WHY YOU DON’T ABSORB NUTRIENTS FROM PLANTS AND THAT’S OKAY
You are an animal.
You are a higher order of biology than the plant kingdom. By “order” I mean more metabolically and biochemically complex.
Your body has to do more work to turn plant into animal than it does to turn animal into animal. More complexity for your gastric secretions to dissolve in the acid bath of your stomach. Also consider that there is a distinct difference in biochemistry between nutrients in their plant form and nutrients in their animal form. Take what we refer to as “Vitamin A”, for example. Vitamin A in a plant is often in the form of beta-carotene. Your body has to take these plant compounds (carotenoids in this case) and use energy to convert it into what you use as an animal, which is called retinol or true vitamin A. Whereas if you were to consume animal fat (butter, lard, egg yolk, whole milk), then that Vitamin A (retinol) would go right to where it needs to go in the body without having to be converted.
Like recognizes like. Simple.
In Chinese Medicine we sometimes say – it takes flesh to build flesh; it takes blood to build blood.
Now, this doesn’t mean go overboard with meat. There are oxidative drawbacks to unrestricted protein consumption. In fact, they aren’t just oxidative drawbacks, they are nitrosative drawbacks – simply meaning that there is too much nitrogen from all the amino acids in your system.
Now to enzymes. You are least equipped to digest plants than any other form of food by virtue of the enzymes that are produced by your stomach, pancreas, and salivary glands. You can digest carbohydrate – you produce amylase. You can digest fat – you produce lipase. You can digest protein – you produce protease. Unless you are lactose intolerant (which can be a genetic issue or a functional issue), you even produce lactase for digesting the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products. However, you produce no cellulase whatsoever – the enzyme necessary to break down the cell wall of plants (which are made of cellulose). Most herbivores do not even produce cellulase, much less the omnivorous human. This is why certain herbivores have rumens (meaning they are ruminants) – a specialized second-stomach that is super-hot and full of bacteria for breaking down plant material by fermentation. In the case of cows and other ruminants, they cough up their cud (partially digested grass and plant material) to chew it even more before swallowing it again to be chemically digested by their first stomach. They do this over and over. If that weren’t enough, cows have four stomachs to be double, triple, and quadruple sure that the plant material has been thoroughly broken down and is ready for absorption. They do this in lieu of cooking.
If you are a gorilla or a panda, you spend practically your entire day eating. This is because it’s extremely hard to absorb the amount of nutrients necessary for life on only plant material. If you want to absorb nutrition from plant material, the cell walls of the plant must be broken so the contents of the cells are released. To do this, they must be cooked. Chewing doesn’t even come close and stomach acid doesn’t cut it either – this is evidenced by the fact that when many people eat salad, they end up seeing salad in the toilet. Plant cells are able withstand up to 1,500 pounds per square inch. The human bite maxes out at 120 lb/in², and we don’t usually bite down on our food with all our might. When humans developed the ability to use fire, they became better able to digest and to absorb the nutrients from plants.
Man uses fire to cook his food. This is why we have the most unique diet on Earth.
Many people nowadays are under the assumption that raw food is superior to cooked food because it retains its life force. While this may be true at a certain level, it is not your bodies objective to assimilate the life force from what it eats. It’s job is to make it’s own life force from the building blocks its given. It is a transformative process – not just adding life force to a life force receptacle. When you eat that raw head of broccoli, you are eating something that is still alive. As it goes through your digestive tract it is releasing chemical defense compounds in an attempt to keep from being eaten (see, Living with Phytic Acid). The broccoli does not simply give up. When you throw a raw seed on the ground, it germinates – it’s life force dictates this. When you throw a seed that has been soaked or roasted on the ground, its own internal life force is gone and it’s nutrients are available to the bacteria in the soil around it – it becomes life force for something else.
For many health, ecological, and ethical-minded individuals, eating animal products raises a number of red flags. There is no doubt that the practices of both conventional farming and animal slaughter are horrifying and render unhealthy products. There are a number of documentaries on the atrocities of factory farming which I will not list here.
Do your best to find high quality products. Free-range, grass-fed, humanely slaughtered (Kosher, Halal, etc.), and organic is what you want. Be aware that grass has now been genetically modified and if it’s not organic then “grass-fed” can also mean GMO-fed.
Also, honor that which nourishes you and sustains your life. Be thankful for your food and pray that it serves you to the highest possible degree. Even if your food was not humanely slaughtered, you can take a moment to pray and to transmute the negativity the animal absorbed on its journey to your plate by giving thanks to the life that was given so that you can live. It is never too late to do this.
Now, for the flip side…
WHY PLANTS ARE BAD FOR YOU AND THAT’S A GOOD THING
The above points are really to elucidate the nutritional dangers of a pure vegan, especially raw food vegan, diet in the long run.
This being said, there is a flip-side. Animals and vegetables serve two distinct but equally important functions in the body.
- Animals are for nutrition.
- Plants are for adaptation.
Animals defend themselves with claws, fangs, and quills. Plants don’t have this luxury. It’s risky business when your bright green solar panels (leaves) are constantly out in the open for any bug to land on and have lunch. So what do plants do? They build their defenses into the solar panels themselves (see Phytic Acids, above). When a bug bites into a leaf, it’s being sprayed in the face with terpenoids, polyphenols, alkaloids, phytic acids, and the like.
Thankfully, you are not a bug. You have a complex digestive system that is capable of dealing with these otherwise stressful molecules. Here’s the kicker – that’s exactly how plants make you healthier. They’re actually bad for you!
The same thing goes for exercise; or for the low-level laser therapy I use in my clinic; or for many medicinal herbs. All these things increase reactive oxygen species in your mitochondria. All that means is that you are stressing your mitochondria out and making them work harder.
This makes for strong, healthy mitochondria!
Every medicinal plant compound that’s ever been found does it’s work in the interstitial membrane outside of your cells. Your body reads these plant compounds as a low-level stressor (a hormetic stress) and increases the production of it’s own, endogenous antioxidants (i.e. glutathione). The silymarins in milk thistle, for instance, aren’t converted into glutathione. They simply tell your body to make more of it. The glutathione then enters into the cell membrane and provides it’s antioxidant magic from the inside – plant compounds don’t do this. Remember, plants and animals are two entirely different… animals? No… plants. No…
The moral of this story is that you need plants to stay healthy just as much as you need animal products. You need choline, zinc, iron, retinol, calcitriol, cobalamin, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients from animals in their animal form so you can absorb and utilize them. You need terpenoids, polyphenols, alkaloids, sterols, and other compounds from plants to help your body adapt to it’s environment and send it the message – “Hey, let’s be healthy.”
All in all, it’s about balance.