Animal Protein (a big one!)–
Most human beings do better healthwise, in the long run, with some animal products in their diet. There is apparently an extremely small segment of the population that can thrive with no, or barely any, animal protein over an extended period of time, but these people are rare. I was a vegetarian for 25 years, quite a few of those years almost exclusively vegan. I won’t go into the details of what that did to my health over time. Suffice it to say, once I started eating animal products again, all the health problems went away and I regained all my strength and stamina. It’s now been 16 years, and I’ve never looked back. I still love to cook lots of veggie foods (for the most part, I cook seasonally), but I know that in order to get complete proteins without animal products you have to be eating a really high-carbohydrate diet (grains and legumes turn to sugar the minute they hit your bloodstream–I now have my T1D daughter as the perfect litmus test to show me that what I’ve always instinctively known–and now have read about in numerous places–is true). Most humans can not sustain that kind of high-carb diet and stay healthy;the amount of insulin your body has to produce (or if you’re diabetic, the amount of insulin you have to take) is just too great. Insulin itself is the cause of many health problems (more about this here).
(For a great book on the health and politics of vegetarianism, written by a “recovered” vegetarian who happens to be a radical feminist activist and small farmer, check out The Vegetarian Myth:food, justice and sustainability, by Lierre Keith)
The meat we eat, and the only meat I recommend, is 100% grass-fed (also called pasture-fed), organic beef and bison, free-range organic poultry, wild game and fish from reputable sources.* By eating only this meat, you will avoid the problems commonly associated with meat-eating. Buying organic will ensure that you are getting meat that is not fed or injected with hormones and/or antibiotics. This does not, however, guarantee that the animals are being raised in a humane fashion, or that they are being fed food that is their natural forage, or healthy for them. The only way to ensure these things is to eat only 100% grass-fed.
The meat (and dairy) that comes from cows fattened on grain is not the same as that which comes from pastured cows (who eat only organic hay in winter). The nutritional content of grass-fed vs. grain-fed meat is very different. Grain-fed has only about 1/4 the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin E that grass-fed has. The balance of omega-3s to omega-6s in grain-fed animals is skewed to say the least, which can have dire consequences for anyone consuming meat over a period of time. Grain-fed cows produce virtually no CLA (read more here), while grass-fed cows produce it in abundance, and it is present in high amounts in their butter, milk and fat.
If the cost of grass-fed meat seems prohibitive, think about the long-term costs to your health, not to mention medical costs. It balances out. Eat great-quality meat once a day, supplementing it with fish, bone broths (very cheap and easy to make and use, and chock full of great nutrition), properly prepared grains and legumes occasionally (if you do not have intolerances or related issues), and of course LOTS of low-glycemic vegetables. If you eat a lot of meat, even if you live in a city there’s usually a farm somewhere nearby (through a co-op or farmers’ market, for example) where you can go in on the cost of a cow with other people. There are more and more small organic family farms popping up all over the place that have cow-share programs. Here’s a link to Eatwild’s database for how to find good meat near you. Buying meat as locally as possible not only ensures that you will get much healthier meat, it also means that you will be supporting people who care about the comfort, health and welfare of the animals they raise, along with caring about our environment and the future of food in this country and the world at large. Small-scale organic farming, farms that rotate many varieties of crops, and raise animals for food in a humane and sustainable (grain-free) manner that helps to nourish and aerate the soil–these are our future. The large-scale, corporate-owned, factory-farming model of food production that the US has embraced for almost 100 years is no longer viable (it never was, but now that world population has tripled, and we face the end of “petroleum-backed” agriculture, it’s becoming evident even to the mainstream that this mode of production is madness, and can not be maintained).
*Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch section for updates on what fish and seafood are endangered, contain high levels of metals, etc.
A small aside:I met someone the other day who went on and on about this huge flat-screen TV he had just spent $5,000 on. He then went on to tell me that there was no way he could afford grass-fed beef. Hmmm…. where I live, $5000 would feed a family of four grass-fed beef for 2 to 4 years. Personally, I gave up TV 10 years ago and haven’t missed it. We can watch movies and shows when we want to, online through Netflix or whatever, on the computers. $5,000! That was mind-boggling to me, but hey, everyone’s different. So, my point is that you prioritize;you decide what is important to you…