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The NOURISHED SOUL
21Apr2017

Why Meat, Fat and Seafood Belong in a Healthy Diet

It’s difficult to know what kind of diet will most support health, healing, mental agility and vitality.  We’re presented with conflicting data within the very scientific community that is supposed to make these distinctions clear.

The majority of the studies done on the consumption of meat, even red meat, have been inconclusive and point to neither the deleterious effects of meat nor its impact on heart disease or cancer.  In fact, in one study on dietary risks of ovarian and breast cancer, the starch-rich diet showed increased risk of these cancers and the animal-based diet (which included fibre-rich foods) showed decreased risk for these prolific cancers.

We also have to take into account that most studies conducted on meat have been observational and based on populations that have higher incidence of cigarette smoking, consumption of processed foods and diets high in sugar.  That we don’t take those factors into deep consideration is ludicrous.

On top of this, no study to date has been done on the health effects of traditionally raised grass-fed meats.  You know…the ones without antibiotics, hormones and where the animals are eating the diets that they were designed to eat.

The truth is, traditionally raised meat is likely the most nutrient-dense food that we have access to.  It is rich in minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc and chock full of B vitamins, including B12, the crucial vitamin that is sorely missing from most vegetarian and all vegan diets.  Meat is also rich in choline, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A.

Truth be told, there is no other single food available to us that packs as much of a nutrient punch as grass-fed meat.  

While plant food contains protein, minerals and vitamins, a number of these same nutrients are not nearly as bioavailable as those found in meat.  For example, vitamin A from plant sources (carrots, sweet potatoes and squash) contain the beta carotene (or precursor) component of vitamin A.  This then needs to be converted to the active form of vitamin A called Retinol.  This conversion tends to be very inefficient.

One serving of liver per week (yes, if you can choke it down once per week!!!), gives you the RDA of 3000 IU of Vitamin A; the kind that does not need conversion.  Whereas you would need to eat 2 cups of carrots, 1 cup of sweet potatoes or 2 cups of kale every day to get the equivalent.  And even then, your body would need to convert it.

And don’t even get me started on fat.  Okay, okay…start me up.

Fat, like protein, is a macronutrient.  What does that mean?  It means that without it, you die.  It is essential for brain function (our brains are made upwards of 70% fat), hormone function, metabolic function and basically every single function in the body.  In fact, the highly controversial saturated fat (fat found in animal products, butter and coconut oil) is one of the best sources of fat for us.  It actually lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease, can help us to lose weight, when combined with a low carb diet and, amongst many others, improves the functioning of our immune systems.

In fact, fat is such a crucial element in our diets that it is reported that vegetarians and especially vegans have much higher incidences of mental disorders.  Meat provides some crucial B vitamins that your brain needs to produce neurotransmitters like glutamate.  Low levels of glutamate are linked to depression, anxiety and OCD.  So, it may not be enough to eat avocados, olive oil and nuts for fat sources.

This is where seafood is so beneficial to our diets.  Seafood contains DHA.  This essential Omega 3 fatty acid is so crucial to us, it quite literally builds our brains.  All cell membranes in the body use DHA to regulate health, cut the risk of heart disease, brain disorders, hormonal disorders, mitochondrial disorders…in other words, this sucker is IMPORTANT.  Our bodies cannot make DHA so we have to get it from food.

While we can get DHA from plant sources, again, our bodies need to convert the ALA to DHA and it is estimated that this conversion is greatly inefficient at around 2 – 5 percent.

The best sources of DHA are cold water, oily fish such as salmon and trout, and oysters, sardines, anchovies and most other shellfish.

Meat, fat and shellfish really are the heavy hitters of nutrient density.  They have been the cornerstones of almost all diets of traditional cultures.

I’m thinking lobster dipped in hot butter…juicy steak with hot, buttery potatoes…pan fried salmon with butter and chives.  Yes, please.

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