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Is it healthy to consider going vegetarian/vegan once or twice a week?

by (4181)
Updated October 20, 2014 at 4:12 AM
Created July 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Simple question, would there be a benefit to eating only vegetables and a little fruit once or twice a week and then the other days eating a paleo style diet? Intermittent fasting allows 500 calories during the day (without protein) and that would be hard to make up with vegetables.

I tried it today and feel pretty good so far.

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83 · July 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM

The benefits of a prolonged fast (autophagy being probably the greatest) have me thoroughly convinced, that's going by mostly anecdotal evidence but from thousands of people and by how great i feel myself while fasting. Missing a meal or dropping protein for a day isn't going to trigger it that much, fasting pre/post exercise would probably be good enough, along with the occasional prolonged fast.

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41422 · July 16, 2014 at 2:50 PM

For all the talk in paleo circles about autophagy, there's such little hard science to support everybody's ideas.

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5 · July 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Since when did he do it ? I'm not reading his site much and he's a liar to say he's not gaining weight with a 4000 calories diet and not exercising...

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1137 · July 15, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Yes, there is no nutrient that needs daily intake, except maybe ascorbic acid. Surely Grok was not catching a mammoth every single day, in fact he probably was spending a lot of time gnawing cattail roots in between feasts.

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40 · July 14, 2014 at 7:38 PM

There are usually 1 or 2 days a week I don't feel like eating any meat. On these days I eat more starches and fruits than usual, little or no meat, and I come out of it fine. I actually feel more recharged and re-motivated doing this pattern.

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2353 · July 13, 2014 at 5:56 AM

You're conflating eating protein daily with intermittent fasting. The two are separate concepts. And no, you shouldn't eat as much protein as you want. If you'd bother to do some basic self-education, you'd know the ratio of daily protein/kg of lean body mass appropriate for various level of physical activity. Also, you'd know that intermittent fasting is a risky proposition for women.

Your displays of ignorance about paleo eating grow tiresome. I refuse to further this duel of wits -- you're obviously unarmed.

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41422 · July 12, 2014 at 1:53 PM

I know paleo is not all about meat, but I'm simply pointing out that nutrient needs that can only met by meat/animal product is really small… to the point of meat being a supplement. Take 2000 calories of a selection of plants (potatoes, spinach, raspberries, olive oil)… What are the gaps? Total protein is a tad low, but not significantly. B12, absent. Selenium, low. How much ground beef would it take to correct these deficiencies? 4 ounces, a single serving.

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17103 · July 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

If you want to fast, just fast, there's no dichotomy between animal and plant matter, it's just food, so just eat food. The whole alkaline vs acidifying thing is a bad myth. Our bodies micromanage pH levels very well, producing acid where it's needed, and bases where they're needed. If you hear of someone telling you that a certain food is acidifying or alkalinizing, run away, you're not dealing with science. see:

http://chriskresser.com/the-ph-myth-part-1

http://chriskresser.com/the-acid-alkaline-myth-par...

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4181 · July 12, 2014 at 11:03 AM

my mistake was posting it on this forum, I thought it was about health not predefined restrictions and weight loss, binary thinking is a curse

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2353 · July 12, 2014 at 6:31 AM

You truly don't understand what paleo eating is, do you? Paleo is not about all meat. If you bother to learn anything, learn this: Paleo is a high-fat, moderate protein, lower carbohydrate (plants and tubers) way of eating. Everything you just wrote is either completely incorrect or completely delusional.

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41422 · July 12, 2014 at 12:26 AM

Neither vegan nor all meat is optimal. Step away from the extremes and you'll reach optimal much sooner starting from vegan than you will with all meat. Vegan with a couple servings of meat a week is quite adequate and healthy. All-meat with little bits of plant matter is still rather deficient.

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41422 · July 12, 2014 at 12:23 AM

100 calories of 80% ground beef loses to spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, most all veggies. Ekes out most fruit though. Eggs do a little better. Chicken does abysmally. Liver does well, up there with non-starchy vegetables.

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 8:56 PM

so there's no need to rest digestion ever, intermittent fasting is a myth and I should just eat as much protein every day as I want

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:50 PM

(continued)

The fact that you don't need all nutrients every day doesn't address the OP's concern underlying his/her question: Is there any reason or advantage to eating vegetarian/vegan 1–2 days/week? Other than saving a bit of money, the answer is "no."

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:49 PM

@Matt11,

A simple search of nutrients by food at nutritiondata.com completely disproves your initial assertion. And what is the source of your assertion about retinol needs? My point about ALA conversion is that it frequently doesn't happen *at all* in humans. Finally, your statement that "...but that simply means you should be eating more veggies!" proves my point that plants aren't nutrient-dense.

(continued)

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:42 PM

(continued from previous comment) The human body is full of feedback mechanisms that enable hormone production and shut it down appropriately.

Unless you have lab tests that you are overproducing growth hormones yourself, there's no need to worry about stopping the endogenous production of these hormones.

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:41 PM

The human body evolved to eat animal products as frequently as daily. Our digestive system is that of an omnivore. We produce the digestive enzymes protease (for protein) and lipoprotein lipase (for fats) on demand, and there's no evidence that we tax our ability to produce these enzymes or digest these foods by eating them daily.

The idea that animal protein makes our bodies acidic is a complete myth: http://tinyurl.com/kcf2mqh.

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Thanks for replying, so you think it could be a good idea?

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

I'm talking about 500 calories on the days I fast. I'm not saying vegetarian as in onlt eat vegetables once a week, I just mean on that day don't eat any protein or animal products to give the body a rest from digestion, to make it less acidic or whatever. Not having protein once a week doesn't mean I'm going to keel over and die

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 4:54 PM

I'm talking about once a week, so I would still get all the vitamins and minerals from animal sources etc all week, just one day to rest my digestion, make the body less acidic, stop growth hormone etc etc

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83 · July 15, 2014 at 4:45 PM

I usually do a full fast (36 hours with no food at all) once every couple weeks but if I didn't then i'd make sure to have days where I go very low on protein. I generally restrict protein to around 75g per day aswell.

If you eat lots of protein then you're going to keep your cells in grow mode & potentially prevent your body cleaning itself up (autophagy), so going low on protein once in a while, like one day per week, isn't a bad idea IMO.

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41422 · July 16, 2014 at 2:50 PM

For all the talk in paleo circles about autophagy, there's such little hard science to support everybody's ideas.

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0 · July 15, 2014 at 7:52 PM

I know Dave Asprey recommends doing this once or twice a week to keep cells healthy. I found myself absolutly dreading these days but then again I'm super active.

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5 · July 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Since when did he do it ? I'm not reading his site much and he's a liar to say he's not gaining weight with a 4000 calories diet and not exercising...

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26172 · July 15, 2014 at 1:44 AM

during the summer, when my garden is in full swing (like right about now) I may go a couple of days without eating meat (or at least much meat). As long as you are getting the protein you need (I typically consume a protein whey drink every day) -- 6-12oz of meat per week is sufficient (i'm probably about double that). When you eat less, you can also afford higher quality meat -- e.g. a nice 3oz wild sockeye or a 4oz grass-fed prime filet.

As far as "paleo" is concerned -- I'd imagine that in spring and summer when fruits and vegetables are abundant, Grok was fairly opportunistic...

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1137 · July 15, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Yes, there is no nutrient that needs daily intake, except maybe ascorbic acid. Surely Grok was not catching a mammoth every single day, in fact he probably was spending a lot of time gnawing cattail roots in between feasts.

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5 · July 12, 2014 at 5:40 AM

Other than not developing an intolerance to the animal foods you eat, or practicality I don't think there are any advantages. But you can change your animals to avoid intolerances also, such as ruminants-fish-shellfish-poultry...

Dear HuntingBears, intolerance is a real thing and may occur when you eat sth consistently, there are many whole books on it:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=searc...

I hope you'll either explain me why it deserved a minus or thank for saving your ass in the future

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1137 · July 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM

I concur with Matt. See nothing wrong with the idea and see potential benefits. A weekly change of pace can help.

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41422 · July 11, 2014 at 5:07 PM

I would actually say essentially the opposite of @jake3_14. Animal product should strategically supplement a plant-centered diet.

Nutrient density: plants beat animals per calorie, most of the time. You can find exceptions, but they aren't the norm. Lower bioavailability is a potential issue, but that simply means you should be eating more veggies! Retinol needs are rather low, so between beta carotene conversion and a little dietary retinol, you'll meet needs. Same goes for DHA/EPA… ALA converts to DHA/EPA in the amounts humans need… plus the little bit you get from animal products… adequate.

You don't need all nutrients everyday. If you go vegan for a day, you'll likely meet all nutrient requirements, except for B12. And most days, eating meat, you will get 100-200% DV of B12. So you're good (we have reserves of B12, plus it's recycled in our bodies).

EDIT: The above is more a response to Jake. To answer your question, would it be beneficial to eat a 500 calorie menu of vegan foods once or twice a week? I don't see the benefit, but there's likely no detriment either.

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41422 · July 12, 2014 at 12:23 AM

100 calories of 80% ground beef loses to spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, most all veggies. Ekes out most fruit though. Eggs do a little better. Chicken does abysmally. Liver does well, up there with non-starchy vegetables.

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:50 PM

(continued)

The fact that you don't need all nutrients every day doesn't address the OP's concern underlying his/her question: Is there any reason or advantage to eating vegetarian/vegan 1–2 days/week? Other than saving a bit of money, the answer is "no."

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:49 PM

@Matt11,

A simple search of nutrients by food at nutritiondata.com completely disproves your initial assertion. And what is the source of your assertion about retinol needs? My point about ALA conversion is that it frequently doesn't happen *at all* in humans. Finally, your statement that "...but that simply means you should be eating more veggies!" proves my point that plants aren't nutrient-dense.

(continued)

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Thanks for replying, so you think it could be a good idea?

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17103 · July 11, 2014 at 4:35 PM

You can eat veggies and meat together, they both provide benefits. 500 calories a day is undereating and if you do it for the long term it can be problematic - Intermittent Fasting is about restricting the timing of the food, not the calories; you'd eat the same amount of food that you'd eat within a day, but inside of a shorter eating window, say 2pm-8pm.

It's perfectly safe to do a 16/8 IF daily, but if you also calorie restrict, you'll quickly get into trouble and slow down your thyroid and stress your adrenals....

There are many styles of fasting, one is a protein sparing fast (usually done to lean out) where you only eat protein and nothing else, another is a protein eliminating fast where you don't eat any protein - but in this form you'd be certain to avoid all protein sources, even ones from vegetables - so you'd stick to eating pure carbs or more likely pure fats. They both have their benefits depending on what your goals are.

The paleo diet does not exclude veggies, infact, we probably eat more veggies than most vegetarians on the average. So the question is, what are your goals and what are you trying to achieve?

Eliminating meat, just for the sake of doing so is silly at best, and smacks of pandering to Meatless Mondays. I prefer eating meat on any day whose name ends in the letter "y" - unless I'm doing a protein free fast, or a 24h fast, and honestly, I almost never do those - those are only for entering autophagy and limiting any possible cancerous cells from growing.

Too much protein can be toxic, so that's the reason for a protein free fast day, but even then, the ideal is to limit all protein intake daily and avoid going over your needs, not to eliminate it two days a week, just because. When we don't get enough, we catabolize our muscle stores for this, which isn't a good idea.

If you don't do resistance training 0.8g/pound of lean body mass is a good measure of protein intake, 1.2 if you do resistance training. Doing something like 2g/lean body mass is not a great idea. Keep in mind, a gram of protein isn't a gram of meat - meat is 25%-33% protein, so you'd need to multiply the grams of protein by 3x or 4x.

Remember, we need some protein daily to do repairs. There's no reason to attempt to get this from just veggies, and it's much harder to do since you have to plan your meals very carefully, it's just far easier and simpler to get your aminos from meat and not worry about it.

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

I'm talking about 500 calories on the days I fast. I'm not saying vegetarian as in onlt eat vegetables once a week, I just mean on that day don't eat any protein or animal products to give the body a rest from digestion, to make it less acidic or whatever. Not having protein once a week doesn't mean I'm going to keel over and die

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 4:24 PM

@HuntingBears,

Safe — yes; optimal — no. The most basic reason for eating animal protein is nutrient density. Plants, by their very nature at the bottom of the food chain, are low in nutrients and often contain nutrients in forms that the human body is poor at converting to a usable form. An example of this is in spinach. It has a lot of iron, but it's non-heme iron, completely unusable by the body. Another example is flax, which is high in short-chain omega 3 fatty acids. That form, however, requires a 5-step process by the body to convert it to the long-chain O-3 fatty acid DHA, which is what the body actually uses. This conversion process is frequently broken in people, due to insufficient production of the necessary enzymes. A third example is beta-carotene. Vegetarian advocates assert that we can convert this chemical to vitamin A, but the fact is that humans are very poor at this conversion, and end up converting 5% or less of the beta-carotene in a plant into vit. A.

Conversely, animals concentrate nutrients and store them in forms directly useable by humans. Liver and eggs from traditionally-raised animals are full of retinol, the bioavailable form of vit. A. Beef liver, and to a lesser extent, beef muscle, contains heme iron. Pork fat is 50% omega-9 fat (oleic acid), which plays a role in telling your brain that you're full. The other 50% is a mix of saturated fatty acids — stearic, palmitic, myristic — that are involved in cell messaging and immune function. In particular, palmitic and myristic acids function directly as signaling messengers that influence metabolism, including such critical jobs as the appropriate release of insulin.

Vegetables should be considered adjuncts to animal products in a paleo diet, not replacements.

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2353 · July 11, 2014 at 5:42 PM

(continued from previous comment) The human body is full of feedback mechanisms that enable hormone production and shut it down appropriately.

Unless you have lab tests that you are overproducing growth hormones yourself, there's no need to worry about stopping the endogenous production of these hormones.

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4181 · July 11, 2014 at 4:54 PM

I'm talking about once a week, so I would still get all the vitamins and minerals from animal sources etc all week, just one day to rest my digestion, make the body less acidic, stop growth hormone etc etc

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