For the first time in the United States, life expectancy is decreasing. (See recent article, A New Health Statistic to Worry About). Many illnesses and diseases are on the rise despite more available health information to prevent, diagnose and treat these diseases.
There are many reasons for these ominous trends but at the top of the list of factors is the quality of our nutrition. So many foods contain unhealthy additives or are void of important nutrients. Obesity and closely associated diabetes are becoming more common and are examples of what can happen due to deficient nutrition or the consumption of unhealthy, poor quality foods.
How Protein is Critical to Health
Protein is central to good overall health. Deficient protein intake, poor digestion or protein that comes from animals that are raised in unhealthy conditions must be a huge consideration in either prevention or treatment of illness. Overwhelming evidence shows that adequate consumption and digestion of high quality protein is critical for weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight. High quality protein is also important to maintain healthy insulin levels (insulin for blood sugar control) and avoid wild blood sugar swings. Because protein protects against these wild insulin swings and gives a feeling of fullness, the desire to eat junk food is avoided. Protein and amino acids build muscle, repair tissues, are used for energy, and are needed for a strong immune system as well as many other critical functions controlled by enzymes.
Consuming an optimal level of healthy protein can help to reduce sugar and carbohydrate consumption. Check with your doctor for the best guidelines for you. Factors such as age, health status, pregnancy/ breastfeeding, activity level etc. should be taken into account. Healthy fats from healthy sources (avacado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts) and high quality protein should make up the bulk of the diet for long term health.
What Constitutes High Quality Protein
First, it is important that the source of protein is not full of hormones, toxins and antibiotics. Free range, grass fed or wild caught meats and fish that are free of hormones, antibiotics and toxins are critical. Toxins and hormones that are consumed can be hard to eliminate and if stored in the cells become difficult to detoxify. These stored toxins can make it impossible to lose weight and reduce obesity.
Meat: Healthy meat protein should be free range. This is also known as grass fed meat. Beef and other meats which are fed grain and kept in tight enclosures become not only more acidic but more importantly their meat (muscle) has a much higher omega 6 content with lower levels of omega 3’s. Grass fed meat (beef, bison, chickens, lamb, etc) has significantly higher omega 3 levels which is the healthier essentially fatty acid. Omega 6 in meat promotes inflammation, obesity and other illness while omega 3-rich meat contains higher nutrient levels and fats critical for health.
Grass fed meat is higher in vitamins A and E as well as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which increases weight loss and improves overall health, including fortifying a healthy immune system. Omega 3’s in grass fed cows, chickens and other animals assist in reducing blood pressure, depression, ADHD, joint pain and many skin problems. There is also some evidence that high levels of omega 3’s decrease the chances of developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and MS.
Fish: As for identifying healthy fish, wild caught fish are much healthier than farm raised because wild caught fish have higher levels of omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s). The best types of fish for omega 3’s are wild salmon, halibut, cod and sardines. The large fish (swordfish, tuna, mackerel) should be avoided due to high levels of mercury, which is a dangerous nerve toxin. Omega 3’s in fish are also heart healthy as they help to normalize blood lipids. Adequate levels of omega 3’s also help to decrease the chance of arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and several autoimmune diseases such as lupus and asthma.
Eggs: Finally, eggs are an amazing source of protein. The healthiest eggs come from chickens which are free range. Collectively the yolks and egg whites (it is not healthy to avoid eating egg yolks as that is where the most nutrients are located) have high levels of minerals, thiamine, vitamin B6, folate, essential fatty acids, amino acids and other critical vitamins necessary for optimal health. Eggs from free range chickens are one of the healthiest and most complete foods we can eat.
Nutrition is one of the most important factors determining our overall health. Adequate, healthy animal protein (organic, free range and wild caught) is an indispensable component of your nutrition program. Not only is adequate, well digested protein critical for health but consuming animal protein with adequate levels of Omega 3’s and other important nutrients will go a long way toward establishing and maintaining optimal health.
Finally, I have noticed that a high percentage of people are critically deficient in proteins, more specifically the amino acids in proteins. Diets that do not include healthy eggs, fish or meat (e.g. vegetarian) need to be very careful to get the complete levels of amino acids and omega 3 EFA’s. Chronically ill people can have their doctor check amino acid and EFA levels to make sure they are getting the correct nutrients to help the body heal.
The low protein approach to eating creates difficulty in maintaining health and I urge those who do not consume adequate protein to be highly vigilant to the emergence of illness or change their diets to consume free range meats, eggs or wild caught fish.