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Why Raw Meat Is NOT the Answer For Health

Why Animal Foods and Raw Meat Are Not the Answer to Health

Recently, a book was published called “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith, a former vegan who attempts to make a case against the vegetarian diet. After over a decade on a vegan diet, she’s fallen off the wagon and is back on meat, but not because she was craving a juicy steak, but because she’s now convinced that the vegan diet destroyed her health.

Another former raw vegan who enjoys a certain popularity recently published a pamphlet on why he’s now eating meat, and was seen recently up North in my home country converting other vegans into eating meat.

If you’ve been mostly vegetarian or vegan for long enough, I’m sure you’ve stumbled into former vegans who are back on meat because they think it’s part of the answer to their health problems. You may even meet many former veggie-heads who also, like the author of “Vegetarian Myth”, think that the vegan diet made them sick and weak.

I’ve been around long enough in this movement, having bought and read with enthusiasm Diet for a New America (the “Bible” for many vegetarians) in 1995, when I was just 19.

Since then, I’ve seen all kinds of vegans and raw vegans not only fall off the wagon but go back to meat as if it’s the answer to all of their health problems.

When I was roaming California in search of some answers in my early 20s, I met many former raw vegans who were now eating raw animal products because they felt they were not thriving on a pure raw vegan diet. They felt something was missing, and were claiming that they felt so much better eating all this raw meat.

In my first years of raw veganism — I was a typical motivated raw-foodist.

I ate nothing but 100% raw vegan foods for over 4 years, and even at such a young age my health was starting to fail.

I had no energy.

My blood sugar was going crazy.

And I definitely was not experiencing the life-changing results all the raw-food books were telling me I should be experiencing by eating this way.

But I resisted stoically for many years and let my health fail while I remained staunchly raw vegan, thinking it was just a matter a time before my health turned around, once I would finally detox all these cooked food cells that were making me sick.

But at some point, after hearing all these “testimonials” from these former vegans who went back to meat, I felt some forbidden carnivorous thoughts creep into my sub-conscious.

Even after I had stopped being 100% raw, I stayed vegan because I did not want to eat animals.

But like many other people, I ended up trying to incorporate some animal foods into my diet to see what would happen and hoping that it might be the missing part to the puzzle.

Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for the cows), as I hope most former vegans will one day realize when they see their health decline in a completely different way, I found out that animal products were not the answer at all.

I tried raw eggs. I tried raw fish. I couldn’t do raw meat, even though I had considered it for a while.

I even went back to organic chicken and eggs and of course fish in all its forms, and nothing quite did the trick.

One day, I woke up and decided that I was going to eat a burger. Not a little veggie burger for “weaklings”, but a real burger as MAN must eat it — I’m talking about a real beef burger.

I also had steak on a few occasions, and other types of exotic meats.

I was sane enough not to eat it all at once, as some former vegans have done (one person I know told me once they went off the vegan diet, they started eating one pound of beef a day!).

Instead, I ate small quantities of animal products on and off for a couple years.

Did I feel better than on a 100% “eat anything as long as it’s raw” diet?
I sure did.

But was it because these animal products were providing any nutrients that my body was missing?

Absolutely not.

What most failing vegans have in common is that they are calorie-deprived.

When you’re not consuming enough total calories, it also means you’re not getting all the vitamins, minerals and even protein that your body requires.

Put an undereating vegan on a plan with some meat and they’ll instantly feel better, because meat is a very rich food, full of protein, fat and calories, and even some critical vitamins and minerals.

It’s also full in a lot of the stuff that will eventually make you sick, and I was smart enough to do more research before announcing to the world that I was now a meat eater.

If you read my books and blog posts, you know that I eventually got back on track and restored my health through the plan that I present in my programs and on this website. (High raw, sometimes all raw low fat raw vegan)

But one question remains:

Why are so many vegans unhealthy?

Before I answer this question, I must clarify that I no longer consider myself a “vegan” in the true sense of the word.

The typical vegan is primarily motivated by the welfare of animals and obsessed with only one aspect of healthful living: not eating animal products.

In that sense, I don’t consider myself a vegan.

I have no problem with other people eating meat, if that’s their choice. I don’t complain of the “horrible smell of dead carcasses” when my neighbors barbecue some steak, but I know a lot of vegans who are very vocal about these things.

I also don’t try to make my lifestyle completely vegan. The best underwear I have ever found are made from wool (from ethically raised sheep), and I wouldn’t consider wearing anything else.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy a leather jacket, but I wouldn’t also throw away a perfectly good pair of jeans if it has a bit of leather on a tag.

Occasionally and when traveling only, I might eat some animal products, such as raw honey or some ceviche (a common dish in south america made with raw fish marinated in lemon juice), as a delicacy but it’s not something I would eat every day or every week or month. I never eat any dairy products (raw or cooked).

I focus on my overall lifestyle and not just one aspect of my health. I remain convinced that animal products are NOT the answer.

Why are Vegans So Sick?

When I was reading “The Vegetarian Myth”, I was surprised at how not convincing the book was at making a case against the vegan diet.

At best, you could consider that book to be a painful therapy session for a tortured author who thinks that the vegan diet destroyed her life. At worst it’s the least convincing “meat” manifesto you’ll ever read.

The author of the Vegetarian Myth thinks the vegan diet was the cause of her health problems, yet she also admits that she’s still not healthy on her meat based diet.

“Six weeks into veganism I had my first experience of hypoglycemia, though I wouldn’t know that’s what it was called until eighteen years had gone by and it had become my life. Three months into it I stopped menstruating, which should have been a clue that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. The exhaustion began around then too, and it only got worse, along with the ever-present cold. My skin was so dry it flaked, and in the winter it itched so badly it kept me up at night. At twenty-four, I developed gastroparesis, which, again, wasn’t diagnosed or treated until I was thirty-eight and found a doctor who worked with recovering vegans. That was fourteen years of constant nausea, and I still can’t eat after 5 PM.”

She goes on and on in the book with all the illnesses she had and blames it on the vegan diet, including depression and anxiety.

In spite of eating meat, she’s still not healthy

“Between my spiritual practice and my nutrient-dense diet, I am now depressing-free, and I am thankful every day. But the cold and the exhaustion are permanent. Some days breathing takes more energy than I have”.

Obviously, she was doing something wrong and is still doing something very wrong.

Success leaves clues, and so does failure. The alleged hypoglycemia she experienced when she first went vegan was a clear sign she was on the wrong diet.

But it’s not the vegan diet that made her sick, but the type of vegan diet she was on.

I found it very strange that she wrote an entire book bashing the vegan diet, while never once describing what she ate. But I was able to gather enough clues, from her symptoms to her references to eating a lot of soy, to realize she was another unhealthy vegan biting the dust.

The Vegetarian Myth is a very poor argument against the vegan diet. Yet, it’s written with a lot of zeal and anger, and unfortunately seems to be converting many vegan back to meat.

“I’m also writing this book as a cautionary tale. A vegetarian diet—especially a low-fat version, and most especially a vegan one—is not sufficient nutrition for the human body. To put it bluntly: it will damage you”

Now that’s a quote that deserves to be demolished, especially considering the fact that she makes absolutely no real solid argument to support those claims.

In my experience, these are the following most common mistakes people make on a vegan diet that bring them to a low state of health and give such bad rap to the vegan diet.

1. Not enough calories.

A healthy vegan diet is easily explained: eat enough fruits, vegetables and starch-based foods to maintain your weight and energy, and minimize concentrated foods such as nuts and seeds or oils.

Vegan foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are very nutrient dense, but not calorie-dense. That means you need to eat a lot more of these foods to give you enough energy and maintain your weight and your health.

Many vegans are “weak” and scrawny simply because they don’t eat enough. Not getting enough calories will also mean that you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals and protein.

If someone is not thriving on their diet and has little energy, the first thing to do is to increase the total amount of calories consumed. But there’s a caveat: these calories must come from whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, and not from oil and fatty foods. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Not enough carbs.

It’s funny because most ex-vegans specifically blame the carbs for their health problems, when it’s actually one type of food they were under-eating.

Under-eating carbs means that you’ll eat too much fat, too much protein and that you won’t get enough energy to function.

That is why so many vegans feel tired all the time. It’s important to get enough calories, but also to eat enough calories in the right proportion.

In spite of what is incorrectly claimed in many anti-vegetarian books, carbohydrates are the preferred food for the human body.

How do you know that? The actual research behind this point is very extensive, but you only need to look at one thing: top athletes.

Every single winning marathon runner or Tour de France athlete thrives on a high-carb diet. Why? Because it works, and carbs are the preferred foods for the human body. Top athletes don’t eat a lot of carbs because they are philosophical vegans (most of them are not), but because that’s what they need to eat to win.

For optimal health and energy, your diet should be composed of at least 70% carbohydrates by total calories. Which leaves less than 30% for protein and fat.

3. Too much fat.

Most vegans use unhealthy amounts of plant oils and fat. This is the primary reason why some vegans suffer from hypoglycemia and other blood sugar issues. It’s well documented that a high-fat diet has a negative impact on insulin sensitivity.

For optimal health, ALL oils should be avoided. That includes all olive oil, hemp seed oils, and even so-called healthy oils such as flax seed oil.

Instead, you should get all of your fat from whole foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados in minimal quantities. For most people who are not very athletic, a very small handful of nuts OR half an avocado is about the maximum you should eat in one day.

This is the number one way to improve a vegan diet. Get rid of all the fat and learn to prepare foods without fat. At the same time, eat more of the “good” stuff such as fruits and vegetables. Remember that green vegetables have no calories, so as a vegan you will have to get your calories from the following foods:

Root vegetables (potatoes, yams, etc.)
Starches (whole grains, beans, etc.

If you follow a raw approach like I do most of the time, then the majority of your calories will come from fruit.

Getting a significant proportion of your calories from fatty foods such as oils is a big mistake and one that will quickly destroy your health. (A lot of people make large salads every day drenched in olive oil and believe this is part of a healthy diet.)

If you have any weight to lose, you should consider avoiding all fatty foods temporarily until you lose the desired weight.

Why? Fats are stored by the body very easily, requiring less than 3% of the calories consumed to store. On the other hand, carbohydrates need an average of 30% of calories consumed to be turned into body fat.

As author John McDougall likes to say, “The fat you eat is the fat you wear”. So if you don’t want to “wear” any more fat, avoid it.

It’s fairly easy to get used to a low fat diet and it takes 30 to 60 days for your taste buds to fully adapt.

4. Too much soy.

Many vegans consume massive quantities of soy products, which is also a mistake.

First of all, there’s one category of soy products that can be avoided completely for optimal health, and that’s textured vegetable protein, which is often used to make fake-meat products such as veggie burgers, veggie lunch meats, sausages etc.
It’s been found that this type of protein can create some of the same problems as meat in the human body, by being very acidic like meat. Consuming textured vegetable protein can also raise growth hormones in your body, which can accelerate aging, and can also cause cancer to grow.

Traditional soy products such as tempeh, tofu and soy milk are not as bad as they are reputed to be, but they should be viewed in the same category as nuts, seeds and avocados.

These soy products are rich foods (with tofu containing a significant amount of fat), so they should be used sparingly as a delicacy to flavor a recipe, if you’re going to use them at all.

5. Too much junk food.

Many vegans also eat too much junk food, and you know what I’m talking about. French fries and potato chips may be vegan, but they are not healthy. Essentially if it comes from a restaurant or a factory, it should be seen as “fun” food and

not as healthy sustenance for the human body. So use your judgement and base your diet on fruits and vegetables, not on junk foods.

6. Too much wheat.

A lot of people in general, but especially vegans and vegetarians base their diet around wheat and bread products. Sandwiches, burgers, wraps, pizzas, pastas, muffins, cereals, are not necessary for health and are often highly processed with artificial vitamins added which can make it hard for the body to absorb real vitamins from whole fruits and vegetables.

Many people also have a wheat sensitivity or are allergic and can develop celiac disease. If you have frequent colds, breathing problems, stuffy nose, asthma, IBS, digestion issues etc., you could have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Cutting wheat out of your diet is fairly easy to do when you eat a diet of fruits and vegetables and non glutenous carbohydrates like potatoes and rice.

7. Too much of allergenic foods.

Other foods that are consumed by vegans that are highly allergenic are peanuts and by vegetarians various milk products. Both can cause serious problems when eaten in small quantities by those who have food allergies and are often eaten in significant quantities by those who have food sensitivities and intolerances.

Meat is NOT the Answer

It must be a strange fact of human nature that we tend to make the wrong associations based on what we perceive to be a direct cause-reaction relationship.

If you go vegan and your health declines, you’ll naturally believe that the vegan diet was to blame. Because a vegan diet is a diet that excludes animal products, you might be led to believe that not eating them is what caused you to be sick in the first place.

But in reality, a vegan diet can be anything. It can be a diet of fake meat products and oil and french fries, or it can be a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables consumed in sufficient quantity to make you thrive.

The fact that many vegans get sick does NOT mean that animal products are the answer. Some raw foodists are now including raw meat and

raw dairy into their diets and claiming these are the sole reasons they are surviving on a raw diet, because raw plant food alone are not

enough to thrive on.  This is simply not true. They may be thriving in spite of the raw animal products they are eating.

Animal products are inherently bad for the human body, for very specific reasons:

1- They are very acidic and will drain your calcium reserves as the body uses calcium in your bones to balance the pH of the food in your digestive tract.

2- They contain too much protein. All excess protein has to be eliminated by the body which will wear down your kidneys and liver over time and accelerate the aging process. A diet rich in animal protein is also the number one dietary factor for cancer (see The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell).

3- Most animal products are high in fat. Excess fat is stored as body fat and results in surpluses in the body, leading to insulin-related products and everything related to overweight.

4- Animal products are rich in cholesterol, which accumulates in the body and contributes to vascular diseases.

5- Animal products are a concentrated source of toxins. Being high on the food chain, animals accumulate much more toxins, hormones and pesticides in their tissues. This is not mentioning the possible bacteria-related issues with factory produced animal products and cross contamination in the facilities.

Are some vegans unhealthy? Yes! But animal products are not the answer.

What do you think?

NOTE: Some of my research for this article comes from the informative newsletters published by Dr. John McDougall. Check it out at:

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.