Meat & dairy – myths and misunderstandings

As with sugar, this is a topic where many people need to unlearn much of what they have been taught about ‘healthy’ options.

Dairy products are still animal protein. On this diet you want to avoid them. There are plenty of milk substitutes out there, and you can even find recipes for dairy –free cream and cheese!

However while dairy alternatives such as rice, soy or almond milk are all fine, but there is no evidence they are better than dairy milk. Avoid those with added sugar. Some people like these and some people find them not to their taste.

Although dairy is a source of calcium, the benefits of this are unclear. Studies have shown that those who do not consume dairy live longer and have less osteoporosis, but there are no randomised controlled trials.

Calcium is found in leafy green vegetables, tofu, almonds and swede. Eat a lot of these foods when you cut down on dairy.

Meat protein seems to be particularly bad for the cardiovascular system. It is also not very nutritious because in Western societies we generally just eat the muscle and not the nutritious offal. Thus we are gaining the dangerous protein and not even benefiting from the vitamins and minerals.

If you choose to eat meat in the future, eat meat only on special occasions (less than once per month ideally). It has been shown to increase lots of diseases. If you eat meat, choose fresh meat (eg steak) over processed meat (eg salami, bacon, ham).

Flatulence – many meat-eaters tell me they make too much wind if they eat legumes. It is true that legumes cause some wind, but wheat is the largest source of non-digestible carb in our diets. This means that bread causes more flatulence than beans! Meat protein causes the most sulphur which is the smell in bowel gas. Thus those who combine meat with vegetables make the largest, smelliest amount of flatulence. I recommend cutting out the meat – this is the healthier option!

If this is a real problem, the highest gas producers are: grasses (wheat, oats, corn, millet, barley, sorghum), dairy, sugars (including sorbitol, maltitol etc), fruit (esp apples and pears) and vegetables such as onion family, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Experiment with this in mind. In the beginning you can also use products such as “beano” which are digestive enzymes and work well.

It is normal and healthy to produce quite a lot of gas and to open one’s bowels up to 3-7 times per day. We are supposed to eat 25-200g fibre per day and our bowels are designed for this (we currently eat <12g/day). But it will take quite a while for the gut to respond to the new regime!

Meat is not as good a source of iron as people think. Only meat offal (liver and kidneys) and oysters are high sources of iron. Meat muscle (steak) contains the same iron as chickpeas and isn’t particularly better absorbed due to the other things we eat at the same time. Variety remains the most important source of iron.

Photo courtesy of Sean Watts

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