Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Post - Your Body's Design

I'd like to take a minute to introduce you to one of my followers who's been with me since the beginning. The lovely and talented Hanlie, who follows a very interesting food plan (or, forgive me for saying it, but she's on an unusual diet...) Many of us cut portion sizes, count calories, or switch over to some low-fat, low sugar version of our normal crap intake. Whilst I can't quite see myself going her route, it's fascinating to read about! I greatly admire Hanlie and her determination. I hope you enjoy her views as much as I do... without further ado, I give you... Hanlie.

PS - I personally adore the fact that she has citations. I love citations.

Thank you Lynn for asking me to do a guest post!

This is NOT a post about giving up meat, but about returning to the food your body was designed to eat.

I follow and advocate eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. In other words, what you do eat is just as important as what you don’t eat. I eat mostly fruit and vegetables, and much smaller amounts of legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, etc.), nuts and healthy fats. Once or twice a week, usually when we’re eating out at other people’s houses or at restaurants, we may have something of animal origin. We’re not fanatics!

“Plant-based” means eating lots and lots of plants and very little animal products. I will never tell anyone to give up meat, and I haven’t given it up completely myself, but I do believe, based on reams and reams of independent, peer-reviewed research, that eating meat is a health compromise.

You don’t even have to be scientist to figure that out for yourself. You just have to look beyond the advertising and the cultural indoctrination and examine your own body to realize that you were not designed (or evolved) to eat animal flesh, especially not in the quantities that we’ve been led to believe we should consume.

Can you move your jaw from side to side? What about backwards and forwards? Sure you can.

Congratulations, you are a natural herbivore or plant-eater!

What’s that? Oh, you thought you were an omnivore? Sorry, that’s just another popular myth. Physiologically humans are actually not classified as omnivores, since omnivores (bears, raccoons, etc) more closely resemble carnivores, while we humans resemble herbivores.

Here are a few more reasons why animal flesh is not suitable for human consumption.

  • Carnivores and omnivores do not have any digestive enzymes in their saliva. Humans and herbivores secrete carbohydrate digesting enzymes in the mouth, which is why our jaws have such a wide range of motion - we have to chew our food well to mix the food with the saliva and start the digestive process.
  • Meat can only be digested in a very acidic environment, which is why the stomachs of carnivores and omnivores have a pH of 1 or less when there is food present. Herbivores and humans have a pH of 4-5, which means that we struggle to digest flesh.
  • The small intestines of humans and herbivores are long – between 10 and 12 times the length of the body, while carnivores and omnivores have short intestines – 3 to 6 times the length of the body.
  • The colons (large intestine or bowel) of carnivores and omnivores are short and smooth and serve only to absorb salt and water, while humans and herbivores have long, highly specialized colons, often full of sacs, nooks and crannies where vitamins are produced and absorbed, water and electrolytes absorbed, and fibrous plant-materials fermented.
  • The livers of carnivores and omnivores can detoxify vitamin A, while those of herbivores and humans can’t.
  • The urine of carnivores and omnivores is much more concentrated than ours, and that of other plan-eaters.

These are just some of the scientific differences that make meat-eating problematic for humans. It is thought that herbivores, and by definition humans, are further evolved than meat-eaters, since our bodies are more sophisticated and complicated.

Our hands are beautiful and flexible, made to pick fruit from trees and pull vegetables from the ground, not to bring down prey. We don’t have the speed for it anyway! Our mouth openings are small, because we are meant to eat small morsels and chew them well. Our teeth are not suited to tearing raw flesh from bone, but rather to bite, chew and grind our food.

We are not even psychologically equipped to eat meat. Have you ever watched a kitten or a puppy stalking things and pouncing on their “prey”? The hunting instinct is so imprinted that even thousands of years of domestication has not eradicated it. Human children don’t do that. To quote Harvey Diamond, “Place a small child in a crib with a rabbit and an apple. If the child eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.

When you’re out walking in nature and you spot a squirrel, your first thought is not to tear it apart and devour it. We find all baby animals cute and our instincts are to protect them, not harm them.

Yes, our brains have evolved to the point where we can fashion weapons and tools, hunt in groups, cook our meat, confine and keep animals, etc., but the truth is that our bodies have not evolved to tolerate the eating of animal flesh. Just because we don’t get sick or die right away when we do it doesn’t mean that we don’t pay the price in the long run. People who smoke cigarettes also don’t pay the price right away. The problem with meat-eating, as with smoking, is that prolonged strain on the body causes degeneration, which is the collective term for most of the health problems we face these days.

Medical research is telling us that people who eat little (less than 5% of calories) or no animal products not only have far less heart disease than the rest of the population, but also have much lower rates of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, gallbladder disease, kidney disease, obesity and colon disease. They live on average six to ten years longer than the rest of the population, and in fact seem to be healthier by every measurement we have of assessing health outcomes.

Add plenty of raw fruit and vegetables to a low, or non-existent, consumption of meat and you can virtually disease-proof yourself and your family. And your waist line will return to normal.

When it comes to food, habit is stupendously powerful, so don’t expect to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. The following books can help you (and your family) to make a gradual transition to a healthier life:

  • Eat for Health” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (this is more gradual and less restrictive than his “Eat to Live” program and includes loads of healthy recipes)
  • Perfect Health: The Natural Way” by Mary-Ann Shearer (the program we follow)

You will immediately notice an increase in your energy levels (it’s no coincidence that carnivores spend most of their time sleeping!). Before long you will feel better, “lighter”, healthier and mentally sharper, yet more peaceful, than you ever have before.

Additional reading:

  • The Food Revolution” by John Robbins
  • The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell
  • The Comparative Anatomy of Eating (


Crabby McSlacker said...

That's great that you've found something that works so well for you.

I'm not entirely convinced that a little meat in our diet is bad for us, but it's good to know that going meatless has so many benefits that you're enjoying!

Hanlie said...

Thank you for the beautiful introduction, Lynn!

The Merry said...

Very good post, Hanlie, and thank you for the citations! (I love it when people cite.)

I can back you up on the feeling more energy part. One problem is that transitioning to this kind of diet isn't always easy for people who've been eating the carnivore route all their lives.

Different intestinal flora for meat-based rather than veggie-based lifestyles, therefore changing over might create some internal havoc. For awhile.

Diane, Fit to the Finish said...

Hanlie - well written and thought out as usual!

We aren't vegetarians, but we do greatly limit our meat intake. We only eat it about 3 times a week, and then only poultry.

Thanks for this!

Kasey said...

I omitted meat entirely from my life for several months about a year ago and I can certainly testify to the claim regarding more energy. I didn't maintain it because I, pathetically, missed chicken subs from Quiznos far too much, but I recommend it to anyone with an open mind about trying new approaches to health (and I don't mean stupid celebrity diet fads). It's worth a try; you'll definitely feel different after your body adjusts to the new balance of fuel, and if you decide you like feeling that way, then keep it up! There's a stigma attached to vegetarians and vegans, and many people are either attracted to or repulsed by it for, in my opinion, all the wrong reasons (it's trendy, it's just for crazy animal rights advocates, etc.). For me, though, I'm far more interested in catering to the preferences of my body on a deeply biological level than to societal pressures. Right now, I limit my meat intake to poultry and fish and I avoid processed deli meats, but I may try a vegetarian diet again in the future.

Thanks for the informative post!

Losing it in Vegas said...

I did a long stretch on a vegan diet. While it was fun to learn new recipes, cook, and educate myself, it was tough to maintain. Animal products are everywhere.

I lost weight, I felt great and many things just seemed to go better.

We eat meat now. Organic and free range if possible, and usually only 2 times a week or so.

I think balance in all things is the answer.

Dani @ PFL said...

I admire anyone who can adopt a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I tried it for a stint but it was just too much of an adjustment for my family at this time.

Kudos to you for finding a plan that you feel strongly about and works for you. =)

mherzog said...

Here is a good video on the subject:

Anonymous said...

Hi Hanlie! I don't think that a plant-based diet is for me (I like animal products too much) but that being said... I have been eating a lot of veggies and fruits lately and it feels GOOD to eat cleaner than I usually do.

Journo June aka MamaBear said...

Hi, Hanlie! I went vegetarian several years ago. Lost a bunch of weight and my skin cleared up! I had rosacea pretty bad until I gave up the meat. I've added some chicken and turkey back into my diet, but there's plenty of bad stuff that doesn't have meat in it that we need to avoid, too. :-)

Miz said...

great post and love seeing two of my fave bloggers together!

it is all things in balance makes us our perfect selves huh?

I might need to look into the veggie way for the SKIN clearing properties.

Im almost there---just love me some fish :)