There is a long standing argument about whether humans are natural meat eaters, or natural plant eaters. Well we can finally put that argument to rest because science tells us humans are natural plant eaters, not predators. Wait, science has also taught us that humans are natural omnivores.. hmm.. so which is it and why do we get so many varying results when it comes to peer reviewed studies about the ever evolving human diet? The only diet of any species to continually evolve.
There are many factors as to why results would vary and unless you are physically following an enrolled patient during the entire course of a trial, you really can’t know for certain if they’ve been following Protocol. How and what the regulatory body approves in the Protocol itself is also a major factor. For example; Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling, discovered that high dose ascorbic acid administered intravenously for the treatment of the common cold and cancer can actually help cure both. However at the time, his Protocols were originally only approved using an oral method of low doses of vitamin C. That already set it up for failure and it wasn’t until years later that vitamin C became recognized as being effective in helping recover from and avoiding the common cold. Now it is slowly receiving recognition as a beneficial addition to cancer therapy and is a growing practice in many Homeopathic and Naturopathic offices. But science originally”debunked” that “theory” and labeled Pauling a quack. Now his data is widely supported.
There does seem to be a growing number of published clinical trials that strongly support a vegetarian or vegan diet over an omnivorous one, so I think it’s safe to say that the scientific scales have tipped in favour of plants. The new proposed Canadian Food Guide might even be eliminating dairy from their category and moving plant foods above the meat category. That’s a major change in what our daily food recommendations are from our one major source on health information, compared to what it was when I was growing up. I mean this is THE food chart, the four major food groups. The one our parents and teachers taught us to follow our entire lives, the one meat eaters refer to as gospel when trying to disclaim veganism, the one that the meat/poultry category was once the leader of.. and then somewhere along the way carbohydrates took a lead. But nowhere along the way did anyone question why there is such little consistency in the science behind these recommendations.
So are humans natural predators or plant eaters? Here’s how we can tell without having to sift through thousands of conflicting clinical trials. Instead, just for fun, let’s give ourselves some credit for having qualities that not only scientists possess, but two that we all possess. Common sense and logic. Sometimes it seems easier to not have to use either, but it’s amazing what can happen when we do.
Humans love to complicate things, from relationships, to politics to diet and lifestyle. For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve seen countless changes in diet trends. From the best way to lose weight, gain muscle, feel energetic and younger, to avoiding disease. The one thing they have in common is that they are all based on the same two practices, restrictions and moderation. Replace your breakfast and lunch with a meal replacement shake to lose weight, says your Dietician. Eat plenty of animal protein to keep your strength up and build muscle, says your trainer. Eat less carbs, more chicken breast, red meat in moderation and take these cholesterol pills, says your MD.
So let’s start with ‘in moderation’ and see what our common sense tells us. For this I’ll use a common analogy that people love to use when someone tells them they’re vegan. “What would you do if you were stranded on a deserted island, would you eat meat for survival?” Before I use a similar analogy as an example, I’d like to answer that question for anyone that has asked it. No I wouldn’t eat animals, for the same reason I wouldn’t suddenly start eating humans, should I stumble across one on this deserted island. They aren't a food source for me. I have been to such places, one was an island where all I could eat for the week was a very limited variety of poor quality fruits because the options just didn’t exist where I was staying. Vegans often find themselves in similar situations, not deserted islands, but places that are unable or unwilling to accommodate their dietary needs and I do believe that most wouldn't suddenly eat a burger because there were no other easily accessible options.
This would be no different on a deserted island. I would eat the same as any other frugivorous or herbivorous animal that may inhabit that island. I’m assuming this island is a warm tropical place that people are always referring to. Therefore there would likely be a more easily attainable abundance of tropical plant sources, like coconuts, bananas, mangoes, berries, tree bark, leaves, seaweed, as opposed to easily hunted meat sources. Enough plant sources that could make the most devout urban meat eater go plant-based. Even one with gun-hunting and fishing experience using store bought gear and bait.
So here I am on a deserted island, but in this analogy I’ve been here since childhood, all alone with no one to guide and teach me how and what to eat ‘in moderation’. I’m surrounded by coconuts, mangoes, papayas and lots of bananas and plantains. I love to eat, so I eat a lot of these things often because they taste great and I don’t know how to eat in moderation because common sense doesn’t tell me how and I have no clinical trials to refer to on this island.
So now how does a person living primitively and alone on a deserted island from a young age know how to eat in moderation? They don’t. Nor do they need to know how. They can eat as many bananas as they want and not have to worry about diet related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, or even type 2 diabetes with all that sugar. They wouldn’t be juicing their fruit, but rather eating them in their natural state with their fiber and enzymes in tact. They also likely wouldn’t be ingesting toxic animal fat, causing severe spikes in blood sugar and eventually leading to diabetes, because instinct wouldn’t tell them that killing for food is necessary. That is something they would need to be taught.
Let’s take a look at the definition of ‘in moderation’ when it’s applied to diet. “Meat is good for you, ‘in moderation’.” “Drinking wine is good for you, ‘in moderation’.” “Vitamins are good for you, ‘in moderation’.” “Eating your fruits & veggies are good for you, ‘in moderation’.” Wait no, eating your fruits and veggies are good for you when eaten frequently. Vitamins only work well in higher doses than the current recommendations and most are best attained from plant sources. Eating meat and drinking wine are not good for you in moderation. But consuming them frequently would be worse. So just by adding the term ‘in moderation’ we’ve given ourselves permission to continue to do things that aren’t good for us, because we’ve taken that term and applied it to everything, because "everything is good for us, in moderation". Except it's not.
The solution is really so simple. We have complicated our dietary needs so much so, that scientists have to change the recommendations time after time because nothing makes sense for long. How could anyone keep up with all these ever evolving rules and restrictions? It’s no wonder there is a health crisis in so much of the western world.
Just as common sense doesn’t teach us how to eat certain foods in moderation, logic also tells us that common sense wouldn’t identify what a ‘food animal’ is to us. By food animals, I’m referring to the ones that we’ve deemed farm-able and for consumption. Most commonly cows, pigs and chickens. Sometime before science could have been a factor, someone must have used their common sense to know that humans need cow’s milk to survive, right? We were always taught that babies, toddlers and children need it for it’s calcium and for bone growth. So when the human baby is weened off their mother’s milk, their mom will instinctively know to switch to cow’s milk. Humans are the only species with this instinct as all other species stop drinking milk altogether after having been weened off their mother’s milk. I hope my facetiousness doesn’t get lost in translation. There is no instinct that would tell a human mother to switch her child to another species milk after they’ve been weened. Common sense would tell us that when they are done weening, they are done with milk. Society tells us otherwise and so does the flawed science behind our food charts. The one that still currently tells us we need dairy for it’s calcium… now that’s a whole other post.
We shouldn’t have to learn how to eat, when to eat, what animals to eat, which parts of them to eat and how much of them to eat. Instinct should tell us that. Common sense should have us questioning the logic behind eating an animal that is so much larger than us in size or weight, such as cows and some pigs which we have no physical capabilities of killing and dismembering without the use of an object. Some might argue that is what makes humans the superior race and that we’re meant to hunt with tools we create. That’s what our hands are for.. Or maybe our hands are for gathering, picking fruit off trees. Regardless of what our hands are for, we still can’t be natural eaters of anything or anyone “in moderation”. There is no other species that measures and moderates their level of fat or sugar intake. They eat instinctively and we should be no exception.
What we need to do is relearn how to listen to our instincts. We've become so dependent on outside sources for so long to tell us what we need, that we've unlearned how to listen to ourselves and our bodies to tell us which nutrients we're lacking, based on which foods we're craving. Unfortunately our food supply has changed so drastically and has become so processed, that what we would naturally crave has become tainted with artificial flavours and non-plant sources. When we really approach the topic logically and without bias, we see how unnatural a diet is that requires certain ‘foods’ to be eaten only sometimes and in limited amounts. If we have to monitor our intake of these ‘foods’ due to their potential of having a negative impact on our health, then they’re probably not ‘foods’ that we're physiologically meant to consume.
“People have eaten meat for centuries.” People have followed many questionable patterns over the centuries, many that would be unacceptable or unheard of today. If we are evolving, shouldn’t we evolve in a direction led by critical thinking and logic? We are more advanced now than in any other era to our knowledge and in every other aspect, yet we jump on diet trends that mimic barbaric practices from many centuries ago when people lived in caves and men may or may not have dragged their wives along the ground by their hair while pounding on their own chests with their fists.
A simple way to figure out if humans are natural predators or plant-eaters, is to evaluate and compare our digestive tract to those that eat instinctively. The digestive tracts of both carnivores and omnivores typically span 3 times the length of their torsos, whereas a humans spans around 10 times the length of theirs. That is identical to that of a frugivore. Even our mouths, teeth and jaws tell us we have the characteristics of a frugivore and nothing comparable to a predator. A plant eater has an alkaline pH, whereas a predator has a pH so acidic, it can dissolve bone. I personally like to think of us as herbivorous frugivores, since we can thrive on most plant sources. But since our digestive tract, jaws and hands, reflect that of a frugivore by 100%, both logic and common sense tell me that we can and are meant to survive and thrive on a diet made up solely of fruit. That would make eating anything else a choice and not a necessity.