Are humans designed to eat meat?

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Are humans designed to eat meat?

Being an anthropology student (and also a vegan) the question “Are humans designed to eat meat” has always been a particularly intriguing question for me.

 

It’s also really important to know this stuff because it stops a lot of people – in their tracks – from embracing diet high in plant food (the key for radiant health!).

A person came right up to me last month, almost dismayed, saying,“Can you honestly tell me that humans aren’t designed to eat meat? We’ve eaten meat since our early days as prehistoric humans!”

Here’s what I said:

“It’s not that I think eating meat is inherently wrong – I don’t.

Yes, there are tremendous problems with the scale of animal cruelty present today, but I don’t think that eating a cow or chicken you tended to with loving care is inherently bad or wrong.

And I won’t deny that – without a doubt – humans ate meat in our early days. We did!

What I find important is how much. How much meat did humans really eat?”

 

Most likely early humans ate very, very little meat.

 

In fact, their main subsistence was likely lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (a mostly raw diet coincidentally).

Meat was something to be enjoyed on occasion. Why do you think there was such a great celebration over that successful hunt? (That probably happened every couple months at best).

I recently picked up a paleo diet cookbook (where we are supposed to eat like our early ancestral humans did) and I was astounded by recipe after recipe of different meat dishes!

Where’s the truth in that?

 

Now – just because we ate small amounts of meat in our early days – does this mean that humans are “designed” to eat meat in the same way a carnivore is?

I still say a resounding NO.

Anthropologists suspect that, in truth, humans are herbivores by design.

Why? The digestive tract of a true carnivore, say a tiger, is about 3 times the length of the animal. Do you know how long that of a human’s is? About 10-12 times the length of the human. A carnivore – like a tiger – eats and digests a piece of meat in less than 1 day (because the meat is rapidly decaying).

The same piece of meat takes us (humans) double to triple that amount of time (2-3 days!) to digest that same piece of meat.

Have you looked at your teeth lately? Do they compare to that of a tiger?

NO.

How about your jaw? Not much compared to the chomping power on a tiger is it? The teeth and jaws on a tiger are clearly designed to tear and rip apart flesh, whereas ours…not so much.

Our closest living ancestors, the great apes, are almost always herbivores, with very few exceptions.

So: Humans do not need meat to live healthy, vibrant lives!

 

But – you say – what if I LOVE meat?

 

Then you love meat!

For my clients who simply can’t live without meat, I suggest enjoying a small piece (like that of a side dish or smaller) of meat every once and awhile – bought from a reputable, grain fed, local source. And load the remaining 75% (or more) of your plate with some delicious raw, vegan recipes (that I coincidentally teach about in my classes).

As for eating meat (or other animal products) every day, three times a day? No thank you.

This meat stays in our guts for an extended amount of time (mingling at body temperature no less) causing constipation and oxidization within your digestive tract (among other ailments). 

Done in excess over the span of a lifetime, it takes a great toll on the body (colon cancer, a most popular cancer, has a high correlation to meat consumption levels and very low levels of fibre – go figure) – and it’s very hard on the environment too.

So tell me about your thoughts on our human design – did I convince you? Do you enjoy meat every once and awhile?

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38 Comments

  1. Hello Sarah! Thanks for bringing this subject up. That’s a question we vegan have to frequently debate. I think you make many good, compelling points. I am convinced too that the human body is designed for a plant based diet. As for eating meat, never ever for the rest of my life. To me exploiting, abusing or killing another being is unnecessary and morally wrong, when we have all the resources we need to achieve vibrant health by eating a whole, plant based diet, and wisely taking a few supplements that, by the way, would greatly benefit everybody.
    When people say to me, ” but I love my meat”, I say, “Yes, I know, I used to love meat too, and eggs, and dairy. But the fact to the matter is that they will most likely impact ypur health in one way or the other, and don’t forget that we tend to love what we’re used to. The taste buds an the cravings change with the food you consume. Before you know it, you start loving this tofu, this kale and avocado salad, this sunflower pate. Lemon, coriander, coconut become your best friends. Yes, the vegan lifestyle fits me perfectly. I get to eat great tasting and healthy food, I do my part for the environment, and I can truly say that I love the animals and care for all of them. So much joy and satisfaction!

    • Yes, it is so true about it being a transition. So true! Soon enough you’ll be salivating over a bunch of greens and just wondering what happened to my taste buds? Humans are so adaptable.

    • what did people eat on Alaska there was no fruites or veges and there was no transport like today

  2. Thank you very much for this and your blog – I love it. My mother-in-law grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and to her meat is THE center piece of every meal. If you don’t eat meat you’re not getting enough protein.

    When she visits (for too long), EVERY meal she is like a hawk watching my daughter trying to get her to eat more meat. I just want to scream. This woman has had a heart attack and hip replacement and yet sees no connection with her diet. Still pushes the meat and butter on everything.

    She unfortunately stays with us for about 10 days when she visits and one visit I made no meals with meat for almost the whole time. I had to endure comments about how ‘I might want to’ give my daughter protein powder drinks to make sure she’s getting enough protein. Our daughter is rarely sick, a healthy weight, and does well in school. Omg.

    So sorry for the negativity, but it is amazing how people will react when you don’t eat like them. (I did mention she had a HEART ATTACK two years ago?)

    Thank you SO much for this blog!0

    • I’m so glad you are enjoying my site, Jenny.

      Indeed dealing with family is a huge chapter in itself (I am working on one right now actually). Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle because there is so much “evidence” pointing towards the need for animal protein. Many people who do share the protein concern are coming from a place of true concern, since it is only in the more recent past that we’ve gotten so many new studies making question marks. Also, I recently heard someone say (and I’m sorry I can’t remember who) that vegetarians have been around long enough that we know they don’t fall over and die from protein deficiency!

      As counter-intuitive as it may seem, one of the best tricks that I have found is to actually NOT talk about it. We are a culture of talking things to death (which I agree with to an extent) but, with topics and relationships that are so deeply set, it is sometimes best just to set clear boundaries and agree to not talk about the particularly inflammatory topics and you’ll both likely feel a freedom and mutual respect after the initial “awkward” phase of getting used to it. I wish you luck in forging this path with your mother.

  3. A few things come up for me when reading about raw/ raw vegan nutrition, which I practiced for a little less than a year. When reviewing information based on blood type, and practicing with my own blood type and lifestyle, some body chemistry can digest meat better than others, some body chemistry can digest raw plant material better than others. Energetically, meat has a lower vibration than plants; and in my experience as the vibration of the individual becomes higher the desire for meat based meals lessens, as does the overall quantity of food with or without meat. When considering ayruvedic principles, there may be some types of meat that are more beneficial than others and there may also be types of plants that are more beneficial than others, and overall there is a desire to stay away form meat, again because of the vibration of it. Geographic location and time of year can influence what is best for each person. Tuning in to how we feel after each thing we eat and the amount of each thing we eat is important to determine what is the best diet for the individual. I feel healthier when I eat meat and mostly cooked foods, even though I would prefer to have a raw/raw vegan diet. Now that summer is approaching I will likely take less meat, incorporate some raw, and still keep some cooked foods to balance out the digestive fire. Given human diversity, it may take some time for everyone to reach the same stage of dietary evolution where we are all healthily eating fruits, nuts and veggies =)

    • Hi Lori, I think you have an interesting perspective – thank you for sharing! Great food for thought. I too believe in consuming some cooked veggies and grains during winter, because it is warming on cold winter nights (not meat for me though!). I do manage to sneak in a lot of raw too :-)

      I agree what works for one does not necessarily work for all. I’d like to say though, that many “needs” often have deep emotional ties as well, which can masquerade as true “need”. Which is why, like you say, made gradually over time, I think everyone could be capable of successfully shifting to another diet (and be fully nourished by it).

      Just as a sort-of unrelated note, moving forward with climate change, due to the environmental stress that meat puts on the environment, meat may not always even be an option, I’ve heard some predict. Certainly the planet could not support enough meat production for 7 billion people. More food for thought…

      I really enjoy learning about the vibrational aspect of foods – very interesting!

      • It’s true we should all eat very little meat. However commenting on the Earth’s ability to feed 7 billion people should not be part of this discussion. For example the current population of the world could have 4 people on a quarter acre of ground with a Victory garden to feed them, just using the land in Texas and Oklahoma alone. The virtually untapped prairies of Colombia, S.A. could feed the world all by itself as well. These experts talked of obviously don’t realize what the scriptures tell us. “There is enough and to spare.”

      • Hi Dee James, I was speaking more from a sustainability perspective in terms of questioning whether the earth can support so much meat production with all the methane gas and drain on the resources. I understand you are speaking from a religious perspective and I respect that so thank you for your comment.

  4. Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you
    get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you protect against
    it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much
    lately it’s driving me insane so any support is very much appreciated.

    • Yes, absolutely. It was a huge problem for me before I installed the “Spam Free WordPress” plugin. Now I only get the occasional one every month or two but for the most part the plugin does a really great job. Hope this helps,
      Sarah

  5. It is useful to eat meat if you do heavy physical work. Otherwise it is completely unnecessary and possibly harmful. It is also necessary to avoid gluten, which is fatal to the human body. Fruits, nuts and veggies are the best :)

    • Actually, I’ve been a vegetarian from birth and do heavy physical work – somehow I’m still alive and well, and working hard! So I guess needing meat to do heavy physical work is a myth…..

      • Yes :-) Thank you for illuminating my point!

      • Nice :-)

  6. You totally skipped a protein source our ancestors ate with abandon, and probably every day; insects.

    We ARE designed for that.

    • Hi Eli, That’s a WONDERFUL point. Thank you. I heard insects will become a very important food in the next century with the climate change and the impact this will have on our food system. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Et qu’en penses-tu aujourd’hui??

  8. Great article.

    but I question this:

    “bought from a reputable, grain fed, local source”

    I think its important that the meat you eat comes from a animal that is healthy and eats its natural diet. That would be pretty hard to achieve with a grain fed meat. Cows eat grass. The only reason they feed them grain is because they grow faster. They get sick on grains.

    Also I think that fish is more natual for us to eat than red meat. The easiest animal to catch would be eaten more often. Our bodies react better to fish than red meat (inflamation).

    • Yes, Pontus, great point. I am a vegan obviously so but believe – if meat is a must – it has to be naturally fed and – touche – you point out grass better than grain. Being a vegan I forget this :-) Thank you!

  9. Oh my goodness, such a wonderful article, I have actually seen myself change before my own eyes. No article, no ones influence, no fabulous recipes, but my body connecting to my brain or vice verses, and my desire for eating meat especially red meat. Just the appearance started to turn my stomach, now even chicken and fish don’t always set well. So reading the article just encouraged me that my body is directing me as to what it needs. Thank you for ALL your sharing. I look forward to my future and healthy life style.

    • So thrilled to hear!!

  10. I found this post after googling phrases like “meat makes my stomach hurt”. I was raised in the south, on barbecue and grilled and fried everything. Moved away, discovered vegetarianism and liked it. Moved home, went back to eating meat. I was vegan for a time, and (loved it because I was cooking like a mad woman!), but found it difficult as my husband and kids eat meat, so I was cooking all the time. Now, just like before, I feel a shift inside me away from meat. It hurts my stomach, it makes me constipated, it just does not agree with me. I don’t say I’m vegan or vegetarian, because I just eat what I feel like eating. It’s interesting to know, after trying Paleo and reading all the posts on the “evidence” on some of those sites, that maybe what I’m doing is the best thing. You make me feel like I’m not alone. :)

    • Thanks so much, Jenee. Yes, the evidence on any trend diet seems to be strong in the books and promotional material but when looked at from a scientific perspective it seems the only thing we can prove is that fruits and vegetables are really, really good for us and excessive meat leads to disease. I’m glad you’ve come to realize this, I went through a similar journey myeslf :-) Hope we can be of service to you. Sincerely,
      Sarah

  11. Wow. This actually makes a lot of sense. I’m looking into eating raw, and that’s how I found this site, but I do love to eat meat. Anything else will be easy to cut, but we do eat a lot of steak and chicken. I don’t plan to completely cut it out, but I do plan now after reading this to maybe try to go from once a day, to maybe 2-3 times a week and maybe less once I’m used to that.

  12. Humans eat meat for a couple of reasons
    1. Fat, fat was essential ( and still is) for a healthy diet. Without fat your body can go into starvation mode. Your body will hold onto as many calories as it can and you will suffer from lack of energy and aggressive mood swings and in extreme cases you can pass out from lack of calories.
    2. Protein, although seeds and fruits have a high amount of protein per serving it is just pure protein with no fat or sugars along with it the essential fat and sugars that are needed for a strong muscular system and healthy lifestyle. And although I do not oppose vegans or what they stand for it is true that you need meat to be healthy our body is designed to handle the consumption of meat for its role in our health. Even though I do not agree with mass slaughterhouses i think that everybody should eat meat that has lived its life fully on a farm and that we do still need meat and that is the truth of it.

    • Hi Brendan, Thank you for your comments but I respectfully disagree with your comment. All cultures throughout history have had people who opt to not eat meat and they don’t fall over and die. There have been many vegans/vegetarians for years and years (especially since the 60′s) and they too have not fallen over and died due to protein deficiency.
      As you pointed out yourself, there is a high amount of protein that can be obtained from plant sources. And, in fact, there are studies who point out that the higher your consumption level of animal protein, the higher rates of disease that you accumulate, so there is no simple “truth” to this myth – it’s precisely that – a myth that we “need” meat. Want? For sure but not “need”.
      Here’s to wishing you the best on your health journey.
      Sarah

      • Hi,
        I simply don’t like meat and dairy doesn’t agree with my body at all Therefore the foods I eat are mainly vegan. I would really like to believe that we were not necessarily designed to eat meat but the issue of vitamin B12 seems to question this. I read everywhere that vitamin B12 only comes from animal sources and is integral to the proper functioning of the body.
        I would be really interested in your thoughts on this and also if you know of any natural ways of getting enough B12 without consuming animal products.

      • Link to that study? I’ve never seen a legitimate study with significant evidence showing meats harmful effects on any health markers or disease rate

      • Start here: http://www.ohmyraw.com/scientific-studies-and-plant-based-nutrition/

        There are indeed many studies which suggest high meat consumption is linked with higher rates of chronic disease. Also, this debate is fantastic:http://fora.tv/2013/12/04/Dont_Eat_Anything_With_A_Face

  13. Hey Sarah,

    Great Post.

    I agree, I always say that the assumption by some people that humans are natural born Omnivores is a somewhat narrow statement. When I say narrow, I mean that the parameter of Omnivore in respect of human meat consumption is an ‘extremely narrow parameter’.

    As you mentioned, our ancestors did eat meat which I agree with, but the widespread use of fire at a time pre dating 125,000 years is mere scholarly speculation.
    So in terms of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus at this point in the Pleistocene, they would have been consuming Raw Meat and most likely insects.

    I did have a chuckle at your reference to The Paleo thought process. As you say the Paleo set I believe is set up as a meat promotion vehicle…and we all know how terribly the excessive consumption animal fat can impact the human body, Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc Glycans literally killing people on a standard western diet left right and centre as well as all the other complications related to Lypemia and IGF1.

    Take a look at this facebook post and tell me what you think:

    I am a 38 yr old 11th year 100% plantbased [V*gan] and regularly run trail marathons, weighing in excess of 212lbs 15.2 stone (so not built like a standard runner by any standard). When running I do keep pace with running club mid paced runners and some back markers….so where is all this deficiency? I would like to hear your views on all of this Vegan deficiency associated with K2, B12, DHA and the Homocystein complication.
    Especially when all of these deaths in the mainstream public domain of those on SWD are “relatively” skewed towards those consuming a diet inclusive of animal fats and all the associated.

    I have always maintained that we require a death register for persons of a Vegan lifestyle persuasion, to put everything into a more clear context.

    Thanks for your time and look forward to your responses!

    Gazza

  14. Sarah, apologies, can you close off the html link which should be:

    Facebook Post

  15. Hey Sarah,

    Great Post.

    I agree, I always say that the assumption by some people that humans are natural born Omnivores is a somewhat narrow statement. When I say narrow, I mean that the parameter of Omnivore in respect of human meat consumption is an ‘extremely narrow parameter’.

    As you mentioned, our ancestors did eat meat which I agree with, but the widespread use of fire at a time pre dating 125,000 years is mere scholarly speculation.
    So in terms of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus at this point in the Pleistocene, they would have been consuming Raw Meat and most likely insects.

    I did have a chuckle at your reference to The Paleo thought process. As you say the Paleo set I believe is set up as a meat promotion vehicle…and we all know how terribly the excessive consumption animal fat can impact the human body, Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc Glycans literally killing people on a standard western diet left right and centre as well as all the other complications related to Lypemia and IGF1.

    Take a look at this facebook post and tell me what you think:

    Facebook Post

    I am a 38 yr old 11th year 100% plantbased [V*gan] and regularly run trail marathons, weighing in excess of 212lbs 15.2 stone (so not built like a standard runner by any standard). When running I do keep pace with running club mid paced runners and some back markers….so where is all this deficiency? I would like to hear your views on all of this Vegan deficiency associated with K2, B12, DHA and the Homocystein complication.
    Especially when all of these deaths in the mainstream public domain of those on SWD are “relatively” skewed towards those consuming a diet inclusive of animal fats and all the associated.

    I have always maintained that we require a death register for persons of a Vegan lifestyle persuasion, to put everything into a more clear context.

    Thanks for your time and look forward to your responses!

    Gazza

  16. Just for your information: We humans evolved as a species that uses tools and even fire, which have been around for much much longer than the actual homo sapiens. Spears, knives and fire are our natural weapons, we are coursorial hunters, and even physically adapted to this hunting style: We walk upright, so we have a good overview over the steppes (we originate from), we have our hands free to carry our weapons, we have no fur and can sweat for cooling, and we have extraordinary endurance and excellent eyes compared to most other animals. A gazelle for instance can run much faster – but not for long. Our big, energy hungry brains however enable us, who we are physically relatively weak, to work in groups, coordinate using elaborate language, and build more and more sophisticated tools, up to the very computer you used to write this article.

    Just my 0.02€ – have a nice day.

    • For sure :-) There are arguments on both sides but perhaps the truth somewhere lies in the middle. Humans are omnivores but, given the chance, the vegan diet is the healthiest given that chemicals released in meat after it is cooked are harmful for health….a topic sure to never die.

  17. Hi! Just like to share some toughts on the subject, Iv had 4, now i got 3 Fangs in my mouth and they defenetly look like fangs as the tiger. not as big but at the same time they are for tearing meat. And all other teeth iv got is superb of cutting meat. And another thing about tigers is they work mostley on their own and are bigger and attack fast, They have been depending on their size to be able to take down big chunks becourse their succesrate isnt the best to say the least. humans used to run or walk long ways to get to hunting grounds in the earlie days. Atleast thats what if found out of when researching human. So yes we are a carnivore. We eat both Vegetables fruits and meat. Check out wat the remote tribes do and how they hunt and what they eat and you will see that it almost always contains meat or fish.

  18. Hi Alex,

    Great thoughts, were they thoughts or research, or observations of ancient civilizations who base consumption of flesh purely on availability, rather than clinical data and science available to modern day civilizations today?

    Have you researched the impact of mamillian Glycan starches such as Neu5Gc and pathogenic endotoxic bacteria?

    Even Carnivores and Omnivores eat offal to attain the mineral and bacterial goodness of the digested plant matter in herbivore prey.

    It’s all very well taking nutrition advice from ancient hominid ancestors, but remember that Homo Habilis did not cook his meat, so either ate it raw, or likely ate insects and grubs.

  19. Hi Frank, Here is just a quick link to get you started. I simply just googled it but this is well known among the medical community. These toxic substances are the black pieces that are formed when you cook meat on the grill which are carcinogens. That’s why stewing meat is much healthier. Here is the link to get you started but there’s a plethora of info on the internet and scientific data to back it up. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/cancer-risk-from-bbq-meat

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