It’s common to hear the argument that since we have been eating meat since the dawn of time, we should continue to do so. This is wrong for two reasons.
Despite what we may have picked up from old movies and from those who market fad diets to us, anthropologists have confirmed that humans were actually predominantly vegetarians, so the idea we are naturally meat-centric is a long way from the truth. If we take a look at our bodies, it becomes obvious that we have not evolved to eat a lot of meat.
Looking at our hands, we can see that neither our “claws” nor our “fangs” are up to the task of dispatching a wild animal. Our nimble fingers are perfect for picking fruits from trees, but not so good at slashing at flesh. Our teeth are perfect for grinding down fibrous matter but not ideal for ripping muscle from bone. Besides, how many of us have the desire or motivation to kill an animal with our own hands and teeth, let alone the speed to catch one?
Let’s talk about guts. While the intestines of carnivores are short—because they must digest the meat quickly before it decomposes and kills them—ours are long, like a rabbit’s, and allow us to digest all that fibrous vegetable matter. Research is increasingly indicating the importance of a plant-based diet for our gut health, while also recognizing the importance of gut health in preventing many chronic diseases.
In essence, we are not natural-born meat-eaters. Of course, we can tolerate a bit of meat in our diets (if cooked), but the amount eaten in the standard American diet far exceeds what is healthy. The proof of this is in the overwhelming research that shows that when we cut out animal products altogether, we reduce our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and death.
So, while eating a very small amount of meat infrequently may not harm us, it is clear that our bodies thank us for choosing plant-based foods.