As a yogi doctor being a vegetarian or a vegan was an interesting question I was faced with when I began my yoga practice. Should you be a vegetarian or a vegan? The answer is yes and no. Well, what is that supposed to mean?
Knowing the physiology of the human body, we were meant to eat meat and fish. The homosapien species, aka humans, evolved from apes to become hunter gathers, eventually people consciously decided to start up farming communities to make things a little easier. Based on our muscle anatomy and reflexes, we were meant to run and hunt and we were meant to chew meat with our strong canine teeth. However, I highly doubt we were intended to eat meat/fish every meal or maybe even everyday, unless you were a super hunter.
Meat and fish are the best sources of protein we can consume. We don’t need very much, however, in order to fulfill our nutrient requirements. Although you can make complete proteins using certain combinations of vegetarian foods such as nuts, beans, grains, and vegetables, meat/fish will always provide you with complete proteins that can readily be used for body repair and immune function. Red meat is important to consume every now and then, especially for menstruating women, because of its iron content. Of course the leaner, grass-fed options are preferred. Although certain green leafy vegetables and nuts contain iron, the intestines absorb the form of iron in meat most efficiently. Also, B12 vitamin, which is vital for a healthy nervous system and blood function, is only found in animal sources. Nature didn’t intend for us to take supplements, though some great B vitamin complexes exist on the market for those who choose to be vegan.
We were meant to be meat-eating vegans. I know this concept sounds odd. What differentiates a vegetarian from a vegan is that vegetarians do not eat meat but will eat the by products of animals, like milk. Vegans don’t eat any animal products. As a humans, we were likely only meant to drink milk when we were nursing on our mother’s breast. So, why as an adult are you drinking the milk that comes from the udder of a cow? Even your body is telling you that you shouldn’t be drinking it as you become gassy and lactose intolerant with age. The intestines decrease the production of lactase (the enzyme to digest milk sugars) as we age because you were only meant to drink your mother’s breast milk until a certain age. Certain allergies like hay fever may be exacerbated by dairy consumption as well. Almond, soy (GMO free), and hemp milk are great alternatives. Cheese isn’t all that great given the high saturated fat content so less is more. Interestingly, some people that are lactose intolerant can still eat yogurt without a problem, and some believe this may be due to the probiotic bacteria it contains.
I understand the ethical and spiritual dilemmas of killing another being for food. Plants breathe and have living cells too. What you eat you become, and food is medicine. Friends who have switched to vegetarian/veganism find they are less aggressive. Food chains and the life cycle, as we learned in elementary school, regulate the population of the planet and allow species to survive. Humans have higher cognitive function and can make choices, however, the problem is it has no longer become a fair fight now that farms and factories exist for the sole purpose of breeding animals for food. Unfortunately the conditions are not very pleasant as many documentaries have shown, but then again we can opt for organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, cage free, grass fed options.
Humans are classified as an omnivorous, all-eating species based on our biology. The first time I attempted veganism for about a month was during my yoga training. My body just didn’t feel right and I felt weak. I found myself craving meat and it is important to listen to your body. If you are craving something chances are you need a nutrient, and in my case it was iron. I know many vegans and vegetarians that are doing just fine on their diets. I'm gradually shifting to the more vegan spectrum in my daily life for health and spiritual reasons because of the contamination of our oceans and less options when it comes to organic meats. The choice is ultimately yours as long as you supplement b12 and consume complementary proteins depending on your restrictions. Do I think you need to eat meat everyday or even every meal? No. Just be grateful and mindful about what you consume. Namaste.