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    Finding the Balance of Plant Vs. Animal Foods

    Finding the Balance of Plant Vs. Animal Foods

    Nutrition has always been a hotly debated topic but in recent years there seems to be an even further divide between diet camps.

    On one side you have the plant-based crowd, with the belief that minimizing all animal products is the key to avoiding disease. Some take it to the extreme side of plant-based claiming that a raw vegan or fruitarian diet (eating fruits exclusively) is optimal for human health.

    On the other side you have the carnivore folks who vehemently oppose plant-based ideologies, many of whom wouldn’t even consider plants to be a source of food for humans. I have recently come across proponents of an entirely raw meat diet, maybe they have more in common with the raw vegans than they think!

    From my studies and clinical experience, I always return to the concept of biochemical individuality. We are all extremely unique in terms of our genetics (both nuclear and mitochondrial), microbiome, environment, life experience and even our spiritual beliefs. The other factor to consider is that we are arguably the most adaptable species on the planet which has allowed for us to be successful in so many different environments. Perhaps there isn’t just one optimal human diet, but many variations.

    One prime example of the stark contrast between historical dietary practices is the Inuit & Native Americans of Northern Canada, and Buddhist/Shaolin Monks throughout various regions Asia. Weston A. Price studied the native populations in Canada and found them to be some of the healthiest people he had ever come across. As a Dentist he was intrigued by their near-perfect dental health, but also the non-existence of chronic diseases (when consuming a traditional diet). Their diet consisted almost exclusively of Moose and Caribou for 9 months of the year!

    Contrast this with Shaolin Monks (both modern day and in the past) who basically eat a vegan diet composed of mainly grains, beans & legumes, nuts & seeds, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. They too have exceptional health, and capabilities to achieve superhuman feats of strength and discipline. I have personally witnessed some feats that many would consider to be impossible!

    Of course there are many other factors that contribute to the health of these populations, but the point is they eat almost completely opposite diets and both experience great health.

    In my opinion the most important thing you can do is experiment and figure out what works best for your body. It’s important to be honest during this process because it’s easy to fall into a diet dogma and get attached to one way of eating even when it’s not working for you.

    For example, a lot of people switch to a plant-based diet feeling great initially and join “team vegan”. A couple years down the line their energy starts to drop, their sleep quality decreases, they get digestive issues, low mood, low libido etc. and they can’t figure out why they are feeling unwell. Often times they are resistant to changing their diet because they have identified as vegan and since it made them healthier in the first place, how could it now be making them sick?

    I have worked with many vegans in this situation and very frequently the solution was as simple as eating some animal products once or twice a week to correct deficiencies that their body was starving for. (I have also seen similar patterns with long-term low carb/ketogenic dieters that are easily fixed by adding back more carbs).

    I encourage you to keep and open mind, and rather than choosing foods based on what others tell you is healthy, eat what makes YOU feel good and what works best for your body. If you are thriving on a fruitarian diet or a raw meat diet, I wouldn’t tell you to change a thing. In my experience, the extreme diets often do help in the short term but are not sustainable long-term solutions. In most cases I recommend an “omnivorous diet” aka a mix of both plant and animal foods (imagine that!), and focus more on the quality of food rather than the absolute amount of plant vs animal foods.

    Your body is the most sophisticated technology on this planet, it will give you the signals it needs to thrive and if you listen to them you will know exactly what to eat. Hungry for some red meat? Eat it! Craving some juicy seasonal fruit? That’s probably what your body needs! I do think it’s important to use your brain/intellect for certain decisions such as the avoidance of heavily processed foods. You might be saying “well I’m always craving chips and ice cream.” It will take some brain power to chose avoidance because you know those foods contain highly addictive ingredients that aren’t actually good for you yet it may appear that your body is craving them. The good news is, if you’re sticking to whole minimally processed foods, your instincts are pretty dang accurate!

    Both plants and animals (and fungi) have unique benefits for our physiology, my best advice to you is to enjoy a wide variety of all the amazing food options we have available to us and be honest about which ones make you feel good vs not so good. Once you develop the skill of intuitive eating, you will know the exact balance of plant vs animal foods that your body needs and no longer have to rely on reading nutrition advice from people like myself 😉

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