“Cowspiracy” is full of information, and being as informed as possible about any issue is important regardless of the position you may advocate. I still believe that grass-fed animals from local farms can play a significant role in healthful nutrition. But clearly there is a lot of work to be done in order to find a very different way to feed the world. To completely eliminate meat, however, seems to be an extreme choice, and I do not believe it is the healthiest alternative. We need to look outside the box. Just the other day I read about using cricket flour as an alternative protein source. I also wonder how the multitude of household pets impacts the environment. Almost every home seems to have at least one pet, and they don’t usually feed themselves. Then there is the issue of waste. We claim that we can't feed the world, but how much food do we simply waste? What if we only took what we actually needed? What would that look like? I also find it so interesting that we in America find certain animals so “sacred” that we can't even think about consuming them. Consider the number of horses, cats, dogs, and rabbits routinely slaughtered or euthanized; almost all that meat goes to waste.
The producers of “Cowspiracy” don't talk about sustainability from the perspective of using the whole animal. We live in a culture where we tend to use only the animal parts we like. What would it look like, though, if each family owned a cow and actually used every single part of it? For instance, I use tallow (beef fat) as a primary skincare product. If everyone used that rather than the chemical-laden products the makeup companies insist we need, wouldn’t that produce a huge financial and environmental benefit? Liver (yuck?) is the most nutrient-dense food there is, more than any vegetable or anything else. Given the choice, would you eat it or throw it out? What if we ate for nutrition instead of for artificial flavors, sugar, and salt? What if half of America wasn't hungry most of the time due to severe blood sugar imbalance? What If people were actually satisfied after a healthful meal? Would we even need the amount of food we now use? What if restaurants and food companies were required to make better use of the excess, leftovers, and scraps that are now just discarded? Perhaps we could feed the homeless. What if, instead of using pesticides to kill off the bugs that eat our crops, we just ate the bugs instead? Many cultures understand that insects are a viable and abundant source of protein. The goal is to stop raping our planet in general, and the debate will continue as to what is the most viable solution. But can’t we try to extract the really useful ideas from all the voices in this debate?
Vegans insist they live "healthy," and many do. But is every vegan healthy simply because he follows vegan principles? When you educate yourself about cholesterol, vitamins like A and B12, and minerals such as iron, you begin to understand how vegetables can provide these nutrients, but you also begin to question if our intensive, large-scale farming methods can continue to produce quality vegetables on land that has already been stripped of its original natural nutrients. Based on all I learned at nutrition school, the most healthful approach seems to be a whole foods plant-based diet. Getting adequate protein and fat from other sources is very, very difficult. I see things like on this movie where they show fake meat please no one tell me that in any way that is more sustainable or healthier. I suggest everyone watch “A Place at the Table” which explores hunger in the United States. Even if going vegan is the answer to the world’s nutrition problems, it’s a sad fact that people, including a lot of people in America, live in food deserts--places that simply do not have local produce available anywhere. And even when it is available, limited food budgets make vegetables seem unappealing. This is a huge problem.
It seems unlikely that the debate between vegetarians and meat-eaters will be settled any time soon. Regardless of the outcome of this debate (as well as so many others in the nutrition arena, such as the use of GMOs), the issue of sustainability must be addressed. If the process cannot be sustained or if the process does not sustain the person, failure is almost certain. In the meantime, I realize that what I need to do most of all is practice what I preach. I need to live the way I believe the world should live. I see that I am more wasteful than I want to be, and I don’t always make sure that every piece of meat I buy is 100% grass-fed and sustainable. Since I do have the education, I need to use it, and if that means I have to take the extra time to double check products, ingredients and sources, then that’s what I need to do. I want to set an example so people see that each individual can make a difference. I believe in gardens instead of picturesque lawns, so this year I will get a garden tower to grow my own food and donate what I don’t use, giving back to the community in a truly sustainable way. Volunteers can create urban gardens where only food deserts now exist. We can educate families on a tight budget so they can make healthy food decisions. Don’t believe that we can’t each make an impact because we can. I suggest all of us take a look at five to ten things we can do in our daily lives. Maybe it’s making sure that we buy locally for one solid week. Maybe it’s investing now in something that will benefit us all later. Volunteer. Eat organic. Find a local farm and buy food there. Get to know the owners and understand you are supporting a real family. Recycle. Educate yourself on your grocery store. What do they truly believe in and support? Improvement is always possible, but it is up to each of us as individuals. Don’t just wait for somebody else to do it!
Now, on to the topic of communicating accurate, useful nutrition information. I have found myself very frustrated and upset just in the last week by the number of people who talk about nutrition but have no business doing so. When it comes to nutrition, it seems as if almost everyone is an “expert.” The more extreme your position is, the more of an “expert” you are! I have to chuckle when I say this because I was a vegetarian who used to open my mouth all the time to “educate” people whether or not they wanted the “benefit” of my wisdom. I wish someone would have slapped me. While I did have some nutrition education (maybe even more than average), I was far from an expert. I hadn’t gone to school for that yet. Since today’s facts change as we learn new things, I realize that what I know now may be very much outdated in just a few years. But I also know that as a nutritionist, it is my job to keep up with changing knowledge so my clients receive the best advice possible. People who are not professionally trained may not have much incentive to review and re-evaluate their opinions. Those are persons who should just keep their mouths shut.
Too many people rely on nutrition information regardless of the source. As someone who has invested time and effort to become genuinely educated on nutrition, I find this troubling. You are certainly free to take the advice of any old Joe Shmoe in an effort to save a few dollars, but is this really the best approach? Would you follow the free advice of a non-lawyer on an important legal matter instead of consulting with an actual lawyer? Nutrition advice is not any different. I have seen far too many supplement companies which are very skilled at multi-level marketing but which also present misleading or outright false information. The other day a woman called me a “certified” bitch when I tried to explain that a peanut was a legume and not a true nut. A friend on Facebook was looking for a nutritionist to help her make some lifestyle changes. She received a huge number of responses from people who were certain they could help her, but do you know how many of them were actually nutritionists? NOT A SINGLE ONE! There always seems to be someone who watched one nutrition video and is now convinced he knows all there is to know about healthy eating.
A tremendous amount of great information is readily available, and many people have picked up bits and pieces of it. A trained nutritionist, however, is someone who knows how to best utilize that information on a person-by-person basis. Especially when it comes to nutrition, the needs and goals of each individual must be evaluated carefully. The fundamental question always has to be, “Just how healthy are you on your present nutrition program?” How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, this diet works for me,” but then she goes on and on about all of her health problems. This is not how nutrition, properly understood and applied, works. Dieting isn’t synonymous with nutrition. Almost every day I see another example of a low-fat, count-your-calories diet that produced a temporary weight loss at the cost of the dieter’s health. I posted this quote earlier this week, “Being skinny, having a six pack or working out all the time doesn't mean you're healthy. We are so caught up with what's happening on the outside, but we ignore what our bodies are actually telling us. My goal is to reach as many people as I can to help them learn about health and nutrition. For many the first step will be unlearning what they were taught. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, thyroid issues and more, I am here to help. But I do not condone any short-term diet fads to lose weight. It's not about the weight; it’s about the health. I see a lot of people drinking shakes and smoothies, counting calories and doing other things that do not promote long-term health benefits. Who cares if you're skinny if you're sick?”
Author: Monique Potts NC