If you are health-conscious, chances are that you have questioned whether or not meat is good for you? Maybe even wondered if going vegetarian is good for you?
I do a lot of nutrient testing in my practice, and it has been my experience that while consuming lot of vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit is ideal, most people feel and perform better when the consume healthy protein sources, including meat. When I run amino acid profiles, often, people test low globally on both essential and non-essential amino acids. This indicates a need for high-quality protein.
I also commonly run into situations with clients where they have higher Omega 6 levels than is ideal. This creates inflammation in the body. By performing a fatty acid profile, we can look at this Omega 3/ Omega 6 ratio and if it's out of balance, create a plan to balance it. Inflammation drives so many common chronic health issues that I think this is a big deal.
Vegetarians, in my experience, have a very hard keeping their B12 vitamin levels adequate. Additionally, protein is critical to tissue healing and re-building which is an issue if someone is trying to heal their body in any way. This is another reason I believe most people do well to include meat in their diet.
Having said that, not all meat is created equal. Let's take a deeper look into that...
Can't you just go to your local supermarket, find a good deal and stock up? I don't recommend that for a number of reasons...
1. Conventionally raised cows are often raised in very over-crowded conditions, which is not only unethical and very sad, but also creates unhealthy animals who can only become meat that isn't high in quality. I am sure we have all seen the disturbing documentaries where we see how these animals are raised and treated. You might save a few bucks on your meat, but what is the price for these unfortunate animals and your health? These over-crowded conditions lead to illness that is addressed with antibiotics in most cases. These cows are also fed diets high in grain vs. grass which is the natural diet for a cow. This means that the beef is now higher in Omega 6 (an inflammatory substance) instead of being a source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3.
2. Poultry raised in a conventional setting has much of the same issues as beef. Chickens are packed into very tight quarters. This means disease is an issue. Here we go again with the antibiotics. When the animals consume these products, so do we. We also see the feed sources contain many nasty genetically modified grains that we do not want to be passed on to us. Chickens were made to roam and eat things like bugs. If you check out the yolks of eggs raised by free-range chickens, you will find them to be a beautiful golden color vs. the pale yellow of most conventional, grocery store eggs. The feed also effects the Omega 3 content of the eggs and poultry. Using cheap, genetically modified grains = meat and eggs that a source of the more inflammatory Omega 6 fats instead of the Omega 3's that we want in our diet.
3. Pork consumption is a topic of much debate in the health community. Because of the way pigs digest, they historically fall under the category of "unclean" from a Judeo-Christian perspective. Pigs also are notorious for carrying parasites, and eating all kinds of things that, because of their digestive systems, can be passed along in their meat. Pigs also do not have sweat glands, which means that they don't detox as well as other animals, either. Whether or not you decide to eat pork is a personal decision, but I would consider that if you do eat it, you want to make sure you get the best, cleanest source you can where the farmers are committed to feeding the animals high quality foods and raising them in clean, humane conditions.
So, What should you be doing to make sure you are choosing healthy meats?
Since I believe most people do best eating meat (with some exceptions for specific conditions and cases), one of the most common recommendations I make to people is to improve the quality of their meat. Here is the advice I give...
Choose Grass fed, organic and pastured sources of beef and chicken. If you consume pork, choose a reputable farmer or company that produces the highest quality pork you can buy.
So, what about cost? My advice is this... If you have to stick to a certain budget, buy the high quality meats and just consume less. Make your meals heaver on vegetables and healthy fats and consume less meat. I would choose quality over quantity if I had to pick. Look for sales, buy direct from a farmer and split the cost with a friend so you can buy in bulk. Choose less expensive cuts and experiment with things you might not know you like! You might need to re-consider how you view your food budget. It might seem expensive to pay more for healthy food, but it really is an investment in your future health!
I hope that helps you see the meat you are eating in a new light. Here's to getting better one meal at a time!