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“But meat eating is natural!”
Veganism is also natural - many mammals don’t eat flesh. If you want to be ‘natural’, a wholefoods vegan diet is much closer to our natural diet than the standard western diet.
Like other primates, we’ve evolved to eat a predominantly plant-based diet. We can’t kill large animals with our human hands, better designed for gathering plant foods to eat - natural carnivores always kill their own meat with their large teeth, claws and agility. Only very recently in our evolution (well after our split from the ancestors of modern apes) have we even had weapons to kill our own meat - before that, we were virtually vegan.(1)
Through environmental pressures our species adapted to be able to survive on flesh, but not only have we retained the ability to live on a plant-based diet, evidence suggests it is still best for our health(2).
Drinking the milk of another species has been practised in only a few cultures for a few thousand years. Many cultures continue to grow strong bones without it - in fact evidence shows these cultures have much less osteoporosis than milk-drinking cultures!(3)
Then, what is natural about the way humans enslave and incarcerate billions of animals? What’s natural about choosing cruelty and environmental degradation when we don’t have to?
(1) Kottak C (2008) “Anthropology: The Exploration of Human Diversity 12ed” New York: McGraw Hill. (An introductory university course text book)
Excerpt: “The mainstay of the australopithecine diet was the vegetation of the savanna, although the early hominins also might have hunted small and slow-moving game. … As well, they may have scavenged, bringing home parts of kills made by large cats and other carnivores. … The skulls, jaws and teeth of the australopithecines leaves no doubt that their diet was mainly vegetarian."
(2) Campbell T C & Campbell T M (2004) "The China Study" Dallas: BenBella Books
(3) World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2004) “Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition 2ed” Bangkok
For an unbiased review of what is known about calcium in human nutrition, Chapter 4: Calcium (particularly sections 4.9 and 4.10 for dietary and other factors in osteoporosis) http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2004/9241546123_chap4.pdf
Contents page of report with links to other chapters: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2004/9241546123.pdf
“I’m still worried about...”
We can easily meet all our protein needs from plants, particularly legumes, vegetables, nuts and grains. Protein deficiency is extremely rare in wealthy countries. Many people eat much more than is necessary, often to the detriment of their health.(4),(5)
Plenty of iron can be found in plant food. Particularly high in iron are raisins, avocado, kale, nuts, peas and tofu. Iron absorption is boosted by the vitamin C in fruit and vegies.(4),(5)
Calcium is abundant in many plant foods, e.g. sesame seeds, green leafy vegies, tofu, figs, nuts and baked beans. Many plant foods are high in other nutrients good for our bones, such as vitamin K and potassium. Animal protein e.g. from meat and milk (but not plant protein) acidifies the body. Calcium is leached from the bones to neutralise the acid, then excreted, causing bone loss. Plant foods alkalise the body and reduce this calcium loss. Countries with the highest animal protein intakes (and paradoxically the highest calcium intakes!) have the most osteoporosis. (Yes, that’s comparing people of the same age.) Moreover, cow’s milk has been linked to many other diseases and in this sense plant sources of calcium should be preferred.(3),(4),(5),(6),(7),(8)
(4) Online nutrition charts:
(5) The following books provide further information on vegan nutrition, and provide reassurance that it’s easy to be a properly nourished vegan without needing a degree in food science J
Lehmann C & Berriman M (2004) “Go Vegetarian! The green book on vegetarian nutrition” Surry Hills: The Australian Vegetarian Society
(This 16 page book provides a comprehensive introduction and is available for free from the Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland)
Walsh S (2003) “Plant Based Nutrition and Health” London: The Vegan Society (UK)
This book is very well researched, and references scientific and nutritional studies extensively.
Davis B (R.D.) & Melina V (R.D.) (2000) “Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet” Summertown TN: Book Publishing Company
Thrash A & Thrash C (M.D.’s) (1996) “Nutrition for Vegetarians” Seale AL: NewLifestyle Books
Klaper M (M.D.) (1987) “Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple” Maui: Gentle World Inc
Nutrition for special periods of life:
Roberts H (D.O., FACOG) (2003) “Your Vegetarian Pregnancy” New York: Fireside. (Holly Roberts is a Board-Certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist)
Stepaniak J (M.S.Ed) & Melina V (R.D.) (2003) “Raising Vegetarian Children: A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony” New York: McGraw-Hill
Heidrich R (2005) “Senior Fitness: The Diet and Exercise Program for Maximum Health and Longevity” New York: Lantern Books
(6) Butler J (2006) "White Lies: The health consequences of consuming cow's milk" Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation (VVF). Source: http://www.vegetarian.org.uk/campaigns/whitelies/whiteliesreport.pdf
(7) Wachman A & Bernstein DS (1968) "Diet and Osteoporosis" Lancet, vol 291 (958-959)
(8) Abelow B et al (1992) "Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: a hypothesis" Calcified Tissue International, vol 50:1 (14-18)
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