It's All About the Food

Vegan or Vegetarian? Or Maybe Carnivore?

Vegan or Vegetarian? Or Maybe Carnivore?

We are on a quest to review the major diet “types” talked about in the nutrition world today. Pushing past Paleo, Keto, and the Mediterranean diet we arrive here: what about vegan, vegetarian, or carnivore.

One of the things that the Paleo, Keto, and even the Mediterranean diet have in common is the presence of meat protein. Sometimes lots of meat protein, sometimes less but still there. Now for something different.

A vegetarian is meat free but generally comes in variations on a theme. One variation allows meat by-products like eggs and/or dairy. Another variation allows fish. Then there are folks who operate in the “most of the time” variation. “I don’t eat meat except on very special occasions; otherwise I eat vegetables and an occasional egg.”

Unfortunately they often consider commercially processed foods and seed oils perfectly ok because they aren’t “meat”.

The interesting thing about vegetarianism is that people seem to pick this diet for reasons not associated with nutritional value. Maybe because they feel sorry for the animals (I don’t want to eat anything with a face), don’t like the taste of meat, or believe that the natural resources required to grow animal meat is environmentally wasteful. In my experience most vegetarians just eat what they eat and don’t feel driven to convert the masses.

When you shift from vegetarian to vegan, however, it can to be a extreme shift. Honey isn’t allowed because it is manufactured by bees. Sometimes animal skins are nixed. Sometimes animals are considered sacred and killing them is cruel.

So vegans only eat plant food and even then many consider animal based fertilizers like manure or blood meal unacceptable. See what I mean about extreme? These are people with a passion who sometimes ARE driven to convert the masses.

This really isn’t the most extreme, however. Raw vegan is the full extreme with emphasis on maintaining the highest nutrient levels in the plants. Cooking reduces and often destroys the enzymes required to digest food.

Food can only be considered raw if the natural enzymes remain intact. So “cooked” food must be below 115 degrees internal temperature. That can usually only be accomplished by using a dehydrator. The time required to dehydrate can be very long.

Let me share with you my one week personal experience in a raw vegan institute. The kitchen had only dehydrators, busy all of the time. The day we ate grapefruit for breakfast was the highlight of my week. Some people will do anything in the interest of research.  I was not sold but I assure you there were others there who were “all in.”

There are drawbacks to eliminating meat products from the diet.

Vitamin B12 is an essential dietary element that is absent in a vegan diet. Also missing are two essential omega 3 fatty acids commonly found in wild caught fatty seafood and pasture raised animals. Further vitamin A can be a problem. Vitamin A is presents and immediately bio available in meat. Beta carotene in plants can be converted to vitamin A by the body unless your genes cause a problem.  That would be me.

That all means that, at least for a vegan, supplements will be required to make up for deficiencies. Actually the required amount of B12 and omega 3 is relatively small so a vegetarian who incorporates some eggs, dairy such as cheese, and occasional fish in the diet can be fine.

A carnivore diet, on the other hand, is just meat and meat products. Most of the people I have kept up with on a carnivore diet were first on a low carb/higher fat version of Keto. Eventually they found themselves still troubled symptomatically with vegetables in their diet. So they went straight carnivore and their problems went away.

Would you be surprised to know that, for some people, there can also be side effects to a carnivore diet. More about that in my next article.

The bad news in any diet is the presence of commercially processed foods and seed oils. This is not a problem for raw vegans or carnivores. But as I said above, it can be a common problem for vegetarians. My book shares the example of one “vegetarian” I observed in a buffet eating food that was full of sugar and fried in bad oil. Rest assured, however, there was no meat.

As I said in an earlier article, some 50 million or so Americans have one or more autoimmune disease. While environmental toxins and genes can be a factor, the most common issue is digestive problems with some plant food(s) for that one person. That means that some people can do just fine with a vegetarian or even vegan (with supplements) diet and others will not. I know of real people who fall into both categories.

What’s important for everyone is making dietary choices that are right for them. In my next article I will try to help you make the right decision for YOU.

Pat Smith: Spirit Award

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. She is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.