick go eat some lamb chops I just pulled off the barbie ”

I’ve spent quite some time listening to vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, and carnivores who plead their case, all claiming to know exactly what man should consume – some of them even presenting scientific research and evidentiary support.

Protein, carbohydrates and fats. That’s what our body needs to survive – does it really matter the source that they come from?

In all my research it appears as though each side is riding a counterfactual crusade against one another. Why are they all in such combat?

Vegetarians

They don’t eat meat – but they are okay with eggs, milk, honey etc.

A vegetarian diet is associated with a higher consumption of fibre, folic acid, vitamins C and E, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and countless phytochemicals. This often results in vegetarians having lower cholesterol, being thinner, having lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart disease.

Interestingly enough, all the scientifically proven arguments that promote vegetarianism is all focused on the absence of meat “If you’re a vegetarian, your cholesterol will lower because meat makes your cholesterol higher” – This isn’t a benefit of the diet, but a benefit from the lack of meat.

I am yet to find any argument that proposes that being a vegetarian in itself is a benefit.

Vegans

From my understanding, this is more an ideology, rather than from a health perspective. Vegans are basically vegetarians that avoid anything that has to do with animals – not even honey.

More and more people are turning to a vegan diet for benefits that boast increased energy, younger looking skin and eternal youth – just some claims from enthusiastic plant eaters.

Well, eternal youth might be a bit optimistic, but there are certainly many scientifically proven benefits to vegan living when compared to the average western diet.

Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The arguments are the same, being vegan equals benefits because a minus of meat – again, the fact that we’re talking about an alteration from the norm provides insight as to what norm is, and if it is norm, then is it not clear evidence that eating meat is the norm? Does this not prove that man is carnivore?

Omnivores

Omnivores eat both plant and animal proteins.

Omnivores Get a Good Balance of Healthy Cholesterol

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad kind of cholesterol that blocks arteries and leads to heart attack or stroke. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol that actually reduces heart attack risk. Omnivores get more cholesterol, which is necessary for survival. Our bodies depend on cholesterol to make acids for digestion and critical hormones. Cholesterol also aids in the production of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Omnivores Get Amino Acids

A diet of meat and dairy products provides essential amino acids, which are important for a healthy immune system, healthy skin, healing wounds, forming tooth enamel, growth in children, processing protein, vitamins and minerals, forming connective tissue and bones and other bodily functions. Vegans and vegetarians need to eat foods high in the amino acid lysine in order to stay healthy. Legumes, pistachios, quiona, tofu, tumpeh and soy meats provide lysine.

Omnivores Get B Vitamins

Omnivores get B vitamins naturally in their diet. B vitamins include B1 through B12 and each performs an important function. They turn food into energy, build strong muscles, joints and ligaments, fight inflammation and help the body absorb other nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans must take supplements to get these important nutrients.

Omnivores Get Carnosine

Carnosine protects against diseases of aging, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Research also indicates that it might be beneficial to autistic children. Omnivores get carnosine naturally in their diet by eating meat. The level of carnosine in our bodies decreases as we age, and it’s become a popular anti-aging product marketed as a supplement.

Omnivores Eat More Lean Protein, Fewer Carbohydrates

Protein builds lean muscle mass, and omnivores typically eat more than vegetarians or vegans. Diets devoid of meat and dairy products are higher in carbohydrates, which can result in less overall strength and endurance. Carbohydrates are also responsible for fluctuations in blood-sugar levels, so diabetics must be careful not to consume too many because the body turns them into sugar. Some studies indicate that children raised on a vegetarian or vegan diet are shorter in stature than their omnivore peers due to less protein.

Carnivores

Basically, animals that eat other animals.

As a new study in Nature makes clear, not only did processing and eating meat come naturally to humans, it’s entirely possible that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human—at least not the modern, verbal, intelligent humans we are.

It was about 2.6 million years ago that meat first became a significant part of the pre-human diet, and if Australopithecus had had a forehead to slap it would surely have done so. Being an herbivore was easy—fruits and vegetables don’t run away, after all. But they’re also not terribly calorie-dense. A better alternative were so-called underground storage organs (USOs)—root foods like beets and yams and potatoes. They pack a bigger nutritional wallop, but they’re not terribly tasty—at least not raw—and they’re very hard to chew. According to Harvard University evolutionary biologists Katherine Zink and Daniel Lieberman, the authors of the Nature paper, proto-humans eating enough root food to stay alive would have had to go through up to 15 million “chewing cycles” a year.

This is where meat stepped—and ran and scurried—in to save the day. Prey that has been killed and then prepared either by slicing, pounding or flaking provides a much more calorie-rich meal with much less chewing than root foods do, boosting nutrient levels overall. (Cooking, which would have made things easier still, did not come into vogue until 500,000 years ago.)

I think that the reason we are at the top of the food chain is because of our success as a species. Intelligence and adaptability. We are continuously evolving at the speed of light – it could appear to those who were to compare the evolution of our species to any others’. I don’t doubt that we were once vegetarians, and carnivores at one point too. Is it possible that balance is the answer? Could we be neither, could we be both? Is an omnivore diet the answer?

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