Why I’m Cutting Out Meat And Dairy (Again) In 2013


One of my New Year’s resolutions (actually, the only resolution I’ve made so far) is to give up meat, dairy and eggs again in 2013. Like the times I’ve gone vegetarian or vegan in the past, my concern has little to do with animal welfare and everything to do with personal health. And this time I’m more convinced than ever that, for personal health, a meat-free and dairy-free diet is best.

My reasons have varied the previous times I’ve given up meat or meat and dairy, but most were vaguely related to health or weight (though I’m hesitant to emphasize anything but overall health when talking diet, going vegan is a great way to quick-start weight loss). If you’re aiming for optimal nutrition, cutting meat and milk and cheese makes sense in an simplistic or maybe intuitive way–less saturated fat, less sodium, less cholesterol (providing you’re replacing these mainly with fruits, veggies and whole grains, that is).

As I began reading and writing more about nutrition, I also began to worry about the things like growth hormones and antibiotics that go into modern meat and dairy products, or the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in conventionally raised grain-fed livestock. Both of those are still valid concerns–but easy to get around by only consuming organic milk, meat and dairy from hormone-free grain-fed animals.

I got pretty comfortable with the idea of eating mostly vegetarian or vegan, but buying what I considered healthy meat and dairy foods occasionally; or not cooking and eating meat and dairy at home but only when eating out or at parties. That kind of philosophy brings its own problems–it’s easy to start making way too many exceptions. But that’s a surmountable type of problem. The reason I currently believe (and that’s as strong a statement as I’ll make about it, because nutrition is complicated, and disease even more so) that eating a meat and dairy free diet is best for overall health is due to the nutrition classes I’ve been taking recently.

The courses are overseen by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study. Unlike many famous nutrition gurus, Campbell has done some serious legwork; a longtime biochemist, professor and nutrition researcher, he started studying the effect of diet on animal and human health in the 1950s. Back then, Campbell was no proponent of veganism–he’d grown up on a dairy farm, and his early research focused on the importance of animal protein. But the more research he did on diet and health (or, more specifically, on diet and disease) the more Campbell became convinced that a “whole foods, plant-based diet” was best. He’s been vegan himself since around 1990–though vegan and vegetarian aren’t terms he uses.

“I never intended to seek out evidence to support vegetarianism or veganism because of any preconceived ideas or experiences,” he told an interviewer in 2007. “Indeed, I tend not to use the ‘V’ words because they often infer something other than what I espouse.” 

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    • Mila

      That is a great decision! Keep us posted & good luck!

    • wdcurry

      spend some time researching how dairy cows life lives in abject horror, how piglets are crushed against concrete floors, how baby male chicks are ground up alive, how .. on and on.. and perhaps the scope of your ability to maintain this “resolution” might stick. To so lightly toss out that you don’t care about the animals but only your personal health is a rather unsightly statement, one showing true depth of character. Don’t shoot the messenger, but accept the reality of this perception you cast out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/enbrown Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Um, okay, I am accepting the reality of the perception I cast out, but I’d also like to note that I didn’t say that I “didn’t care about animals,” just that my primary motivation for going vegan has to do with health, not animal welfare. We’ve run plenty of veganism-from-an-animal-rights perspective pieces and there’s no shortage of them out there in the world either. That’s not what this piece was meant to be.

      • wdcurry

        Your own words explain your true stance: “my concern has little to do with animal welfare and everything to do with personal health”

        The language here is clear: you do state the animals welfare is of no concern in your actions. My view here is not related to your overall efforts, just a reflection back on the shadow you cast with such thoughtless statements. Cheers.

      • http://www.marketmentat.com GT

        Nonsense: Ms Brown wrote “my concern has little to do with animal welfare and everything to do with personal health”.

        “Little to do with animal welfare” is absolutely not the same as “animal welfare is of no concern”: the percentage change from zero to any non-zero number is infinity.

        You’re guilty of the internet habit of inferring the most extreme interpretation of a piece of text, even when the interpretation is not there to be found, simply in order to use it as a stick with which to beat a new ‘opponent’ over the head (and why? To feel morally superior?).

        I agree that folks who become vegan or vegetarian based mostly on concern for our animal chums, do better (in terms of their ‘stick-at-it-ness’): as you said above (in the comment I “up-voted”), those folks keep in mind all the males chicks that are gassed as a prelude to egg production; all the sows in their own filth; all the male calves sent to slaughter as part of dairy production; the billions of fish dying on decks from being unable to ‘breathe’ (and the tens of billions of fish that are chucked overboard as ‘waste’)… all of the horror and inhumanity and unnecessary depraved indifference to the suffering of other animals.

        ALL of that. But any fellow-traveller ought to be welcome – and encouraged to re-examine their reasons for going vegan or veg. Bashing them over the head with ‘veggier-than-thou’ extremism detracts from our cause, yo!

      • Rosamund

        It is a great sentiment that you share, but will it change?

    • Bosworth

      Purchasing meat & dairy products from small local farms is a great way to circumvent the additives of factory farm, food-like products. It benefits are two-fold; supporting a healthy mind & body for you, and supporting the community & small business.

      Saturated fat is actually really good for your body. Your brain is composed of over 50% fat. Your body uses fat as fuel & sugar/carbs as storage. There is no faster way to gain weight than cutting out fat & supplanting it with carbs & sugar (even natural sugar).

      A good book that delves into the fallacy of low-fat diet, is Michael Pollan’s; In Defense Of Food.

      • wdcurry

        “Your brain is composed of over 50% fat” .. This is about as accurate as stating that meat and dairy support a healthy body.

      • samc

        A bit or research would show you that the brain is indeed made up of “fats”.

      • wdcurry

        You also likely believe your physiology is that of an omnivore or carnivore, would i be correct in that?

      • kat

        Please stop attacking everyone with your ignorant comments. Before you slam statements about the anatomy of the brain and call out the author on a harmless statements of opinion about her own personal beliefs regarding her own diet, not someone else’s, perhaps you should actually learn the difference between the words “anatomy” and “physiology”.

      • wdcurry

        physiology: “the branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts.”

        Seems general enough to allow you to respond to the question and not hide behind perceived semantics?

    • http://twitter.com/BrianReindel Brian Reindel

      You can read this blog entry or just watch Forks over Knives on Netflix. Kthx.

    • http://www.facebook.com/neil.kantor.1 Neil Kantor

      Bosworth, you’re absolutely correct…the body NEEDS fat, just as it NEEDS Salt, et..chloride from Salt to make HCL..for digestion in the stomach,, it is VERY difficult to impossible for MOST PEOPLE to be “healthy” on a Vegetarian or Vegan diet,,, we have been REALLY brainwashed… you don’t need a LOT of animal protein, etc. but some, absolutely, for MOST….there are HUGE amounts wrong with the China Study, and they don’t eat HUGE STEAKS in China, etc. but small amounts of animal protein, VERY nicely balanced and prepared. Americans always seem to take things out of context is the most quirky and peculiar ways…The inner “terrain” of the body is a VERY complex, and the Spectrum of foods that the “average” not very well informed vegetarians and vegans consume is drastically Deficient….Having spent MANY years in the orient, and having worked in some of the top Alternative Medicine clinics in the US, etc. I ‘ve seen it for Years, but try to tell the Know it alls…. you can’t they already Know everything…but when you actually TEST them, pH, Redox potential, Conductivity, Surface tension, Ionization potential, Zeta potential, etc. of the Blood, Urine, Saliva, etc. and other Urgently important indicators, THEN the real picture emerges, Not Guessing or Imagining…the RIGHT DIET is an UTTERLY INDIVIDUAL matter…fine tuning for each…Americans are one of the most GULLIBLE peoples on the Face of the Earth…

    • veganonboard

      Sorry to pop your bubble, but veganism is NOT a diet. ‘Vegan’ denotes the radical and critical philosophy, spirit, politics and practice of anti-speciesism, whose dietary expression is vegetarian. You’re not ‘vegan’ if you merely adopt a plant-based diet yet continue to wear leather or silk, for instance, or use the by-products of nonhumans found in a multitude of household products.

      • http://www.marketmentat.com GT

        True dat.

        No leather, no honey, no silk… as with all things, it goes too far (bees are free to leave – but their stupid loyalty to a queen keeps them at the hive: that’s not the apiarists’ fault)

        Veganism’s adherents can be admirable, but they can also be absolute asshats: to me ANYBODY who helps reduce humanity’s carnage footprint should be encouraged, not hectored for not being adequately pious (I’m not suggesting that’s what you were doing).

    • http://www.marketmentat.com GT

      I’m all for being vegan (I’m vegetarian – but I use dairy-sourced protein supplements and eat a small amount of cheese and 2 eggs a week), but not for health reasons (the health benefits are secondary to the moral requirement to do no unnecessary harm to other sentient beings: even if it was slightly deleterious to my health I would still do it… but it isn’t so YAY!).

      One thing though – get rid of whole grains: they will mess you up. Just google “Wheat Germ Agglutenin” and “wheat belly”.

      Modern wheat is bad for humans: the development of high-yield semi-dwarf wheat by Borlaug in the 1960s happened from unimpeachable motives, but it resulted in a ‘new wheat’ (now the overwhelmingly dominant strain) that is basically a human-system disaster. The protein’s bad for you; the so-called ‘complex carbs’ in whole-wheat bread (amylopectin and amylose) have a higher GI than sugar; the gluten digestive by-products bind to opiate receptors (and they work the same way: giving people the opiate-blocker Narcan makes them eat less… that’s why Naltrexone is now approved for dietary use and not just treatment of heroin addiction). WGA plus gliadorphins/gluteomorphins plus amylopectin-A makes this a cocktail of addiciton, obesity and inflammatory tissue damage.

      Wheat is a diabesogenic. So if you’re doing it ‘for your health’, find other ways to get your carbs.

      As my father in law discovered when he cut wheat out of his diet (due to non-coeliac gluten intolerance), you will also lose about a kilo a month (he had no extra weight to lose, so we have to make efforts to fatten him up to ‘normal’ weight).

    • A

      The links between protein intake and cancer in animals exposed to a known carcinogen are interetsing but there is not where near enough detail in this article. What you talk about is purely descriptive, non mechanistic science. There are some glaring over interpretations (probably not your fault but you cannot just write things without any evidence). Also, since when is a virus, not an environmental cause of cancer? And what is ‘a virus induced cancer gene’? I am soon to have a PhD in pathology and immunology and this is news to me.

      Sorry to be so critical but I worry about how science is conveyed to the general public. Skepticism is a readers best friend.

    • hbradish

      If you’re fortunate enough to be able to pick up milk from a farm where you can talk with and scratch the cows, you’re one lucky person! Don’t pass this up!
      Milk is the King of Foods. Nothing else even comes close.

      And yes I understand there are allergies, intolerance, etc. This is unfortunate for a small minority of people, especially low among kids.

    • Italics Mine

      I respect your right to choose. So, please, if you get the power and the glory to rule, please don’t make a law that everyone has to go vegan, and submit to urine analysis to prove it.

    • Eric

      High meat and protein intake promotes tumor growth because it increases the growth rate of *all* cells. Tumors are typically even more sensitive to factors such as IGF-1 and so the effects are magnified. However, there’s a caveat to this, and that is that cancer cells fuel themselves with glucose. On a ketogenic diet (almost always involving high amounts of meat/fish), devoid of carbohydrate, some studies have shown tumor cell growth to slow or stop completely. So, given that information, you could say high protein diets OR high carb diets promote cancer. There is no simple answer.

      Typically, epidemiological studies have found that vegetarians and vegans have lower disease risk than their omnivorous cousins. But whether this is due to their diet, or their multitude of other better lifestyle choices (fewer vegetarians smoke, they exercise more, they weigh less, etc.) is hard to say. Pescetarianism (vegan + fish), based on population studies, is likely the healthiest option. But that’s my own opinion and hard to prove.

      Health is incredibly complex; for example, here is a study done on brachial artery dilation that directly contradicts what you would infer from the study referenced in this article. Here, they found that foods with high GI hurt endothelial cell function (one of said foods was cornflakes) http://www.lifeclinic.com/fullpage.aspx?prid=627806&type=1

      All in all, carbs, protein, and fat all cause cancer. So what’s the answer to it all? There is no “the way and the light” for diet. You must decide on your goals in life and find the diet that will allow you to achieve those goals with all your might. The greatest longevity (and perhaps also the most misery) will likely be found through a CRAN diet. Athletic performance is hard to measure, but is *probably* optimized through an omnivorous diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol are important precursors to testosterone; increased consumption of both raises testosterone levels. Happiness? That’s up for you to decide.

      I appreciate the article you’ve written; don’t let people suffering from severe cognitive dissonance dissuade you that any singular diet is the only “right” diet. Diet is a personal endeavor..

    • Jared

      Lack of animal protein has left you stupid an ignorant enough to write this uninformed article.

    • http://www.drwhalen.com/blog.html Santee Chiropractor

      Wow. That’s what I call good discipline. How do you manage to do that? I find it really hard.