Goji Berries, spinach, kale, walnuts…
What is so attractive about consuming a food that produces immediate results and cures all diseases?
Because it’s easy!
I remember in college ordering this liquid protein supplement called Carnivor (ironic, right?). The bottle had a picture of Kai Greene (looking jacked, of course) and promised all the benefits of unlimited gains and recovery. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype…
The digestion issues were not pleasant, the taste resembled a liquified beefy fruit punch patty, and the added food coloring turned my bowel movements a neon green (which was quite concerning at the time). Needless to say, I wasn’t as yoked as Kai Greene that Summer.
My point is, there is rarely ever an “easy fix.” And most things that sound too good to be true, usually are.
But what makes a food “super?”
To begin, the food must contain the vitamins and micronutrients necessary for health. These nutrients should be bioavailable and in the most useable form to the human body.
In the context of this definition, how do plant and animal foods compare side by side?
I’m glad you asked..
To start you’d want to figure out which foods have the nutrients you need. You’ll quickly discover that animal foods contain many compounds that are either not present or are only marginally available in plants. For example...
Vitamin B-12: This nutrient can only be found in animal-based foods. This is an essential nutrient involved with the development of red blood cells and normal brain function. Low levels of B12 are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.1
Creatine: One of the most researched and studied substances, creatine has been linked to increases in working memory, mental performance, lean muscle mass, and overall relative strength. Oh yeah, and it’s only found it meat.
Choline: Deficiencies in choline are associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, neurodegenerative disease, and heart disease.2 While plants do have some of this, it’s not in appreciable amounts. To get enough of this you can either eat about five egg yolks, a few ounces of liver or some broccoli…more than a pound to be exact. (Have fun with the gas…)
Carnitine: Carnitine helps us use our fat-stores for energy. This fat-based metabolite is particularly useful in the brain and has significant impact in treating individuals suffering from Depressive Disorder. “Supplementing with Carnitine has been linked to significantly decreasing depressive symptoms offering a comparable effect to the established anti-depressant agents with fewer side effects.”3
Carnosine: Think of carnosine as a natural anti-aging mechanism. This gem reduces the formation of something called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s). These products occur when sugars bind with proteins or lipids and high levels of AGE have been associated with diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.
But Lance, vegetables have vitamins and minerals too!!
You’re right, but they also have numerous plant toxins such as lectins, phytic acid, and oxalates that inhibit the absorption of these nutrients.4
Take zinc for example. Oysters are one of the richest sources of zinc, and when eaten alone, produce large increases of plasma zinc. When researchers combined oysters with black beans or tortillas, absorption was significantly impaired. Black beans reduced absorption to nearly 1/3 while the addition of tortillas completely inhibited zinc absorption.5
It’s not the plants’ fault! The chemicals responsible for this are necessary for their survival. Both oxalate and phytic acid are used to “bind” to minerals such as magnesium, zinc, selenium, and calcium for storage within plant cells so they can grow. Ingesting these same toxins produces similar effects in our digestive track preventing the absorption of these nutrients.
Continuing to evaluate the definition of “super”, we need to look at the ability for the nutrients in food sources to be available in the most useable form to the human body.
Let’s evaluate iron and protein.
In animal foods, the iron molecule is present in the “heme” form and is absorbed rapidly by the body due to its molecular structure. Plant sources of iron are essentially naked atoms, and the absorption is significantly reduced in the gut.6 Therefor, relying on plant foods as a primary source of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition easily corrected by ingesting the “heme” form found in animal and organ meats!
It’s no debate that animal sourced protein is of better quality than plant based. Quality of protein is measured by something known as digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS). These scores give us a sense of how much protein can actually be used by the body. I’ll include a picture below for those tired of reading, but it’s important to remember that the amount of these nutrients is not as important as how bioavailable they are.
But Lance! Why does going Vegan help some people??
One key feature that both vegan and animal-base diets share is the elimination of certain foods.
While I believe animal-based is a more optimal diet compared to plant-based; I also support walnuts, goji berries, and kale over twinkies and oxidized vegetable oils. Plant-based may be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or seeking weight loss, but when only eating fruits and vegetables, it’s difficult to achieve our recommended nutritional values or get enough calories to meet our basic metabolic needs.
My point is not that plants don’t have any nutrients, but that in comparison it is far simpler to build your diet around nutrient dense animal based foods if you are serious about getting your body the nutrition it needs. Check this graph out below – You’ll see that the true “superfood” isn’t Kale or fruit…
More often than not people end up with nutrient deficiencies when cutting out animal products. Eating animals is how we evolved and it’s the most effective way to fuel our bodies. Unless you are supplementing heavily with vitamins or processed foods, it’s hard to do the plant-based diet well.
If you really want to eat “super”, choose foods that have bioavailable nutrients in a form our body can use. The more high-quality animal-based food we eat, the more bioavailable nutrients we consume, the fewer plant toxins we ingest, the more we will thrive.
Next week we look “under the hood” at my blood panel and body composition results.
If you guys have any questions or feedback, I’m not interested.
Jk, hit me up at Lance@brotallion.com or @nohandlesrandles so we can share ideas.
- Moore, Eileen, et al. “Cognitive Impairment and Vitamin B12: a Review.” International Psychogeriatrics, vol. 24, no. 4, 2012, pp. 541–556., doi:10.1017/S1041610211002511.
- Steven H Zeisel, Kerry-Ann da Costa, Choline: an essential nutrient for public health, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 11, 1 November 2009, Pages 615–623, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x
- Veronese, Nicola et al. “Acetyl-L-Carnitine Supplementation and the Treatment of Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Psychosomatic medicine vol. 80,2 (2018): 154-159. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000537
- Lönnerdal, B. “Dietary factors influencing zinc absorption.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 130,5S Suppl (2000): 1378S-83S. doi:10.1093/jn/130.5.1378S
- Solomons, N W et al. “Studies on the bioavailability of zinc in man. Effects of the Guatemalan rural diet and of the iron-fortifying agent, NaFeEDTA.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 109,9 (1979): 1519-28. doi:10.1093/jn/109.9.1519
- Hooda, Jagmohan et al. “Heme, an essential nutrient from dietary proteins, critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes.” Nutrients vol. 6,3 1080-102. 13 Mar. 2014, doi:10.3390/nu6031080