I just finished Chris Voss's Masterclass on The Art of Negotiation. It was awesome, and it got me thinking about how often we can’t, or won’t, see things from a different perspective when it comes to health and fitness. In particular, when it comes to nutrition. In particular, the plant-eaters and the meat-eaters.
For me, the only meals that don't include meat are puddings. I am a dedicated meat-eater, always have been, and it's likely I always will be, that's my bias, clear and upfront. And I know that might upset some people because, while there are many areas of health that cause passionate disagreement, there is probably no group with more widely differing opinions that the veggies and the carnies
So, in the spirit of sparking some understanding and conversation, I thought I would do a quick post to begin negotiations between seemingly sworn enemies.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to get into a discussion about who’s better. It’s simply to look at the benefits of each preference and ask “What can we learn that might help us to improve our own health?”.
Of course, I’m not talking about vegetarians or vegans that live on crackers or Heinz baked beans on toast. I’m talking about smart plant-eaters who are genuinely trying to eat a healthy diet, rather than simply avoiding meat
The one glaringly obvious thing that all meat eaters can learn from plant eaters is that eating more vegetables is a good thing, so let's start there.
More vegetables = more nutrients and more nutrients = better health. It’s often cited that many of the bestowed health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet come more from the increased consumption of vegetables and fruit, rather than from the exclusion of meat. As a meat-eater, you may well find yourself cringing every time some one suggests eating a vegetarian, or worse, a vegan meal, but you would do well to remember that more vegetables means more micro nutrients and more fibre, which means you’ll probably live a longer, healthier life, which means more time to enjoy your meat.
Better food prep and variety. Plant-eaters tend to be very good at coming up with interesting and tasty ways to eat fruit and vegetables. A meat-eaters idea of “tasty veg recipes” tends to be a handful of boiled broccoli next to their chicken breast. Vegans in particular are far more adventurous with their dishes and can make a bunch of plain looking veg taste really very good. If meat-eaters had a similar veggie repertoire, they would find it a lot easier include more fruit and veg in their diet. After all, taste is king.
Eating fewer unprocessed foods. Plant-eaters tend to eat far fewer processed foods because their entire plate generally consists of plant foods. Fewer processed foods means more whole foods, and more whole foods means more nutrients. Whereas meat-eaters often focus lovingly on the meaty portion of the meal and then just slap on a big pile of pasta or white rice as an after thought, neither of which are particularly nutritious.
Food knowledge. Because proper vegans and vegetarians are usually pretty health conscious and care about the welfare of food, they tend to be quite knowledgeable about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what foods are in season, what tastes good with what and, perhaps most importantly for individual health, what nutrients are in what foods. Meat-eaters, on the other hand, often tend to think that meat comes from the supermarket, that all meat Is in season all the time, all meat tastes good with everything, and that all the nutrients they need can be found in meat.
Not all carbs are bad. Because vegans and vegetarians have to get all of their nutrients and protein and fats from plant based carbohydrates foods, they are very good at working with carbs and choosing the healthful, nutrient dense, smart carbs. As such, they are able to consume a whole variety of good quality carbohydrates in their diet without piling on the pounds. Conversely, Meat-eaters tend to go one of two ways; Either they avoid carbs altogether because they believe that carbs will make them fat, or they fill their plates with refined or processed carbs, like pasta and white rice, which usually does make them fat and subsequently feeds into their belief that all carbs are bad.
If you are a meat eater and you've read this with a touch of defensiveness, please, put down the riot shield for a moment, grab yourself a vegan and give them a big hug, because common sense would suggest that most of the health issues you'll suffer from during your life could be improved or avoided by taking these lessons and implementing them into your own nutritional habits. Thanks veggies!