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DietFoodResilienceResilient Health

Eating Animals: What to Look For & What to Avoid

You hear nowadays about the growing popularity of vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based diets. These are great options for both your body and the environment, but many people still want to consume animal products on a regular basis. So if you’re not quite ready to go all the way, here are some tips to make healthier choices.

Avoid Processed Meats

Processed meat has been defined as any meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Some of the most common examples include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky. Meat-based sauces and canned meat also fall into this category. 

In 2015, the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) labeled processed meats as carcinogenic. Avoiding these kinds of foods are the best choice for your overall health. 

Red meat also specifically has links to colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

Choose Organic

Eating organically is your best bet when consuming animal products. This way, you can reduce your exposure to chlorinated pesticides and other toxins such as DDT and PCBs, antibiotics, growth hormones, and high-GMO ingredients. Nonorganic beef and dairy products are also large sources of chlorinated pesticides. 

What Did The Animal Eat and How Was It Raised?

Nowadays, not all kinds of meat are equal and the type of feed affects the quality of the end product. If consuming beef, look for grass-fed or grass-finished, since cows are meant to graze on grass rather than eat grain feed cheaply made from corn and soy. Feed can change the balance of essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, that can make the food more or less inflammatory. 

Additionally, it is useful to be aware of how the animal was raised. Just like how human physiology is affected by psycho-emotional environments, the same can be said for animals. Crowded, restrictive factory farming practices, such as penning and de-beaking, can stress the animal and change the composition of molecules and hormones in the meat. Additionally, many of these practices also use hormones and antibiotics to increase growth which can be harmful to our bodies once consumed.

What About Dairy?

Dairy is one of the most reactive foods, and many people find that they can’t tolerate it. In these cases, it is best to give up completely. Because this is not doable for everyone,I would recommend avoiding dairy at least for one month if you have allergies, excessive mucus, or autoimmune conditions. I have also seen skin conditions and other health issues improve when removing dairy. Even without these reactions, you should still stray away from eating a lot of dairy as it can be inflammatory and trigger growth due to insulin-lie-growth factor.. If you just can’t stay away, there are a few Ayurvedic tips to optimize your digestion, but my stance is that the dairy promoted through the Ayurveda of centuries ago is not the same that you buy at the supermarket shelf right now. I do not advocate supermarket milk as a health food in any way.

Ayurvedic Tips to Make Dairy More Digestible

  1. Drink it warmed, rather than cold.
  2. Add turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, or ginger to reduce mucus formation.
  3. Choose organic, whole, pasture-raised, and non-homogenized milk.
  4. Consume dairy products alone or with food with a sweet taste to avoid improper food combinations.

What About Fish?

Fish can be a healthy option for some people. But we also need to be mindful of what the fish was fed, how it was raised, if it was in a polluted environment, and is it sustainable. Farm-raised fish like salmon and catfish, for example, can contain contaminants such as PCBs and heavy metals and sport fish from contaminated areas can also be contaminated with toxicants. These substances can cause mitochondrial toxicity and affect neurological, immunological, and endocrinological systems. Additionally, they can affect cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other bodily systems. 

My Personal Stance

I have been an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian and many other permutations at various times in my life. My personal view right now is that the healthiest diet is largely based on plants and I strive to have at least two-thirds or more of my plate filled with vegetables. Sometimes we do need small amounts of animal proteins and I have seen people’s health improve when adding back to their diet in a mindful, sustainable way. Detailed nutrient testing can help identify and target how to rebalance and optimize your nutrients through food and supplements. No one diet is good for all people at all times, the key is to find the right one for you at this moment.

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