by Susan Schenck
Before moving to Ecuador, I had been a very strict raw vegan for six years — until I started getting deficiencies. My brain didn’t function without DHA and B12. I also lacked vitamin D and K2 for the bones. A vegetarian diet doesn’t work for everyone — the fact is, we evolved eating meat and have done so the past 2.5 million years. Some of us have adapted to a “veg” diet, but for others, peak health cannot be attained without animal products. I discuss this in my newly released book, Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work.
I have to admit, when I added meat, I felt guilty. Eating most meat in the U.S. means contributing to the suffering of animals, which are factory farmed, stuck in cages and stockyards all their lives. They're tortured in slaughter and even in life, with hormones, steroids, vaccinations, as well as a diet that is not species-appropriate (grains for cows, for example) and is full of toxic pesticides. A factory-farmed animal, poisoned by greedy ignorant humans, gets its revenge by passing along these poisons to whoever eats it.
When I moved to Cuenca, I was in cow heaven! Cows are relatively free to move around, are not separated from their calves, and are able to eat grass, their natural food. This means guilt-free healthful burgers.
What does meat have that plant food lacks? Plenty of things, as I explain in Beyond Broccoli, including carnosine for anti-aging, vitamin B12, creatine, taurine, and more. Grass-fed cattle are also rich in omega-3, crucial for our brains and for staying slim and healthy. It's also rich in conjugated linoleic acids.
In Beyond Broccoli I write: "Conjugated linoleic acids are available in the meat of ruminants: cows, buffalo, sheep, goats. These fats help with weight loss and keeping firm muscles, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. Grass-fed animals have three to five times as much CLA as grain-fed animals. CLA have promising health benefits that range from favorable body composition to reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes and lowering blood lipids. Animal foods provide 97.6 percent of the total CLA consumed, with beef providing over one-third. One study in Finland showed that a diet composed of CLA-rich foods may protect against breast cancer in postmenopausal women."
We as a species evolved eating meat, including seafood, which is critical for the brain. It is theorized that we may even have a "covenant" of sorts with domesticated animals: We take care of them, and in turn they provide us with food." But you can be sure that animals never signed up for factory farming! We need to be responsible and eat only "humanely" raised animals to the best that we can. It’s our duty to eat responsibly — and it helps keep us healthy, as well. This is much easier to do in Ecuador.
Some people think my new book means I no longer eat raw. No way: Raw is law! I do, however, eat my meat lightly steamed or very very rare, if not raw. Cooked meat is actually one of the most carcinogenic things a person can eat: Heterocyclic amines are created, the higher the temperature and longer it’s cooked. Stay away from barbecues! So if I go to California Kitchen or Inca Lounge, I get the burger “casi crudo, muy rosa por dentro”—almost raw, very pink inside. I ask them to hold the bread and cheese: “sin pan, y sin queso.”
Grains and dairy, not our original foods of Paleo times, are very toxic for humans. On a rare occasion, I may indulge in the fries, but usually it’s “ensalada en lugar de papas fritas” — salad instead of fries. And they always accommodate me. I call it my “Paleo meal” of rare meat and fresh vegetables. When I finish eating, I never have that heavy feeling I would get if I indulged in fries, bread, and cheese. I feel light and energetic.
Susan Schenck, LAc, MTOM, is a raw food, health, and weight loss coach and the author of The Live Food Factor and Beyond Broccoli. She resides in Cuenca and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.