“Do you need to eat meat to be healthy?” is the question on today’s #AskWardee. I’m sharing my answer below!
I broadcast #AskWardee live each Wednesday at 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern) on Periscope and Facebook Live. Both the podcast and video replay of this week’s show are below. Enjoy!
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House of Escobar asks,
“Hi Wardee. Do you think a vegetarian diet is ok as long as one eats plenty of eggs and dairy products? Or is it necessary to eat meat to be healthy?”
Here’s Our Story…
All our children were born with food allergies, but our son (third child) developed eczema right after birth. Really, really bad eczema.
We read that animal protein could be the trigger, so we became vegan.
His eczema did go away, but we developed other health issues — wasting away of muscle tissue, lack of energy, and more. Eventually, we discovered that it was his poor gut health that caused the food allergies that caused eczema.
A traditional food diet — with high-quality animal foods — healed the gut and reversed allergies. It wasn’t the animal foods that were the problem — they were actually the path to healing.
So, I’m coming at this question with some experience, having been vegan and vegetarian in the past.
Now we are the healthiest we’ve ever been, and quality animal foods are a cornerstone of our daily diet.
I don’t want to answer this question for you, though, so I’m going to go further and give you six points you can use to evaluate whether or not you should add meat to your diet in addition to the eggs and dairy you already eat.
This can be a controversial question, so to the wider audience that may be watching or listening, I say: be nice. Feel free to discuss, but be nice. 🙂
#1 — Animal Foods Are Best Sources Of Iron
There are two types of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme is from animals; non-heme is from plants.
20% of women (50% of pregnant women) and 3% of men are deficient in iron.
Heme sources — red meat, fish, and poultry — are most easily assimilated. Eggs have a little iron, though they are not considered to have a huge source of it.
I, Wardee, have been iron deficient nearly all of my life. Now that I eat a traditional food diet with quality animal foods, however, I am no longer iron deficient.
Traditional Cooking School member Christine S. sent in her iron testimony yesterday:
“I became dangerously anemic even on an iron supplement due to drastically lowering my consumption of meat products. My body does not absorb non-heme (non-meat) iron well from other food groups. This is not uncommon, especially for women. I had to beef up (literally) my consumption of meat, liver, iron supplement, and desiccated liver powder to get healthy again. I was dangerously close to having organ failure. I will be having follow up testing done in the next few days, but I can tell by how I’m feeling and my healthier looking fingernails that there’s been significant improvement.”
#2 — The Best Foods For Healing Are Animal Broths and Soft Tissues
On a gut-healing diet, what are the #1 foods you should eat?
Broth and animal soft tissue!
Broth is so soothing, provides nourishing (and protein-assimilating) gelatin, along with minerals. Also, well-cooked meats provide protein and fat-soluble vitamins that are so important for gut health.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS Diet, says this:
“Meat and fish stocks provide building blocks for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining and they have a soothing effect on any areas of inflammation in the gut. That is why they aid digestion and have been known for centuries as healing folk remedies for the digestive tract.
Chicken stock is particularly gentle on the stomach and is very good to start from. To make good meat stock you need joints, bones, a piece of meat on the bone, a whole chicken, giblets from chicken, goose or duck, whole pigeons, pheasants or other inexpensive meats. It is essential to use bones and joints, as they provide the healing substances, not so much the muscle meats.
Strip off all the soft tissues from the bones as best as you can to later add to soups or encourage your patient to eat all the soft tissues on the bones. Extract the bone marrow out of large tubular bones while they are still warm: to do that bang the bone on a thick wooden chopping board. The gelatinous soft tissues around the bones and the bone marrow provide some of the best healing remedies for the gut lining and the immune system; your patient needs to consume them with every meal.”
#3 — Without Animal Foods, You May Eat Too Many Carbs
When you’re a vegetarian and combining foods to make a complete protein, you may end up eating lots of carbs — and excess carbs turn into excess weight.
Yes, there are skinny vegetarians. I was a skinny vegetarian once myself. However, I was skinny because my muscles were skinny (wasting away) yet I still had plenty of body fat. This is when I was younger.
Later in life, as a vegan, I had reduced muscle mass as well as excess body weight.
Neither situation was healthy. These are just my situation; I’m not saying it’s true for everyone.
#4 — The Need For Enough Quality Protein
The human body is made of protein — from the muscles themselves to the structural components that hold much of the body together. Protein provides the structure for nerves, blood vessels, organs, skin, hair, nails, and hormones. The enzymes that facilitate the chemical reactions of digestion and hormonal regulation are special proteins.
Our bodies contain 100,000 kinds of proteins!
And yet, our bodies don’t store protein like we store fat. Protein is constantly being broken down. To replenish the supply and rebuild what breaks down, we must eat protein every day.
Our bodies can adapt and make adjustments if we don’t get enough protein or enough quality protein, to a certain point.
A severe lack can lead to serious protein deficiency.
Symptoms of this include: wasting of body tissues, weakness and fatigue, impaired growth in children, fatty liver, weakened immune system, and more.
So, quality protein is essential in a nutritious diet!
And what kinds of foods provide this quality protein?
Meats (as well as dairy and eggs) are excellent sources of complete protein, but it is important to choose pastured meats.
How much protein? An average female needs 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
#5 — The Right Kind Of Fats
We should eat the same type of fats as our bodies contain.
The human body is composed mostly of saturated fats, followed by monounsaturated, with polyunsaturated at a lowly 4%. While your diet doesn’t have to perfectly conform, this is a good rule of thumb.
This means, eat mostly saturated fats, like butter, ghee (which is clarified butter), and coconut oil or palm oil.
Keep polyunsaturated fats to a minimum. (Traditional animal fats typical contain high levels of saturated fat, whereas most plant oils contain mostly unsaturated. However, tropical oils like coconut and palm are exceptions with high amounts of saturated fat.)
Additionally, consider the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3, found in meats. They are essential for growth, and the God-given ratio for good health is 4 to 1. That’s what you’ll get in pasture-raised or wild animals.
On the other hand, when animals are on feedlots and fed primarily genetically modified grain and soy, in addition to unhealthful fillers such as garbage and stale food, their omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio shifts to an unhealthful 20 to 1 (or 40 to 1).
This ratio is implicated in several modern diseases.
It’s very important that your animals fats — whether in milk, eggs, or meat — come from healthy, pastured animals.
#6 — Essential Fat-Soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K
In my opinion, the main vitamins to consider when looking at animal foods and animal fats (because they are the highest sources over all) are vitamins A, D, E, and K2.
These are essential and our bodies don’t make them. We have to get them from food.
Animal foods boast Vitamins A, D, and K2, while both plant and animal foods contain Vitamin E.
Fat soluble vitamins dissolve in fat, unlike water-soluble vitamins. To get the benefits of these, you need to eat fat, and the higher quality fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins in dense quantities.
Here are the top food sources of these fat-soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin A – liver, butter, tuna, grass-fed cream (Egg yolk is also a source, but only a bit.)
- Vitamin D – sun, mackerel, oysters, sardines, pastured egg yolks
- Vitamin E – almonds, palm kernel oil, flax seed oil, hazelnuts, salmon roe
- Vitamin K2 – natto, miso, grass-fed butter
On a vegetarian diet, you’ll probably be lacking in Vitamin K, unless you consume a lot of grass-fed butter with leafy greens. The best sources of Vitamins A and D are organs, although eggs have both as well.
You can read more about the fat-soluble vitamins here –> 23 Ways To Eat Fat-Soluble Vitamins & Why They’re Essential For Healthy Heart, Bones, & Teeth
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What do you think? Do you need meat to be healthy?
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great synopsis of much info. i would offer only WILD fish bones for broth and organic vegs for broth, potassium instead of sodium, but add iodine if needed. thank you for info
Judy Webster says
Thank you for your info. I do raise pasture feed beef.
Angie Trimmer says
Thank you for a balanced answer – I just had a question about the protein requirements. What was the source for these calculations? They seemed a bit high, but I know there are differing thoughts about this.
Wardee Harmon says
Angie — It very well might be on the high side. I was talking about a moderately active woman, who even lifts weights. Those are my notes for myself and I do exercise with weights. I can’t find the original source — it’s what I wrote down ages ago when doing my own research. Yes, there are differing thoughts about this and also likely different needs for different types of people, even exercise levels aside. I hope you find the right amount for you — google will yield lots of information. 🙂
Angie Trimmer says
Thanks – I have been looking into this a bit. The RDA is about .8 g of protein/kg of body weight – you had put pounds instead of kg which about doubles the amount. I didn’t know if this was an accident or if you had some different information. I will continue to do some research. 🙂
Wardee Harmon says
Angie — How embarrassing! Yes, I mixed that up. I corrected the video and notes above so as not to lead anyone else astray. 🙂
Wardee, I really enjoy your site and all of the useful information you provide. I seldom comment, but feel I must on this issue. Personally, I seem to do best with some meat in my diet, although not not nearly the amount generally consumed by 21st century Americans. You mentioned vitamins A, D, E, and K as being difficult to get from a plant-based diet, but not B12. Vitamin B12, while not needed in large amounts, is crucial for brain and nerve health, and, as far as we know, is only available from animal products. Vegetarians may be okay if they choose their foods carefully, but vegans run a real risk of a dangerous deficiency. I know this first hand because I have an adult child who has been vegan for over fifteen years. I see her jeopardizing her own health in her compulsive desire to be kind to animals, and she regularly needs shots of B12 to build up her supply after it has become seriously depleted. Please consider adding B12 to your list of essential vitamins. Thanks for all you do.
Wardee Harmon says
Debbie — You’re absolutely correct! In hind sight, I should have mentioned B12 as a side note even though it didn’t apply to House of Escobar since they are vegetarian, not vegan.
For vegans, the B12 issue is HUGE. There is no other good food source than from animal foods.
Thanks for adding this important point to this discussion.
When I eat meat I have BAD body odor. And I feel more sluggish.
I’m trying out bone broth,yummy, and I tried boiled lamb’s feet…only half enjoyed that…
I would like to contact Lydia,the gut healer!
where can I find her e-mail direction,please?
thank you so much for everything!(everything’s being fermented!!!)
Lovina Robinson says
Based on what I have learned about you and your family, you and the fam bam are simply amazing and I wished I could what you do. Working full time and having children who work almost full time and go to high school I am just not sure if I can squeeze anything in from scratch. I am trying to become a coach and have my own business and that will free up time needed to do more things from scratch. Someone who works about 9 hrs daily (kids work about 8 and go to high school for a few hrs in the morning, hubby commutes 2 hrs daily and puts in a 12 work day) how can we begin to do food from scratch?) What is the easiest quickest thing we can make from scratch that would be healthy and beneficial for us ?
Great question. We’re going to save this for a future #AskWardee. I’ll let you know when Wardee answers. 🙂
Traditional Cooking School
This was so interesting. We are a family that grew up vegetarian but recently have started eating meat. Where we live (in israel) i have not been able to find sources of pastured meat. Do you have any advice?