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David Baxter

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It's time to kick the high-protein diet habit ? before it kills you
by Holly Baxter, The Guardian
March 5, 2014

Whenever I order a veggie burger, the question comes up. A member of the group will lean over between tearing meaty chunks out of their double-beef special, and make a concerted effort to feign benevolent interest as they ask: "So, you're a vegetarian, are you? Is that because you prefer it or for, well, ethical reasons?" Here, the questioner is offering the questioned a polite way out. It is phrased so you can apologetically gesticulate towards your halloumi and mutter something self-deprecating about a weak stomach and a delicate constitution. You can chow down quietly on your balls of fried falafel and then scuttle off with your quiet personal views about factory farm conditions, global warming and antibiotic overuse like someone who secretly believes in a particularly suspect 9/11 conspiracy theory. Either that or you can admit that your food choices are, yes, "technically for ethical reasons", and then endure the 212th exhaustive conversation about exactly why you stick to them. Inevitably, this will end up with some well-informed carnivore telling you all about how you are a hypocrite for eating cheese while bacon fat drips slowly down his chin.

Personally, I am completely on board with the idea that most of my views are hypocritical while I still buy butter and enjoy mozzarella. I accept that my position on food is complicated, as well as everybody else's, and I couldn't care less about the bacon fat or the spaghetti bolognese or the rare steak being consumed next to me. Like the majority of people in Sudbury, Suffolk, I don't think that butcher's shops should have their dead animal displays censored when all they do is quite rightly draw attention to the reality of where meat comes from. And to be perfectly honest, a sizeable chunk of my reasoning for vegetarianism comes from a selfish place: I've always had the vague notion that meat ? and, in particular, red meat or processed meat ? doesn't do the human body much discernible good.

According to the latest study into protein consumption, it turns out that this theory may well have something to it. The National Health and Nutrition Survey has been collating data on 6,381 people across the US, and found that diets rich in animal protein (as opposed to protein routinely taken from plant sources) could be as harmful to health as other vices such as smoking. Those under the age of 65 who regularly consume a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times more likely to die of cancer or diabetes ? although it's worth noting that, if you make it to 66, beginning to eat a high-protein diet for your remaining years is a better shout than sticking with the steamed kale.

Perhaps you would accuse me of perpetuating the "everything gives you cancer" agenda. But it's not only sensationalist carcinogenic claims that deserve attention in light of these findings. Consider the diets endlessly touted in women's magazines and the most successful self-help books of the late 20th and early 21st century: the Dukan diet, for instance; the internationally renowned Atkins plan; and of course "going paleo". All of these emphasise a drastic cut in carbohydrate intake and a regular protein overload. All of them claim to base their advice on medicine (and, in the case of the paleo diet, sketchy pseudo-scientific claims about what we are "naturally intended" to eat if we are to "mimic the diets of our caveman ancestors".) Now it turns out that losing all that weight for your health might be backfiring spectacularly, taking months of your life off with every spare tyre you shed.

Having been raised in a vehemently anti-veggie northern English city on a steady diet of chicken nuggets and turkey dinosaurs, years before Jamie Oliver began to suggest there was anything wrong with feeding kids the components of dog food, I don't expect to reap the benefits of a lifelong healthy diet anytime soon, either. But if it's true that 39% of women report being on a diet "most of the time", and that the average woman spends 31 years on a diet, then we in particular are setting ourselves up for serious middle-aged falls.

Where protein shakes for "bulking up" and adverts that demand to know whether or not a passerby is "man enough" to eat a five-tiered burger have remained masculine domains since time immemorial, the high-protein dieting phenomenon is fairly new for women. The long-term effects haven't emerged in enough numbers to draw definite conclusions, but this latest finding shouldn't be ignored. It is a credible warning about a society currently obsessed with protein and weight loss, operating in meat production hyperdrive with some of the most accessible fast food that ever existed.

Ultimately, it makes no difference whether you did it for the love of fluffy lambs in spring or deep-seated narcissism combined with a fierce survival instinct: the fact is you should probably eat less meat. You may well have to face a couple of awkward questions over a bowl of hummus, but hey, we all have our crosses to bear. And so, for the love of the NHS, please consign your well-thumbed paleo book to the dustbin. Because it turns out that you may be taking its simpering promises to make you thinner literally at your own peril.
 

GaryQ

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Every day billions of poor helpless plants and vegetables are slaughtered

I'm going to save a plant today: Going to Harvey's for lunch but no lettuce on my burger :D
 

Daniel

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I became a vegetarian over 20 years ago because of Peter Singer -- a philosopher/professor who wrote a lot against animal cruelty. Ironically, he doesn't have the same compassion for humans, especially those with disabilities. Many have said he has been in his ivory tower too long.
 

David Baxter

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Not sure if you know or like the musician Moby but he writes a lot about being a vegetarian or vegan for that reason - animal cruelty.

I'm not a vegetarian although I do struggle with the animal rights issues and I think that some of the ways mega-farms in particular treat animals bred for food is utterly appalling and unconscionable. Converting to vegetarianism or veganism does require extra work and extra vigilance to ensure that one gets the needed nutrients, though.

Like Holly Baxter in the article above (no relation by the way, as far as I know), my current focus is more on reducing beef consumption especially for health and environmental reasons. Beef farms take a lot of real estate and are not even close to being environmentally friendly.
 

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Some "caught on video" incidents I saw on the news in the last year in a couple poultry establishments was quite troubling etc.

I too have cut back on red meat for health reasons but what really helped cut back is the insane prices of beef lately.
 

Daniel

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but what really helped cut back is the insane prices of beef lately.

Don't get me started on the prices of fake hot dogs, burger patties, etc., often still made out of the same ingredients as cheap dog food (soy, wheat gluten, etc).
 

David Baxter

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Well, yes. But cutting back on meat doesn't mean you have to eat fake meat, right?
 

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Yes, I see them as more like training wheels for the new vegetarians/vegans. My husband though still likes the fake ground beef as ground beef was the only meat he ate before becoming a vegetarian. When I met him, he had a beef cow as a pet in the backyard :)
 

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By the way, I have found it helpful to think of healthy vegetarian diets as usually starch-based diets, and that is one way of eating affordably and healthy at the same time:

The food industries’ goals have been, and always will be, to entice the consumer to eat more meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and processed foods because those are the high profit items. Rice, corn, and potatoes are plentiful, easy to grow, and cheap.

https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2009nl/feb/starch.htm
 

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My next do-it-yourself project: Meatless ground beef made with quinoa, brown rice, and black beans.

 

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There are a few very good points about eating too much protein in this post. However, I am not a vegan nor vegetarian. I don’t plan to become one personally I would find it too challenging to enjoy this type of diet. I like a variety of foods in my life and plan to do so for the remainder of my days. Although, As an avid exerciser, outdoor enthusiast and a mother of 2 growing boys I find it essential to feed them the necessary protein that assists them to grow. Because I have a nutrition background I offer them a wide variety of options when eating. It is important not to eat 5lb of meat in a sitting with no vegetables! These are the types of practices that end you life earlier.

Having been raised’ organic’ but not intentionally organic ( because it wasn’t hyped and shoved down ones throat) I realize and do agree with the mass production meats and poultry are poorly practiced��

BALANCE is the key. For both eating and living a health life. If you want to eat an all meat diet than that is your choice.
 
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Daniel

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Yes, the nutritional arguments for a vegetarian diet are quite lacking scientifically, especially since most of the saturated fat in people's diets comes from cheese -- not meat. I think it's still possible that vegans may have the healthiest diet (minus processed foods), but the science is lacking there, too. And it's still possible to eat unhealthy on a vegan diet (e.g. too many oils, carbs, etc).

So my experience is that most of the vegetarians I know became a vegetarian for ethical, rather than nutritional reasons. But dairy cows actually have a harder life (it seems to me) than beef cows. When I lived in Florida, my "neighbors" were several hundred beef cows. They seemed pretty happy to me. (What allowed me to move so quickly to Arizona was the rancher next door bought my property the first day it went for sale.)

Personally, we raise our own eggs/hens since my husband grew up on a farm and we live in a very rural area. And we give the extra eggs to our dogs, friends, etc. Some people still raise their own pigs, chickens, etc. And that to me is the ideal situation -- to get away from factory farming.
 

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Also:

The Mediterranean diet also ranked first on the US News and World Report list for easiest diet to follow, best plant-based diet and best diet for diabetes. It came in second for best heart-healthy diet, just behind DASH.

Meals from the sunny Mediterranean have been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart, a lower risk of dementia and breast cancer, and longer life, along with a reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.

The diet emphasizes simple, plant-based cooking, with the majority of each meal focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds, with a few nuts and a heavy emphasis on extra virgin olive oil. Say goodbye to refined sugar or flour. Fats other than olive oil, such as butter, are consumed rarely, if at all.

Meat can make a rare appearance, but usually only to flavor a dish. Meals may include eggs, dairy and poultry, but in much smaller portions than in the traditional Western diet. However, fish are a staple, and an optional glass of wine with dinner is on the menu.

Keto diet ranks last on 2018 'best diets' list - CNN

"No single diet is the best for all of us," writes David Katz, one of the panelists, in a release about the new rankings. "Ultimately, a 'best' diet is one that can be adopted, managed and sustained over time," says Katz, who directs the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

From Vegan To 'Keto' And Mediterranean: Experts Rank 2018's Best Diets : The Salt : NPR
 

Daniel

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diets rich in animal protein (as opposed to protein routinely taken from plant sources) could be as harmful to health as other vices such as smoking.

In a surprising turn of events, my vet is telling me that my senior dog needs less meat-based protein as a preventative measure. This is because the protein may be what is raising some of her kidney values (BUN/creatine ratio). So I just bought canned vegan dog food and will be mixing it with her regular canned dog food.
 

Daniel

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Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians

Plants are what our apey and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving. In other words, there is very little evidence that our guts are terribly special and the job of a generalist primate gut is primarily to eat pieces of plants...

What our histories and ancestral diets offer is not an answer as to what we should eat. It is, more simply, context. Our ancestors were not at one with nature. Nature tried to kill them and starve them out; they survived anyway, sometimes with more meat, sometimes with less, thanks in part to the ancient flexibility of our guts.
 

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The best foods good for kidneys

Salmon, tuna, and other cold-water, fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can make a beneficial addition to any diet.

The body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, which means that they have to come from the diet. Fatty fish are a great natural source of these healthful fats.

As the National Kidney Foundation note, omega-3 fats may reduce fat levels in the blood and also slightly lower blood pressure. As high blood pressure is a risk factor for kidney disease, finding natural ways to lower it may help protect the kidneys...

Some types of protein may be harder for the kidneys, or the body in general, to process. These include red meat.

Initial research has shown that people who eat a lot of red meat have a higher risk of end-stage kidney disease than those who eat less red meat. However, there is a need for more studies to investigate this risk.
 
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