There is a lot of confusion about non vegetarian food ; whether it is healthy, necessary or has some essential nutrients not found in plant based foods. However, a look at our body physiology and instinct can help us make better decisions about the food we eat. When we eat food that nature designed for us, we enjoy the best health.
Do you know there are different types of vegetarians?
1. Lacto vegetarians eat milk & milk products but no eggs & flesh
2. Ovo vegetarians eat eggs but no milk, milk products, flesh
3. Lacto ovo vegetarians eat milk & milk products and eggs but no flesh
4. Vegans do not eat any animal products, not even honey
Which one are you and why have you made this choice?
Natural food for human beings?
We must eat foods that are in line with what nature has designed for us. Foods should be whole, local, seasonal, raw, live (i.e. full of healthful enzymes). Eating natural foods is the key to good health.
With this backdrop, is it natural for us to eat non-veg food, has nature designed us for that? Let’s look at this from two perspectives:
Physiology – Below is a comparison between the human body and carnivores:
Carnivores have long, sharp, pointed teeth for eating their prey, human teeth are more for crushing & grinding food.
Carnivores have claws that help them hunt & tear apart their prey, our hands are designed to pluck & eat from trees.
Eating non veg leaves uric acid as a waste product. Carnivores’ liver is capable of eliminating much more uric acid than the liver of humans. We don’t have the enzyme uricase found in carnivores to break down uric acid.
Carnivores have a rough tongue, our tongues are smooth.
A carnivore’s saliva is acid & geared towards digesting animal protein. Human saliva is alkaline. When the non-veg food reaches the stomach, the human body has to release a huge amount of acid for digestion.
Humans have a much weaker stomach acid compared to those of carnivores who are adapted to digest meat well.
There can be more of such comparisons encompassing different body parts of carnivores & human beings, such as stomach, intestines, skin, etc. The point being that it seems that nature has not designed the human body for eating flesh foods.
2. Psychology – From the time of birth, every animal in nature instinctively knows what their food is. Human infants and children too are much more in tune with their instinct as compared to adults. When a child is shown an apple and a hen, it will play with the hen and prefer to eat the apple. This shows that we are instinctively drawn towards plant food. The sight, the colours and the smell of plant based food like fruits and vegetables instinctively draw us towards them. Notso with flesh based foods. We also cannot consume animal based foods in their raw form like other species do. They have to be cooked and spiced up to make them palatable. This shows that psychologically too, nature has not designed us to eat non-veg food.
10,000+ years ago when agriculture had not began, people used to either hunt food (i.e. non-veg) or gather food (i.e. plant based food). Even that time their diets were still primarily vegetarian as success in hunting was not a routine affair to sustain everyday food.
Exceptions to this do exist – for eg: people living in icy areas such as Arctic or Greenland, where plant vegetation is limited.
But on an overall basis, it can be inferred that it is natural for us to be primarily on a plant based diet.
Non-veg & protein
One of the key reasons for people to eat non-veg is for its protein content. It is often believed that vegetarians have limited sources of protein. Hence, let’s try to learn a bit about proteins.
The body cannot use or assimilate protein in its original state as eaten. The protein must first be digested and split into its component amino acids. The body can then use these amino acids to construct the protein it needs. Hence, it is the amino acids that we really need.
What is the best source of amino acids? Only plants have the ability to make amino acids. All animals, including humans, are dependent on plant protein – either directly, by eating the plant, or indirectly, by eating an animal that has eaten the plant.
Hence, there are no amino acids that are not available in plant food. If we eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts, we will get all the protein we need. Infact, many strong animals like elephant, camels, horses, buffaloes, etc get their protein from plant based food only, they are herbivores.
Difficult to digest
Non vegetarian food takes more time to digest vis-a-vis other foods. The easiest food for the body to break down is fruits and non vegetarian food is the most difficult to break down. To give you an idea, if fruit takes maximum 1 hour for digestion, non-veg takes atleast 4 hours. Therefore, the more non-vegetarian we eat, the more time & energy is spent by body on digestion & lesser energy is available to perform other functions such as elimination of toxic waste. Hence, our ability to lose weight is affected, energy levels reduce and also accumulation of toxic waste leads to illnesses.
Difficult to eliminate
Animal based foods are not only difficult to digest but also impair the elimination of digestive toxins from the body. All animal based foods have nofibre which is very important for proper bowel movement. Fibre is available only in plant based foods.
Disturbs the body’s acid-alkaline balance
Our body functions best when the pH of its blood is slightly alkaline, around 7.36 to 7.42. On a scale of 0-14, 0-7 is acidic & 7-14 is alkaline. Below or above 7.36-7.42 means symptoms and disease. Non-vegetarian foods are acidic in nature, i.e. they leave an acidic residue after digestion. Hence, they move the body’s acid-alkaline balance more towards being acidic.
Contains more environment toxins
All living beings on this planet have to co-exist because we are interlinked through a foodchain. A foodchain depicts who eats whom and who is eaten by whom. An example could be Grass - grasshopper - frog - snake- hawk.
Plants being the primary producers are lowest on the food chain. Eating lower on the food chain means eating mainly plants. Any pesticides found in plants are taken up by the animals eating the plants and get stored in the animal'sbody tissues. Additionally, antibiotics and hormones are given to animals. So, eating more animal based foods means you are ingesting more toxins.
Eat non-veg mindfully
Even with the above backdrop, you may still want to eat non-veg for taste and out of habit. In case you have made that choice, please be mindful about the following:
Eat it sometimes, not frequently.
Take more care when you are not feeling well. Body needs digestive rest so that it can focus on healing. Don’t burden it with difficult-to-digest foods such as non-veg.
Have a few mouthfuls and stop when you feel you have had enough.
Source a good quality - Buy it from vendors who can guarantee that the livestock was naturally grazed, not given any antibiotics, chemical additives, etc.
Eat it with the right food combination, i.e. vegetable salad or lightly steamed vegetables. Vegetables have enzymes which will help in digesting the non-veg food. This will help reduce the digestive load on the body.
4.As non-veg is an acidic food, increase the proportion of alkalinising foods such as fruits & vegetables in your overall diet. Also, try to reduce intake of other acidic foods such as processed
foods, grains, white sugar, refined oil, refined salt, etc.
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