My Beef With Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet
by Rip Esselstyn
Grand Central Life & Style
Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. is believed to be an expert on nutrition by many, including himself. Rip Esselstyn is his son, and apparently also an expert on nutrition by the family plan and the fact that he wrote this book. By day (and probably night also) Rip Esselstyn was a firefighter, a profession I appreciate in this highly combustible world. Currently he works with Whole Foods Market as a “Healthy Eating Partner.” Don’t ask me what that means.
Many assertions are put forth which I would agree with. For example, the most common health problems in the United States are not due to heredity. I agree. There are no protein deficiencies in the U.S. If anything we may get too much. Agreed. Question authority. Agreed! Processed carbs that come in fancy boxes are a problem. I agree. Factory farms are hell for animals. I absolutely agree.
Then there are assertions where some of the terms are not clearly defined. A recurring theme is that plant-based diets are better for you than omnivorous diets. If he is talking about the typical American omnivore’s diet, that may be true at least in the short run. He says many studies show eating meat leads to health problems. In most cases he doesn’t name specific studies so it is a little hard to know exactly what they are studying. If they are studying factory farm meat, that may be true. Occasionally he will refer to a source like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) which is sponsored by the likes of the National Dairy Council and PepsiCo. He also refers to the China Study, which is not a peer-reviewed study and has been found to be riddled with problems (westonaprice.org/bookreviews/the-china-study-by-t-colin-campbell/).
In other places I’m not sure what Esselstyn is trying to tell us. On one hand he reproduces a chart from the U.S. government of good sources for iron. At the top of the list is ready-to-eat cereal. On the other hand he says processed carbs in fancy boxes (like cereal) are not good. I’m getting mixed signals here.
A strong fat/cholesterol/salt phobia appears throughout the book. He claims “we know” that prolonged consumption of fat and cholesterol promote heart disease, diabetes and countless other chronic diseases. How do we know? No specific studies are provided. We are told on the next page that soy formula is an excellent option for infants. Still no reference to studies. We are also to believe we can get all of our required vitamin A from vegetables like carrots. Part of his justification for that statement is the assertion that Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, had great eyesight because he loved carrots. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that was a joke. I’m not sure I get it because his great bionic eyesight had nothing to do with carrots. What is not made clear is the fact that in the best of cases, beta-carotene is very inefficiently converted to usable vitamin A. In the case of children, and people with diabetes and other problems, there is no conversion. What do they do?
We are assured at the front of the book that we would find slam-dunk arguments to make the case that plants have everything we need. After reading the book, I’m not assured. The arguments have missing pieces and the pages are riddled with mind-control phrases like “plant-strong diet.” My meat-strong thumb is pointing DOWN for this one.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2016