Eating quality protein is critical for everyone regardless of what diet you are on. Conventional protein sources today (meat, poultry, eggs and seafood) that are the most widely available to consumers, are also most likely mass produced, factory farmed and completely unhealthy for you. Most of these animals (even the fish!) are raised in terrible conditions that are over-crowded, filthy and disease ridden. To control disease, the animals are pumped full of antibiotics and other pesticides. They are also fed a grain-based diet which results in inflammation, depleted nutrients, and high instances of omega-6 fatty acids (the bad kind if too high) in the animals. Remember at the end of the day “You are what your food eats!” so it is vital to understand where your protein is coming from and how it is raised.
Eating quality protein means sourcing and consuming grass-fed beef, pastured poultry & eggs, and wild-caught seafood. It is worth the extra effort to find and purchase quality protein. It is so vital for your health to eat the most nutrient dense, clean protein available with a healthier fat profile (aka more omega-3’s) and more Vitamin E, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, zinc, iron and potassium. Yes – it is more expensive but it is WORTH THE PRICE. Think of it as you are investing in your and your family's health - which at the end of the day is priceless.
Let's break down each category in detail:
Grass-fed beef comes from cattle that eat only grass and other foraged foods throughout their lives. Conventional beef cattle eat a diet that includes grains, such as corn and they are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. The difference in the diets of the cattle changes the nutrients and fats you get from eating the different types of beef. Grass-fed meat is better not just for the planet, but for our bodies as well. It would be hard for anyone to argue that the higher amounts of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides found in factory-farmed meat are good for you, and there is much evidence to show they are harmful. In addition, grass-fed beef has the following benefits:
- Less total fat
- More heart-healthy, inflammation reducing omega-3 fatty acids
- More conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks
- More antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin A, zinc, iron, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium
pastured poultRy & eggs
Conventional poultry are raised in over-crowded cages and treated with hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and maximize their growth and food output. They are fed corn, wheat & soy and treated with large amounts of pesticides. Pastured poultry is far superior to conventional as they are allowed to roam the pastures, eat bugs and are fed a clean diet. The benefits of being raised this way include:
- More omega-3 fatty acids
- More vitamins E, C and beta-carotene
- Hormone, antibiotic and drug free
- Arsenic free - commercial poultry are fed trace amounts of arsenic in their feed. This is a poison that stimulates their appetites. Traces of arsenic can be found in the meat.
- Chlorine free - commercial poultry is cleaned with chlorine and the residue is left
The most common farm-raised fish are salmon, sea bass, cod, tilapia, and catfish. Just like factory farmed cows, farm-raised fish live in small, crowded quarters – typically pens or cages submerged in lakes, ponds and other bodies of salt water, but sometimes on land too. Farm-raised fish are often fed antibiotics and treated with pesticides to fight off diseases and other less-than-pleasant conditions like sea lice. Wild-caught fish, on the other hand, are caught by fisherman out in their natural habitat. Wild-caught fish have the following benefits:
- Less fat because wild-caught fish aren’t kept in constricted environments like pens or cages, they are able to swim freely and have half the fat that farm-raised fish have
- Less harmful toxins and chemicals that their farm-raised counterparts do
how to Find Quality protein:
- OPTION 1: Head to your local farmer’s market and ask around (ask the farmers, ask the vendors, or even ask other shoppers if they know of a good place to buy grass-fed meat and pastured poultry). More likely than not, you will be able to find a source.
- OPTION 2: Go to your local grocery (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc.) store and check out their selection. The packaging should say “grass-fed” or “pastured” on the label. Also, feel free to ask the butcher about where to find this type of protein. Sometimes they can order it for you.
- OPTION 3: Use the following websites to track down local sources of quality protein in your area:
- OPTION 4: Depending where you live, you may not have the ability to find quality protein at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. If that is the case, here are some great options that delivery straight to your home.