Are Vegans Really More Evolved? Really?
by Joan Kent, PhD
A notification in my mailbox caught my attention. Apparently, a discussion had begun online on whether or not vegans are more evolved than other people.
While I seldom participate in this type of discussion, I decided to toss in my 2 cents' worth. My reply centered on protein.
First, let me say that I completely understand the global need to move away from animal protein. I have done this myself for the most part. I understand the need for planetary sustainability. I certainly get the cruelty issue.
I'm absolutely not trying to advocate eating meat or other animal products.
But I'm Big on Protein
In my experience, vegans sometimes underestimate the need for protein, possibly because they link this need with what I call "body protein." Body protein is about muscle.
As the reasoning goes, if I'm not a body-builder and don't plan to build enormous muscle mass, my need for protein must be low. That further means I have no need for traditional forms of protein: fish, chicken, beef (grass-fed or otherwise), turkey, shrimp, and the like.
This rejection of traditional protein foods – and the assumed low need for protein – work in and with the vegan lifestyle.
In my online reply, I pointed out that vegans often use nuts, beans, quinoa and other such foods as protein. But those foods are not protein. They're healthful and beneficial, but not protein.
Nuts are fats. Beans are starch/carbohydrates. Quinoa is carbohydrate, as well. All of these foods have a little protein in them, but "little" is the operative word.
And What About the Brain?
Further, the importance of protein is not limited to body protein. It's also about what I call "brain protein."
Protein provides the amino acids the brain uses to make key neurochemicals that affect our minds and our ability to focus and work productively.
Protein affects our moods and can help alleviate mood issues, including anxiety, mood swings, depression, dysthymia, and more.
Protein also helps to control appetite and eating behaviors, including food cravings.
It sounds pretty important to me.
Taking that a step further, women's need for protein has been found by researchers to be underestimated.
To cite just one example of this, the female brain has a higher serotonin turnover rate than the male brain and needs to keep making more serotonin. Serotonin is made from tryptophan – an amino acid that comes from protein. So women do need protein, and nuts won't necessarily provide enough.
Are Vegans More Evolved?
From the perspective of global awareness and concern for animal welfare, we might conclude they are.
From the perspective of not understanding the importance of protein, except with respect to muscle protein, we might conclude they are not.
If we add in the fact that vegan 'protein choices' are often not protein, we might conclude that it's not particularly evolved not to know what's in the foods we eat. Eating fats or eating carbs and then telling ourselves they're protein doesn't seem highly evolved to me.
What about hemp, brown rice, or vegetable protein powders? No animals harmed, but actual protein consumed. And be sure to get plenty.
Maybe that's a more evolved solution.
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