A good friend tried to convert me to living on a plant based diet. I don't use the word vegan, since it carries a political/religious-like connotation. My friend is an engineer and presented an abundance of scientific evidence for his diet. The main conclusion: we are not carnivores nor omnivores; we are instead herbivores. Something about the length of my intestines and something about the physiology of pigs; I don't remember all of the details. The enemy for him was cholesterol and he managed to get his cholesterol levels to negative 100 (I know there is no negative, but it seemed unhealthy to me, especially since he looked unhealthy).
I recently watched the documentary "The Perfect Human Diet". They had a paleo-archeo-anthropological-dietary-geneticist person who did spectroscopic analysis of the stuff in caveman bones and said we resembled prehistoric carnivores (wolves, etc) more than prehistoric herbivores (deer, etc). They did a distracting comparison with a football field where they said the last 1/2 inch represents modern history, and the previous 100 yards represents 2 million years. The conclusion: we should eat like cavemen, or at least what the producers say that cavemen eat.
"Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food"
In the book Omnivore's Dilema, the author (Michael Pollan) makes an interesting point (before he totally freaked me out about the food industry). Herbivores and carnivores don't think "Should I have Pizza, Mexican, Chinese food?" Instead they eat what they are meant to eat. Panda's eat bamboo and lions eat other animals. The problem is that if they run out their usual diet, they starve. Being an omnivore is much better since we are flexible and can eat almost anything . The challenge isn't so much finding food, it's deciding if eating it will kill us. Apparently we evolved our big brains to help us make this decision.
It seems our "food rejection circuitry" is still active in-spite of an abundance of edible stuff. The result is that just about all food gets a bad grade from someone:
- Vegans say all animal protein is bad (meat, eggs, dairy)
- Paleo diet people say grains, beans are bad
- Dietitians say to avoid processed foods
- Scientists say that fresh produce grown with pesticides is bad.
Michael Pollan also wrote "In Defense of Food". It's a much more balanced, reasonable approach to healthy eating for us omnivores. Personally, I like the title.
Until science figures it all out, I guess I'll just stick with "The Word Of Wisdom" written 180 years ago.