A good, balanced diet is a basic tenet of good physical health. And it always has been, for as long as humans have walked the Earth.
So, when you start eliminating whole categories of foods—such as cutting out meat—your health starts to suffer. Including your mental health.
In fact, a recent analysis found that people who abstain from meat have a “significantly” higher risk of developing mood disorders.
I’ll tell you all about that analysis in a moment. But first—let’s back up to consider the history of eating meat…
Humans have a long history of eating meat
As I’ve often reported, humans are naturally omnivores. Which means they evolved to get their nutrition from a variety of different foods—including nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, and seafood.
Meat actually was on the “menu” by two million years ago—well before grains and the advent of agricultural practices. Some experts even think eating meat played a critical role in the development of the human brain.
Of course, on the flip side, some people throughout history have chosen to abstain from eating meat for ethical or religious reasons. But the practice of vegetarianism for health reasons is a very recent phenomenon that only emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And indeed, by the 1970s, there were some early studies that found vegetarians tended to have lower rates of cancer and other chronic diseases.
However, as I’ve often reported, subsequent analyses explained that we can’t credit the restricted, meatless diet itself for those health benefits. Rather, researchers learned that modern vegetarians most often exhibited other “healthy” behaviors, such as engaging in moderate exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, which wholly accounted for their improved health outcomes. Plus, we now have longer-term studies that show vegetarians do not live longer than their peers who eat meat.
High-quality meat provides important nutrition
Remember, there’s a big difference between eating processed meats, such as hot dogs and chicken nuggets, and eating a healthy, balanced Mediterranean-type diet filled with plenty of wild-caught seafood and organic, free-range, grass-fed and -finished meat. And finally, studies are beginning to show that food processing is what’s most strongly associated with ill health and chronic diseases. Not the meat itself.
Not to mention, fresh, unprocessed seafood and meat contains many nutrients which are essential to overall health…and to mental health especially, including:
- B vitamins, which are called “neurovitamins” in Europe
- Bioavailable minerals that support brain health, including zinc and iron (which you should only get from foods, not supplements)
- Complete proteins, which contain all the amino acids required to make serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter
- Essential fats, which are required for brain and mental health
- Fat-soluble vitamins, including the all-important vitamin D
Unfortunately, vegetarians are often deficient in these nutrients, which brings me back to the new analysis I mentioned earlier…
People who avoid meat have poorer mental health
Researchers reviewed data from 18 previously published studies that involved more than 160,000 participants from Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania. About 150,000 of them regularly enjoyed meat as part of their balanced diet. And about 10,000 of them completely avoided eating meat.
According to the researchers, there were some clear differences in the strength and quality of the studies included in their analysis—with some studies suffering from a poor design or biased conclusions.
But overall, the most rigorous and well-designed studies showed that the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm behaviors was “significantly greater” in participants who avoided eating meat.
Again, this finding isn’t very surprising, given the fact that vegetarians are often deficient in key brain-supporting nutrients found mainly in meat and seafood.
Plus, this study isn’t the first to find a strong connection between avoiding meat and mental health problems. In fact, just last year, I told you about a study that found men and women who follow vegetarian diets have more than TWICE the rates of depression and anxiety as those who eat meat.
Find a healthy balance
Of course, if you avoid eating meat for ethical reasons, I certainly respect your decision. I only eat meat and dairy from free-range, grass-fed and -finished, and organic animals. Not only is it better for the treatment of the animals, but it also results in better-tasting and healthier foods for human consumption. Plus, treating all living creatures with respect and consideration is ethical and has a positive influence on our mental health.
But if you restrict meat for health reasons, you’re simply on the wrong track. In fact, you face a far greater challenge to achieving optimal nutrition and optimal health if you don’t eat meat. Plus, with skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, following a balanced diet is more important than ever.
Furthermore, if you restrict meat because you think it’s better for the environment…think again. As I’ll explain next week, the new plant-based diet craze is simply another scheme concocted by big food to continue making big profits on processed foods and ingredients..
(You can also learn more about the truth behind plant-based diets in the March 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures [“NEWS ALERT: Popular plant-based diets are not as healthy as they claim”]. Subscribers have access to this issue and all of my past content in the archives. So, if you haven’t already, consider signing up today.)
In the end, life is all about finding the right, healthy balance. Balance in your sleep habits. Balance in your exercise habits. And, of course, balance in your eating habits. That’s why I continue following a healthy, balanced diet full of various fresh, whole foods—including meat. And I encourage you to do the same.
“Meat and mental health: a systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2020 Apr 20;1-14. doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1741505.