Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise; and while important social and environment factors are motivating these trends, what do we know about the impact of animal-based foods on our health? To Meat or Not to Meat is a crucial question, but perhaps we’re opening Pandora’s Box. There’s no doubt that protein is critical to our survival, but what are the best protein sources? Are vegetarian sources sufficient? Is meat even necessary to our diet? Let’s take a closer look.
First let’s establish that protein is essential for many reasons – protein helps us fight disease, it provides us energy, and as far as food sources go, protein makes us feel satiated. Beef, chicken, and pork are the most commonly consumed animal-based protein sources in North America, but are they good for our health? One undeniable truth is that only animal-based foods provide us with all the essential amino acids your body needs for optimal health, but we still need to take care of our meat choices.
Beef is the most popular meat source in North America. It’s a staple in grocery stores and restaurants throughout the continent, but it also tends to be one of the most dangerous protein sources on the market. The cattle farmed and slaughtered for most of the beef we find in supermarkets and restaurants are among the least healthy animals on the planet. Cattle naturally consume a diet of grass, but in the beef industry, these animals are fed corn and other grains they have difficulty digesting. These animals are exposed to more bacteria and viruses than normal, and as a result, they suffer from elevated rates of disease. In response, beef cattle are fed high levels of antibiotics, not to mention herbicides and pesticides found in their feed. So while beef itself isn’t inherently unhealthy, the mass-produced beef options in our grocery stores and restaurants are not high-quality meats that are good for human health.
Chicken and Pork
If you’re expecting the story for chicken and pork to get better, get ready to be disappointed. Ultimately, animal welfare practices in the meat industry are abysmal. Store-bought chickens are raised in cages that provide little to no room for movement. These chickens spend their entire lives in inhumane conditions that also expose them to infectious diseases. So we also pump them full of antibiotics, as well as growth hormones and moisturizing agents to make the chickens bigger and their meat juicier. Unfortunately, practices such as these are standard with all animal-based foods readily available on the market today. If you’re shopping for beef, chicken, pork, or turkey, always look for organic, locally-sourced options, or consider healthier alternatives.
So, it seems like animal-based food sources are not the healthiest option for your protein requirements, and yet we know that the only way to get all the amino acids we need is through animal-based foods. In The Five Pillars of Optimal Health, you can learn about the best animal-based food choices for your health. From wild game and fish to vegetarian proteins such as eggs and dairy, you’ll learn how to make protein choices that contribute to alternative health. In the meantime, remember that the best supermarket choices are those free-range and certified organic options sourced from animals that are fed a healthy, natural diet free of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals.