I’ve written and recorded a lot of evidence-based content over the years on just about everything you can imagine related to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy.
I’ve also worked with thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances and helped them get into the best shape of their lives.
That doesn’t mean you should blindly swallow everything I say, though, because let’s face it—nobody is always right about everything. And especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are constantly evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and thought leaders.
This is why I’m always happy to hear from people who disagree with me, especially when they have good arguments and evidence to back up their assertions.
Sometimes I can’t get on board with their positions, but sometimes I end up learning something, and either way, I always appreciate the discussion.
That gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes: publicly addressing things people disagree with me on and sharing my perspective.
Think of it like a spicier version of a Q&A.
So, here’s what I’m doing:
Every couple of weeks, I’m asking my Instagram followers what they disagree with me on, and then picking the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast.
And in this episode, I’ll be tackling the following . . .
- Plant foods aren’t essential for optimal health.
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
2:59 – Are plant foods essential?
8:51 – Do you need to eat plant foods to survive?
10:53 – Why is vitamin C important?
12:53 – How do you get enough vitamin C with a carnivore diet?
14:45 – Is fiber necessary?
16:08 – What are phytonutrients and are they necessary?
17:40 – What are flavonoids and are they beneficial?
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if you haven’t already, please do take a moment to subscribe to the show in whatever app you are listening to me in so you don’t miss any new episodes. And so you help me by boosting the rankings of the show.
So today’s episode is another installment in my says U series where I address something that somebody disagrees with me on and I. The fodder for these episodes, mostly from email and Instagram. So if you have disagreed with me on something I’ve said about how to eat or exercise or supplement or live or think, or anything else I’ve said over the years, let me know.
Shoot me an email [email protected] or shoot me a DM on Instagram. At most for life fitness and I will get back to you and if it seems like something I should feature on the podcast, then I will do that as well. So today’s contention is plant foods, and I don’t have a name here on who reached out to me on this, but somebody said plant foods are not essential for optimal health, that I am wrong about that.
And so I will be responding to that in today’s episode. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world.
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That’s B U Y L E G I n.com/mike. And just to show you how much I appreciate my podcast peeps, use the coupon code M F L checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first order. Okay, so plant foods, are they essential for optimal health? If you are familiar with me and my work, you know that my position for a long time, since the beginning really has been, yes, they are essential for optimal health.
Many people disagree with me on that one though, especially with the rise of the carnivore diet and now the organ craze. That’s something I should probably talk. Write about eating organ meats. And so there are many people who say, no plants are not essential for optimal health. And some people take that even further and say that we shouldn’t be eating plant foods or we should be limiting our intake of plant foods because they are harming our health.
In various ways, and if we just ate enough of the right types of meats, insert organ meats here, then not only do we not need plant foods, but we will be even better than if we ate a bunch of plant foods that we will have better health and vitality with just the meats. Now I am familiar with a lot of the claims made for the carnivore diet.
I wrote about this probably a year or two ago and recorded a podcast on it a year or two ago, and nothing has fundamentally changed in my eyes since then. This organ meat craze is new, but the fundamental principles of carnivore dieting. Argument fundamentally has not changed, and so my position against it has not changed.
I think it is a reasonable elimination diet, so if you have somebody who is having a lot of gastrointestinal issues or other problems when they. Eat food and they don’t know which foods are the problem foods, then it can make sense to start from scratch, essentially to go down to just meat, which is well tolerated by most people, and then start reintroducing the foods that they like to eat one at a time, and then seeing what happens and.
If the person did have some underlying food sensitivity issue or food allergy issue, it can get picked up this way because as they introduce these foods back into their diet one by one, keep a journal and record how they feel. If they respond negatively in any way, then they will find the trigger foods.
And so that use of the carnivore diet of eating. Meat makes a lot of sense and it is something that has support in the scientific literature and dieticians have been doing that with people for a long time to help them find the foods that cause them problems, but to eliminate everything from your diet and then stick with just eating meat indefinitely, goes against a lot of what we understand about the body’s basic nutritional.
Needs, and it goes against the weight of the evidence of the benefits of eating. A lot of nutritious plant foods and paradigms can change. Of course, you have many examples in many disciplines many scientific disciplines where paradigms did completely change, where eventually up. Down or black became white.
And so I am completely open to that happening in the realms of diet and nutrition and exercise. But I’m also very skeptical of anyone who claims to have made the breakthrough. They’re going to have to show a very good understanding of the previous paradigm, and they are going to have very good explanations for why that is wrong.
And then they’re going to have a highly. Reproducible hypothesis about what is more right, a hypothesis that can consistently produce better results than what we assumed was true previously. And their hypothesis should have a lot of predictive power. It should allow us to make better predictions about what we would expect to.
If that hypothesis were true, and especially in areas that were previously confusing, where we were unable to really understand the underlying mechanisms and make accurate predictions. And so when I looked at the theoretical underpinning of a meat only diet as promoted by some of the big credentialed advocates of it, I didn’t see those things.
I didn’t see a deep understanding of the existing paradigm and a deep, insightful explanation of exactly. We have been wrong in our thinking and a new hypothesis that allows us to get better results to make better predictions. Instead, what I’ve seen is a lot of cherry picking of evidence, a lot of shallow dismissal of countervailing evidence, a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo, usually full of jargon, using technical terms to dazzle people, sory and a lot of anecdotal evidence, and I’ve also heard from quite a few people over the last couple of years as meat eating has become more popular, who have reported not doing well with a meat only. Diet, giving it a go, and then experiencing the common problems that many people run into when they haven’t eaten anything but meat for six plus months.
And I’m gonna get into all of that in this podcast. I just wanted to start with clearly laying out my current position. . Okay, so let’s get into it. First, do you need to eat plant foods to survive? Are they essential for survival? No, they are not. You can survive on just eating meat. You can, but of course, Me.
Survival is not a very ambitious goal, right? We want to thrive. We want to live a long life. We want to live a healthy life. We want to live a vital life. We want to have high energy levels. We want to have high mood. We want to be able to do all of the things that we like to do well into our golden years.
Right? And research does show that yes, we can survive on animal products alone because there are no essential nutrients that we. Find in at least some quantity of animal products. So long as we are willing to eat a variety of different types of meats. But if we want to have optimal health, cuz we’re going back to the contention was that plant foods are not essential for optimal health and we should probably define optimal.
So optimal is best. Most favorable, right? It’s a strong word. This, the claim is not even that plant foods are essential for decent health. It’s optimal health, thriving best health, and so to accomplish that, the weight of a lot of evidence, we’re talking about decades and decades of research and tons of anecdotal evidence.
Eating a lot of nutritious plant foods is the easiest way to do that. So let’s take a couple of key nutrients that you need to get enough of to have optimal health nutrients that are not going to be found in large amounts in animal foods. Let’s talk about vitamin C. Fiber and then some phytonutrients and also flavonoids things that, again, you need to get enough of to have optimal health.
So vitamin C is important because it’s involved in many different functions in the body, ranging from wound healing to immune function, to iron absorption, and protecting cells from oxidative damage. And when you eat very little, C, so let’s say less than about 10 milligrams per day or so. For too long you can develop scurvy and then you’re gonna get inflammation in your gums.
You’re gonna lose your teeth. If you let it go too far, you’re gonna feel very fatigued. You’re gonna have skin sores, joint pain, and eventually you die from it. And along the way, Your immune system is going to become compromised. You are going to be in a bad mood all of the time. You can gain weight from appetite, disruption, and lower levels of physical activity.
You’re gonna experience anemia. It’s pretty ugly now. Most kinds of meat, including chicken, Turkey, beef, lamb, and pork, they contain little or no vitamin C. The exception, however, is organ meats like liver, heart, and kidney, which do contain trace amounts of vitamin C. Not much though. For example, beef liver contains about one milligram of vitamin C per 100 grams.
Beef in weight, don’t think grams of protein, but grams in weight. Lamb liver contains a bit more four milligrams per hundred grams. And chicken, liver is 18 milligrams per 100 grams in weight. And so that would mean that if you are trying to get all of your daily vitamin C from only chicken, liver, you’d have to eat over a pound per.
Day, and you’d have to do that without throwing it all up. You’d have to keep that down. Now, let’s compare that to an orange one, measly little orange, 53 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams. And that’s more than half of your daily requirement right there. 100 grams of orange. That is it. And that’s a small orange by the.
That’s not even a large orange. So then how are you supposed to get enough vitamin C without eating plants? The standard carnivore diet approved response is that you don’t need that much vitamin C because you aren’t eating. Carbs or you’re eating very little carbohydrate and that can sound reasonable, I suppose if you don’t look into it, if you just take it at face value.
But if you do look into it, you will quickly learn that the biology is just off the mark. As far as we know. Eating less carbohydrate does not fundamentally or drastically alter the body’s nutritional requirements, and to assume otherwise is speculation. That goes against the weight of the evidence. That goes against a lot of research on our vitamin C needs and our general nutritional needs.
So we have this speculative hypothesis that is also potentially dangerous because like I mentioned, if you don’t get enough vitamins, C for long enough, you get sick and yeah, you can go for months with very low vitamin C intake before the wheels start to fall off. And as long as you consume at least about 10 milligrams or so of vitamin C per day, yeah, you won’t develop scurvy.
But of course, that is an extreme disease that nobody. The first world should ever experience. And of course, that is not an argument for the appropriateness of eating very little vitamin C, and it also does not mean that just because you feel okay eating very little vitamin C that you wouldn’t feel better or that your body wouldn’t function better if it were getting more.
And research shows that may be the case, that there may be. Longer term negative health consequences of eating too little Vitamin C. And the story is similar for fiber. We don’t need fiber to survive. So yes, we could go for the rest of our lives without eating another gram of fiber ever, but there is a lot of evidence that our life is probably gonna be shorter and more painful if we get.
Fiber and evidence can be overturned, like I mentioned earlier on in this podcast. But extraordinary amounts of evidence require extraordinary counter balancing evidence. It requires an extraordinary hypothesis that much better explains a lot of things than what we currently. Have, and so with fiber, there are a lot of studies from scientists at the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine from scientists at Imperial College, the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Tufts University, as well as many others from all around the world that have consistently shown that eating.
Fiber helps reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type two diabetes and diverticulitis. So again, fiber is not essential for survival, but there is a lot of very good evidence that it is essential for thriving. It is essential for optimal health. Okay, now let’s talk about phytonutrients, which are chemicals that are produced by plants to protect against different environmental threats like insects and disease.
And some people who follow a meat-based diet justify not eating. Phytonutrients getting no phytonutrients by saying that these chemicals are toxic actually to humans, and it’s better to not consume them. Now, this is an example of the mechanistic jargon laced sory that I mentioned earlier, because technically you could say, yeah, these are.
Toxins and that they are acute stressors. They cause stress to the body, but research shows that makes the body stronger. That is a healthy process. It’s called hormesis. And that, by the way, is one of the reasons why resistance training is good for the body. It is an acute stressor that then causes our muscles to adapt and get stronger.
Bones to adapt and get stronger. And so what we are looking at here in terms of things that cause stress to our body is that old saying that the dose makes the poison. Now what are the bottom line results? The bottom line effects of these phytonutrients or research shows that they do a lot of things in the body.
They activate different pathways that reduce inflammation, enhance. I. Improve cellular communication, repair, DNA damage, and even detoxify potential carcinogens. Now something else that I mentioned that’s in plant foods that’s good for us is the flavonoid. And these are compounds that have an antioxidant effect in the body, and that’s why research shows that people who eat a flavonoid rich diet have a reduced risk of heart disease, improved brain health and function, improved colon health, lower blood pressure, improved blood vessel function, and lower blood cholesterol levels, and you can only get flavonoids.
Fruits and vegetables. You can only get phytonutrients from plant foods, mostly fruits and vegetables and like vitamin C. In fiber though, the phytonutrients that we talked about, the flavonoids, these are not essential for life. But if you eat them consistently, they’re. Gonna help you stick around for longer and they’re gonna help you have a more pleasant experience while you are in your mortal coil.
So in the final analysis, yes, it’s true that plant foods are not essential to survive, but they are essential if you want to. Have optimum health. If you want to have the best possible health available to you, you want to eat a lot of plant foods and for people who don’t want to hear that, and these are often people who are drawn to the carnivore diet.
I’ve spoken with a lot of people who. Wanted to give it a go over the last couple of years, again, as it has gained a lot of popularity. And they told me that, of course, the primary attraction of that diet to them was they don’t really like eating fruits and vegetables and whole grains and seeds and legumes.
They would rather just eat more steak and more hamburger, and maybe they’ll be willing to throw some Morgan meats in there as well. And that right there, not wanting to eat like an adult, that is really the problem. That is what creates the market for something like the carnivore diet. And while you can certainly point a finger at the shysters who promote it and who make money selling books and selling supplements and butcher box subscriptions and so on.
If people were to stop trying to run from this rather mundane aspect of reality that we just need to eat plant foods to be really healthy, okay, fine. It is what it is. If people were to stop trying to deal with that reality as they wish it were, instead of as it. Is then of course there would be no carnivore diet because there would be no money in concocting bullshit like that.
And those bullshitters would go make up some new bullshit, but at least it would be different bullshit. Maybe we would hold them to higher standards of bullshit. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.
Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.