Nutrition can be complicated, with information on what is healthiest for us often being wildly conflicting. Should we all be vegetarians or vegans, or give up grains and dairy for good?
The answer is unfortunately never that simple. Whilst the marketing machine for the next big diet trend may try to convince you otherwise, there isn’t one particular diet that will work for each and every one of us in the same way. We all have individual requirements when it comes to our dietary needs and differing lifestyle and genetic factors must be taken into consideration. This is where naturopathic nutrition helps in assessing the unique differences, not just the generalised similarities.
Back to Basics – Protein
Fundamental to any healthy diet, however, is the importance of protein, with at least 15% of food intake being the average minimum recommendation. Protein is essential for muscle and tissue repair, metabolism and digestion, energy, immunity and hormonal activity. But eating enough can be more difficult than you might think, when so often there is an over-reliance on popular carbohydrate-heavy foods such as sandwiches, crisps or pasta.
The market for protein shakes and bars began steadily increasing as society looked for a quick and easy way to increase their intake. But the issue with many of these mainstream products is that they contain artificial sweeteners and cheap additives, which have their own set of health implications.
It is much more beneficial to obtain protein from natural, whole food sources where possible, with the most readily utilised and effective source being good old fashioned meat.
But should we be Eating Red Meat?
This question has been up for debate since the World Health Organization published a report on the potential link between high consumption and a variety of different health conditions. But this link has since been strongly disputed on the basis that the observational studies analysed were inconsistent and misleading.
The differences between cheap, processed meat and fresh high-quality produce were also not taken into consideration. which is unfortunate since the quality of animal produce being eaten is such an integral factor when discussing the health pros and cons.
From a nutritional perspective, red meat is a highly nutritious source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, including b-vitamins, zinc and iron that contribute to many important processes such as energy, immunity and hormones. But the benefits became overshadowed by the concerns, particularly around saturated fat content and cholesterol levels.
More recent research has now shown that saturated fat has very little impact on cholesterol levels in most people, with issues more likely arising due to consistent intake of hydrogenated or ‘trans’ fats – these are most commonly found in processed and packaged goods such as ready meals, biscuits and cakes.
Here are a few tips to enjoy a healthy balance of red meat in your diet:
- Eat grass-fed meat where possible, which has a higher nutritional value overall than grain-fed meat – buying good quality also reduces exposure to various chemicals and growth-promoting hormones that are widely used in standard intensive farming. I personally use and recommend Pipers Farm (www.pipersfarm.com), who grass-feed and slow rear all of their animals on their farm in Devon
- Combine meat with green vegetables such as spinach or broccoli, which are alkaline and antioxidant-rich – their fibre content also assists in the transit and excretion of protein through the large intestine and perfectly balance the naturally acidic nature of meat
- Use gentle cooking methods to avoid charring or burning meat – studies have shown that over-cooking can cause the formation of potentially harmful substances
- Marinating meat beforehand can reduce the risk of over-cooking – try a combination of garlic and lemon juice, which also add lots of extra flavour
Red meat is also emerging as a contender in the snack market in the form of jerky and biltong – a much better option than reaching for the biscuits or crisps during the dreaded afternoon slump! But similarly to protein bars and powders, it is important to choose a reputable brand that is a high in quality with no unnecessary sugars and additives. But don’t worry…I have already researched the market so you don’t have to! 🙂
BEEF:it Biltong – British Protein, Naturally
Biltong is an air-dried, protein and nutrient-dense beef product with a tough texture and rich flavour. I found BEEF:it online (www.beefitbiltong.com) when I was looking for a high-quality, grass-fed and UK-based product. They are directed primarily towards the fitness market for muscle recovery and sustained energy, but it’s also an ideal product for anyone looking to increase their whole food protein intake in a convenient way.
A 35g bag contains over 21g of protein and is perfect to pop into your bag or desk drawer at work for when you are feeling peckish. It’s also deceptively filling, which is something to consider if weight management is one of your goals.
I hope you found some interesting info in this article and do let me know your thoughts on the subject. Have a great weekend!
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