Nature has a way of doing things exactly as intended. Animals don’t have opinions, they do exactly what they do… to survive. We’ve been given dominion over animals. We have the power to help animals thrive, we also have the power to cause a complete extinction if we want.
To highlight: In the 16th century, North America contained 25–30 million buffalo. Bison were “hunted” almost to extinction in the 19th century. Less than 100 remained in the wild by the late 1880s. And due to conservation efforts, the numbers have steadily grown. To keep habitats thriving, predators are often introduced to areas to help manage overgrowing populations. One of the best conservation efforts known in the United States is managed, legal hunting.
We (mankind) obviously has dominion over the animals, what we do with it… that’s the debate. We’re able to grow food, hunt, and raise livestock. We have almost unrestricted power to decide what we want to eat and then eat it. This post is to highlight truths related to the WIDE spectrum between the Vegan and Carnivore diets by using science, nature, and reason.
Animal Feeding Behaviors (in nature)
Animals in the wild are programed to eat (generally) a simple diet that fits their ability to process the foods they eat. Ruminants, for example, are able to acquire needed nutrients from plant-based foods by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion. The following are the different feeding classifications found in the animal kingdom (in relation to food/survival).
- Herbivore – An animal adapted to eating plant material as a main component to their diet.
- Carnivore – An animal that derives its nutrient requirements and energy via a diet consisting of animal tissue.
- Omnivore – An animal that has the ability to derive energy and survive on both plant and animal matter.
These feeding behaviors are specific for the animal’s procurement of nutrients. It highlights the animal’s ability to find and capture food sources, digest them properly, and provide the needed energy to do it again tomorrow. And fun fact… even herbivores eat meat on occasion if given the opportunity.
Humans are simply NOT strictly herbivores or carnivores. We know (without question) that humans will survive if they choose to only eat plants, animal tissue, or a combination of both. The real question about the carnivore and vegan diets… Which diet provides optimal health for me?
What is Optimal Health?
Optimal health means you will be free to move as you wish, will have minimized to no pain, and a better mental clarity and well-being.
Important Health Factors
- Avoidance of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome consists of any 3 or more of the following:
- Waist is larger than 35 inches (woman) and 40 inches (man)
- High Triglycerides
- HDL is too low
- High blood pressure
- Fasting blood sugar is too low
- Being insulin sensitive. When you’re insulin resistant your cells have become immune to insulin which assists in building up excess glucose in your blood. This is typically brought on by prolonged consumption of excess carbohydrate (sugars).
- Avoidance of high blood sugar. A great indicator of health is a low and regulated blood glucose level. Big spikes and then subsequent and significant drops in blood sugar replicated over and over will cause health problems.
Our bodies have a way of telling us if things are going wrong. Here’s a list of symptoms indicating there’s a problem (you need to find and fix the root cause).
- High Blood Pressure
- Excess Fat
- High Blood Sugar
- Joint Pain
- Loss of Memory
- Chest Pain
- Abdominal Pain
- Targeted Pain
- And many more…
If you’ve ever suffered through any of these symptoms it means something isn’t quite right. It’s natural to have symptoms, in fact, it’s a great way to learn what is wrong and then try to fix it (without medicine).
The Problem with Western Medicine & Health
Western medicine is great at “fixing” symptoms and providing emergency care. However, western medicine’s training in relation to health and wellness is generally relegated to providing pharmaceuticals to “fix” a symptom. These medications by and large do not fix the root cause. In fact, most (if not all) pharmaceuticals today come with a laundry list of possible side affects. It’s no wonder most people are looking for answers outside of what their doctor prescribes (or at least, hopefully). There is great value to medicine, however, optimal health is better served by lifestyle, not a pill.
Diet and Lifestyle (better than a pill)
You’ve probably noticed that the internet provides an endless supply of resources, which can be beneficial and confusing or just plain wrong. If both sides of the issue (VEGAN vs. CARNIVORE) claim to have the backing of science, who can be right?
To better understand where YOU should start, let’s determine a few ideas that are widely held as accurate when it comes to health and longevity. It’s important to accept a critical truth: there is not a one-sized-fits-all diet.
- Humans are omnivores. We can safely eat animals and several variations of plant matter. Opting not to link to studies on this. If you don’t believe this, I’m surprised you’re this far in to the post.
- Protein is good for you. Protein provides increased muscle mass, reduced body fat, and a lower risk of disease. (1) (2)
- Fat and Carbs provide energy.
- An ongoing life of excess carbohydrate causes damage. After a meal, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, an immediate source of energy. Excess glucose gets stored in the liver as glycogen or, with the help of insulin, converted into fatty acids, circulated to other parts of the body and stored as fat in adipose tissue. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are generally caused by too much/prolonged carbohydrate consumption.
- Added sugar is bad. Adverse effects on metabolism. Fructose doesn’t lower ghrelin (hunger hormone) and won’t affect satiety in the brain (you want to keep eating).
- In a fasted state or on a ketogenic diet your body will create glucose for demand. You don’t NEED to eat carbs to get needed energy for power output. I’ve tested this over and over wearing a CGM. Anecdotal and true.
- Carbs are not inherently bad. You can live a life eating carbs and still be healthy. In fact, carbs provide an advantage to athletes during competition across most disciplines.
- Fat doesn’t make you fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram compared to carb’s 4 calories per gram. This means fat has more energy, not more of an ability to make you fat. Studies have shown that a low carb and high fat diet may be beneficial for weight loss. (1) (2) (3)
- Vegetable oils are poison. Completely industrially processed and not resembling even the slightest semblance of whole food. Not only that but too much Omega-6 will cause inflammation.
- There is limited to no benefit to eating whole grains. In fact, there is mounting evidence that it’s causing harm on a greater scale than ever before… and you don’t need to be diagnosed with celiac disease to have issues. (1) (2) (3) (4)
- Good health doesn’t just come from a good diet: Environmental factors in addition to food also impact health. Sleep is the foundation of your health and sunlight is medicine. Quit wearing sunscreen… just don’t get burned. Getting good sleep should be non-negotiable.
Which diet is for me?
The best method in learning which diet will work best for you is an elimination diet. A couple of options for an elimination diet may include:
- Keto Diet – may be carnivore or vegan. The keto diet doesn’t concern itself with types of food, its only concern is macronutrients. Fat/Protein/Carbs. The Keto diet is a diet high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbs. This diet will allow you to eliminate carbs and sugar.
- Vegan Diet – the Vegan diet is plant based with absolutely no animal products. This is a way to eliminate all animal products.
- Carnivore Diet – the Carnivore diet is animal based and includes no plants. This will allow you to eliminate all plant products.
- Paleo Diet – the Paleo diet focuses on whole foods that were readily available to early man (no industrial foods). This diet will eliminate anything processed or in a package (technically speaking). This diet also eliminates grains, legumes, dairy (for some), vegetable oils, sugars, etc.
- Low FODMAP Diet – is typically used to alleviate symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and similar gastrointestinal disorders. The diet focuses on foods that may be poorly absorbed by some.
- AIP Diet – stands for autoimmune protocol. View AIP as the original elimination diet, you’ll remove foods to help reset your immune system. Think of AIP as the Paleo Diet – with more restrictions.
Continuous Glucose Monitor
Once you’ve decided on your initial attack, I’d highly recommend getting a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). The CGM will allow you to know in real-time what foods spike your glucose with a subsequent drop in blood sugar. This will allow you to make informed decisions on what to avoid in your diet.
You don’t need (or want) a large spike in glucose on a regular basis especially if your body doesn’t demand it (not active enough). Eating foods that consistently raise your blood sugar will cause lasting damage including: insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and much more. It’s an easy thing to test and you can’t cheat it.
Control Your Blood Sugar
If your fasting blood sugar is too high you may want to consider lowering your carbohydrate intake and look to fat for energy.
In addition to knowing how your glucose responds you’ll need to track your symptoms (if you have them) and how they improve or worsen. Keep a journal and pay close attention to the following:
- Sleep patterns
- Body composition
- Resting heart rate
- HRV (heart rate variability)
- Blood pressure
- Ongoing symptoms (what you know right now about your body)
- New symptoms (if thy arise)
- Blood glucose levels at different times throughout the day
- Vibrance (do you look better than you did?)
Stick to the Plan
You should be willing to stick with a precise regimen for at least 6-10 weeks. This should give you just enough time to make an informed decision on what you’ll do next.
If everything has improved and you’re feeling great, now is the perfect time to introduce some of your favorite foods you may have eliminated. One at a time to see what changes. If nothing changes, keep eating that food (lucky you). After this reset period you WILL know exactly what is right and wrong just by how you feel.
Risks of going Carnivore
LDL may (most likely will) increase. There are MANY in the medical community that believe high LDL is linked to increased heart disease. However, the science gets a little shaky here.
That information (presented by Dave Feldman) really contradicts the age old “wisdom” that high LDL is bad. However, if you believe LDL is bad, the Carnivore diet will promote higher LDL (just like a high fat diet does). More explained here.
Amino acid composition of animal protein may turn on cancer pathways. (1)
Protein content too high – won’t allow you to maximize ketosis. If you’re hankering for the benefits of the Keto diet, it may be more difficult to stay in ketosis due to the high amounts (in proportion) of fat you can ingest.
Eating only animal products may burden the liver and kidneys. People with genetic variants in the urea cycle pathway (about 30% of people) will most likely encounter issues.
Risks of becoming Vegan
On a Vegan diet you may develop micronutrient deficiencies. If you’re not watchful, following a vegan diet may cause you to develop deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc.
Vegans are also at a high risk of developing a Vitamin-B12 deficiency that, if untreated, can potentially cause irreversible neurological effects. This may include stroke (this study concludes those on plant-based diets had a 20% higher risk of stroke).
With that said, you can always take supplements to combat issues that may arise from consuming ONLY non-animal products.
“Science” and what to do next…
It seems like the more we learn about human biology and diet science the less we actually know. The “science” generally speaking is all over the place and if you look hard enough, you’ll find “science” that’ll back up nearly any belief.
While this can all be very confusing, it’s best to follow a practice as explained previously… an elimination diet. If you believe Carnivore or maybe Vegan might be the best move for your health, treat it as an elimination diet – if the choice you made improves the markers listed above start adding in more food (diversity could be a good thing for you). Track and adapt.
Power of Psychology
We each have power over our health and well being via means not easily described by science. Our ability to believe in something that is true or good and then see our desired result come to life happens all of the time.
Examples of this are readily available. My favorite: A total of 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to receive arthroscopic débridement, arthroscopic lavage, or placebo surgery. Patients in the placebo group received skin incisions and underwent a simulated débridement without insertion of the arthroscope.
In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic débridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure. At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group.
Your Brain is Powerful
The study mentioned above showcases an interesting power we each have, a process located in our brain, to control our individualized outcomes. We can’t explain it to satisfy all groups but that doesn’t make it any less real.
If you’re going to be a vegan or a carnivore and you believe you’re right. You probably are. And you’re probably going to see results.
- Humans are able to eat plants and animals.
- The best diet (to get started) is an elimination diet.
- Pick a diet and stick to it for 6-10 weeks.
- Observe progress closely.
- Introduce new foods in to your way of eating. Or change methods completely (if you didn’t have positive results).
- Monitor results closely.
- Believe in your success.
- Create healthy habits.
- Get sleep.
- Get outside in the sun.