Friday, October 14, 2011
Book Spotlight: Beyond Broccoli by Susan Schenck, LAc
Read an excerpt!
Vegetarian Myths Dispelled
There are some common misconceptions in the vegetarian community we will briefly address here. Some of these issues will be fleshed out in more detail later in the book.
Myth #1: We should emulate the diets of our mainly vegetarian primate cousins.
The most relevant difference between man and other apes is man’s relatively larger brain. Our brains are believed to have evolved precisely because we ate animal products rich in DHA, a critically important fatty acid which chiefly comprises brain tissue. To maintain our brains, we need to continue eating this crucial fat.
When man split off from chimpanzees, he traded an energy-intense digestive tract with the ability to digest cellulose for an energy-intensive brain. In other words, more energy was required to maintain this larger brain endowed with advanced, forward-looking frontal lobes. The energy used for the brain had to be subtracted from elsewhere, and it came at the expense of the digestive tract.
We then began eating energy-intensive food that didn’t require such intensive digestion. For example, a cow has to devote so much energy to digestion that it has four stomachs! More energy is directed there than to the cow’s brain.
The area between the chest and legs of a gorilla is much bigger than it is in man. The gorilla has a larger digestive tract equipped to break down cellulose, a dietary fiber. A chimpanzee is somewhere in between a gorilla and a human, having more intelligence than a gorilla, but less ability to break down cellulose. A chimp also eats more meat than a gorilla, but less than a man.
Myth #2: Apes and chimpanzees are strict vegetarians.
Chimpanzees were once thought to be vegetarians. Jane Goodall, who studied them extensively, proved that this was not the case. We now know that 8-10 percent of their diet comes from animal foods: insects, bird eggs, and even meat. Flesh is thought to be about 1-3 percent of their diet.(1) Some say it is as high as 5 percent.
H. Leon Abrams, Jr., MA, EDS, Associate Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Georgia and well-known nutritional anthropologist, relates the diets of monkeys and apes. He relates:
"Rather than being herbivores, these animals are now recognized as omnivores, and the reason that they do not eat more animal food than they do may be the result of a limited ability to provide it in great abundance. But in seeking the animal foods that they do consume, monkeys and apes are most likely driven by a basic need to meet nutritional requirements that are available only from animal protein."(2)
Abrams points out that golden marmosets in zoos were not breeding until given animal protein. Baboons often kill hares and gazelles. He claims that gorillas in the wild eat birds, rodents, and even small antelopes. In captivity, they prefer meat to their usual diets of fruit and vegetables. Orangutans eat insects, birds, and squirrels, while gibbons consume birds, small antelopes, and rodents. He relates:
"Apparently, all primates have a basic and fundamental physiological need for at least a minimum amount of animal protein."(3)
Myth #3: We haven’t adapted to meat.
The first homo genus, Homo habilis, was a meat eater 2.6 million years ago. Some vegetarians who are familiar with this fact will claim that we were originally frugivores in Africa, but have been “eating against our nature for millions of years.” Clearly they do not understand the principles of evolution: 2.6 million years is plenty of time to adapt! What we haven’t adapted to are grains and a high-carb diet.
Some speculate that our primate ancestors were frugivores over 5 million years ago, though others claim the African savanna was actually lower in plant life than the forests and arid regions. But even if the frugivore concept is correct, in 5 million years our digestive tracts have changed so much that one could very easily argue we are no longer adapted to a diet of primarily fruit.
Empirical observation indicates that this is the case. Our digestive tracts have grown shorter, our brains bigger. We need more protein and essential fats than a frugivorous diet provides. Most of us cannot tolerate the high carbs of a grain- and legume-based vegetarian diet, let alone a frugivorous diet high in sugar.
1 Billings, “Correcting the Vegetarian Myths about Ape Diets,” www.beyondveg.com, accessed 1-21-10
2 Abrams, Jr., “Vegetarianism: Another View,” www.biblelife.org/abrams2.htm, accessed 1-24-10
3 Abrams, Jr., “What We Can Learn from the Diet of Monkeys and Apes in Their Natural Habitat about Human Nutritional Needs,” Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 1979:4 #2
For more on this topic, please visit: http://www.helium.com/items/2228891-is-a-vegetarian-diet-healthier
Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw food coach, lecturer, and author of the 2-time award winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet—as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work.
The book Beyond Broccoli can be viewed on Amazon.com. It was released on August 20, 2011.