By Daniella Remy
Some people may be surprised, even shocked, to see that ph360 may occasionally recommend animal protein to people despite their personal preference for plant-based proteins. I’m certain there are many vegans and vegetarians out there thinking “How could an advanced science-based program like this promote meat?!”
Well, ph360 uses that science and evidence-based research to personalize a diet specifically to you and your body’s needs. Instead of saying “You are right for this type of diet”, ph360 calculates the pros and cons of all foods to find the diet that is right for you, and that includes all kinds of animal proteins.
To address some of those common misconceptions about plant versus animal proteins, let’s clear the air with some myth-busting facts for everyone.
Myth #1: Animal protein is unhealthy
You may have heard claims that meat consumption isn’t healthy because of its effects on cholesterol (an issue that has now been debunked), and yet others talking about it being bad for triglycerides, obesity, cardiovascular disease and the list goes on. But it’s important to separate the studies that focus on processed foods, 1 deep fried foods, 2 or other unhealthy preparation methods and sources, from those that look at quality organic fish or lean meat. Studies on the occasional poultry, lean meat or fish consumption have found benefits for conditions like dementia 3, cancer 4, cardiovascular disease 5, and many other conditions 6.
Myth #2: As mammals, our diet should be based on our physical form
Meat-eaters will say humans don’t have the large fermentation vats (like cows and rhinoceroses) to process all that fiber. Vegetarians speak of our lack of canine teeth and jaw strength (like dogs and cats) to rip through raw flesh.
Unlike other animals, humans can cook and process the food we consume – even organic whole foods. Whether we’re processing flour, making a smoothie, or even cooking foods like taro and kidney beans to make them palatable and safe to eat, we have developed many ways to integrate a wide variety of foods into our diet. With this fact in mind, comparing ourselves to other animal species simply doesn’t make sense. We are omnivores who process our foods for improved digestion, flavor, texture, variety and even medicinal purposes. Let’s not think about our nutrition like animals but like humans.
Myth #3: We should only eat what our ancient ancestors ate
Let’s not go into a lengthy discussion about the evolutionary perspective of meat-eating to evaluate approaches like the paleo diet or caveman diet because, let’s face it, it’s a somewhat silly argument too. Lives were much shorter in paleolithic times, to the point that we can’t be certain they wouldn’t have been affected by chronic diseases that are also correlated with age. Whether we look at historical trends of physical activity, differing living conditions, or a life span of 20-50 years compared to our 80, there simply are too many assumptions that must be made to establish any argument about longevity and chronic disease when trying to compare us to our ancestors.
Humanity has evolved and adapted to many different and varying situations. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the traditional diet of the Okinawa, Andes, Lakota, Hopi, Inuit or other culture, past meat-eating doesn’t justify a meat-filled diet today and neither does a historically vegetarian population justify a solely plant-based diet.
In fact, our diet should be based on who we are today and what we need for our current lifestyle and metabolic status. ph360 does, in fact, often encourage a reduction of animal proteins, even vegetarianism or veganism for some people…just not everyone.
There could be various reasons why ph360 may encourage some high quality sources of animal protein in the diet. In the next myth-bust we’ll reveal some of these reasons. Keep in mind that not all of these examples will apply to everyone. That’s the whole point with the shift toward personalized health – it’s unique to you. SOME issues will affect SOME people more than others. To be healthy, we just need to do what is right for OUR body. While tailoring a unique food, exercise and lifestyle program to an individual has been time consuming and costly in the past, ph360 can now accomplish this feat in mere seconds.
Myth #4: Everyone can get all the optimal nutrition they need from a vegan diet alone
Studies 7, 8, 9 have shown that although people who avoid meat tend to be more health conscious, vegan and vegetarian diets need to be well planned to obtain nutritional adequacy because it can be easy for nutritional deficiencies to occur when eliminating large food groups. This is especially true for very restrictive diets.
Vitamin B12: Unfortunately, B12 is one of those special vitamins primarily found in animal sources. Though it’s possible to get enough B12 from fortified foods (not always great because it’s not natural and can be highly processed), and there are a few vegetable sources of B12 10, most vegans and vegetarians need B12 supplements in their diet 11, 12. Though it may be ok to have a vegan or vegetarian diet for a while or even cleanse without meeting your need for vitamin B12, this lack shouldn’t be prolonged because it’s a very important vitamin for many parts of our health, including mental 13 and cardiovascular 14.
Iron: Although vegetables do contain iron, and both vitamins C and B12 can be used to improve iron absorption, plants contain non-heme iron which is less easily absorbed by the body than heme iron that comes from animal sources 15. Cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, gallic acid, phytates and phenols all interfere with iron absorption so the program is often calculating which are the best sources of bioavailable iron that your body needs 16, 17.
Zinc: Because of their amino acid content (like histidine and methionine), the most bioavailable form of zinc comes from animal sources, while non-heme iron, fiber, tannin and phytic acid (all common in plant sources) impede zinc absorption 16, 17.
Manganese: Tannins, oxalates, phytates, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, cobalt and insoluble fiber all hinder manganese absorption 18 so once again, calculations are being made for the best bioavailable sources based on your food preferences, food allergies, etc.
Phosphorous: Though you can find phosphorous in great amounts in many plant sources, the most bioavailable source is from animal protein. Phytic acid reduces bioavailability, while vitamin D (like in fish) promotes its absorption 19. So once again, depending on what your body needs and what the rest of your diet looks like, the calculations are being made for the best sources for you.
Vitamin A: Plant products can contain carotenoids which the body can convert into retinol, though not very efficiently 20. For some people, this conversion is sufficient to meet their needs, while other people need a little more ready-made retinol which comes from animal products.
Creatine: Though creatine isn’t an essential nutrient because the body can produce it from glycine and arginine, this nitrogen-containing compound improves the way protein is synthesized in the body, providing energy and muscle growth. Athletes and bodybuilders are often seeking or needing more than what the body can produce on its own. Dietary creatine, however, is only found in animal products and though our liver and kidneys can produce some creatine, it may not be enough for some people (especially those who exercise intensively and may have depleted levels of phosphocreatine) 21.
Carbohydrate restriction: Some people (for example, those with metabolic syndrome) may need to reduce their daily intake of starch or short-chain carbohydrates, but some vegan and vegetarian diets can be carb-rich (especially ones that aren’t well planned). Though there are ways to maintain a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet, sometimes people struggle to get enough protein (or iron, zinc, B12, etc) without increasing other dietary components as well.
Amino acids: Yes, you can get all the amino acids you need from a diet free of animal protein and this is why many vegans and vegetarians are perfectly healthy with their diet. However, others may find themselves with imbalanced amino acid amounts 22 (ie: too much of one and not enough of another).
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list because other factors like exercise goals and health conditions can also play a role in the types of protein a person may need. Though vegan and vegetarian diets can be well thought out to prevent potential deficiencies, several arguments can now be used to explain why eliminating all sources of animal products may NOT be ideal for everyone. Vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters can ALL be healthy with the proper lifestyle and diet choices 23.
Regardless of the dietary recommendations ph360 makes, any animal protein being consumed should always be organically farmed without antibiotics, hormones or other intrusive chemicals. Livestock should be free range, fed with a proper diet, and maintained with ethical standards. Humane approaches to animal husbandry should always be in place, while also utilizing every part of the animal wherever possible. Not only does this increase the quality of the animal protein (and even its fat content), it also enhances the integrity of our farming practices and our relationship with nature.
So whether animal protein, vegetarianism or veganism is the way to go, the key thing here is that health-conscious eating should always consider nutrients, and, more specifically, the right nutrients for you. The nutrients in your foods and how they react and interact with your unique body is paramount to maintaining nutritional balance, and getting a wide variety of whole foods that provides your body the well-balanced nutrition you need, without harmful additives, will see you on the path to true longevity and enhanced quality of life.
- Schulze, M. B., et al. “Processed meat intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women.” Diabetologia 46.11 (2003): 1465-1473.
- Balbi, J. C., et al. “Foods and risk of bladder cancer: a caseâ€“control study in Uruguay.” European journal of cancer prevention 10.5 (2001): 453-458.
- Barberger-Gateau, Pascale, et al. “Fish, meat, and risk of dementia: cohort study.” Bmj 325.7370 (2002): 932-933.
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- Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Vitamin B12-containing plant food sources for vegetarians.” Nutrients 6.5 (2014): 1861-1873.
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