What animal products actually do to your body

I stopped eating animal products.

Hi, my name is Shelby and I have been sober from meat, dairy and eggs for seven weeks now. As a vegan I have noticed significant changes in my energy levels. I don’t take naps anymore, like I would every afternoon prior. I wake up earlier without feeling tired. After a meal, I feel full, but I don’t feel sluggish. I lost eight pounds in two weeks without even trying to do so, and I look and feel more healthy that I ever did when eating animal products. I began this endeavor after my interest was sparked by a Netflix documentary.

vegpotatoA few months ago, I watched a film called “What the Health.” The documentary is infused with scare tactics to catch its audiences’ attention, with all the disturbing horrors that come with eating meat and dairy. When I initially watched it, I found the scare tactics to be convincing, but since watching the film, I have wrestled with the curiosity over whether the information the film offered was accurate and, if exaggerated, to what extent it was accurate in the first place.

The film promotes the idea of a low-fat vegan diet. There are disturbing agricultural scenes, a focus on overweight individuals, and even a scene where cigarettes are compared to animal products, put on a plate and presented to young children. The music and setting of each scene cohesively accompanies the topic of discussion, and assertive diction is used as a persuasive tool.

Kip Anderson, a self-proclaimed “recovering hypochondriac,” is the main character of the film. He calls the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society and asks if meat causes these diseases. Of course, he gets no response.

vegcacaoI asked a few friends if they had ever watched the film, or if they had heard about the claims that the film made. Most of their immediate reactions were something along the lines of, “You’re watching a vegan propaganda film and taking to heart the facts given without further research?” My response was no. First and foremost, that is an explicit assumption, and second, the reason I was even asking around was to get a broader perspective.

To be fair, the film is full of false claims, such as that within minutes of eating dead meat, bacteria toxins are released in the body, causing a burst of inflammation and stiffening or paralyzing the arteries, or that the leading source of sodium cholesterol in the diet is chicken.

However, there are statements based on fact, such as meat’s causation of heart disease, that have influenced me to change my diet.

Yes, “What the Health” relies heavily on fear to provoke its audience, and some of their evidence is exaggerated, but there is factual evidence for health benefits to those who do not eat meat.

vegbroccoliI come from a family that hunts, fishes and grills. We have, thus far, been meat-eaters. And I love the taste of meat — or loved. My favorite food used to be an eight ounce, rare ribeye. Unfortunately for my taste buds, I will never be able to put my fork to a steak again.

What’s worse, it’s not steak or animal meat in and of itself that is inherently bad for you. It is what is in that meat that can cause detrimental damage to a person’s body.

Meat is highly acidic and acidic foods lead to an internal environment where free radicals, which cause cancer and diseases, have the opportunity to thrive and grow. Sugar, aspartame, dairy products, alcohol and nearly all processed foods are acidic. Although meat is not the only acidic food, it does have the most acidity. Not only is meat acidic, it causes inflammation within an hour of intake (not, as stated in the film, within minutes).

vegberriesAccording to a story written by Michael Greger, a physician and New York Times bestselling author, “The rise of inflammation after a meal of meat, dairy and eggs starts within just an hour of ingestion, but our gut flora aren’t in our small intestine — rather, 20 feet farther down in our large intestine.

“It can take food hours to get down there,” he states. “So, what’s going on? If the bacterial endotoxins were not coming from our gut, maybe they were coming from the food.

“For the first time ever, 27 common foodstuffs were tested and they found endotoxin equivalents in foods such as pork, poultry, dairy and egg products, as well as certain fermented foods.”

Greger states that saturated fat has other deleterious effects, such as increasing the risk of heart disease and shortening the lives of breast cancer survivors. It also has adverse effects on the kidneys as well as the blood vessels.

vegtomatoesIn addition, eating meat makes it harder to maintain a healthy body weight. When I say healthy body weight, I am not encouraging the riddance of meat just to be skinny. But health wise, meat-eaters are three times­­­ more likely to be obese than vegetarians.

Vegetarian diets are associated with faster metabolic rates — not because vegetarians are eating less or lack the nutritional value they need to maintain health, but because they are substituting the heaviness of meat with lighter sources of protein.

Protein can be found in beans, legumes, nuts, meat-alternatives (tofu and tempeh), greens, nut butters, grains (quinoa and buckwheat), almond milk, seeds, vegetables, lentils, and the list goes on.

Americans have an overemphasis on protein as it is. Have you ever met a protein-deficient person?

veghempIt’s true that one of the most accessible ways to get protein is meat — but it’s not the only way, and it is certainly not the healthiest way.

Most meats have hormones in them that can make people resistant to antibiotics. Meat carries the highest risk of food-borne illness, heart disease and diabetes, and can increase one’s risk of death. Lifestyle, diet included, accounts for 80 percent of life expectancy.

When ridding one’s diet of meat, one does not have to wait long to see results. Most people see an exponential amount of energy increase within days. This is not because what they’re eating gives them more energy, but because that person’s body no longer has to work as hard to digest its food as it would when consuming meat. Quick digesting foods have to wait for slow digesting food (meat) to digest before they get the opportunity to be digested.

veghandsAccording to a study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition,” the digestion transit time for vegetarians ranges from 27 to 54 hours, whereas digestion for meat-eaters ranges from 31 to 96 hours — a significant difference. The longer food sits in a person’s digestive tract, the more that can be absorbed from that food. Whatever is in the food you ate is now being absorbed into your body.

Dr. Baxter Montgomery, Houston cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist, began integrating a plant-based diet in his practice 13 years ago. Montgomery put patients who may have needed bypass surgery, heart-transplants or a defibrillator on a plant-based diet and saw exponential improvement in their health.

“I have treated two different patients who were in the hospital on life-support,” Montgomery said in a documentary on “One, in particular, we fed green food through her peg tube. I detoxed her in the hospital and she eventually walked out.

“Another patient who came to see us, who is in her mid-90s, came to see us at age 89, and at that time she was taking about 22 medications, including about 40 units of insulin twice a day, and she had been on insulin for 40 years. We put her on a raw detox and we got her off the insulin within a couple days. She is down to taking no medication, and she hardly has to come and see us as a patient.”

Montgomery poses the question, “If you were on an island for 25 days, you could have 25 days’ worth of baked chicken, or you can have 25 days of water — you can’t have both, one or the other — people choose the water because they know that they can’t survive 25 days without water.”

Hong Kong, the Nicoyan Peninsula, Greece, Monaco, Japan (whose people eat an Okinawa diet — feasting only on sushi and vegetables), Australia and Iceland are all amongst the top ranked places for highest life expectancy. The common denominator? Low stress, active lifestyles, and diets consisting of plants and unprocessed foods. There is no overreliance of red or white meat in any these places.

On average, Americans have a 78-year life expectancy making them 50th in the list of countries rated.

However, Loma Linda, Calif. has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the U.S. Many residents are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church recommends a vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and mind-altering drugs. Loma Linda has no fast food restaurants and the Loma Linda Market does not sell even an ounce of meat (red meat, poultry or seafood).

Heart surgeon and vegan Dr. Ellsworth E. Wareham recently turned 100. He worked until he was 95. Based on age and occupation, it is safe to say Wareham sees, and can attest to, the benefits of eating an animal product-free diet.


Although “What the Health” presents its information in an aggressive manner, and goes into assumed detail where the specified detail may be inaccurate or exaggerated, it is still highly important for people to question what they are eating, where it is coming from and what it is doing to their body.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, it is too narrow minded to say one size fits all, but learning how to combine proteins to get the nutrition your body needs is a significant tool to health.

The best way to find the right dietary lifestyle is to begin trial-and-error experimentation. Test out a meat-free diet and see how your body responds.

Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better at night? Have you stopped snoring? Have your cholesterol levels decreased? How about your circulation? Compare your meat-eating experiences with your meat-free experience and you may be surprised by how your dietary plan is affected.

It is one thing to take presented information and adjust eating habits, but it is another to take that presented information, do your own research and go from there.

While I may miss my lovely ribeye on occasion, I have learned to love my filling and nutritious meals of baconbitless baked potatoes, or my Freebird’s vegetarian bowl, guacamole included with no upcharge.

Not everyone will go vegan, or even vegetarian. Just know where your food comes from and what it is is doing to your body — it’s just a little food for thought.

Story package by Shelby Strickland, UP managing editor

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