Today we’re sharing a post by guest authors Robb Wolf, New York Times Best Selling Author and one of the early advocates of the paleo lifestyle, and Diana Rodgers, RD, Real Food Dietitian and Sustainability Advocate. Robb and Diana co-authored Sacred Cow, an eye-opening book about meat, health, and sustainability, out this month.
The ancestral health community generally accepts the right type of meat as a health food. In fact, eating animals is the number one guiding principle of the Primal lifestyle. Still, some groups advise against meat consumption.
Two of the main arguments that you should give up meat are:
- It’s healthier to eat vegan
- You reduce your impact on the planet if you’re vegan
If your primary meat source comes predominantly from a drive-thru, then yes, these arguments probably hold true. But there’s a world of difference between mass-produced meat from large agricultural operations, and pasture-raised meat from small-scale farms. The animals’ diet and living conditions have a profound effect on what the meat does for your body and for (or against) the planet.
Here are the main reasons why eating meat the right way can benefit your health, as well as the planet’s carbon load.
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Meat Is a Great Source of Protein
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient – it simply fills you up better than fat or carbs. It’s also the building block of our bodies and immune systems. Meat is a low calorie way to get the most bioavailable source of protein for humans. It contains all of the amino acids we need to grow and thrive. Unless you are eating a LOT of vegan protein powders, a “plant-based” diet sourced from industrial agriculture is a sure way to ensure you are always hungry and will consume a lot more energy to get the nutrients you need, including protein. Read more here.
Red Meat Is Nutrient Dense
Meat is not just high in protein. It is also a source of many nutrients that are simply not available in plants. Meat provides B12, highly absorbable heme iron, preformed vitamins, all the essential amino acids, zinc, EPA, DHA, vitamin D, and vitamin K2, none of which are found in plant foods. Plants provide important antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. We need this variety of nutrients to survive. Compared to rice and beans or other plant proteins, red meat contains more vitamins and minerals per gram of protein. In order to get 30g of protein, you could eat about 200 calories of beef or about 700 calories of beans and rice.
Meat Provides Critical Nutrients That Aren’t Available in Other Foods
Vitamin B12 is not found in plant foods and is essential for neural development. Other vitamins and minerals that are found in both meat and plants are usually in their most absorbable form when eating from animals. This includes iron, zinc, vitamin A, calcium and essential fatty acids. Even though chicken and beef are both quality sources of protein, beef simply blows chicken away in the nutrient department. It has significantly more B12, zinc, choline, iron, and potassium. Meat contains heme iron, the most absorbable type of iron. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common mineral deficiency in the United States. In terms of micronutrients, chicken only has more B3 than beef. Recommendations that ask people to reduce beef intake and replace it with chicken or vegetables are essentially asking them to reduce the nutrient quality of their diets. Read more here.
Without Grazing Animals, Some Ecosystems Fall Out of Balance
Well-managed grazing systems mimic the way that herds of bison used to migrate through the plains, biting and trampling pasture while depositing manure, before moving to the next spot and allowing the previously grazed area to rest. If plants are not controlled, then a few varieties typically takeover and shade out other plants. To test this theory, stop mowing your front yard for six months and see what happens. Without regular harvesting – whether through grazing or mowing – ecosystems can become dormant. Grazing animals help stimulate the constant regeneration and growth of pastures and grasslands. This provides better living conditions for wildlife, encourages plant root growth, and improves soil health.
Well-managed ruminants can also help eliminate the need to use chemicals to maintain weeds and other undesirable plants. Controlled grazing encourages cattle to eat types of forage that they may not otherwise select while adding sheep and goats can specifically target weeds and invasive species of plants. The use of chemical inputs like pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides has also taken its toll. Pesticide usage has led to pollinator decline while fertilizer runoff has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Connecticut, as a few examples.
Good Grazing Management Can Improve Soil Health and Sequester Carbon
In a well-managed grazing system, the rest period after grazing has another important function. The more leaf surface area that a plant has, the quicker it will be able to regrow after a grazing period. By ensuring that the cattle only take the top half of a pasture, producers can ensure that those plants will rebound during the rest period. As plants photosynthesize sunlight, they expand their root systems. Healthy root systems help those plants transmit nutrients into the soil to feed microbial life. The more abundant a root system is, the healthier the soil will be, and the more carbon will be sequestered.
Grazing Animals Can Thrive on Land That Cannot Be Cropped
Removing livestock doesn’t mean that we will free up more land for crop production. More than 60% of agricultural land globally is pasture and rangeland that is too rocky, steep, and/or arid to support cultivated agriculture. Yet this land supports cattle production and nutrient upcycling. Sheep and goats are also well-equipped to thrive in harsh conditions and on challenging types of terrain. By raising well-managed ruminants in these areas, we are able to improve the ecosystems, create better wildlife habitat, and build soil health while also generating a nutrient dense source of protein and other nutrients. Burger King, Cargill and World Wildlife Fund recently announced a new project to reseed 8,000 acres of marginal cropland throughout Montana and South Dakota to ecologically diverse grasslands with beef cattle as the primary grazers to maintain the new ecosystem.
Cattle Upcycle Agricultural Byproducts and Other Materials We Can’t Eat Into Nutritious Meat
Only 13% of global animal feed (including feed for chickens, pigs, and cattle) consists of grain crops, according to United Nations FAO research, and only 32% of overall global grain production in 2010 was used to feed livestock. A staggering 86% of global livestock feed consists of materials that we cannot digest as humans, like crop residues including stover and sugarcane tops. Pigs and chickens are also monogastrics (like humans) and cannot digest these products either. However, ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and goats can safely consume these materials and turn them into nutrient-dense protein for humans. When looking at what only ruminants eat, the numbers are even lower for grain, at only 10% of the diet for cattle, globally. Grass and leaves makes up 57.4% of global ruminant feed ration. The rest is inedible by humans, like “crop residue” such as corn stalks.
Buying Direct From Local Farmers Boosts Farmer Income and Food Security
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the weaknesses of our current heavily-consolidated and industrialized meat industry. Choosing meat from local farmers helps to create a new supply chain that pays farmers what they actually deserve for the hard, never-ending work of raising livestock. It can also reduce the number of miles that your food has traveled while in some cases offering high standards of welfare for the livestock. Supporting small farmers also supports the preservation of open space in or near your community while keeping money close to home. Investing your food dollars close to home helps build a more resilient local food system that can withstand crises like the current pandemic.
Grazing Animals Produce So Much More Than Meat
Many people view livestock production as providing one simple output: meat. But when you add up the many products that source ingredients from cattle alone including tallow for beauty products, cartilage for osteoarthritis medications, and gelatin for foods as a few examples, it paints a much different picture of a cow’s contribution to our society.
In most cases, synthetic leather is made from two plastic-based substances polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The process involves bonding a plastic coating to a fabric backing to create the look and feel of genuine leather. PVC has been identified by numerous organizations as one of the most environmentally damaging types of plastic. Many vegan leather makers also rely on plasticisers like phthalates to make the material flexible. Unfortunately, the wool industry has seen a similar turn of events. Competition from synthetic fibers has led to a reduction in the price for wool leaving many sheep producers in the lurch particularly in New Zealand and Australia.
Livestock Are a Critical Resource for Women and Children in Developing Nations
When people in a position of privilege talk about reducing global meat consumption, they overlook the negative impact that it would have on women and children in developing nations who rely on these animals for economic stability, food security, and vital nutrition. Two of the leading nutrient deficiencies worldwide are Iron and Vitamin B12. Animal products deliver these in the best form. Meat is a critical component of a child’s diet, particularly in developing nations where improved health and cognitive function is a key step to fostering a healthier, more successful nation.
According to ILRI, two-thirds of the world’s 600 million low-income livestock producers are rural women who are responsible for the day-to-day animal management, including processing, marketing, and selling animal products. The organization has found that when women control income, 90% is invested back into their household compared to only 30% to 40% when income is controlled by men. Enabling women to derive economic independence through livestock will directly improve the health, education, and food security of their households. Read more here.
To learn more about these topics and more, pick up the book Sacred Cow: The Case for Better Meat, by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf. They also have a companion film coming out this fall. Keep up to date at www.sacredcow.info.
The post 10 Reasons Why Eating Beef is Good for You and the Planet appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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In nutrition, there are very few universal consensuses. Conventional wisdom says that fat makes you fat and whole grains are essential, and millions of people agree, but the ancestral health and keto communities (and reality) disagree. Primal and keto folks don’t worry much about saturated fat and limit polyunsaturated fat; conventional health advocates do the opposite. The opinion on meat intake varies wildly, with some people suggesting we eat nothing but red meat, others recommending “palm-sized” pieces of strictly white meat, and still others cautioning against any meat at all. Pick a food and you can find a sizable group that hates it and a sizable one that loves it. You can find researchers who spend their lives making the case against it and researchers who spend their lives making the case for it.
But not fish. Fish is about as close to a universal as any food. Barring the vegans and vegetarians (some of whom, however, are sneaking wild salmon when their followers aren’t watching), everyone appreciates and extols the virtues of eating seafood. Including me.
Sea Food = Sea Change: The Evolutionary Story
Remember: I always view things through an evolutionary prism. It’s where I begin. If something doesn’t make sense in the light of evolution, it probably doesn’t make sense at all. And seafood has been one of the most important dietary factors in human brain development. Without the selenium, iodine, zinc, iron, copper, and DHA found abundantly in fish and shellfish, human brain encephalization—the massive increase in relative size and complexity of the brain representing a shift toward higher order thought—wouldn’t have been easy to pull off. Maybe impossible.
If the human brain came to rely on the nutrients found in seafood for its evolution, it stands to reason that they remain important. The studies bear this out. Fish offers unique and important benefits to humans living today.
- More omega-3s in your red blood cell membranes, less heart disease.
- More omega-3s in your diet, lower expression of inflammatory genes and less airway inflammation if you have asthma.
- More EPA in your diet, improved depression.
- More EPA and DHA in your diet, less progression from inflammation into full-blown arthritis and improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
- More omega-3s in your diet, stronger anabolic response to strength training.
Not to mention the imbalanced, inflammatory omega-3:omega-6 ratios most of us have, or had. Even if you’ve been Primal for ten years, you spent a good portion of your life eating the standard Western diet full of industrial seed oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s from seafood help correct that balance.
The Modern Picture: Calm the Alarm
But there’s a problem, isn’t there? If you listen to the alarmists, our seas are overfished and full of toxins, and the fish that remain are dripping with mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals. Farmed fish are even worse, some say; they swim in tepid baths of antibiotics, soybean oil, and glyphosate. Besides, oceanic acidification is killing all the delicious fish and shellfish and crustaceans. Pretty soon the only thing served at Red Lobster will be fried jellyfish.
Though there are glimmers of truth to all those claims, they’re certainly exaggerated:
- There are still plenty of excellent and sustainable seafood choices to make, according to Seafood Watch, which takes environmental impacts, overfishing, and other ecological and safety concerns into account.
- While some species are indeed overburdened with heavy metal contamination, plenty aren’t. Eat salmon, sardines, mackerel, younger, smaller tuna. Besides, most seafood—in one study, this included shrimp, crabs, squid, and tropical fish in the Atlantic Ocean—is high enough in selenium that it binds to and prevents absorption of mercury.
- Jellies may be taking over, or they may be following the natural 20-year boom and bust cycle observed throughout history.
- Even farmed salmon isn’t as bad as we might assume. And farmed mollusks—oysters, clams, mussels—are as good as wild, since they live no differently from their wild cousins.
Even if all those claims were totally on the level, we’re faced with a grand overarching truth: You have to eat something. What, are you gonna eat vegan meat patties instead of cod, salmon, sardines, and oysters? Drink Soylent? Go vegan? Go Breatharian?
Of course not. You need to eat seafood. You know you should.
But isn’t it too expensive?
For one thing, I already mentioned that safe farmed fish exists. Farmed salmon probably isn’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe (or assume), as long as you watch out for the egregious ones. U.S.-farmed trout, barramundi, and catfish show up with very low toxin levels and good nutrient profiles. And farmed bivalves like oysters, clams, and mussels are raised like they’re wild. There’s basically no difference between a farmed oyster and a wild oyster. They both live out in the ocean attached to rocks, munching on what the sea provides.
Two, wild seafood isn’t always expensive.
Restaurant supply shops, Walmart, and other large stores often have frozen wild salmon, cod, and other wild fish for cheap, about $5-6 per pound.
At Costco, you can get wild caught salmon (at least on the West coast) in season for $5-6 pound. You might have to buy it whole, though (recipe down below). They also have other types of wild fish for good prices.
Canned seafood is a viable option.
Fish and Seafood: How To Optimize the Benefits
Why We Need Seafood
First, evolutionary precedent, which I already discussed. It’s folly to ignore the long history of humans eating seafood. It’s higher folly to ignore the importance of seafood in human brain evolution. Wherever they have access, people eat seafood.
Second, the benefits are well-established. Even if the links to better health are purely correlational (and they’re not, since we have controlled trials listed above), seafood looks great on paper: bioavailable protein, high levels of essential nutrients, the best source of long chained omega-3 fatty acids.
Third, seafood is a reliable source of important micronutrients that may be lacking on a terrestrial Primal, keto, or carnivore diet. Selenium, magnesium, folate, astaxanthin, and vitamin E can be tough to get if you’re just eating steaks and ground beef.
A recent study on the ketogenic Mediterranean diet had great results feeding its participants over two pounds of fish per day. Two. Pounds. Mostly salmon, sardines, and mackerel, which are fatty omega-3 rich fish very low in contaminants.
But what about those who say they’re meat eaters, turf people who claim grass-fed beef and pastured pork is enough for them? Fish is meat. Fish are animals. You’re seriously limiting your options—and selling your ancestors short—by willfully avoiding seafood. And you’re probably missing out on some important nutrients. Like iodine, for example, which doesn’t show up in the standard nutritional databases but is incredibly important for brain and thyroid health and almost certainly appears most abundantly in seafood.
What Exactly Should I Eat?
Okay, so should I just throw in some salmon and be on my way?
Salmon is a great start, but there’s way more fish (and bivalves, crustaceans, and cephalopods) in the sea.
Can’t I just take fish oil? As a fish oil purveyor, I wish I could say that fish oil is enough. It offers incredible benefits not to be dismissed, but it’s not equivalent to food either. The fact is, I do both. Seafood contains a ton more than just the omega-3s. Just check it out….
- Salmon: Vitamin D3, B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, selenium.
- Cod: B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, potassium
- Halibut: B-vitamins, vitamin D3, magnesium, selenium, potassium
- Sardines (canned): B-vitamins, vitamin D3, selenium, calcium (if bone-in), iron, copper
- Scallops: Vitamin B12, magnesium, folate, selenium, zinc.
- Oysters: B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, omega-3s, manganese
- Mussels: B-vitamins, selenium, zinc, manganese, folate, omega-3s
- Clams: Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, vitamin A
- Shrimp: B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc, astaxanthin (a potent carotenoid, great for ocular and mental health)
- Crab: B-vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, selenium, zinc, copper
- Lobster: B-vitamins, vitamin E, selenium
- Squid: B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin E
- Octopus: B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium
Although I didn’t mention it, every single sea creature you can eat is a very good source of highly bioavailable protein and, usually, creatine.
And some studies even suggest that fish proteins themselves offer unique benefits.
- In one study, rats with injured muscles saw faster recovery when fed cod protein as opposed to casein or peanut protein.
- In people with insulin resistance, cod protein reduces the inflammatory marker CRP and increases insulin sensitivity.
- Fish protein may even enhance fat loss and muscle gain compared to other protein sources.
Most of the research is in animals, but it’s compelling and another good—if speculative—reason to include fish in your diet.
I’m Sold. How Much Should I Eat?
Keeping in mind the contamination in certain varieties, eat much as you can afford/tolerate. It’s hard to eat too much seafood. In my experience, there seems to be a built-in regulatory mechanism that reduces the palatability of seafood at a certain level of consumption. A big slab of wild sockeye salmon is fantastic, but I can’t eat pounds of it like I can with a grass-fed ribeye.
You can also use omega-3:omega-6 ratio as an indicator. Run the numbers on the seafood you’re eating and aim for a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio and you should be golden.
In my opinion, leaner fish has no upper limit. Eat as you desire.
Keep in mind that the keto Mediterranean diet study I recently discussed gave over 2 pounds of fish to participants every day, and they had great results. Two. Pounds. Mostly salmon, sardines, and mackerel, which are fatty omega-3 rich fish very low in contaminants. After 12 weeks of that:
- They lost 30+ pounds.
- Their BMIs dropped from almost 37 to 31.5, from the middle of class 2 obesity to the bottom of class 1 obesity.
- They lost 16 centimeters, or 6 inches, from their waist.
- Fasting blood sugar dropped from 118 (pre-diabetic) to 91 (ideal).
- Triglycerides dropped from 224 to 109.
- HDL increased from 44 to 58.
- They went from prehypertensive to normotensive.
- Their liver enzymes and liver fat reduced and in some cases completely resolved.
- All 22 subjects started the study with metabolic syndrome and ended it without metabolic syndrome.
As always, pay attention to how you feel. Eat and observe. Make it an official N=1 experiment and look for the feedback it provides.
How I Do Seafood
Okay, but how do you eat it? How do you prepare it?
Admittedly, there’s a lot less room for error with seafood. It goes bad more quickly, cooks faster, and simply isn’t as forgiving. We’ve all had the experience of buying some salmon fresh from the butcher, keeping it in your fridge a half day too long because we weren’t sure how to prepare it, and having to throw it out. That’s the worst.
I’m not a big “recipe” guy (I have people who help me parse out my creations into legible formats for blog posts and cookbooks). I like to improvise. A dish here, a dash there. So, I’m just going to give a freeform account of how I eat fish, shellfish, and other seafood. If you need clarification on something, feel free to ask in the comment board.
I like doing a kind of pseudo-ceviche using any high quality lean fish—halibut’s great—marinated in Primal Kitchen® Greek Dressing & Marinade with a few splashes of tamari or soy sauce and some diced fresno chile. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then plow into it. Really good, even though if you tried to serve this in Peru they’d probably arrest you.
I always have canned sardines from Wild Planet in my pantry. A favorite quick (and keto-friendly) meal is to do a can or two of sardines mashed up with an avocado and a tablespoon or two of Greek Goddess dressing.
If I’m doing salmon, I’ll sometimes marinate the fish in the Primal Kitchen No-Soy Teriyaki.
Another great way to cook fish is in a curry. Sear the fish, making sure to get crispy skin if it’s on. Set aside. In the same pan without washing or draining, heat up some garlic, ginger, chili peppers (if you like it hot), and onions (or shallots), adding more fat if you need it. Salt. When they’ve softened, add the curry powder or paste. Cook for a minute or so. Then add some bone broth and coconut milk. Reduce until you’ve reached the texture you desire. I’ll keep gelatin powder on hand to whisk in if it doesn’t have enough body. At the last moment, add the fish back in and toss to coat.
Scallops? Either raw at a good sushi joint, preferably separated by thinly sliced lemon, or seared in butter followed by a pan reduction with white wine and butter. By the way, for those who are interested, Butcher Box has some killer scallops now (it’s literally the last day to grab the deal—apologies to anyone reading this tomorrow.) And full disclosure—I’ve always been a proud affiliate. They do things right there.
Clam chowder is still the best way to eat clams, roasted on an open fire on the beach with a little sand still in there. Maybe it’s just the New England in me.
Anytime I’m out at a decent restaurant I trust with oysters on the menu, I order them. At least a half dozen, raw. I also like the canned smoked oysters from Crown Prince.
Mussels I like the classic way: cooked in butter, white wine, and garlic. Only modification I make is after the mussels have cooked, I remove them from the pan, sprinkle in some gelatin powder, and reduce down to make a viscous sauce.
Cod or other similar lean white fishes are best in lots of butter and garlic, followed by a squeeze of lemon.
Whole salmon? Clean, gut, and scale. If you can, keep the liver. It’s delicious. Salt and pepper the interior and exterior of the salmon. Cut some deep vertical slashes in the outside, on both sides. Stuff shallots, garlic, and lemon slices into the interior and inside the slashes. Coat with avocado oil, then grill over indirect heat with the cover on until skin is crispy and flesh is lightly pink and flaky, or bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.
If I’m ever cooking a cephalopod, it’s all about the Instant Pot. Throw some bone broth, lemon juice, and olive oil in the pot with the squid or octopus and cook on manual for 15-20 minutes. If you like, you can take it out, allow it to cool, then grill it over coals or open flame. Save the broth.
Whenever I cook fish, I use either monounsaturated fats (as found in avocado oil and olive oil) or saturated fats (as found in butter and coconut oil). Both types of fats enhance absorption of omega-3 fatty acids, whereas omega-6 fats inhibit it. Both omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same absorption pathway.
When applicable (as in curry), I also use turmeric to cook my fish. Turmeric and its curcumin enhances absorption of omega-3s, specifically increasing DHA levels in the brain.
I know seafood is intimidating for some people. They don’t like the “fishiness.” They don’t know how to cook it. It’s “too expensive.” It goes bad too quickly. Hopefully, after today you feel a bit better about cooking and eating seafood. Hopefully, you feel equipped and empowered to incorporate some salmon, cod, trout, oysters, and other marine animals into your diet.
Take care, everyone, and please leave your favorite ways to eat seafood down below. How much seafood do you eat? What’s your go-to recipe? What underrated sea animal do you covet but others do not?
Thanks for reading!
The post The Definitive Guide To Fish: Why and How To Eat It appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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