High consequence vs. low consequence foods

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One of the main reasons I became vegetarian was because I felt sick. I needed to try something new and that is when I learned about meatless eating. Since then, I have improved my health, weight, and well-being. I have become more conscious about what I eat while avoiding meat and increasing my fruit, vegetable, and grain intake. As I studied nutritional science, I learned that not only was I benefiting my mood and energy, I was also preventing disease and sickness.

With nutritional science being so difficult to interpret and understand what is right and wrong, there are few things that we already know as truths. Fruits and vegetables are good for our health because they contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that protect our bodies cells against oxidative damage or stress. Anyone who tells you differently is pushing a made up diet that goes against the facts.

The truth is, every food can have negative health consequences for particular people. For example, a condition called SIBO (Small Bacterial Overgrowth) is a bacterial infection in your small intestine that feeds off of certain foods. In this case, foods like beans can actually contribute to the problem by feeding the overgrowth. Also, histamines found in foods like avocados and spinach can be problematic for those who have a high amount of histamines in the body due to several underlying factors. Celiac is an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks the villi in the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is found in wheat. These are particular cases with particular needs. Certain fruits and vegetables can be harmful to some individuals. However, for those of us without any of these types of issues, these foods are great for the body and have positive effects.

However, looking at animal foods like meat, dairy, and eggs we encounter a much higher risk for the average person. Not only is dairy in the top eight of the most allergenic foods, but some studies estimate that two thirds of the world’s population is lactose intolerant! The study highlighted here discusses that topic and also shows the areas where the issue is most prominent. Most humans have lost the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk after childhood, just like every other mammal. Some humans have genetically adapted to retain the enzyme into adulthood. Lactose intolerance and persistent diary consumption isn’t only unpleasant as it causes gas, cramping, and diarrhea, but creates a breading ground for bacterial infections. For this reason with digestive issues like SIBO and IBS, it is recommended to avoid dairy to clear up the infection.

In 2015 The WHO (World Health Organization) come out and stated that red meat and processed meats are carcinogens. This is no small organization and they reviewed over 800 studies. I’d say that’s pretty clear that everyone should stay away from those meats. Other meats are low in fiber, high in a harmful type of iron called heme iron, and typically full of antibiotics. Unless you are one of the few that always buys very expensive free range meats, I recommend limiting, if not getting rid of meat entirely from your diet.

Eggs are the highest cholesterol containing food on the planet! If you’re thinking that cholesterol isn’t linked to heart disease, give this a look here. Heart disease is the number one killer in our country and eggs could be potentially contributing to it.

Why is it that those who don’t eat any animal products have the lowest rate of heart disease, type two diabetes, and stroke? It has to do with what they are eating, but more importantly, what they are NOT eating. This isn’t to say that plants are always a good choice. Tequila is made from agave, vodka is made from potatoes, beer is made from wheat, table sugar is made from sugarcane, high fructose corn syrup is made from corn, and we have so many processed foods on the market that may be plant-based but are by no means healthy. The problem is when the whole plant food becomes extremely altered and refined. When plants loose their fiber and are put under extreme heat, they loose a lot of their nutrients. Thanks to table sugar and high fructose corn syrup our obesity epidemic continues to rise. Thanks to alcohol we are losing citizens to liver failure and heart disease. Processed plant foods are just as consequential as animal products.

Listen, all foods have vitamins and minerals, this is obviously good for the body. My question is, why not strive to eat the foods highest in vitamins and minerals WITHOUT cholesterol, carcinogens, heme iron, heat, and processing? We can choose to eat foods that don’t have these health consequences. They are all around us and are selling for a cheap price. Why not eat healthy plants that help prevent disease rather than eat foods that CAUSE disease. When an article comes out telling me that whole spinach causes cancer and heart disease I might change my mind, but until then, bring on the salads!

Jesse Rich