One of the best steps you can take towards better health is to simply ditch processed foods and transition to real whole foods. To some that could mean entirely gutting your pantry leaving nothing left to utilize in your kitchen, and needing to make a clean start. In an effort to help those who want to take it one step at a time, let me break it down for you in order of importance (at least how I see it). The top two things you should change in your S.A.D. pantry and kitchen to make it a REAL FOOD pantry are the fats/oils and meats you choose and consume. My first post in this series, I discussed, ‘What Fats Should You Be Consuming.’ Today I am going to discuss how to choose the healthiest meats and protein choices. My hope for this particular post is that it will help people to transition from consuming factory farmed meats, which really is quite a health hazard, to healthfully raised and cared for animal products.
Why Are Proteins Essential To Our Health
Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. Our body uses and assembles 50,000 different proteins to form organs, nerves, muscles, and flesh. Complete animal proteins are responsible for building enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin and hormones. All proteins are combinations of 20 amino acids: 10 of which are essential, meaning the body cannot produce them. The other 10 are nonessential and can be synthesized by the body. Amino acids are responsible for creating neurotransmitters (such as norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine, aspartate, and glutamate) Amino acids are extremely important components of many hormones. Sex hormones are made up of amino acids plus fats. 95% of muscle is made up of amino acids. 95% of the heart is made up of amino acids. RNA and DNA also require amino acids for proper regulation. In other words, amino acids are necessary for our genes to function properly. Therefore, daily consumption of proteins is critical to optimal physical function and health. A good daily amount of protein to consume is 30% of your overall intake. Or on average, about 45 to 60 grams of protein per day for adults, is considered ample to consume. Athletes would need more, about 60 to 80 grams per day.
The Truth About Factory Farmed Meats
Animals raised on factory farms are hardly what nature intended. Fed with chemically grown and fertilized feed, feed that is not native to the animals true diet, crowded into pens and stalls standing in their own filth and refuse, unable to roam and graze as nature intended. These animals are bred solely for a profit and in so doing become very unhealthy. For example, calves on factory farms when they are just 2 months old, the males are castrated and all of the calves are implanted with a growth stimulating hormone (typically a female hormone). Because diarrhea is common at this age, many ranchers mass-treat calves with antibiotics; when calves are weaned at seven months of age, more antibiotics are used to control possible respiratory ailments. At that time, animals are again implanted with a hormonal growth promotant, wormed, and dipped in a toxic insecticide bath to kill scabies producing lice. Farmers, by law, must dispose of residual liquids at licensed toxic-waste-disposal sites. (source – ‘Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine‘) And that is just the tip of the iceberg. To get a better feel for how horrific the conditions of these animals really are, perhaps it’s critical to view the following videos. If you can’t realize alone from watching these that factory farmed animals are not worth consuming, well then I don’t know what hope you have in understanding how detrimental these mass produced meats have on your health, not to mention our environment.
The following video is rather disturbing – you have been warned!
Have you heard about meat glue?
Proteins/Meats to Ditch
Meats – All meats raised or grown on factory farms, all eggs grown in confinement on industrial or factory farms, commercial sausage, ham and other processed meats containing MSG and high levels of additives, as well as commercial beef jerky.
Dairy – Avoid all low fat and skim milk; as well as homogenized and especially ultra-pasteurized milks. Any imitation milk as well made from soy, rice, almonds, oats or hemp. Ditch all lowfat and fat-free cottage cheese, cream cheese and fresh cheese, and those made with additives or ‘fake’ cheeses, such as American cheese slices in individual plastic wrapped slices as well as ‘vegan’ cheeses, and cheese spreads or can spray ‘cheeses’. Steer clear of ultra pasteurized cream; sour cream with additives, canned whipped cream; imitation whipped cream made with vegetable oils and non-dairy creamers. Also stay away from lowfat and sweetened store bought yogurts and kefir. Finally, be sure to chuck out any margarines and spreads, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil; shortenings, spreads combining butter with vegetable oils or whipped butter.
Seafood – Farm raised fish such as salmon, catfish and trout should also be avoided, believe it or not they too are often fed antibiotics, as well as feed that is not their native diet. Also avoid canned fish containing soy or vegetable oils or hydrolyzed protein.
Eggs - Stay away from most commercial eggs, and by all means never eat them raw if they are all you can get.
Best Sources of Proteins
Pastured/Free Range Eggs- Eggs fed from chickens that actually roam outside on pasture – not eggs that say, access to pasture. Those chickens don’t really ever go outside – the farmer’s make sure of it. You want to buy these locally to you so you know the farmer and the source. Find out what they are fed. Optimally, you want chickens that are fed non-GMO feed with no corn or soy. Pastured eggs yolks are gorgeously bright yellow/orange have great integrity and taste amazing.
Grass fed/Pastured Meats -Cows, pigs and chickens, the most commonly raised animals in the US, should be out on pasture roaming and eating their native diet. Cows eat grass. Pigs forage, as do chickens. They need to eat bugs. Grain feed is not their native diet. When animals eat what is not native to them, it causes health problems for the animal which then in turn does for us who eat them. Look for local farmers that raise their animals on pasture and do not give antibiotics or hormones to them. Grass fed and finished is optimal for beef. Choose organic if possible. Also choose from wild meats such as buffalo, bison, deer, duck, goose, pheasant and wild turkey. Check out EATWILD.COM for a listing of sources that provide these products. Also find a local Weston Price chapter leader near you and inquire with them for the best local sources of grass fed meats in your area.
Whole Raw Dairy- Raw milk from grass fed cows is the best choice for your dairy consumption. Seek out local farms near you that sell clean whole raw milk from old fashioned breeds such as Guernsey and Jerseys. Check out The Real Milk site to source raw milk in your area. Fresh cheeses from raw milk are best as well. Whole raw cottage cheese, cream cheese (with no additives), aged raw cheeses made with milk from grass fed animals, using animal rennet or organic non-GMO vegetable rennet. Many imported and artisan cheeses are of this type. (European cheeses are raw if the label says “milk” or “fresh milk.”) Fresh or cultured raw cream from grass-fed animals. Plain naturally cultured yogurt and kefir, preferably raw, homemade without additives. Also raw butter and ghee from grass-fed animals. Read more in this post, ‘A Case For Raw Milk‘
Fresh Water and Deep Sea Fish -Cold water deep sea fish are the best source of seafood one can consume. They are very rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins and minerals including iodine, selenium and magnesium. Fresh or smoked caviar and roe, fresh or frozen ocean-going fish, especially herring and mackerel; shellfish (crab, lobster, oysters, clams and mussels) in season; fresh or frozen wild shrimp (US shrimp from Maine is wild); Pacific or Alaskan salmon, fresh or frozen; kippered (smoked), dried or pickled herring, eel, mackerel and salmon; dried, salted small fish (available in Asian markets); trout and catfish guaranteed from clean waters.
If you cannot obtain truly pastured or grass fed meats, wild seafood or fresh local raw milk you should at least try to choose the best choices you can – by the good/better/best motto. Always look for meats that do not have added hormones or antibiotics. That is a great place to start. Then look for organic meats. Organic doesn’t always mean optimal, but usually it’s a far cry from the factory farm meats. Look for organic dairy that is not homogenized or ultra-pasteurized and look for RBGH free. Below is a more specified listing of the good/better options most commonly available to you. Also if price is holding you back from seeking out the best options, don’t let it! Read this post on ‘Why Organic Pastured Meats Are Worth The Price.‘
Eggs – Good/Better options are; Organic or high-omega-3 eggs
Dairy- Good/Better options are; Full-fat pasteurized milk, preferably not homogenized, preferably from grass-fed animals. Whole cottage cheese, cream cheese and fresh cheese from pasteurized milk, preferably grass-fed with no additives, whole raw cheese made with milk from animals not grass-fed. Whole milk cheese made from heated or pasteurized milk, preferably from grass-fed animals. Pasteurized cream; cultured or sour cream without additives. Plain whole yogurt and kefir. Pasteurized butter and ghee, preferably grass-fed.
Seafood- Good/Better options are; canned tuna without hydrolyzed protein or other additives; canned sardines or anchovies in olive oil; canned Alaskan salmon; canned shellfish; canned roe or caviar
Meats – Good/Better options are; organic chicken; fresh or frozen beef, pork, lamb, duck, turkey and goose. Sausage, bacon and processed meats without MSG.
Making the switch to the most healthful meats possible in your daily diet will go a long way to keeping your body healthy. Consider the hormones, antibiotics and ill health of factory farmed animals alone and realized that you are consuming sick animal flesh. This indeed will have a negative impact on your health. We have an epidemic on our hands of excess hormone related issues, in part due to the meat we eat and it is no small issue. (Not to mention the pesticides on the feed of the animals.) Consider the long term cost of what you put in your mouth now. You may have to pay more to your farmer now, to avoid paying more to your doctor and medical bills later.
A great resource, and one that I used in helping create the best sources and good/better options, is this handy little shopping guide from the Weston A. Price Foundation for only $1. If you are new to real/traditional foods, this is an invaluable resource to have on hand.
For recipes using healthy grass-fed/pastured meats be sure to check out my recipes page. Cooking grass fed meats is a bit different than cooking conventionally raised meats. Grass fed meats are lower in fat, but more flavorful. If you cook them wrong they can be tough, and I know many people that have been tempted to give up on grassfed meats for this fact alone. They are best cooked simply, and low and slow. For more on how to properly prepare grassfed and pastured meats here are some great grass fed meat cookbooks;
The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook. Shannon Hayes – This book is a awesome! I can’t recommend it enough!
Stay tuned for a future post on the health benefits of pastured/grassfed meats!