You have no doubt heard the statement: You are what you eat. But have you given conscious consideration to what that really means? Unfortunately for many of us, this statement remains nothing more than a conceptual idea, one that we cannot seem to, for any number of reasons, apply on a practical level in our lives. We approach our food as a means to an end. We look towards it to satisfy our hunger, satisfy our tastebuds, relieve our boredom, help us fit in with others, and ease our emotional discomforts. All the while, we remain completely disconnected from the source of that food - what it is, how it came to us, and how it will impact our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Amidst our strong pleasure impulse to overcome any immediate discomforts, we neglect to connect the dots between our actions and the future consequences of those actions.
Yet, the longer that we fail to make the connection between what goes into our mouth and the state of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, the longer we remain disempowered about the state of our own health. We continue to think that the problem is “out there” — in our life circumstances, in our relationships, our work, and our genes, which allows us to remain ignorant about the root of the problem within our own choices. In such states of mind, it is easy to overlook the fact that our food directly creates the quality of our body, health, energy, emotional and cognitive capacities.
Yes, we are what we eat. And when it comes to eating meat, this means:
- eating unnatural quantities of fat and protein
- eating cholesterol
- eating toxins, like pesticides
- eating biologically destructive substances, like GMOs
- eating drugs, like antibiotics and hormones
- eating emotions, like fear, despair, depression, anger, rage, sadness, and grief
- eating mental states, like hopelessness, enslavement, and victimhood
- eating stress, inflammation, and disease
- eating death
Is it any wonder then, that we have an epidemic of obesity and heart disease, including high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and cholesterol problems, as well as various cancers plaguing us today? Is it any wonder that the World Health Organization has declared depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide? Is it any wonder that our bodies are more toxic, more stressed, and more riddled with inflammation than ever before? We have unprecedented rates of diabetes type 2, osteoporosis, digestive issues, infectious diseases, mental and behavioral diseases, and autoimmune diseases plaguing both children and adults in our modern societies. And these problems are not going away any time soon either. As long as we continue on this destructive course, we are bound to continue to increase the problems we see.
Sadly, some people still live with the idea that we are “doing just fine” and living longer than ever. However, given the amount of acute and chronic health problems prevalent worldwide and reliance on pharmaceuticals and medical interventions, our greatly decreased quality of life is hardly worthy of any longevity compliments. We are merely surviving when we should be thriving, predominantly because we cannot come to terms that meat, especially today’s meat, is not an ideal, healthy, or even remotely suitable food for human beings. It is survival food, and as long as we rely on it as a regular source of nourishment, we are sabotaging our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual human potential.
This is About So Much More than Just You
It would be bad enough if this was just about your health and wellbeing, but it isn’t. The implications of us eating meat extend to every sector of society and impact other areas that dictate the quality of our lives and our Earth’s wellbeing as a whole. This is why the more we can shift from a selfish “I” centered attitude to a considerate “we” centered attitude, the more all of us stand to benefit together.
Animals: As an obvious first, eating meat impacts and destroys the lives of billions of animals each year. The torture and cruelty that these animals are subjected to before death is more than most people can imagine.
Environment: It impacts our environment and the quality of our air, water, and soils. The Environmental Working Group has an outstanding report describing how different food choices impact our climate. By now, it is no surprise to most people that animal agriculture is destroying the environment in multiple ways. Thanks to leading-edge documentaries like Cowspiracy, we can quickly and easily learn why animal agriculture is the most destructive industry on Earth.
Other Humans: It impacts the lives of other human beings, who are doing “our dirty work” and in turn suffering various physical and mental ailments.
Social Justice: While those who live in countries that are considered “better off” economically and materially fill themselves up on meat, billions of people around the world are malnourished and literally starving to death. Unfortunately, this results from the wasteful and unjust way in which we distribute our resources on Earth, which makes meat a big social justice issue. The food that should be going to humans living in poverty and states of starvation is instead fed to the animals, which are then killed for meat for wealthier humans.
Positive Change is Underway
Even though this topic has been actively addressed for decades, there is still so much work to be done to raise awareness and change the course of the destructive path humanity is currently on in this regard. Too many people are still deeply conditioned, refusing to budge on this issue, or simply ignorant about the situation’s seriousness. But the good news is that an increasing number of people are shedding old beliefs and conditioning about the use of animals as mere commodities. More and more people, especially young people, are taking personal accountability and responsibility and changing their habits to become part of the solution and stop being part of the problem. Recent reports show that Americans are eating less meat every year.
Many groups and organizations, like the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine are working to bring awareness and help people overcome the unnecessary health problems related to our modern meat-centric diets. An increasing amount of restaurants are changing their menus to address the growing plant-based dietary needs. More doctors are changing in how they treat their patients, focusing more on diet and less on drugs. Many scientists are advising people to eat less meat to avoid climate catastrophe. And even entire countries are starting to make serious changes to their dietary guidelines for plant-based eating. All this is a beautiful sign of conscious and compassionate eating going mainstream.
It All Starts with Meat
Upon examining the challenges we face, it is not hard to see that the foundational problem here comes down to meat. Yes, the dairy industry is destructive in its own right to our health and the environment, but the foundational food that most people prize and commonly rely on is meat. It is still safe to say that most people live with the falsely conditioned belief that meat is an essential part of the human diet. However, while meat played an important role in helping earlier humans survive, today we have learned that it should be avoided, or at the very least greatly reduced, if we want to thrive.
Therefore, I want to share a quick guide with you via this article to offer some inspiration and motivation for you to reconsider eating meat. Whether you go vegan or plant-based is your choice and part of your personal journey. Still, there is no doubt that moving towards a plant-based diet, meaning a diet that is largely or completely made up of plants, is one of the best things that we can do today for our personal wellbeing and that of our Earth.
1. Meat is very high in fat, especially saturated fat
There are numerous claims today about saturated fat. Some claim that we do not need any saturated fat to survive or that all saturated fat is bad, while others tell us to eat freely and that this substance is essential for our health. While not all saturated fat is bad, saturated fat from animal products like meat appears to directly affect our cardiovascular system’s function in many negative ways. Not only is it linked to putting a strain on one’s heart through possible fat deposits in the arteries, increasing one’s blood pressure and causing artery damage, but it is the major fat responsible for dangerous weight gain. Modern meat is higher than ever in fat because of the unnatural conditions of how the animals are raised—no exercise or natural grazing abilities. They are sedentary and overfed unnatural-for-them food, which leads to higher than normal unhealthy fat deposits.
The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat, which come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. ~ heart.org
2. Meat is very high in cholesterol
Animals produce their own cholesterol; there is no need to be eating someone else’s, especially given that your body is great at regulating its own cholesterol when we don’t throw in extra cholesterol from foreign sources. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, animal products full of saturated fat cause the liver to produce more cholesterol. It is a well-known fact that cholesterol production is associated with the inflammation response, but it can also increase in times of stress and decreased activity. These concerns impact the animals and us, further compounding the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease.
3. Meat is very dense in calories
Since meat contains so much fat and fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient, it is a substance that can easily lead to weight gain if eaten regularly or in excess.
Affluent people can afford to eat a diet with a central focus of beef, pork and/or chicken, and almost all do. Most also have one or more risk factors that predict premature death and illness. ~ Dr. John McDougall
4. Meat, including fish, produces carcinogenic compounds when cooked
These dangerous compounds are called heterocyclic amines and they are produced when animal flesh is cooked, especially at high temperatures. HCAs form when amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and creatine react at high cooking temperatures. Researchers have identified around 20 different HCAs resulting from the cooking of muscle meats such as beef, pork, fowl, and fish.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic—that is, they cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.
5. Meat increases the chances of cancer, especially colon cancer
Aside from the heterocyclic amines discussed above, given the biochemical composition of meat and lack of fiber, meat moves slowly through the intestines. A high-fiber diet can improve the transient time, but eating meat in light of a fiber-devoid diet can be highly constipating. Additionally, being high in animal protein, which takes a long time to get fully digested, it tends to stay in our intestines the longest. This contributes to providing the right conditions for creating and activating carcinogenic compounds within the intestinal walls’ lining.
In general, though, and before any cooking that we may do, meat and animal proteins, in general, are correlated with an increased incidence of cancer. Whether it is due to the inflammation that they cause, as found by Dr. Ajit Varki’s, M.D. research team, or due to the type of proteins that they contain, as found by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Ph.D studies, the connection is undeniable. In October 2015, the World Health Organization put out a report that classified processed meat as a class 1 carcinogen to humans, which means that there is strong evidence that processed meat (sausage, bacon, deli cuts, etc.) causes cancer.
6. Meat is hard on the digestive system
Besides the increased chances of colon cancer, meat can cause many digestive disturbances for the same reasons. Meat takes a long time to pass through the intestines, where during this time, it putrefies. Putrefaction produces toxins and amines that accumulate in the liver, kidneys, and large intestines, destroy bacterial cultures, and causes degeneration of the small intestine’s lining. Over a few years of a regular meat diet, putrefied meat is going to adhere to the lining of your intestines, where it often causes various digestive problems such as IBS, stomach cramps, prolapsed colons, hemorrhoids, constipation, and many other problems that are not even directly linked to the intestines.
7. Meat carries the highest risk of bacterial contamination
Meat is animal flesh, and animal flesh is most prone to bacterial growth. This process is increased even more after the meat has been killed, as it starts to putrefy right away. Today, we have many advances to decrease this process as much as possible, mainly through refrigeration, but the most common foodborne illnesses still come from meats.
8. Meat increases the chances of autoimmune diseases
Since some animal proteins are very closely related to ours, the body responds to many of these as foreign particles and tries to destroy them. (Not very different from how some organ transplants get rejected.) When the body does this regularly, after some time, it begins to turn on itself due to some auto-immune processes that result in things like arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and others.
9. Meat contains synthetic hormones, which disturb our hormonal balance
Unless the meat comes from an organic farm, most farms today inject the animals with various hormones for no other reason than to speed up and enhance the animal’s growth. The faster the animal grows, the quicker the monetary return for the owner or the corporation. And, of course, the bigger it grows, the more meat is obtained from the animal, which generates more money for the animal food industry. Most of the hormones are various growth hormones, which disrupt our own hormonal balances, leading to many different health conditions and have been theorized for the faster than normal onset of puberty and development of our children today.
10. Meat contains various drugs
Since every animal is only seen as a commodity that translates into dollars, animals bred for food are regularly subjected to various drugs. These mostly include antibiotics and hormones. These drugs do not magically vanish, and researchers are studying these effects of them on our bodies. However, we know for sure today that it has contributed to the current antibiotic resistance, where the antibiotics that we may need at a point in our lives no longer work because the bacteria have gotten so much experience with them in small doses to mutate against them.
11. Meat contains its own diseases
Each animal and farm is controlled for safety, and regulations are nowhere as close as we would like them to be. Even though it is easy to catch an infectious disease in an animal and then treat it appropriately, other chronic diseases are not easily caught. In fact, think of how healthy an animal can be, that sits all of its short life in a tiny cage, where some cannot even properly stand up, let alone walk around and get some exercise.
12. Meat-eating results in killing billions of animal each year
According to ADAPTT, more than 150 billion animals are killed each year by the meat, egg, and dairy industries. That is a mind-blowing number that most people are completely not aware of and may think nothing of, given that today’s unnaturally high animal food diets and meat have become commonplace.
13. Meat production leads to wasted natural resources like water and land
Having seen the above number, imagine how much water is wasted each year to grow the food to feed these animals and how much water is wasted to keep them hydrated while growing. For land to be made suitable for animal production, the land must be properly cleared, which usually involves the chopping and clearing of many trees. Livestock production accounts for 30% of the entire land surface of the planet. Just think of how many people can be fed in the world and have clean drinking water if it wasn’t going to the billions of animals.
14. Meat production is heavily responsible for climate change
Although it was already mentioned at the start, it is valuable to reiterate this point. Animals produce natural gas, mainly methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in that it traps heat even more readily and abundantly than carbon dioxide. In fact, animal production is responsible for about 15 to 18% of the world’s climate change, and to put that in perspective, that is even more than all of the world’s transportation.
15. Animals raised for meat under stressful conditions have a negatively altered biochemistry, which then negatively alters ours
Think about yourself and what happens to you in times of stress. The number one thing that happens to all animals under stress is an elevation of stress hormones, which initialize many other biochemical reactions that lead away from an animal’s healthy balanced state. This, of course, leads to various diseased states in the body. When we consume this meat, whether you embrace the Eastern views of karma, chi energy, and chakra disruptions or not, eating meat from stressed and diseased animals is not only bad for our physical health, but for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
16. Meat consumption lowers testosterone levels and increases cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
As medical doctor and nutrition science expert, Dr. Michael Greger shares, “We’ve known for a quarter-century that a meal with that much fat (as found in meat and other animal foods) can drop testosterone levels by nearly one-third within hours.” While high meat and animal food diets have been found to increase cortisol, plant-based diets that are rich in whole plant foods have been found to lower it. For more information about this, refer to Meat can cause stress hormone levels to rise and testosterone levels to drop.
For a good summary and overview of the numerous problems associated with eating meat, including red and white meat and fish, refer to Dr. Garth Davis’ video Why Meat is Bad for our Health
Benefits of Meat-Free Eating and Living
If you still require more inspiration or motivation and are perhaps wondering how eliminating meat from your diet would impact you directly, consider this great read from Dr. Michelle McMacken, MD: 7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat.
Perhaps it will be for your health, perhaps for the environment, perhaps for the animals, or a combination of these reasons. Whatever your personal reasons for not eating meat will be, know that you will be positively contributing to your personal and collective health wellbeing. Whatever your choice or actions are today or tomorrow, my hope is simply this: that each of us starts taking accountability for our own personal health and starts being the change we want to see on this Earth. Remember, we are all in this together.