Should I Try A Vegetarian Diet?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “I am thinking about doing a vegetarian diet.  What do you think?”  I usually just shake my head and ask them why they are going to cut out the best source of essential fats, high-density nutrients, and complete proteins?

Honestly, I can see why some people would want to avoid animal proteins.  Whether it be for environmental or ethical reasons, the animal feeding operations can be pretty grotesque.    You can look at beef feedlots, chicken farms, and fish farms, and you'll find food operations that do horrible things to the environment and the foods that we eventually consume. 

However, I would propose that it would be a much better ethical and moral statement to vote with your wallet and purchase the healthier alternatives of pastured meats and sustainably caught fish. There are still vegetarian proponents who argue that even these sustainable pasture-based farms are doing irreparable damage to the environment.  I will point those people to a great TED talk by Dr. Alan Savory. It ‘s an amazing 22 minutes!  

Much like my support of an ancestral or paleo based diet, I have to agree with Dr. Savory’s assumption that it was because of the massive herds of bison and other grazing animals; that the Great Plains had such deep soil and high grasses.  So, if you want to be technical, you're doing more of ethical, moral and environmental harm to the planet by not voting with your wallet and buying pastured beef.

Sadly, the main reason people choose vegetarianism is that they believe it is healthier and the way we humans are designed to eat.   It is understandable why someone may consider a vegetarian diet superior to a diet that includes meat. 

After all, the last 60 years we have been inundated with misinformation that meat, eggs, butter, animal fats, and saturated fats are bad for us.  So much so that it is almost second nature that we think these things are synonymous with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.  So it is understandable that people may want to avoid this high-risk food and steer themselves to the salad bar when making 'healthier' choices. 

Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, these ”bad” foods have little or no impact on the risk of heart disease.  There have been numerous studies that have shown little or no correlation to cholesterol and the morbidity of heart disease. 

In fact, one of the biggest predictors for heart disease is overall inflammation in the body.  The major causes of this inflammation are one of the vegan or vegetarian staples, grains.  Whether it be whole or processed grains, they are all highly inflammatory and highly processed.  These inflammatory foods are what leads to the irritation of the arterial lining and the “thickening” of the blood; not the cholesterol and saturated fats If all this wasn’t enough one of the biggest problems with vegetarians is that they may have many glaring nutritional deficiencies. 

Most vegan diets are massively deficient in B12, essential fatty acids (EPA & DHA), fat-soluble vitamins A & D and minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.  These deficiencies lead to a myriad of neurological, physical and emotional problems.  They impair energy production, oxygen transportation,  and decrease our ability to recover from stress, sickness and heal from injury.

If that wasn’t enough, there are typically two major problems I see in my practice with vegetarians and why I will not treat them in my practice. 

First, is that most vegetarians are nothing more than “Starch-a-terians”.  Meaning that they only eat the starchiest sugar filled vegetables like potatoes, yams, grains, squash.  This causes them to be constantly on a blood sugar roller-coaster of highs and lows. 

Second, it is very difficult to eat complete proteins on a vegetarian diet.  This may lead to imbalances in essential amino acids; especially the ones that are the base for our neurotransmitters.  When these two things are coupled, it tends to make vegetarians very fragile patients and not able to tolerate my chiropractic and acupuncture based treatments very well.

So, while it is possible to survive on a vegan or vegetarian based diet, I can’t and won’t recommend it to my patients as a healthy long-term lifestyle.

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