I must say I absolutely love all these debates because I think when we debate these issues, we actually get to the truth. We get to the core understandings of life, and in this case nutrition, and what’s best for human health and evolution.
'The Game Changers' Documentary
The reason I’m talking about this, as many of you may have heard recently, is that there is a new documentary out called “The Game Changers”. It was made by a UFC fighter, a mixed martial arts fighter who, while injured, began studying ways to improve his recovery. He was a die-hard meat eater like most combat athletes have been in recent times. What he found in his research is many top athletes around the world today in both strength sports, endurance sports and power sports; don’t eat dairy, they are vegans.
Despite being vegans they are able to perform at incredibly high levels, enjoy better health in many ways, recover quicker, and are very successful in their chosen sports. He made the documentary by gathering a lot of science and research backing up his claim that we are designed to be vegan. Vegan is a healthier way to live, better for the environment, less cruel to animals, etc.
He did a podcast with a man named Joe Rogan. If you don’t know of Joe Rogan; he has an incredibly popular podcast with hundreds of thousands of listeners – potentially even millions on any given episode. He did a two hour interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast all about “The Game Changers” documentary and the movement towards veganism.
It was predicted last year, I believe, that 2020 was going to be the “Year of the Vegan”. This podcast goes on for two hours. About a week later, Joe Rogan has a nutritional scientist on his podcast who, for two hours, debunks everything “The Game Changers” documentary talks about. The nutritional scientist brings his own science and research and says the original research about why we shouldn’t eat meat and why we get cancer from eating dairy, etc.;is untrue and not based on good science. So, back to square one.
The beauty was that a couple weeks after that, Joe Rogan brought both podcast guests on to debate each other in person. This was a four hour podcast, yes, a four hour podcast! The pro-vegan and the anti-vegan traded jibes, and research studies, and debated. People loved it.
I went insane after the first 30 minutes and that’s because I believe most of it is actually based on lack of what we call a “higher wisdom”. That’s what I want to go through on today’s podcast.
This is just my perspective based on my background in Ayurvedic understanding and Ayurvedic medicine, which I will detail in a moment; but basically, we want to set some pillars for this argument. When I use the word “argument, I’m using it in a positive way.
The traditional understanding, many thousands of years ago, was that the search for truth is based on people having opposing arguments. One person would get up and say, “this is the way the universe functions”, then someone would oppose that perspective. Picking apart each other’s argument, and the process of going back and forward is how we actually get to the truth.
Milk & Dairy - Mother Nature's Eternal Wisdom
The idea that we agree with everyone or think it’s bad to oppose or debate something is not traditionally how higher wisdom came about. I want to go through what I believe are seven really important foundations or pillars of the whole argument as it relates to nutrition and diet. Should we eat meat? Shouldn’t we eat meat?
First, I believe the four hour podcast is largely invalid because it's based on incomplete knowledge and a lack of appreciating or distinguishing between “natural” foods, foods that are grown according to Mother Nature’s eternal wisdom, and foods that are consumed after human interference has occurred, what we call “unnatural” foods.
Let’s take dairy as an example. Dairy produced by cows a few decades ago, cows were out on pasture and happy, they feed their calves and the calves are nourished. The calves run and play in the fields that have been given by the farmers. The cow then gets hand milked. So it’s a happy cow expressing its milk. That milk is then consumed in its raw form. It's completely unprocessed. It’s how nature made it. It's nourishing and strengthening to the human system.
The result of that milk in the body is quite different to milk from a cow that's been artificially inseminated, never goes outside and is milked three times per day. It never eats grass or feels the sunshine on its hide. It’s stressed out of its brain, its internal hormones and biochemistry are completely out of balance. The quality of milk, once it's expressed, is completely different to what the happy cow grazing in the farm, chewing on its grass is giving.
But wait, there's a lot more. That milk is then heated to very high temperatures (pasteurization) so it will keep longer and is then transported hundreds of kilometers – if not thousands of kilometers. Then it's stored for a little bit longer when it goes to the supermarket. Before the supermarket though, it goes to the food manufacturing plant where the fats in the milk are smashed into smithereens in a process called homogenization, so when you get it, it doesn't have cream on top. It's all nice and uniform looking and it looks much nicer.
Those fat molecules then cannot be digested properly by the human consuming it and so it creates problems. In some milk the fats are taken out completely because we want skimmed milk or we want low-fat milk. You take that milk home and put it in your fridge so the milk is cold. You take it out of the fridge and pour it on your cereal in the morning or have a nice tall glass to drink. Now you’re consuming cold, completely unnatural milk, probably full of the byproducts of stress hormones from the poor, old cow.
Then what do we do in our Western culture with no appreciation of the Ayurvedic wisdom of complementary and non-complementary foods? We swig down our cup of cold milk from the fridge, which puts out the digestive fire, which is like a fire that cooks our food. We’ve put that fire out, then we go and finish off with a cup of cold orange juice.
What does orange juice do to milk? Well, it's completely non-compatible. It’s acidic, so it curdles the milk and destroys the ability of the body to digest the milk, even if we hadn’t put out the digestive fire in first place by drinking the cold, cold milk. Now what happens? We get all these problems with milk, “Oh, I get allergies. Oh, I get mucus. I'm all congested when I have dairy or milk. Oh, I feel really heavy and slow and I get fuzzy hair. I can't think properly”.
This is what is never really brought out in these research studies; all these thousands of research studies that talk about groups of people eating high-meat diets or high-dairy diets. Is it real dairy from a farm, unprocessed, completely natural, and digested by a human whose nervous system is not under stress and who has a strong digestive fire (agni)? Or is it being digested by someone who has toxic stress in their life and consumes dairy that’s completely processed?
The results of the research, in many ways, are completely invalid because we're not actually assessing the quality of the dairy or the plants or the meat in the first place. This is foundation number one; are we talking about natural foods as Mother Nature intended with her innate wisdom? Or artificial foods, human interference foods, food manufacturing, processed highly refined foods?
The second pillar is the understanding that we are not talking about one issue when it comes to veganism. There are four primary areas that are being talked about.
First, is animal cruelty: many people are avoiding eating meat, dairy, or any animal product because of what's happening in factory farming, basically the abuse and slaughter of animals. From my perspective, absolutely, I fully support 100% this belief and this sort of promotion to a more ethical, less animal-cruel processes in farming habits. My understanding, and I know quite a few farmers, is that most farmers actually love their animals. They do quite a lot to help the animals live good lives. However, with the commercialization of farms these days and the pressure from governments and big agri-business; we know that many farms, unfortunately, do not treat their animals very well. In light of this, veganism is a better choice. Animal cruelty in any way is not what we want.
Second, is the environment: due to our unnatural (highlighting the word “unnatural”), farming practices - mass production, hormones, force-feeding, production of methane have extremely deleterious or negative effect on the environment.
We're going to go through an ideal farming practice where not only the animals don't suffer, there’s no cruelty and they're treated well; but also the byproduct of those happy animals, the manure they create, actually fertilizes the top soil of the farm. That fertilizer helps grow really nutrient dense, very health-promoting vegetables or grains.
Yes, we want to protect our environment. Absolutely. The movement towards veganism to help our environment is a good one. I would suggest it's based on moving away from the unnatural farming practices and trying to go towards a higher wisdom of re-establishing that ancient traditional wisdom of farming where we can still support the environment. Promote a healthy environment, but still get many of the benefits of what animals can give us.
Third, is physical health: whether consuming meat, more plants, or including dairy is actually ideal for physical, mental, and emotional health.
Fourth, is one that is very rarely discussed: spiritual health, or our evolution as a human being. Does meat or dairy or more plant-based diet support growth to higher states of consciousness? Which promotes more refinement of the human nervous system so that we can live a more expanded, more spiritual, and higher-consciousness reality?
The next pillar is one of my favorites, and it's one I always come back to. With any of these arguments we have when it comes to nutrition or exercise or environmental toxins; “we lose the forest for the trees”. What I mean by that is people today, I believe, are getting so consumed with diet advice; whether we should eat any animal products or whether we've got to go plant based/vegan, it becomes their whole life. 90% of their energy, their resources and their mind’s activity goes into analyzing, researching and assessing every tiny little aspect of every grain of food they put in their mouths. It’s very important to know what we put in our mouths, but sometimes we do it to such an extent we lose sight of the fact that life and health is far more than just diet and nutrition.
I'd like to say right up front that throughout the history of time and in all my research into long-living cultures I discovered long-living cultures have eaten an extremely varied diet. You can be extremely healthy by eating meat. You can be extremely healthy by eating dairy. You can be extremely healthy by being a vegan. There are all sorts of diets that people consume, and still live happy, healthy, robust lives, and it's because diet and nutrition are not the only things that affect our health.
Even more important, from an Ayurvedic perspective and what we could call a higher-wisdom perspective, is stress reduction, happiness, joy and doing our higher purpose in life, having passion, and meaning in our life - fulfillment. There are also planetary influences, as taught in Jyotish or Vedic astrology.
There are so many factors that affect our health. Nutrition and whether we eat meat or don't eat meat, eat dairy or don't eat dairy are all very important, but don't get so wrapped up in it that you lose the perspective of holistic health. Always remember that primary is being happy, fulfilling your purpose, doing service to others, enjoying your life. Diet and nutrition is a secondary aspect to that, I call it the “tree of health”. I'll be writing more about that as the year goes on.
The fourth pillar is really where we get our knowledge from. As I said at the start, I have my reservations about some of these debates that use solely modern science. One person cites this study, the other person sites either a problem with that study or why it wasn't done correctly, or they cite their own study which says exactly the opposite of what the other person said. We just go round and round in circles.
We spend hours listening to podcasts, we spend years doing our own research, and at the end of it we're just as confused as when we started. Remember, any truth in life – any real wisdom – is simple and it resonates within us. When we hear truth, there's a little vibration. We feel it, a little impulse within the cells of our body that we just know something is right or something is not right.
This is what I want you to start relying on more and more. Not only in terms of what you eat, but every aspect of your health and evolution. Underlying all the debates, all the experts, all the books and all the magazines; is your internal wisdom. This is what I want to bring out more on this podcast. That what I'm talking about today is largely based on what we call the wisdom of the rishis.
I mention this on almost every second podcast because it's so important. Many people think of Ayurveda as a sort of traditional healthcare system. There are ancient books or ancient texts that you can go and read and they tell you to do this or not to do that. Ayurveda, in its essence, is the pure knowledge of life. It was revealed – it's a revelation of reality – by the greatest seers or rishis; the enlightened yogis. The men and women of the most refined nervous systems who could literally hear or see or experience the laws of nature as they unfold and create our material universe. There are laws of nature that govern everything to do with us humans, and how we're designed to live in tune with that underlying constitution of the universe. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi called Veda the constitution of the universe, the blueprint of creation.
This is where Ayurveda really comes from; the rishis and their insights into all of these questions of whether we should or shouldn’t eat meat and dairy, but not only that, it’s how we should consume them. Again, what is overlooked in most of these debates today when it comes to veganism or vegetarianism or being a carnivore is how the food is consumed. Is it consumed in its natural state? Is it cooked? Is it raw? Has it been processed or refined, which obviously disturbs the way the body digests it? Is it being consumed by someone with a strong digestion?
Meat, for example, in Ayurveda is considered a very heavy food. Think of beef or lamb or pork compared to a slice of celery or some cooked rice or a vegetable – it’s very heavy. If you're going to digest it, you need a really strong digestive fire, agni. If you're drinking your milk cold from a fridge, you want a really strong fire to properly digest that milk and not have it create negative effects on you in terms of mucus or congestion or allergies.
Digestion is just as important, if not more important, than diet. Who is eating the food? What is their digestion like? Are they completely digesting that food; whether it's a plant, some dairy products or meat? Are they not properly digesting that food product, which will lead to undigested food or what Ayurvedic medicine calls “ama”. That ama will block the body system up. It will block the channels, the “srotas” and lead to heaviness, dullness, sickness, and disease. The same food can have completely different results in two different people, this is the final pillar that we need. Different people need different foods.
The final little piece to this before we get into the specifics is just the understanding of evolution, the Vedic tradition. The knowledge, generally speaking, is that we are here to evolve. Life is basically about evolution from the minerals through to the plants, to animals, to higher animals, to human beings, to whatever you conceive of beyond human beings.
Life is a series of little evolutions, expansion and growth. The understanding is that lower life forms, or those at a lower level of evolution, evolve by nourishing or helping those at a higher level of evolution.
Dharma: It is the Plants’ and Animals’ Purpose to Help Us
In Ayurveda there was a great vaidya or Ayurvedic doctor, his name was Boraj Maharishi, and he famously had what's called a “siddhi”, which is like a higher power where he could communicate with plants. It’s like he was almost having a conversation with them and he could ask them what is their “dharma” or their purpose. We know that different plants, of course, can heal different conditions in the human body. Some plants are good for arthritis, some plants are good for insomnia, some are good for skin conditions, some are anti-venoms.
Plants were understood to have a dharma, and their dharma was to help human beings. We know when we eat plants, plant foods, fruits and vegetables, we get nourished, which helps our health and that helps our spiritual growth. Traditionally, when plants were harvested, they would pinch off a bit of the parsley, or mint, or pick broccoli, or beetroot, or an apple, or mango and they would say a little “mantra” or prayer to thank the plant for its life force, its energy and its healing properties.
We can see animals in a similar way. We can think of animals as a slightly higher form, more evolved, than plant life. In most cases, and I say most cases (laughing); in most cases – maybe a lower level of evolution than humans. For some humans, there might be question marks, and what do we call these people? We call them beasts or animals.
We can see it in the same way with animals. Their dharma, their purpose, is to help support the growth of human beings, and they do that through what they produce. Just because something is a living creature, plant, animal or otherwise; from the perspective of consciousness, everything is living. Even a star or a rock is living. The world, our universe, is nothing but consciousness.
There are different degrees of how awake living things are, a rock obviously doesn't have much wakefulness. It doesn't have much of what we call life or sentience. Plants a little bit more. Animals a little bit more. Then humans, for the sake of this podcast anyway, are at the highest level or the top of the tree of evolution. We want to bring that into perspective when we look at this debate in more detail. We could suggest this is a higher-wisdom perspective on this whole argument about meat vs. plants vs. dairy, what should you eat?
According to Ayurveda, and not from some ratty old, dusty manuscript in a library from 6,000 years ago, but from the highest insights from these rishis; humans, generally speaking, are designed to be what's called lacto-vegetarian. Predominantly a plant-based diet, and this is what many people are going towards more today. Even people who ate a lot of meat are eating less meat.
Generally, the principle now is more plant-predominance or plant-based diet. Ayurveda suggests all food is medicine. This is from the perspective that humans are at the highest level of the food chain and so what humans need at any particular time is appropriate for them. Dairy products are considered healthy in Ayurveda, assuming the dairy products are completely natural and not processed. They're from animals that are happy and not stressed. They have fed their young, their young is happy and any additional milk is taken and used for human consumption.
Many people today around the world are lactose intolerant or they're sensitive to dairy products. Even when they eat natural diary products, they don’t digest them well; in this case not eating them is generally recommended.
The other piece in this whole debate is how rare it is to actually find natural dairy products. I'm still grieving because where I live in Victoria, the government in their wisdom, banned what is called “bath milk”; completely raw milk. You could go to a health shop and buy something called “cosmetic milk” or “bath milk”, which was un-pasteurized, un-homogenized, raw milk. Milk the way Mother Nature designed it, and it was fantastic. I used to love it, it was as close as you could get to having milk fresh from a cow on a farm.
Of course, that milk doesn't last as long, does it? That's why we have to refrigerate it and pasteurize it so it lasts longer; not very natural but, good for commercialization. After one or two people had health problems, maybe someone even died because they drank raw milk the government banned the milk completely. Nowhere in Australia now, can you get natural/raw milk commercially.
Ojas & Ayurvedic Medicine
If the dairy is produced in a natural manner, then Ayurveda favors it. Ayurveda considers milk an extremely health promoting food. It's nourishing, it's strengthening and it produces what's called “Ojas”. In Ayurveda everything we do in terms of diet, exercise and relationships, is to produce one thing called “Ojas”. It's like the lamp at the door between consciousness - the non-physical part of ourselves, and the physical material body – our physiology.
The link between consciousness and physiology is a sort of junction point and that's where we want Ojas because it connects, and it binds the non-physical with the physical. When someone is full of Ojas – they have high Ojas – it’s those people who have skin that shines. Their eyes are really clear, they’re happy, they’re blissful and all their internal organs are nourished and strong. Without Ojas, the body withers up. Basically, life force is drained, we get dry skin, digestion is weak and everything starts to go pear-shaped.
Back to that little example we had earlier on: go back a few decades – or even 100 years – before the intervention of modern farming practices. You have a farmer who has a beautiful green pasture, beautiful fields, and he brings a cow into that field; the cow is happy. The cow is naturally inseminated by the bull and has a calf. The mother loves the calf. The cow naturally begins to produce milk, the calf takes the milk from the mother; everyone’s happy. The calf is fed, it goes off and plays around and rolls on the grass – little kids having fun. Then the mother, because she’s happy and there's no stress, she will often produce more milk.
This was brought out beautifully by a group called “Ahimsa”. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word, meaning non-harming. It started back in 2007, I think, in the UK. They were all about reverting back to natural farming practices because they actually agreed with veganism and vegans in many ways. Vegans are doing a great job educating us and the world about unnatural farming practices, cruelty to animals, and the problems we're creating in our environment in terms of excess carbon production.
What Ahimsa is educating about is that this ancient, more traditional wisdom – Ayurvedic wisdom – it's not that the cows are the problem, it’s not that milk consumption for humans is the problem; it’s just the way we are getting to that point of consumption.
The little calf gets nourished, it gets fed, it’s happy. The mother's happy because it’s able to feed its baby, then any excess milk produced by the mother is taken by the farmer. That milk is then used to create yogurts and cheeses and what's called “lassi”. In Ayurvedic medicine, lassi is a blended yogurt. You blend the yogurt and water in different proportions depending on the digestive system and the effect you're wanting.
This was the traditional way of getting our probiotics. The lactobacillus and acidophilus and all the things we hear about we're supposed to get from our fermented products, which are sometimes good, but sometimes not-so-good for certain body types such as Pitta. These lassis can be used as digestive aids following a meal they help the body digest that food, nourish the internal probiotic environment, and have a number of health-promoting benefits.
Ghee in Ayurveda: Strengthening the Digestive Fire
Ghee, in Ayurvedic medicine is clarified butter, when you clarify it you get rid of the milk solids. It is basically medicine par excellence in Ayurvedic medicine. For thousands of years these texts have extolled the benefits of consuming small amounts of ghee to the human nervous system. They talk about Ghee strengthening the digestive fire, improving eyesight, promoting Ojas and strength, nourishing the immune system, that inner vitality on the level of mind and emotions, that internal bliss. It nourishes and gives unction; what they call the oily quality to the internal organs so the body doesn't become dry. You get lustrous skin, and so many things by consumption of the appropriate amount of ghee.
People think of ghee not only as an animal product, but a high-fat food. Hari Sharma, a great professor and doctor, wrote a book called “Contemporary Ayurveda”. He detailed, in exquisite detail, the basic consumption of ghee and the benefits based on its profile of nutrition. Its makeup of mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated, saturated fats, the percentage of linoleic acids and all the different amino acids in it; really was equivalent to what we consider a very healthy diet. Ghee is absolutely a wonderful, wonderful food. It’s used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine as an adjunct to other medicines. When you are given an herbal compound, for example, it will often be given with ghee.
Ghee is one of the most amazing products for allowing or transporting nutrients across the blood-brain barrier. Often the body can't get important nutrients into the brain because of this barrier. Ghee has this unique ability to be able to transport nutrients into the brain, which is so fantastic for our mental faculties, cognition, and on and on.
Vegan Diet & Natural Farming Practices
What I would suggest, using the wisdom of Ayurveda, is that while in the short term a vegan diet may be good in many ways; ultimately, the idea is to get more wisdom back into our farming practices. So we gradually return to what the Ahimsa group is promoting and that is smaller, natural farms where the cows are looked after, they’re happy cows and everything is done in a natural way. The cows have space to move and walk and exercise. Their manure then actually helps the environment so they're not producing excess methane gas because they're not farting as much which is good for the whole family. At the same time the top soil is getting a natural fertilizer, so the environment is actually helped.
When we have natural farming practices, not only do we not harm the environment, we actually promote the environment and the production of even healthier food that is grown in that soil. This is where I believe we are going in the short term. It is really difficult for most countries in the world, that I know of, to actually get completely natural, unprocessed dairy products, so I just do the best I can. I actually don't eat as much dairy as I otherwise would. If I can get an organic, unhomogenized milk, I'll have a little bit of that, but of course I won't drink it cold from the fridge.
I will do as Ayurveda has recommended for a thousand years and boil the milk. Put it in a saucepan, heat it, give it some fire, some agni. Add some ginger, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon – those spices which actually help the body to digest the milk.
Milk by nature, or dairy by nature, has a heavy quality to it and so we need to help the body digest it. That's where the wisdom of Ayurveda comes in. It's not that everyone would just drink cow's milk, for example, because cow's milk is heavier by nature. Goat's milk, for example, is less cold than cow's milk. It's actually warmer by nature. And it's lighter by nature because goats move around more. Digesting goat's milk is actually far easier than cow's milk or buffalo's milk. This is the wisdom.
Now I should also say that even meat in Ayurvedic medicine can be considered a medicine. The ancient texts spoke about all the different types of meat and their qualities. Some meats are lighter and easier to digest than others. You think of rabbits, chickens or turkeys, which move around a lot. Their meat is a lot lighter, so easier to digest than red meats, than beef particularly. You think of cows not moving around too much, very heavy, same with buffalo meat.
Crocodile meat – I remember reading in a book called charak Samhita – was spoken about in terms of curing asthma. Thousands of years ago, if someone had asthma they would often be given very small quantities of crocodile meat. I assume that's because crocodiles are extremely Pitta by constitution, what we would call a hot nature, that hot tendency. It helps to break up the asthmatic qualities, but that was just something of interest. Of course, this is all based on the understanding that it is a medicine at a certain time for certain individuals. to come back into balance. This brings in that fourth area we discussed of spiritual growth or evolution.
Ayurveda and the Human Evolution
Ayurveda, the Vedic wisdom, is ultimately about our evolution as human beings. We are designed to evolve to higher states of consciousness and the diet that is most appropriate for this is a vegetarian diet, or a lacto-vegetarian diet if the dairy products are natural and properly digested.
Meat is not something that was seen to be consumed on a regular intake but only if there was something out of balance with our physiology. This is an important point; physical health precedes spiritual health. When you think of spiritual evolution or higher consciousness; you think of the yogi or yogini sitting on their yoga mat or sitting on their chair meditating. However, if that yogi had a constipation problem or a diarrhea problem, or indigestion problem or acid reflux or any number of health conditions; that would impair their ability to transcend and to create or develop higher states of consciousness.
We need to have the body physically in balance first, as it really is the prerequisite, or the foundation for spiritual growth. A good example of that are people who might eat meat for a certain period, or certain body types, or individuals who find they function better with small amounts of meat or even reasonable quantities of meat. They feel more grounded, stronger.
My partner, Annie, who just happens to be a holistic nutritional health coach; is a good example. She actually was vegetarian for quite a long time in her younger years, but she just felt that wasn't agreeing with her. When she went back to consuming meat occasionally, she just found she was more grounded. She felt stronger and healthier. She is one of the healthiest people I know in the world. Really, really healthy, so what we need to do is to always have what is called “self-referral” understanding.
Research things, get into the science, listen to podcasts, have a general feeling for what you want to eat. It will depend not only on your ethical beliefs, your animal cruelty beliefs, but on what you believe is ideal for you in terms of nutrition. Then also add your body's wisdom to that equation if you go vegetarian. I've seen it so often that people go towards a vegetarian or a vegan diet – and they do it very quickly and might be good in the short term because they've given up a lot of the heavy meat or the wrong types of meats or dairy, but they don't adjust to it very well. You’ve got to understand the body's wisdom, do what's right for you, and always distinguish between a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet or a meat eating diet, and an unhealthy version of the same diet.
What I mean by that is, and this is what Annie mentioned when we were talking about this whole “The Game Changers” documentary; people often do give up meat and they go towards becoming a vegan because they want to promote a better environment, but they actually don't eat a healthy vegan diet. Instead of eating lots of plants that are naturally produced and fresh, they'll eat processed vegan foods. These faux meats that we hear about a lot today are prime example.
Instead of going to the restaurant and getting chicken, lamb or pork, you go to a vegan restaurant, and you get the same dish. Instead of being made by the meat of a cow or a pig, you get a faux meat. It's basically a plant-based version of that product. Even though it's vegan, and you're not consuming the meat, so you think it's healthy. Many of these products are completely processed. They've been manufactured in a food plant in another country, they have emulsifiers and preservatives and all sorts of artificial things added to them so that they cannot go off by the time you consume them.
Yes, you're going to a less meat diet or a vegan diet, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy in a holistic, highest sense of the word. It's the same with meat eaters and it's good to point out that, again, some people can still live a very healthy life eating meat.
Paleo Diet and Philosophy
Paleo diet is an extremely popular diet over the last few years and many people will tell me, “I, you know, I've gone paleo and I feel so much better”. So what I would just mention there is what I really like about paleo diets is that they are pro-natural foods. So it's not that you just ate a lot of meat, and not so much carbs. But the meat is not processed meats that we get from the supermarket. They're natural, you know. It's where the animals have eaten grass and not sort of processed grains and they're in natural fields. And so the meat itself is what we'd call “more natural”.
Paleo Philosophy, too, as far as I know, also advocates a lot of exercise – and often vigorous exercise, that you don't just eat naturally even though it's a high-meat diet, but you do a lot of exercise. And this is what I would say is the key. People who do eat even moderate amounts of meat, and particularly if they ate a high meat diet, they really need to have a strong digestion to not produce problems from that diet. And so if they're young and they’re fit and they do really vigorous, high-intensity exercise, they will often feel okay on these diets. But anyone who's eating a high-meat diet with an also a highly sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk for 8 or 9 hours a day, not doing much exercise, or an older person and therefore don't have the natural digestive capacity, generally speaking, will want to be very, very wary of such a diet.
Traditionally, what's often cited is, you know, the hunter-gatherer type culture would eat a high-meat diet. My understanding is that that's not necessarily always true. They didn't eat exclusively high-meat diets. Most long-living cultures that ate meat still ate a high predominance of plant-based foods. And that would be supplemented by either ceremonial meat-eating, like inside the Japanese-type cultures where you have a celebration and therefore you have meat on those occasions, or the meat is just a smaller side dish. Or in some of these hunter-gatherer type societies where you would have a kill so you would get a large animal and then the meat would be eaten for the ensuing days or weeks. And then there might be a few weeks where you don't have a large kill, so they would eat more plant-based foods.
But hunter-gatherers, by nature, have extremely high activity levels, you know. They're on their feet or all day. Every day on the move. And so they’re possibly better in processing and digesting these foods. But for people today as I said, generally speaking, we want to start to reduce the meat intake, particularly the heavier, harder-to-digest meat. We spoke about the heavy red meats, gradually shifting to maybe a bit more chicken or fish, turkey, that sort of thing. And then what like many people are doing today is just having more meat-free days. So they'll eat meat occasionally and just have more meat-free days here and there. And so to wrap up the tips to take away, for me, number 1 is to not give yourself a label.
What do I mean by that? I mean don't become a vegan because you like the idea of being a vegan. Because you think, “Oh, I'm vegan, I'm pro-environment, you know. I'm against animal cruelty”. Fantastic. I'm completely on your side. But remember, food is medicine. And depending on our state of balance or imbalance, which can change over our lives, it can change from one day to the next, from one month to the next, one year to the next.
Vegan vs Vegetarian vs Carnivore – Leave the Labels!
Our bodies need different things at different times in our life. And at some point in your life, the very best thing for your physiology may be some dairy food properly consumed – not processed, as we've discussed – or maybe just a small amount of meat or a meat broth. Often that's how traditional cultures that didn't eat meat would consume it. They would get the broth of meats so there’s no problem digesting it. Very nutrition-dense. But you're not having the overload on the digestive system to process the meat.
But meat can be medicine at a certain time in your life. But if we give ourselves a label, “Oh, I'm a vegan, I'm a vegetarian, a meat-eater”, then we often get stuck to that label, and we can't do anything else but live according to that label that can be restrictive and actually not in the best interests of our health.
It might only be for two meals in a decade, but sometimes you might just get an overwhelming craving for some natural milk or a sweet lassi or even potentially a meat. I've heard of people who have been vegetarian for years and then they just get this overwhelming craving, too. They just need some chicken or they need maybe even red meat because it's got some more iron in it or something. And they have, you know, one bite of it or they have one meal. And they feel so much better. And then the craving’s completely gone. And they're vegetarian again for the next 3 years.
This is what I've generally found for myself, you know, I went off red meat largely about 25 years ago – 1996, I remember. I was hardly ever eating red meat since. And then I was vegetarian for many, many years pretty strictly. But now because I travel so much and it's very hard for me to always have natural, wholesome, sort of home-cooked meals where I am, occasionally if I'm out or I'm at a conference and their version of vegetarian meal is a bit of raw carrot and a bit of raw celery, then you know, I'll have a bit of fish, or you know, a tiny bit of chicken here and there. I'm just not anal about it anymore.
My belief is that we need to get rid of the stress and sort of over-analysis of everything. Don't feel guilty about it. And just having that variety, too, I'm sure is good from a nutritional perspective. And so I do eat dairy but I don't eat a lot because I, like many people, find it very difficult to find good-quality dairy that's not highly-processed, so I don't eat that or I can. But if I can get a really good, organic, unhomogenized, you know, biodynamic – that sort of dairy, then I will have little bits of that.
So leave the labels. Understand that food is medicine and the animals and plants and all these things. It's part of their evolutionary journey to help nourish us if it's done in the right way.
Summary & Key Tips
1. So leave yourself open to all possibilities. Yes, a plant-based diet predominantly, I believe, is ideal. And then what you supplement that with, whether it's a bit of meat, dairy, et cetera, will depend on your body type and your innate wisdom – what your body wants at any particular time.
2. The second key takeaway is just to distinguish always between natural and unnatural foods.
3. If you start hearing research studies that say 80% of people who eat dairy products get prostate cancer, or 45% of people who eat red meat get this cancer or heart disease, say, “Fine. But what type of meat are they eating? What type of dairy are they eating? Are these people also highly-stressed with weak digestions? Or are they robust and strong and doing a lot of exercise?”
All these questions which don't get answered in scientific research actually are really, really important. And that's why the holistic wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine and the time-honored understanding of this knowledge, coming from the deepest level of life – the level of consciousness Ayurveda, the insights of the rishis – give us such a great insight into what's most appropriate for our life.
4. Don't miss the forest for the trees. Don't get so consumed about analyzing everything you eat, and whether you're a carnivore or vegan or vegetarian, that you lose perspective on the tree of health that many, many other areas of life are equally – if not more – important to your health, your relationships, your dharma or purpose in life, whether you're being exposed to environmental toxins, whether you're connecting to Mother Nature, earthing, grounding, nature-immersion. All these things are really, really important also.
Final Note – Don’t Stress!
Finally, don't stress about it. Remember, life is to enjoy. Let me repeat that. Life is to enjoy. Focus on what makes you happy. Focus on developing your own inner consciousness. Because this is the ultimate way to know which foods are right for you. Develop your consciousness. Meditate. Transcend. Develop your inner body wisdom, your self-referral capacity. So that intuitively you just know whether you should or shouldn’t eat meat. What type of meat, if any? What dairy? What types of plant foods? How much?
Over time that you become, in a sense like, your own rishi, that you develop that inner light, enlightenment, which is where the expression, “the inner light is turned on” comes from. So you just naturally live spontaneously in tune with the laws of nature, the laws of life. So that you just naturally gravitate to the right foods, the right nutrition, and you have that beautiful perspective in life.
What is the Native American definition of a vegetarian? A bad hunter.
How many carnivores does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They prefer to stay in the dark.
A guy goes to the doctor, he’s got a carrot stuck up his nose, he’s got a celery stick coming out his ear, and he's got a slice of cucumber over one eye. He says, “Doc, I'm not feeling very well.” Doc says, “You're not eating properly.”
There you go. Ciao for now!