Although a significant number of Americans have tried a vegan/vegetarian diet at some point in their lives (12%), only 2% of Americans are currently on such diets. This is because the failure rate of a person attempting to live without animal products is 84%, largely due to health concerns.
The benefits of meat are nothing short of amazing. Our physical and mental health is literally dependent on our consumption of meat, which brings to the table enriched proteins, vitamins, and essential minerals – all while tasting amazing!
Ever since our ancestors, the homo erectus, learned to cook meat over an open fire, eating meat has allowed for humans to gain nutrition that otherwise would be out of reach. Our bodies do not have the capability to digest cellulose from plants, thus in barren lands with little usable food stuffs we depend on animals like cows that have multiple stomachs and can convert those plants into usable products – meat, milk, eggs, etc.
The enzymes in our digestive tract have evolved over time to digest meat. Now, the consumption of meat aids in higher encephalization (brain mass compared to body mass) and ultimately better physical growth. In another sense, meat eating has advanced society to the point where it is today. It is believed that cooperative hunting practices led to the development of language and socialization, and the evolution to modern societies was largely based on animal domestication.
Animal products give us important vitamins and minerals that can’t be naturally found anywhere else. The most well-known vitamin only found in meat, fish, and eggs is B12. This vitamin is water-soluble and is involved in every single cell in the body. It is highly involved in the brain and blood formation; a deficiency in B12 results in anemia, impaired cognitive functions, symptoms of mental disorders, a smaller brain, depression, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. In fact, one study found that 92% of vegans tested had a B12 deficiency. This is very dangerous for the individual, and it is only because of vitamin supplements that the other 8% were not deficient as well.
A few other vitamins that link to animal product consumption are creatine and Vitamin D3. Creatine is a very effective energy source that supplies the energy for brain and skeletal muscles to function. D3 is found mostly in fish and is vital to everyday health. A deficiency in Vitamin D3 can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
Carnosine, another vitamin, is found strictly in animal tissue. This vitamin is important to anti-aging and its deficiency can lead to Parkinson’s and/or Alzheimer’s.
From fatty fish, we acquire another necessary vitamin known as DHA, the most important omega-3 in the body. Admittedly there is a plant form of omega-3 called ALA, but our body must convert it to DHA for it to be usable and that process is called “notoriously ineffective” by scientists. Studies show that vegan and vegetarians can have a perilous deficiency in this vitamin and are at increased risk of impaired cognitive functions and many of the other diseases previously mentioned. What makes DHA ‘special’ though is that a deficiency in this vitamin can have the same negative effects on a newborn with a mother who hasn’t received appropriate amounts of DHA throughout child rearing, so pregnant mothers should be encouraged to continue meat consumption as it will be better for the newborn’s overall health.
Animal products are also important in supplying the many minerals needed for our body. Meat is rich in iron, zinc and selenium. Iron helps form hemoglobin in the blood that helps transport oxygen to all corners of your body; without it, you can breathe in all you want and still die from oxygen deficiency. Zinc helps with the formation of tissue and metabolism, and along with selenium breaks down fat and chemicals in the body. These are minerals we cannot live without, and eating meat is simply more effective than tossing back supplements for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
On top of the vitamins and minerals, animal products are high in much-needed protein that is beneficial to the body. Protein improves the overall health and well-being of the body, repairs and builds tissue, produces antibodies, protects from infection, and strengthens the immune system. And because meat contains all the essential amino acids our body needs, it more than outstrips supplemental alternatives.
Along with the mental and physical benefits that are both obvious and scientifically proven, meat provides emotional benefits that plants simply cannot. In a study testing the results of red meat on violence in individuals, scientists found that meat actually calms people down in stressful situations. Having animal products in your diet is just all-around healthier and better for the individual!
Numerous scientific studies have been conducted to test the effects of animal products on the body. One randomized controlled trial (RCT) at Stanford University compared meat-consuming to vegan diets. The results were astounding. Not only was the meat-eating diet exponentially healthier than vegan, the dropout rate of those on the vegan diet was nearly twice as high! In comparison, the one study in favor of veganism was an observational study conducted in China by a scientist who was considered to be biased. The study has since been recreated several times by objective scientists, each of which resulted in findings contradictory to the original study.
So why can’t we all just take a bunch of pills to get the vitamins we need?
Well, you can, but the risks are often too high to be worth it. For example, use of supplements can lead to high risk of kidney stones, strokes, and a higher mortality rate over time. On top of that, supplements don’t often do their job. Iron supplements for example are infamous for only allowing our bodies to absorb 50% of the iron that we should. As Sheldon Cooper put it in an episode of the CBS show The Big Bang Theory, “There’s some value to taking a multivitamin, but the human body can only absorb so much. What you are buying here are the ingredients for very expensive urine.”
Yet, despite all of this, there are still people who advocate taking meat out of your diet, such as notable TV personality Doctor Mehmet Oz, who rails against the consumption of red meat despite the mounting evidence to its mental, physical, and emotional health benefits.
Surely some of these individuals haven’t considered the long term effects of a well-balanced diet.
Finally, on top of all the benefits listed above, meat just tastes good! No wonder so many people eventually switch back from vegan/vegetarian to a meat-eating lifestyle. For the ones who continue to avoid meat, all we can say is that they’re making a big missed steak!