In continuing our title alliteration, this is the Protein Post.
There are 3 types of nutrients we eat: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. We’ve already covered most carbohydrates, we haven’t yet discussed fat, and now we look at protein.
Protein by definition is any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, esp. as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies. What that means to us is that because protein is found everywhere in our bodies, we need nutritional protein to survive. Protein is found in animal products (muscle meat, organs, dairy, eggs,), in beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, and some grains (quinoa).
The focus of this post is to discuss the best sources of animal protein, and is not the debate about eating animal protein at all. That’s an important and interesting and relevant topic that I promise to blog about at another time.
It has been said that You Are What You Eat. Michael Pollan, the author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, takes that one step further and says: You Are What You Eat Eats. So there is a point to be made that all that corn and grain our commercial livestock are being fed are showing up on our table after all. And if we’re trying to eliminate that, we’ve just had a huge setback.
But there’s so much more important a reason not to eat grainfed meat (I’m talking about ungulates now – cows, pigs, sheep). These animals have not evolved to eat grain in the manner that our American meat industry feeds them grain. It makes them sick, and necessitates their being on antibiotics most of the time they are being fed grain. Grain causes rapid weight gain, which of course increases profits, but puts the animal in an extremely unhealthy condition. And of course, all this unnatural food that makes them sick causes them to suffer. As much of an advocate of health I am, this suffering should be a much greater motivator than our personal health. If we are going to eat meat, finding animals humanely raised, humanely slaughtered, and naturally fed should be a goal all of us should strive for. The fact that they make us healthier should be a secondary concern. The book I mentioned above, Omnivore’s Dilemma, is one of the best resources for becoming educated about the status of this portion of our food supply.
Because so many folks have found better health through a more natural approach to eating, it is likely that you can find a supplier of grass-fed, humanely-raised, local, pastured animals. Whole Foods tries to use local suppliers, and uses a number grade to reflect sustainability. Hit up your local farmers’ market – even rural Murfreesboro has 2 grass-fed animal farmers, who provide both beef and pork. You can also easily find pastured chickens’ eggs, since even back-yard chicken farms produce an abundance of fresh eggs. Or you could investigate the wonderful world of raising hens yourself! They cut down on the bug population, they aerate the grass, they provide eggs, and if you don’t get Foghorn Leghorn they’re not really noisy – just a little proud clucking when one lays an egg.
Wild game is a good choice too, as are wild-caught fish and seafood. Contrary to most folks’ perception of Paleo, it’s really not massive amounts of protein. Today I had one 6-ounce piece of tuna, and a couple of eggs – the rest was fat and vegetables. Some days I have a little more, most days about 60-80 grams of protein.
In the next post, when we discuss healthy fats, we’ll also address the importance of pastured animals. When I first began to eat this way, I considered this a 2nd or 3rd tier issue – if I’m eating good protein, eliminating grains and sugar, eating my vegetables, do I really have to go to the effort of finding and buying grass-fed meat?? I’ve come to the conclusion I was wrong about that. I think this is a high priority for our health, for reasons we’ll get to in the next post!
Thanks for reading!
Leave a Reply