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GAPS Healthy Fats Real Food

Why a High-Protein Diet Won’t Make You Healthier

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Due to the insistence of conventional health communities that fats and cholesterol should be avoided, high-protein diets have been all the rage for a number of years.

The Atkins Diet was popular for many years and received much press and attention since it came out in the late 1950s. Many people claimed to lose a lot of weight on this diet. Depending on who you asked, this diet was heralded by some as a low-fat diet, high-protein diet and by others as a high fat diet.

This quote by Dr. Atkins himself describes the diet:

“Those of you who read my first book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, know what diet to follow — there was only one. Millions of dieters simply called it the Atkins Diet. It was a very low carbohydrate reducing diet (not a high-fat diet, as many of my nonreading critics asserted).”

The South Beach Diet came out during the 2000s and it affected more dieters than just about any diet during that decade. The major flaw with most of these types of diets was they didn’t emphasize something of great importance: healthy fats – which are so critical for health. As a result, many people who followed the Atkins Diet gained the weight back after losing it.

It may seem counter-intuitive that eating fat and cholesterol can be good for health, but this myth about fat and cholesterol being bad for us has no grounded science behind it.

You can see clear evidence of bad science being used everywhere. A good example is the USDA Dietary Guideline recommendations such as MyPlate, featuring a diagram of 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. But fat is nowhere to be found.

And yet, fat is one of the most critical foods we could eat for health since it’s one of our best sources of Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 – essential fat soluble vitamins, Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and other important nutrients like folate, B12, iron, and zinc.

Fat and cholesterol are essential for a wide range of bodily functions:

  • Necessary for the production of hormones in the body.
  • Brain and nervous system function (a majority of our brains are composed of fat)
  • The foundation of cell integrity
  • Digestion and normalization of blood sugar levels
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Protecting internal organs from damage
  • Providing energy
  • Maintaining proper weight and metabolism levels

Dr. Weston A. Price learned in his world travels by visiting 14 various countries that all healthy populations who were free of disease consumed much more of these nutrients from animal foods – sometimes up to TEN times the amount we currently consume in our modern culture.

Truth be told, avoiding fat and cholesterol is disastrous for health.  A number of medical doctors are now admitting this openly to the public.

When you stop and think about our modern health guidelines which recommend avoiding fat – have these really helped our population become healthier or lose weight? Not at all. According to recent reports, in fact, we are continuing to get fatter and sicker with each passing year.

What’s wrong with lean meats?

Lean meats are very hard-to-digest. Since they lack fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D, they end up becoming putrified in our digestive systems and cause chronic pathogenic bacteria in our guts which spreads to all parts of our bodies. This leads to many other health issues including weight problems, auto-immune disease, food allergies, bone and joint issues, and others.

Even a lot of grassfed meats tend to be short on fat.  If you are coming off a low-fat diet you will probably need some help getting your digestion back in order to be able to handle fats. Starting out slowly with well-cooked meats, poultry, fish, and other animal fats in broths and soups, with vegetables and plenty of healthy fats like butter or ghee, lard, or tallow. These are very healing and can help you to be able to to properly digest your food.

So eat your meats with plenty of fat:

  • olive oil
  • butter
  • ghee
  • coconut oil
  • fat drippings from lard (pork fat), schmaltz (chicken fat) or tallow (beef fat or suet)

and also with gelatin-rich broths or cooked in broth made from the bones of animals and birds on pasture.

The GAPS protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride may be a good healing and detox if you have digestive issues and want to heal so you can properly digest foods again. You may also need digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid. The best brand of enzymes I’ve found is Enzyme Formulations, and you need a practitioner to obtain them. Houston Enzymes are also a quality product that I’ve heard many good things about from clients and others. They have customer support to help you determine which are right for you.

What’s wrong with protein powders?

Protein powders are a popular food product that many people buy because they don’t have time to prepare something real. Slick marketing and labeling has convinced consumers these are healthy products to consume. But, these powders are processed through high heat temperatures which denatures the protein. Processing actually turns those substances into something harmful – a free-glutamate (think MSG).

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Plus, protein powders almost always contain a bunch of synthetic nutrients, stabilizers, preservatives, and other things you can’t even pronounce or comprehend what they are. Even the supposedly high-quality whey protein powders that are healthy, containing organic grassfed whey from healthy cows, like this one – Whole Whey Natural from Metaorganics

  • Whey protein concentrate from grassfed cows’ raw milk (pesticide free, no added hormones)
  • Fibersol (what?)
  • Arabinogalactin extract (what?)
  • Nonfat milk powder (no thanks, I’ll take real full fats that aren’t oxidized)
  • Lecithin (soy, no thanks)
  • Medium chain triglycerides (which you can get from real coconut oil)
  • Natural flavors (MSG)
  • Guar gum (MSG)
  • Lohan (what the heck is that?)

Okay, whole whey protein from grass fed cows’ milk, that’s the only thing I’d even consider consuming on this list.    But I could get that from having a smoothie with yogurt and kefir in it, or drinking a glass of milk, or eating some cheese.

Even if you knew what the other ingredients were, do you need to be consuming them? Probably not. So everything else? I’d avoid like the plague and just eat real food.

This product is a great example of how just because something is labeled organic or even grassfed, does not make it healthy to consume.

But aren’t plant protein powders better?

There are other protein powder products not sourced from animals using proteins from plants, grains, and seeds. No matter how the labels might describe them as being low-temperature processed or non-denatured, these products are still as unnatural as can be, and we should not rely on grains or plants in those amounts as a good source of protein. Our ancestors never did this. Again, there is no fat present in these products as the proteins are isolated and compounded many times above what would occur in nature.

Vegetables, grains, seeds, and legumes contain phytic acid – an anti-nutrient that can leach minerals from the stores in your body – usually the bones. To neutralize these components, sprouting/soaking, fermentation, cooking, and serving with healthy fats is required. When those techniques are applied, your body can use the nutrients in those foods. But eating in raw form, or in the case of grains simply cooked, or highly processed and compounded many times as protein powders is not a smart way to consume these foods.

You’re better off eating a nice pile of chopped up broccoli and carrots, cooked in a pan with butter, salt, garlic, and some seasoning than you are to consume plant protein powders. You’ll absorb the nutrients in the plants better since you’ll be eating it with a wonderful, healthy fat with fat-soluble vitamins (A&D), and it will actually taste good.

Protein and fat work together

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with protein – provided it’s a natural source of protein and it’s also accompanied by some type of natural fat such as in meats or animal products. Even some other foods such as grains, vegetables, legumes, and nuts contain a small amount of protein (although not much except for in the case of nuts). But the point is, those foods with small amounts of protein don’t have much naturally-occurring fat.

That’s why it’s important to traditionally prepare grains, seeds, legumes, and vegetables – either through fermentation or soaking/sprouting and/or cooking to neutralize phytic acid, and eat with healthy animal fats. Those fat-soluble nutrients help us to absorb the nutrients in those foods.

The lack of fat in high-protein foods like industrially-produced lean meats and processed foods like protein powders is a problem because they lack vital, fat-soluble nutrients. In this case, Vitamin A.  The body stores Vitamin A in the liver. If you keep eating high-protein foods with no fat, you will soon deplete Vitamin A stores in the body.  This leads to many chronic issues including:

  • bone issues and osteoporosis from loss of calcium
  • Heart or kidney disease
  • Thyroid and hormonal imbalances
  • Auto-immune disease such as fibroymyalgia (chronic fatigue) or more serious issues including diabetes

All of these issues sum up much of what is wrong with our population’s modern health profile – some of the most common diseases people have, and they are on the increase. As a coincidence, many people avoid fat, count calories, and cling to nutrient-deficient diets.  Quite an interesting connection, isn’t it?

What’s wrong with modern diets?

The Standard American Diet is sorely depleted of nutrient-dense foods. Besides chemicals and toxins in our diets from processed foods that make up so much of what we eat, three ingredients that have remained a constant in our everyday eating habits are white flour, sugar, and vegetable oils.

Dr. Weston A. Price discovered that fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 were present in the diets of healthy populations he studied all over the world. Modern diets are lacking in these nutrients, including Vitamin A, a nutrient we can get from foods such as cod liver oil, liver, butter, cream, fish, and fish eggs.

We have an abundance of lean protein foods in our diets because conventional medical information tells us to eliminate fat and cholesterol. Lean meats are NOT natural in any sense of the word, and the majority of them are produced on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) where animals do not receive a natural diet nor live in a natural environment. This makes the meat and fat content of these foods off-balance and not healthy for our bodies. For example, due to the way they are produced, CAFO meats are too high in Omega 6s, and the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3s is about 15:1 or wider. Grassfed meats are the correct balance at approximately 3:1.

For thousands and thousands of years, healthy meat and poultry was eaten by people around the world with fat, skin, bones, and everything else that goes with animal foods. Those were not separated out, they were considered essential and necessary for maintaining good health.

Instead of processed foods or protein powders that have isolated, high amounts of denatured protein and lack other important co-factors and nutrients, eat healthy foods with saturated fats and real nutrients like egg yolks from pastured hens, raw yogurt, milk, or other dairy food, coconut oil, mashed up avocadoes to soups, broths, stews, and or smoothies. Eat fatty cuts of grassfed meats, pork, lamb, poultry and game meats with plenty of butter, olive oil, or other animal fat and with or cooked in bone broths. Cook your vegetables and braise your meats in butter, lard, tallow, or ghee. For desert, have a big bowl of home-made full-fat raw yogurt with fruit, nuts, and cinnamon.

Here’s a recipe for home-made whey on the Radiant Life site, which is an excellent natural source of real protein. You can also easily make a home-made protein powder such as the recipe featured in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

These foods are delicious and good for you, and will bring back flavor to the bland, boring processed foods you’ve been eating that aren’t healthy. Instead of high-protein and low-fat, make your meals high-protein and high fat too.

Want more information?

The importance of dietary fats

What’s the real scoop on red meat and higher mortality rates?

Which is better for your health – polyunsaturated or saturated fats?

Dr. Sinatra and others speaking out – cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Healthy Meat Toxin Alert!

What I Think of Meatless Mondays

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The term “Meatless Mondays” has become synonymous in health communities with “going green” and having a lesser impact on the environment, and its supposed positive effect on human health.

You’ll see this highly marketed term used in many places, and especially where vegetarian diets are promoted.  While I’m not necessarily being critical of vegetarian diets, I’d like to discuss the reasons why these ideas are simply untrue.

The Environmental Working Group has just come out with The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health on their web site.  To have a better impact on the environment and our health, it is recommended that we: 

  • Eat less meat and dairy
  • Eat greener meat when you do eat it
  • Eat more plants
  • Waste less meat
  • Eat lower-fat dairy products
  • Speak out

Eating more plants and grains doesn’t improve your health

Animal products from sustainable sources have more nutrients and are more bio-available for digestion, period. If you can’t digest the nutrients in the food you eat, your health will suffer. Plants and grains contain phytates which inhibit the absorption of nutrients – especially minerals – in the body.

To increase digestibility, plants should be eaten with animal products or cooked (such as with butter, olive or coconut oil, or lard) to make them more easily digestible. Cultured and fermented vegetables are even more easy to digest, but the EWG and most other sources of health information don’t mention any of these important facts.

Many people have issues with grains, and because grains are monumentally different than they were in the historical past, this has caused and contributed to a lot of health issues such as gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and many digestive as well as auto-immune issues.

Contrary to what many health and nutrition web sites are saying (yes, even some real food health sites), grains should be eaten quite sparingly or avoided altogether – especially if you have health issues and digestive compromise. If you do eat grains, they should always be prepared properly through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting.  Read this informative post from Archevore, Avoid Poison or Neutralize It about why soaking, sprouting, and fermenting don’t adequately remove all phytates from grains.

Low-fat foods are recommended for consumption by many health sources. But, low-fat foods are changed from how they occur in nature, and in many cases have the fat content replaced with sugar, chemicals, or a combination of the two. They are also usually pasteurized and/or homogenized, which denatures delicate proteins and enzymes necessary for digestion. Low-fat foods are not good for our health and can actually cause health issues to occur.

Fats and cholesterol are critical in our diets. Our brains are almost entirely comprised of fats, and we need the nutrients found in animal fats such as fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and K, minerals such as zinc (often lacking in vegetarian diets), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), minerals like zinc, iron, and phosphorus, and Omega 3s (just to name a few) for nearly every aspect of health including mood and nervous system function, circulatory/respiratory, endocrine, digestive, reproductive, skin/eyes/hair, eliminatory, and detox.

In the 1930s, Dr. Weston A. Price discovered as he traveled around the world to study the diet of various populations that all groups who consumed a regular source of clean animal fat in their diets had the most vibrant health. These populations, who ate no processed foods consumed TEN TIMES the amount of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 than those living in developed countries from animal foods.

Grass-fed meats are a superior source for these nutrients. We are hard-wired to crave fats and proteins, which provide us not just with with critical nutrients but also lasting energy (you can’t say that about carbohydrates, which burn through our bodies very quickly). They stabilize our moods and blood sugar, and provide an indispensible support for our metabolic systems.

If you have issues digesting meat, Dr. Thomas Cowan suggests consuming it with a gelatin-rich, home-made stock from the bones of animals to help digest the nutrients. This allows your digestive tract to become healed so that it can then absorb all the valuable nutrients found in meats. Home-made stock is an excellent calcium source, which you will need if you aren’t consuming dairy products.

Does eating meat give us cancer and heart disease?

(UPDATE: March 2012)

A recent flawed study put out by Harvard School of Public Health tells us that eating meat will decrease our life spans. I wrote a post about this, showing in detail why this study has  many holes in it. One of the main reasons is that this study and many others like it don’t take into account the vast nutritional differences between factory-farm meat, which is mostly what people eat, and healthy, grassfed meats from animals on pasture.  As well, humans have eaten naturally-raised meats for thousands upon thousands of years, which has allowed humanity to not only survive but thrive.

Does eating less meat save the planet?

Currently, the most common method of meat production is performed in horrific and artificial conditions. Animals and birds are in small spaces, not allowed to roam, graze, forage or engage in natural behaviors. They are pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics, and fed corn, soy, and grain which is cheap and makes them fat quickly. Commercial farming pollutes and destroys everything in its wake, producing carbon gases at nearly every stage in the process, which absolutely contributes to the industrial overheating of the planet.

Sustainable, grass-fed farming is good for the environment and does not contribute to climate change or global warming. Once again, EWG ignores critical research showing that different types of farming produces different results. As pointed out by Anna Lappe in Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at The End of Your Fork and What you Can Do About It, grass-fed farming actually “produces a net benefit, as well-managed grazing can help store carbon in soils.” Her discovery revealed that “converting some of the land currently used for feed production to grass-fed beef production, emissions per acre would be significantly lower.”

As far as saving the planet…how exactly does eating low-fat dairy accomplish this? Creating low-fat foods is an artificial process which requires chemicals and toxins used in their manufacturing and production. So, I challenge anyone to prove exactly how this is good for our health or the environment.

Does eating less meat save money?

No doubt, meats and meat products are typically more expensive than plant foods. No argument there. But what are you getting for your dollar when you buy animal products versus plant products? If you refer to Nourished Kitchen’s Nutrient Showdown, you’ll see that when you compare plant and animal foods for nutrient content (using information from Nutrition Data), animal foods win hands down. To get the maximum nutrients, one of the best places to put your food dollars is in sustainable animal products.

When you eat real, grassfed and sustainable meats from healthy animals on pasture, the meat is packed with nutrients, and you will naturally eat less. But if sometimes you need to eat more, don’t feel guilty about it. If you are doing it occasionally to save money or stretch your meat out, that’s just fine. I’m all for saving money, and in this economy, every dollar counts.

You can easily replace meat in any meal with traditional, healthy fats  such as raw dairy from healthy cows on pasture, coconut, or olive oil.  You can also have an economical and nourishing dinner cooking vegetables and rice or potatoes using bone broth, lard, or tallow from healthy animals on pasture.  That’s right. Even though it’s not “meatless”, it is nonetheless delicious, nutritionally superior, and satisfying – contrary to what mainstream medical and health sources tell us.

More information on nutrient-dense foods that support vibrant health:

How well do you know your food? Find out!

What are traditional foods?

The grass-fed meat challenge: busting myths about meat