As part of my Journey2Peace series about health on the other blog, I put up a companion piece here last week as the opening in a series. Today’s offering explores my journey of discovery regarding red meat. There are such strong opinions about eating meat these days and a lot of misinformation floats around. I’ve found I need to eat it.
I became a vegetarian years ago and over the course of a couple of years my health deteriorated badly. The main impact at that time was a big drop in blood pressure to 85 over 50, which left me dizzy and exhausted. Since I’d struggled with anemia all my life, I didn’t recognize at the time that a recurrence of anemia came from the change in diet too.
No western doctors ever wondered why I kept becoming anemic nor why my blood pressure dropped so swiftly; no tests were ever done. I wondered, though… Especially why I’d been anemic off and on since about the age of 5.
When I began getting alternative health care, more than one practitioner told me I should eat red meat regularly. I’d already left vegetarianism behind but I only ate poultry and fish. I didn’t quite believe I needed the red meat, so, while I ate it, it rarely showed up in my diet.
Eventually I noticed, though, that when I ate red meat I instantly felt better. Several friends commented with surprise that the color flooded back into my cheeks after just a few bites. I began experimentally eating it more often and found I do really well if I have some at least twice a week. Every time I go as long as a week without having any, I become pale and listless.
Many vegetarians question that anyone needs to have red meat. So I started doing research. I found that all meats (poultry, fish, red meat, etc.) have heme iron, which is absent from all vegetables. Red meat not only has the greatest amount, but it also helps your body absorb iron (not only the iron in the meat, but apparently from any other source as well).
Since I long suspected the constant rounds of anemia might arise from an absorption problem, it made sense to me that the red meat seemed to be the answer to my ongoing problem. And, in fact, I’ve gone for six or seven years without being anemic for the first time in my life.
Another flaw in the assumptions many vegetarians make about ability to get all the protein you need from vegetable sources, is that not all of us can have the main substances on which they rely. I have sensitivities to wheat, soy, and dairy. So do lots of people and some can’t have any grains. For us the main sources of non-animal protein don’t work.
It isn’t that I don’t sympathize with the principles behind being vegetarian. I do. And I didn’t step back into the meat camp without a lot of trial and error about my own body’s reactions nor without a lot of research about why some of us seem to need meat. But for me being healthy — taking care of the sacred temple they carries my divine spirit — is more important than principle.
Since meat supposedly adds a lot of acid, I try to make sure I balance with lots of fruits and vegetables, which create alkalinity. Since meat is higher in fat and cholesterol, I’m careful about fat and cholesterol elsewhere in my diet. I wouldn’t ever go on the meat and potatoes type diet that many prefer but I feel I do need to eat some and I try to make sure that red meat is just one part of a diet that serves my overall health.
I’ve accepted that I just don’t have the right body type to be a vegetarian. I try to eat grass-fed free-range, etc. but it’s still red meat I’m eating. I’ve come to feel there is no one right way to eat nor any diet that serves the health of all.
While I have a lot of vegetarian friends who view it as a personal choice and have no stake in whether anyone else eats that way, I run into many vegetarians who are bullies and want to force everyone to eat that way. They refuse to believe there are people who aren’t well-served by that diet. I just let their rude thoughts and comments roll off my back since (a) it’s none of their business and (b) I know what I need to eat to feel well and I don’t care whether other people agree.