April 20, 2013

From Vegetarian to Paleo: the Ins & Outs.

This is a tough subject.

To a vegetarian, the humane practices of some farming techniques, to eating the animal itself raises some questions on ethics. Vegetarians stand by their lifestyle through in and throughout.

I have seen both sides of the coin. I was a vegetarian for 15 years, and I still dabble in meatless eating and my own debates on a daily basis. I still abide by the rule “what works for one doesn’t work for another.”

But, the dietary habits of people go through many cycles and experiments, based on fads and the media pressure of what good nutrition and healthy eating truly is for each person. Gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, carbohydrate-free; we’ve all tried any and all of the latest greatest food experiments.

“We have eyes in front of our head, not on the sides of our head” says one devout carnivore, who swears by predatory instincts. “Just look at the gorilla, the plankton-eating whales, the elephant, even the brontosaurus; I mean these are large beasts who maintain their strength and stamina on a diet of nothing but plants and berries and nuts” says my omnivore cohorts. It’s a toss up. With ugly Monsanto and their GMO’s charging into our lives and blatantly infiltrating the very core of our health, we have to find the true meaning of good nutrition for each of us.

The Paleo diet and lifestyle is hot right now.

I have watched how some strict vegetarians are transitioning into eating chicken, fish, and eggs just to keep up with their energy demands.

It’s a slow process to transition, and it needs to be done with careful planning and consideration, but doing so doesn’t mean a vegetarian now supports the inhumane practices of the animal food groups. It simply raises the awareness of listening to your body’s needs, incorporating some local, fresh, farm-raised, grass-fed, organic animal protein where the animal didn’t have to suffer.

I don’t like suffering, of any kind. I can even call myself a part-time vegetarian because just eating the true and strict vegetarian way has limited my ability to adjust with my own bodily changes. Sometimes, I just crave a big piece of ahi tuna. I do. I admit. That’s why this is a tough subject. No vegetarian wants to come out of the closet and say that they might have some meat cravings every now and again. Maybe they give into the “gut” instinct of that craving, or suppress it and continue to nurture the vegetarian lifestyle. I applaud both ways of thinking.

Being honest with your dietary intentions is more valuable than ever.

What I am expressing is the Paleo diet is all the rage right now. It is nothing more than limiting grains, dairy, beans and foods that vegetarians thrive on, with the possible exception of dairy. I’ve seen fat vegetarians that live on bread, cheese, and a few vegetables here or there, mainly because they don’t know any better, and feel good about eliminating meat altogether. But, a sensible and whole food vegetarian diet is far more than just taking the meat out of the equation. Vegetarians have to balance their protein intake with their energy output, otherwise they risk anemia, low energy production, osteoporosis, even obesity, because the research wasn’t done prior to the meat elimination. Getting enough protein in the diet is crucial for every human on this planet. How we do it, is another story.

But, it goes deeper than that. The Paleo diet follows in the footsteps of our ancestors. The hunter and gatherer, who ate everything they killed were some of the healthiest people living. It sounds rather gory to me, as I’m not an advocate of violence at all. I shudder to think of any animal that is killed for my own personal well-being. It feels selfish.

But, the Paleo way of eating is, to me, an optimal form of nutrition.

Eating clean meats, fish, eggs, organic vegetables, nuts, good oils (coconut, Ghee, olive), and fruits—it makes sense. Basically, leaving out all “white” foods (dairy, processed anything, rice, bread, sugar) will cut down on inflammation in the body in a most wonderful way.

Every condition from Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, neurological conditions, cancer, autoimmune condition and heart health may be improved with a healthy, humane and safe Paleo diet. If a vegetarian chooses to switch to a Paleo diet, the introduction must be done very slowly, as to not disrupt the digestion process. The stomach acid production is minimal on a vegetarian diet because there is less demand for it, so give the body time to adjust to eating animal foods over time. Your gut will thank you. Throw in a probiotic too, just to keep the healthy flora rumbling around with the digestion process. If you have been eating dairy on a vegetarian diet, you can introduce meat a bit faster, as the digestion for dairy products raises the stomach acid awareness and can tolerate animal sources much easier.

This is not an easy topic to discuss, as it brings forth some passion about eating and living.

From plants to animals. From ethical to practical. It covers all the bases. But, we are all unique. We all have dietary demands and our own philosophies about the best sources of nutrition for each one of us. I guess it boils down to this:
I believe that food is our salvation for what ails us. Get rid of the junk. Open up to new ideas and creative outlets for whole foods. Go to farmer’s markets and buy local and organic. Don’t support Monsanto anything! Eat with passion and splendor. Love the food that goes into your body. Bless the source of where that food came from. And, get the quality information that will help you understand how food works in our systems. It can make a difference between living and dying. Truly.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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