Fallacies about Meat and Dairy

03.10.2019 |

Episode #6 of the course Hack your diet: Using nutrition science to live healthier, longer, and diet-free by John Robin


Welcome to our sixth diet hack!

Yesterday, we learned about the benefits of eating smaller meals. Hopefully, you already have your list of small meals throughout the day and are working on developing your own repertoire.

Today, we’re going to pinpoint two areas that I’ve been a bit coy on, only because they are so important, they deserve their own lesson: meat and dairy. Here we go!


Fallacy 1: Dairy Is Bad for You and Should Be Avoided

This fallacy is simply not true. Dairy is an excellent source of two critical nutrients that are hard to get elsewhere:

• vitamin B12 (helps keep your nerves working properly)

• calcium (important for bone health)

Dairy is especially important if you are a vegetarian, as the other main source of vitamin B12 is meat (though be warned: Meat doesn’t have enough for you to cut dairy). The only caution with dairy is that it’s high in fat, so you either want to consume a low-fat alternative and/or limit how much you consume.

I’m lactose intolerant, which means I can’t have a large amount of dairy. If that’s the case for you as well or if you’re a vegan and don’t consume dairy, then make sure you take a supplement of vitamin B12 and calcium.

You need 2.4 mcg/day of vitamin B12 (mcg is short for micrograms, 1/1000 of a milligram). You’ll get this in two cups of milk. (You can view a table that lists further sources about this at the end of the lesson [1].) Supplements typically deliver 250mcg/tablet. This is high because in supplement form, vitamin B12 breaks down quickly. However, there is no toxic level of B12, so it’s better to have too much than not enough.

You need 1000mg/day of calcium for optimal bone and nerve health. In fact, calcium is critical, as it’s used to help release hormones and enzymes that are involved in almost every function of the body!

You can get this if you drink two glasses of milk/day and eat one cup of kale or one cup of broccoli. If you can’t stay on top of this or want to keep your fats low, take a supplement. Supplements usually come in the form of 250-500mg tablets, so you can approximate how much you’re short on any given day and take accordingly.


Fallacy 2: Meat Is Bad for You

This is also ridiculous. The only relevant issue: Like dairy, meat has lots of fat, and depending on how it’s been processed, it might have synthetic chemicals, i.e. if the animals farmed were injected with steroids to grow faster in shorter times.

Let’s get specific and think about the main types of meat:

• pork (pig-based)

• beef (cow-based)

• chicken (poultry-based, includes eggs)

• fish

There are other kinds of meat, of course, but when we think about nutrition and the best kinds of foods to eat, it’s important to think specifically about the type of meat to avoid generalization.

Beef, for example, is high in iron. It has numerous other health benefits [2]. It has vitamin B12. It’s also very high in fat, and its consumption has been implicated in premature death by heart disease.

But let’s stop and think about this realistically: The greatest form of beef consumption is burgers, which usually comes from fast food, which comes with fries and cola (hello, glycation!)—and let’s not forget, those burgers aren’t lean! Beef gets a bad rap not because it’s beef, but because it’s the common ingredient in a collection of junk food that is most likely the culprit. Beyond fast food, there’s the fact that generally, most people who consume beef are consuming two to three times the recommended amount of meat, so overeating a high-fat source is more the issue.

There are benefits to pork, chicken, and fish. If you’re thinking about lower fat, then chicken and fish (especially salmon [3]) are the best. Chicken is especially protein dense [4]. I personally try to eat mostly chicken and occasionally beef.


Action: Figure Out Your B12/Calcium Cocktail

However you choose to proceed with regard to meat/dairy, use today’s lesson about the nutritional purposes behind each to figure out your B12/calcium needs. Start measuring the exact quantities that you consume. The key isn’t that meat and dairy are bad, but that mindlessly eating meat and dairy is a dangerous vortex you want to tame—and you can tame it with mindfulness!

Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about supplements, when to use them, why, and how.


Recommended book

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins



[1] What You Need to Know about Vitamin B12

[2] Beef 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effects

[3] The Health Benefits of Salmon

[4] Chicken Meat 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effects


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