When I ask my university students if they’re vegetarians or meat eaters at least two-thirds of the class claims to be vegetarians. But most of them admit to eating fish, poultry and dairy products.
This wishful thinking is common to vegetarians. Even nutrition students are misinformed. Avoiding red meat doesn’t make you a vegetarian… and it doesn’t make you any healthier.
Here’s the bottom line: If you follow a true “vegetarian” no-meat diet, you may be robbing yourself of three critical nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Today I’ll show you how this happens and how you can avoid it. I’ll also give you easy-to-follow guidelines for safely enjoying the kind of red meat your ancestors thrived on.
On a Vegetarian Diet There’s a 93% Chance
You’re Not Getting Enough Zinc
By avoiding beef, you are over 7 times more likely to suffer a zinc deficiency. 1
Check out this graph:
And that’s bad news. As a mineral, zinc is second only to iron in concentrations in the body. It helps in the production of hundreds of enzymes that are responsible for regulating your bodily functions.
The prostate has the highest concentration of zinc in the body. And a deficiency has been linked to inflammation of the prostate known as prostatitis.
Zinc also has many anti-aging benefits. It is essential for making superoxide dismutase (SOD), the most potent antioxidant that your body has. It also gives your skin a more youthful look. Zinc is essential for your body to use collagen which makes your skin more resilient and elastic – to fight off wrinkles and saggy skin.
Zinc also keeps your vision sharp by transporting vitamin A to the retina, improving night vision. And it protects retinal cells from free radical damage while helping to slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The list of zinc’s crucial role in your health is long, including:
- Promote a healthy immune system
- Growth of reproductive organs
- Fertility and conception
- Prevent acne and regulate the activity of oil glands
- Aid in protein synthesis and collagen formation
- Cell reproduction and wound healing
- Perception of taste and smell
- Protect the liver from chemical damage
- Bone formation
- Maintain both vitamin E and vitamin A in the blood
- Decrease the amount of copper absorbed
Zinc deficiency is just the start of “veggie-only” dangers. There are two other critical nutrients you only get from red meat…
Avoiding Beef Robs You of Energy …
You’ve heard me talk about it before: CoQ10 is vital to your heart’s survival.
Every cell in your body uses CoQ10 for high-octane energy. And your heart needs massive amounts of energy to pump blood… around the clock… every day.
I hope you’re paying attention, vegetarians, because red meat is the ONLY dietary source of heart-critical CoQ10.
In my own practice I see it all the time… vegetarians with critically low levels of this vital nutrient.
CoQ10 is not only vital to your heart’s ability to pump blood, it’s essential to life itself. That’s because every single organ in your body uses CoQ10 to get the energy they need to function. And if you don’t eat red meat, you’re not getting enough from your food. Period.
…And Weakens Your Mind
Here’s the third critical nutrient missing from vegetarian diets: Vitamin B12.
The body uses B12 to create red blood cells. It also helps maintain the nervous system, and is critical for brain health. B12 forms a protective layer around the nerve cells in your brain. Without that protective layer your brain can’t function properly.
Deficiency can cause memory loss, “brain fog” or worse… not to mention anemia and neuropathy where the degeneration of nerve fibers causes irreversible neurological damage.
And even vegetarians admit you can’t get reliable dietary sources of B12 from anything but animal sources like liver, fish, eggs and meat.
Urban Legend versus Real Science
Vegetarian ideas are not backed by real science. Many are simply myths or urban legends. And some of them are dangerous.
Here are a few examples:
Animal fats cause heart disease – Studies have shown that the plaque in arteries that causes heart disease is mostly made of unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated ones (in vegetable oil), not the saturated fat of animals like vegetarians believe.2
In fact, the body needs saturated fats to be able to use other key nutrients, like fatty-acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
Here’s another vegetarian slip-up:
Vegetarians live longer and have more energy – This one is misleading… The reports of vegetarians living longer are likely due to the fact that most of them also choose to exercise, eat less junk food, and not smoke.
One massive study on heart disease by Russell Smith, PhD. showed that when the consumption of animal products increased, mortality rates decreased!3
Moreover, a study by Burr and Sweetnam in 1982, revealed that, although vegetarians did have a slightly lower (0.11%) rate of heart disease than meat eaters (again, probably due to other healthy choices), the overall death rate was much higher for vegetarians!4
In spite of the evidence, religious and politically correct groups continue to perpetuate the myth that meat-eating peoples have shorter life spans.
Here’s another baseless myth:
Humans evolved as vegetarians – Think so? Here’s a fact: There are NO native vegetarians. Every native culture known to man – both past and present – has prized meat above all else.
You can start by looking at the modern equivalents to our ancestors. There are many native people today who live in a fashion similar to our cave man ancestors, and they have much lower rates of heart disease and other degenerative conditions than we do. What are they eating? Lots of animal fats.
- Take the Aborigines of Australia. They eat a diet rich in animal products, and are renowned for their longevity (at least before Western diets entered the picture).5
- Explorers report remarkably old ages among the Eskimos or Inuit (again, before western influence) who eat large quantities of whale and seal fat.6
- How about the Russians of the Caucasus mountains? They live to great ages eating fatty pork and whole raw milk products.
- Then there are the Hunzas, who are legendary for their robust health and longevity. They eat large portions of goat’s milk which has higher saturated fat content than cow’s milk.7
Yet, the mostly vegetarian Hindus of southern India have the shortest life spans in the world! That’s partly because of a lack of food, but also because of a distinct lack of animal protein in their diets.8
The bottom line: Vegetarians say that a diet of meat and animal fat leads to a premature death. Anthropological data from primitive societies do not support that claim.9
Here’s a common vegetarian misconception I would find laughable if it weren’t for how tragic the results can be:
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You can get what you need by substituting meat and dairy with soy – Hello? Has anyone preaching the “vegetarian gospel” even read the facts?
The fermented soy foods like miso, tamari, tempeh and natto are definitely healthful in certain amounts, but the super-processed soy products that most vegetarians consume are not. This is because unfermented soy is high in phytic acid.10 That’s an anti-nutrient that actually binds to minerals and carries them out of your body!
Vegetarians are known for their tendency to be mineral deficient. And the high grain and legume-based diet, which are full of phytates, is to blame.11, 12
Just look at the nutrition of soy. Like all legumes it’s low in cysteine, methionine, and tryptophan, all vital amino acids. Worse, soybeans contain no vitamin A or D, both of which are needed by the body to absorb the beans’ proteins!13
Check this out. Here are three key nutrients the body needs for optimal health. This chart shows beef versus vegetarian sources. You be the judge.
|Vegetarian Foods Contain ZERO B12 and CoQ10|
|Daily Value||6 mcg||N/A||15 mg|
|Pinto Beans (1/2cup)||0||0||6|
|Black Beans (1/2cup)||0||0||6|
|Peanut Butter (2T)||0||0||6|
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture; Iowa State University
Soy is no substitute for meat. Not only does soy rob you of essential nutrients, it can actually damage your health. Soy has high levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens feed tumors and can destroy your cognitive function. And they can severely affect development in children. Parents who feed their infants soy-based formula are feeding them the hormonal equivalent of 5 birth-control pills a day!14
Vegetarians Don’t Like to Admit It, but We Were All Born to Eat Meat
Simple fact is our ancestors thrived on meat. It’s part of the metabolism that is in your DNA. It’s perfectly natural to crave it, and to want to sink your teeth into a juicy steak. Don’t let myths or political correctness make you feel guilty about that.
Your body is telling you what you need. But you need to get real meat, not the poor excuse for meat that big corporations are shrink-wrapping for your local grocers.
Grass-fed beef is a much better option… It has a potent nutritional value, and is packed with CoQ10, zinc and vitamin B12 – and it has the proper ratio of omega fatty-acids. Commercial grain-fed cattle is poisonous by comparison.
Follow These 5 Simple Guidelines for Finding High-Quality Beef
- Grass-fed beef is growing in popularity so you may find it at one of your local grocery stores. Places like Whole Foods usually have a wide selection of grass-fed meats, and they are often locally raised.
- The best option I’ve found is US Wellness Meats sells quality grassland meat products – Visit us Online! I’ve been buying from them for years and I know the owner personally. Their quality is exceptional and they have a number of other raw and grass-fed products on hand. Their butters and cheeses are out-of-this-world delicious. By the way… when you order on line, your order is shipped to you by overnight mail – and your food is never compromised.
- If you can’t get grass-fed, your best bet is beef raised without hormones or antibiotics. This meat will most likely be grain-fed but it’s widely available and clearly marked on the package. Usually grocery stores will separate this meat from the rest. If you’re unsure, just ask someone behind the meat counter and they’ll point it out if they have it. And don’t be shy about striking up a conversation… even if your grocery store doesn’t sell grass-fed or hormone-free beef they can often tell you where to find it.
- If you’re not sure about the quality, here’s a simple rule of thumb: the cheaper the meat, the more contaminated it’s likely to be. When you see those super-saver sales… like the kind advertised on TV or stuffed into your mailbox at home, you can assume that it’s grain-fed and pumped full of every chemical and hormone known to man. It doesn’t pay to eat cheap meat.
- Same rule applies when you’re going out to eat… meat from fast food restaurants is the worst. Especially those places offering you an entire burger or sandwich for 79 cents or whatever their offer of the moment happens to be. It’s poison.
If you’re still not convinced that a vegetarian diet is a disaster waiting to happen, you need to be vigilant about your supplements. You need a full range of B vitamins, minerals and a powerful CoQ10 source – preferably the reduced ubiquinol you find in my Accel. This is critical… no exceptions.
I recommend a homocysteine-reducing formula for your B vitamins, as they usually have a powerful blend of the ones you need most. They’re easy to find at your local vitamin store. For minerals – aside from zinc – I recommend you take chromium, selenium and boron. You can find them at vitamin or health food stores. Just follow the directions on the label.
For boron I recommend taking 3 to 6 mg a day. Selenium you should get at least 55 micrograms a day, and for chromium, 100 to 200 micrograms a day.
Die-hard vegetarians should have regular blood tests to protect against deficiency – especially for CoQ10. Many of my vegetarian patients have low CoQ10 levels, (1 mcg/ml or below). Try and at least double that. And for therapeutic levels, shoot for 3 to 4 mcg/ml.
If your doctor won’t order a test for CoQ10, you can go to Quest labs. You can find a location near you by searching their website: www.questdiagnostics.com.
Teach your body to burn
Book or DVD
1Waylett, D.K.; et.al. The Role of Beef as a Source of Vital Nutrients in Healthy Diets. Prepared for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Arlington, VA: ENVIRON; July 1999.
2 CV Felton and others. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and composition of human aortic plaques. Lancet, 1994, 344:1195.
3 R Smith and E Pinckney. Diet, Blood Cholesterol, and Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review of the Literature–vol. 2. (Vector Enterprises; CA)., 1991.
4 ML Burr and PM Sweetnam. Vegetarianism, dietary fiber, and mortality. Amer J Clin Nutr, 1982, 36:873.
5 WA Price. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 163-187.
6 V. Stefansson. The Fat of the Land, (Macmillan; NY), 1956.
7 G.Z. Pitskhelauri. The Long Living of Soviet Georgia. (Human Sciences Press; NY), 1982; (b) Thomas Moore. Lifespan: What Really Affects Human Longevity (Simon & Schuster; NY), 1990.
8 HL Abrams. The relevance of paleolithic diet in determining contemporary nutritional needs. J Appl Nutr, 1979, 31:1,2:43-59.
9 HL Abrams. Vegetarianism: An anthropological/nutritional evaluation. J Appl Nutr, 1980, 32:2:53-87.
10 JN Freeland-Graves and others. Zinc status in vegetarians. J Am Diet Assoc 1980 Dec 77:655-6
11 BF Harland and others. Nutritional status and phytate: zinc and phytate x calcium:zinc dietary molar ratios of lacto-ovo vegetarian Trappist monks: 10 years later. J Am Diet Assoc 1988; 88: 1562-6
12 AS Sandberg. The effect of food processing on phytate hydrolysis and availability of iron and zinc. Adv Exp Med Biol, 1991, 289: 499-508
13 L. Dunne. The Nutrition Almanac, 3rd edition, 306.
14 M Fitzpatrick. Soy Isoflavones: Panacea or Poison? Jnl of PPNF, Fall 1998.
By Dr Alan Sears