I died of scurvy last year. Twice.
I was looking through some old posts the other day and saw an old comment I’d ignored at the time.
Do you take vitamin supplements? How do you keep from getting malnourished or even gout?
Just curious. Love the idea of steak for breakfast, pricey though.
I was asked the same thing just a couple of days ago, and the day before that, and a few weeks before that. I get it all the time. The simple answer, and the one I usually give, is this:
There is nothing in plants that you need that you can’t get more efficiently and completely from meat. (By the way, steak isn’t that expensive when you don’t eat the sides.) The only thing plants have that meat does not–sugar, fiber, anti-nutrients, that vegan sense of moral superiority–are things you don’t need anyway, and many which you may be better off without. Especially that last.
That’s my story, and I am sticking to it. It’s a nice, pat, accurate answer, as far as it goes. But as with most things in life, it can get a little more complicated than that. And that is what blogs are for.
So, what about scurvy? What about anti-oxidants? What about eating the rainbow?
Usually, Vitamin C is at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking of the potential pitfalls of a carnivorous diet. As far as I can tell, there has not been one documented case of scurvy in a strict carnivore. Contrary to popular belief–and most beliefs about food in our culture are merely popular, not accurate–muscle meat does have a small amount of C in it. It’s not a lot, compared to some plants, but because cellular uptake of vitamin C is inhibited by hyperglycemia, when you’re not spiking your blood sugar all day long, year after year, your cells don’t have any problems utilizing whatever amount of ascorbic acid you you do take in.
Most of the vitamin C found in that much-vaunted morning glass of “healthy” orange juice goes into the toilet, not your cells, because of all the sugar that rides along with it hindering absorption. You’ll still absorb some, but ironically, without the sugary fruit delivery system, you don’t need the massive amounts of C found in the fruit to stay healthy.
Also, as Sally K. Norton explains,
The body tends to metabolize excess vitamin C into a corrosive acid called oxalic acid. This acid immediately steals minerals like calcium as it becomes oxalate. As the kidneys remove oxalate from the blood, calcium oxalate can grow into crystals in the kidneys or elsewhere in the urinary tract causing painful stones. Over time, if the kidneys are forced to handle excessive amounts of oxalate everyday, kidney failure is likely. This is how taking 500 mg or more of vitamin C can promote a loss of kidney function. Perhaps the modern habit of taking extra vitamin C is contributing to the rising rates of kidney stones. One estimate suggests that half of us will get a kidney stone in our lifetime.
So maybe you don’t want your Vitamin C all that high, anyway.
I do think it’s nice that the Lord put the huge amounts of ascorbic acid into the same fruits that inhibit your ascorbic acid absorption, don’t you? Kinda balances things out a little. But you don’t have to drink OJ to get your C boost. At best, it somewhat mitigates through the vitamin C the damage that can be caused by the sugar. At worst, when you’re really insulin resistant, OJ can’t even overcome its own sugary downside.
But C isn’t the only concern, of course. What about all those other vitamins and micro-nutrients in plants? What about the superfoods I feel so good about putting on my plate?
Well, I hate to break it to you, friend, but “superfood” is a marketing buzzword, not a real thing. All of the nutrients found in plants are there for the sake of the plant, and are bound up in ways that the human body doesn’t easily break down into something usable for itself. I’m not saying that there’s zero benefit from these plants. Clearly you are able to get some nutrition from plants. Vegans don’t die immediately. In fact, they can live a long time in an increasingly miserable state. But the amount of, say, Vitamin A that your body can synthesize from the beta carotene found in a carrot is miniscule compared to the amount of already-bioavailable Vitamin A that you’ll get from meat.
Unlike us, the animals we eat are able to extract a great deal of the available nutrition found in plants because they are designed to do that. (Now wait, Christian. Aren’t humans designed to be vegetarians, like in the Garden of Eden? Find my answer to that here.)
Because of the lower animals’ unique digestive tracts, especially ruminant animals, which I think should be a very large percentage of food consumed, carnivores are getting better and more vitamins from animal products. Plant foods are simply sub-optimal compared to the easy-to-absorb nutrition found in meat, which our high-acid stomachs are incredibly efficient at processing.
There are multi-decade carnivores who have eaten nothing but meat, no supplements at all, and are running circles around those of us who have been on a Standard American Diet for the same amount of time. I have no reason to disbelieve these people when they say they don’t take supplements. I can personally attest, nearly six years in, that I feel great and don’t yet show any signs of malnourishment while consuming about 99% of my calories as muscle meat.
But there is a place for mineral and Vitamin D supplementation. It is likely that everybody, including people who think they’re doing just fine, could benefit from supplementation of iodine and magnesium, to name my big two. Plant-eaters have the same problem that meat-eaters do, in this regard. Eating your super-foods won’t help you here, as your body is not very good at extracting even those nutrients that are in your precious kale.
Depending on the location and method of farming, the soils our crops and livestock feed are grown in are likely deficient in a number of minerals. What’s not in the soil, or not absorbable from the soil by the plant because of farming methods and genetic tinkering, cannot pass into the plants, or into the animals and humans that eat them. Inland soil is not going to have a lot of iodine, which comes from sea water. Pretty much all farmed soil is depleted of magnesium at this point. I think everybody ought to be taking at least those two mineral supplements, though I admit I neglect to do so most of the time. There are other mineral supplements that might be useful, based on symptoms and individual circumstances.
And of course, there’s Vitamin D. I do think you can maintain your D levels with enough meat and enough sunshine, but good luck getting enough sunshine, office workers! I like to sunbathe during the late spring and through the summer, but I supplement with vitamin D+K2 for the rest of the year. There is some D to be found in animal products, but the sun is the big stimulator of vitamin D production. Most people do not live in a latitude that provides adequate sunshine, nor do they often go outdoors long enough every day to obtain it even if they do.
Now, maybe you don’t believe me that you don’t need plants to be healthy. I don’t blame you. It’s just not something you’ve ever even imagined before, is it? You’ve been told all your life that you have to eat your carrots to have good eyesight. You have to have your fruit to keep from catching colds or worse. You have to eat your Vitamin F (fiber) or you won’t be able to poop!
You’ve been told a lot of lies, Dear Reader. I understand why this is hard to get past.I had a really hard time letting go of my leafy greens, to be honest. But I’m not eating them anymore, and guess what? I’m better for it, not worse. I have an OCD called trichotillomania (hair-pulling) that goes away 100% as long as I don’t ingest any fiber. I can eat leafy greens for the (largely indigestible) vitamins in there, or I can just eat meat and have eyebrows and eyelashes. I certainly wasn’t looking for this particular benefit when I went carnivore, but it was a pleasant surprise.
Try it sometime for a minimum of 6-8 weeks or so. Really give it the old college try. You might find relief from some symptom or quirk about yourself that you just thought was a cross you’d have to bear forever. At any rate, don’t let the idea that you’ll be malnourished stop you from finding a better way to eat than a high-carb diet.
I am more convinced with every passing year that I do this that meat is sufficient for all of those needs.
I can help with this, by the way, if you’d like diet and lifestyle coaching. Email me at cindy at getalonghome.com or find me on social media and we’ll set up a call. Want to discuss this post? Find me at MeWe, Gab, or Social Galactic.