Every animal species in the wild instinctively knows which foods to eat. A lion cub instinctively goes for meat and an elephant calf eats grasses, leaves and tree bark. We would never think of feeding leaves to a lion or meat to an elephant!
We humans have strong instinctual knowledge too, but when it comes to food, our social conditioning ends up battling with our instincts…and usually wins. One proof of this is that when we see ripe fruits and vegetables our mouth waters and we feel like eating them, often times even raw. On the other hand, if we see a chicken or a goat walk by, not only do we not salivate, but we certainly don’t pounce on them, tear them apart and eat them raw, like a dog or a tiger does. We may salivate…but only after the chicken or goat has been slaughtered, bled out, cut into pieces, cooked, seasoned and presented on a plate.
Over time human beings have quashed their instincts, and have learnt to eat dog food (chickens), lion food (goats, sheep, cows and pigs) and calf food (cow milk), even when we have an abundance of mouth-watering fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses and seeds readily available to eat. The main reason for this is that we just do not think much about what we eat or why we eat what we eat. We have been taught to eat these foods by our family and our society (which have then been ingrained into us by widespread and nonstop advertisements), and we have gradually become habituated to crave foods that are made to look and taste appetizing, bring comfort to us, are linked to our childhood and festivities — even though they are not designed for us by nature.
Animal-based foods, which include meat (the flesh of any animal, including fish), eggs and dairy products (like milk, curd, ghee, etc) — basically any food which is sourced from an animal — have not been designed for us by nature. Because of that, it is easy to understand why the increased consumption of animal products in recent years has resulted in an epidemic of chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, obesity, auto-immune diseases, osteoporosis…and the list goes on and on.
There is extensive scientific evidence and medical research that concludes that not only is a plant-based diet the most suitable for our species, but also that many chronic lifestyle diseases can be halted and even reversed by switching to a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet.
The root cause of these debilitating (and sometimes deadly) chronic diseases is due to the fact that, as opposed to plant-based products, animal products:
1) Contain Excess Fat
2) Contain Excess Cholesterol
3) Contain Excess Protein
4) Contain Hormones
5) Are Acidic
6) Lack Fibre
Let’s look at this list more carefully and compare the effects of animal and plant-based foods on our body:
o Animal Products: Fat content is extremely high. Sources of animal fats tend to contain lots of saturated fat and cholesterol, which contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.
o Plant Products: Fat content is low (and in most cases nil). Plant sources of monounsaturated fats (like those found in avocados, nuts and seeds) are associated with a lower risk of dying from heart disease. They are typically also rich in vitamins, polyphenols and polyunsaturated fats — longer-chain fatty acids which are known to be heart-healthy.
o Animal Products: Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need. Dietary cholesterol, present only in animal products, causes a plethora of health problems such as heart ailments, diabetes, obesity, kidney problems, etc.
o Plant Products: Plant based foods do not contain any cholesterol at all. In fact, many plant foods can actually lower cholesterol or block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
(Source: Harvard Health Publishing, 2019)
o Animal Products: Protein content is extremely high. An increase in animal protein in our body increases our rate of disease. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted, The China Study, it was clearly established that the consumption of animal protein is the main cause of cancer growth.
o Plant Products: Animals are a second-hand source of protein: All protein is originally made by plants! The above mentioned study also established that not only is plant protein far healthier than animal protein, it can actually reduce cancer growth due to fibre content and other essential nutrients not found in animal products.
(Source: The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell II, 2005)
o Animal Products: Animals naturally produce hormones (whether the animal was raised following organic practices or not). They usually are injected with more in order to increase size/volume/productivity. (They are also injected with antibiotics.) Eating animal products means ingesting substances that wreak hormonal havoc in our bodies, and promote diseases such as type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), and osteoporosis.
o Plant Products: Plants produce absolutely no hormones that are adverse to human health. They therefore do not cause hormonal imbalances or diseases.
(Source: Reversing Diabetes in 21 Days by Dr. Nandita Shah, 2017)
o Animal Products: Acidic foods, like all animal products, create a conducive environment in our body and thus increase the risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, kidney ailments, and inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis, gout), etc.
o Plant Products: Nearly all plants are highly alkaline. As Dr. Otto Warburg, 1931 Nobel Prize winner for cancer discovery said, “No disease, including cancer, can exist in an alkaline environment.”
(Source: Compilation of research papers on Alkaline Diet, by Brendan Brazier)
o Animal Products: Animal food contains no dietary fibre. Fibre deficiency increases the risk of colon, liver and breast cancer, increases the risk of constipation, cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, diabetes…and the list goes on!
o Plant Products: Plants are full of fibre! Though not considered a “nutrient,” fibre is a complex mixture of dietary residues, chiefly carbohydrates, that are not digested or absorbed by the human small intestine but have numerous health benefits, like reducing the risk of cancers of the digestive tract (especially colorectal cancer), cutting the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowering the odds of heart disease and arterial sclerosis, creating healthy gut bacteria, reducing constipation, maintaining a healthier weight over time…and the list goes on!
(Source: Article in The Lancet, December 2019, by Stephen J O’Keefe)
In addition to the above, all animal products contain additional substances that are tremendously harmful to human health. For example, all dairy products, even organically sourced, contain pus and urea. Most dairy products also contain pathogens (like Salmonella, Listeria and E-coli), antibiotics and pesticides, and often other toxic substances like nanoparticles of plastic. Meat and eggs contain antibiotics and pesticides, while fish contain high levels of mercury, plastic and radiation, as the oceans are polluted with these substances. Thus, eating animal products means ingesting not just “the bad stuff” that those products naturally contain, but also a slew of toxic substances that humans have more or less unconsciously added to those products. It goes without saying that all this contributes to today’s ill health and tomorrow’s chronic disease.
It stands to reason that if we eat only the foods most suitable to our species, we are more likely to maintain good health, less likely to fall sick and if we do get sick, more likely to heal. Recognizing that plant-based foods should be our “chosen” diet is the best first step we can take. Furthermore, eating organic, whole (unrefined) plant-based food is really the diet of choice and will allow us to attain optimum health, in body, soul and mind.
– Amit Dudani, research assistant at SHARAN