Proteins are a vital part of our diets. Without protein we can not properly build muscles, ligaments, tendons, hair and nails, enzymes, blood, hormones, or immune cells. Protein regulates growth, repair and even movement within our bodies.
When considering protein in our diets it is important to first identify the proper amount of protein that our individual bodies require. The recommended number of grams fluctuates for each individual and depends on a variety of factors including gender, body composition, current health, activity level and more. You can speak with your healthcare provider or Nutrition Consultant to determine the optimum amount of protein for your diet.
Knowing how much protein to incorporate is the first step when considering protein consumption but it doesn’t stop there. It is also of utmost importance to consider the quality of that protein. Protein should always come from clean, organic, sustainable vegetable and animal sources.
Plants absorb the nutrients (or lack thereof) in the soil in which they are grown, and as a result, their overall quality is dependent on the quality of that soil. Plants also absorb chemicals and toxins from the soil and air so those grown in poor conditions will have compromised nutritive properties. At the same time, animals are consuming these plants, and because they use these plants to form and maintain their own bodies, the quality of those plants also affects the quality of the those animals. The pattern continues as we consume these plants and animals. This is why it is important to consider the system as a whole and to always choose foods that are grown and raised in the cleanest and most nurturing environments. Doing so affects the entire process from soil, to plant, to air, to animals, to us, to our children, to our children’s children and beyond.
In addition to environmental factors, commercially raised animals (particularly cattle) are often fed an unnatural corn-based diet which expedites growth but causes internal distress. With commercially raised animals you also often see the use of hormones, antibiotics or other drugs which end up in the meat served at our dinner tables. In juxtaposition, animals thrive when they too are nutritionally supported and allowed to graze on a nature diet rich in hearty grasses. In example, cattle raised on their natural diet in quality environments offer more nutritive meat that is higher in quality fats, has fewer saturated fats, is richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
As a general rule of thumb, it is advisable when selecting proteins to rely on lean proteins. When we think of lean protein we often think of chicken, fish and tofu, which are all wonderful sources but red meat can also be a healthful and viable source of lean protein. In fact, some cuts of beef are even more lean than the same serving size of some cuts of chicken!
Here are some examples of 3.5 oz. portions of beef that are more lean than the same serving size of skinless chicken thighs:
Top sirloin steak
Total Fat: 4.9g; Saturated:1.9g
New York strip
Total Fat: 6g; Saturated: 2.3g
Total Fat: 6.4g; Saturated: 2.6g
Total Fat: 6.9g; Saturated: 2.5g
Total Fat: 6.5g; Saturated 2.5g
We know that having protein in our diet is vital, but just having protein in our diet isn’t enough. It’s important to know the quality of our protein and all that entails. Strong muscles and bones are the end result, but eating is only part of the journey. It’s important to go back to the beginning, as the development and growth of the animal or plant from which we get our protein is just as essential to our health as the protein itself. When shopping, be proactive by asking questions. If purchasing meat, find out how the animal was raised and what they were fed. Make sure that all animal products are free of hormones and antibiotics. Look for organic beans and grains – sprouted is even better. By asking the right questions and being mindful of these details, not only will you enjoy better quality food, but greater health as well.
Image from: http://www.mcallenranchbeef.com