-What The History Channel and Charles Dickens Teaches us About Meat
Learning what good nutrition is in modern America is an adventure full of opinions, half-truths, broscience, and corporate interests with various levels of compassion. For every documentary or quote promoting this or that diet, there are waves of counterpoints and a pile of dirty attacks.
So, let’s take a slightly different perspective on all this.
One of my favorite reality shows is called Alone. Ten contestants are dropped off all alone in a remote location with some basic survival gear. They have a satellite radio they can use to tap out of the competition at any time, and the last one to tap out wins. After they build a shelter, get wood for their fires, and establish a water source, their long-term success is based on where they’re getting their fat from. Of course, there’s also a huge psychological component which is what makes the series so compelling, but physiologically, animal fat is the game changer.
Spoiler alert! In season six, which took place in Northern Canada, a contestant downed a moose and figured he was set for food for a few months. Unfortunately, the local wolverines kept stealing the few precious stores of fat from the meat, and he was left with mostly lean moose meat. His body was left withering away. His saving grace was a few timely lake trouts that provided a rich source of fat. He lasted over seventy days in the wilderness because of his fat source and mental resolve. The second-place contestant subsisted on rodent meat, which is far leaner and certainly contributed to her early tap out.
So, our bodies need fat. And if we pair wild meats with a style of living somewhat analogous to our ancestors, they’re actually the best possible foods we can consume. We’ve already explored many of these practices. Eating a wild animal nose to tail, along with eggs, provides the best possible bioavailable nutrients to the human body, meaning those nutrients are far easier to digest and absorb than from plant foods. Pasture-raised, “100% grass-fed” ruminant meat would be the next best thing.
Modern, reductionist science has a history rife with corporate influence, heart disease hysteria, and misinformation. It falsely links red meat consumption with greater risk of disease due to its high fat and cholesterol content. However, it’s simply not the case that you’re going to increase your risk of heart disease or colon cancer by eating more red meat.
Actually, there’s evidence to support that consuming a more meat-heavy diet is protective against these illnesses and that red meat consumption, when replacing carb-heavy foods produced with soybean oil, decreases inflammation in the body (1, 2).
There has never been a clinical study demonstrating a causal link between eating red meats and developing heart disease or cancer (3).
At best, these trends are sometimes correlated in epidemiological/survey-based studies, but there are so many confounding factors that it would be negligent to conclude a causal link between these two and make nationwide recommendations based on these studies.
In my most recent doctor’s visit, one of the standard questions asked me about my red meat consumption, probably to tease out my risk for developing heart disease or colon cancer. Afterward, I was kicking myself for not responding with a very real description of how I eat: “Oh, I make sure that red meat is my primary source of calories, and I especially like to cook it in fatty butter and beef tallow”…just to see how the doctor would respond.
This outdated, poorly substantiated claim that we need to reduce red meat consumption is still present everywhere. We knew better in Charles Dickens’ days when he wrote Oliver Twist.
In the story, the impoverished, orphaned boys in the workhouse were fed a steady diet of gruel, or porridge. Grain soup. Their morales were low and energy lacking. Their overseers oppressed them equally with diet as with their duties. When Oliver is eventually moved out of the orphanage and given an apprenticeship, his new masters start to feed him meat. It’s then the boy becomes bold and rebellious against oppression. When Oliver took a stand against Mr. Bumble, one of his primary, cruel caregivers, Mrs. Sowerberry cried, “Oh, you know, Mr. Bumble, he must be mad. No boy in half his senses could venture to speak so to you.”
“It’s not Madness, ma’am,” replied Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of deep meditation. “It’s Meat… If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma’am, this would never have happened… the only thing that can be done now, that I know of, is to leave him in the cellar for a day or so, till he’s a little starved down; and then to take him out, and keep him on gruel all through the apprenticeship.”
Grain-based diets, especially with a lack of good animal fats, are practically designed to keep humans weak and impoverished. I realize that the arrival of genetically modified crops like dwarf wheat, which we’ve talked about before, saved thousands from starvation, and I don’t want to claim that these scientists and farmers are out to hurt the population. But the moral of that story is that grains are one step above starvation. We can do better than that.
You have now completed Module 3!
While there is one more module left in R+R Elements, if you have made it to this point and are ready to take your recovery journey to the next level, I invite you to apply for the full R+R program using this link. While we review your application, you can continue working through Elements.
PS, don’t waste your time on kale, either.