Barnard makes no bones (so to speak) about his anti-meat bias. "We are not really meant to be carnivores," he said, scanning the menu before settling on vegetarian pad-thai. "If we were, we'd be able to make VITAMIN C in our own bodies, like dogs and cats can. Instead, we have fingers for plucking fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C. We don't have the extremely keen eyesight that typical carnivores have, and we're not very fast like lions or any of the felines."
"What about chicken?" I asked. "I bet I could catch one of them."
"Chicken doesn't really work," he said. "It's a little like switching to a filtered cigarette instead of quitting smoking. It doesn't make a lot of difference if the meat was attached to a cow's bone, a fish's bone or a chicken's bone. It's all an animal's muscle — PROTEIN with fat mixed in. There's no DIETARY FIBER or complex CARBOHYDRATES or vitamin C in there. The leanest beef is 29 percent fat; the leanest chicken is 20 to 23 percent fat, and that's without the skin. Compare that to beans, which are four percent fat, and rice, which is one percent fat."
If you think a pill can make up for any deficiency in your diet, forget it. "DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS aren't the answer," Barnard said. "Our bodies are designed to extract VITAMINS and MINERALS from foods, not pills. A tablet may contain a lot of, say, BETA-CAROTENE, but it may be missing hundreds of other CAROTENOIDS that might be even more significant."
It all seemed pretty simple. The healthiest diet is one that contains a lot of plant foods — vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit. Choose these over things like burgers and chips, and you end up with a full supply of NUTRIENTS, plus dietary fiber to ward off colon cancer. Eat this way and there will also be less room left for the more calorie-dense foods like meat. But when I tried to contemplate Barnard's steakless, fishless, chickenless world — the world without Noah and his ark — it was bleak. I found it hard to believe nature would want that for us. If we're not meant to eat cheeseburgers, why do we crave them?
"It's true," Barnard sighed, "people mainly crave the foods that did not originally exist in our diet. All I can say is that cravings are the worst possible indicator of what your body actually needs. What do we crave? Alcohol, tobacco, opiates and fatty, salty foods. Why? I don't know. Some people theorize that it's a survival instinct left over from when we went through cycles of famine."