Thursday, November 11, 2010

NT in a Nutshell Part 5: Proteins

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet DictocratsToday’s discussion on Nourishing Traditions will cover the role of proteins, perhaps most important among the nutrients required by our bodies from our diets. This information is condensed from pages 26-32 of Nourishing Traditions, and is not intended as medical advice, but as an introduction to healthy eating practices.

You may remember learning in high school health or biology that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Well, “Proteins are the building blocks of the animal kingdom.” (page 26) Proteins are components of organs, nerves, muscles, and flesh. They are also important to our bodies as enzymes and antibodies.

The myriad of proteins in the human body – about 50,000 different forms – are each composed of only 22 different amino acids, linked together in different sequences. Like fatty acids, there are several amino acids that are “essential amino acids,” meaning again that these must be ingested through our diets– they cannot be produced by the body.

The best source we have for dietary protein is from the consumption of animal products, as meat, diary and eggs. From page 26:
“Just as animal fats are our only sources of vitamins A and D and other bodybuilding factors, so also animal protein is our only source of complete protein. All of the essential amino acids, and many considered ‘nonessential,’ are present in animal products. Sources of protein form the vegetable kingdom contain only incomplete protein; that is, they are low in one or more essential amino acids, even when overall protein content is high. The body must ingest all the essential amino acids in order to use any of them. The two best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom are legumes and cereal grains, but all plant foods are low in tryptophan, cystine and threonine. Legumes, such as beans, peanuts and cashews are high in the amino acid lysine but low in methionine. Cereal grains have the opposite profile.  In order to obtain the best possible protein combination from vegetable sources, pulses and grains should be eaten together and combined with at least a small amount of animal protein…
“Vegetarianism has recently achieved political correctness, and nutritionists advocating a restriction or complete elimination of animal products garner good reviews in the popular press. Their influence is reflected in the new Food Pyramid with its emphasis on grains; but the scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, argues against relying too heavily on grains and legumes as sources of protein or for severely reducing animal products in the diet.”

As we discussed briefly in the discussion about carbohydrates, nutrients can only be extracted effectively by the body from grains if they are prepared properly. Failure to prepare grains properly could actually lead to deficiencies, especially when animal products are not a part of the diet.  From page 27-28:
“…a largely vegetarian diet lacks the fat-soluble catalysts needed for mineral absorption. Furthermore, phytates in grains block absorption of calcium, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. Unless grains are properly prepared to neutralize phytates, the body may be unable to assimilate these minerals. Zinc, iron, calcium and other minerals from animal sources are more easily and readily absorbed. We should not underestimate the dangers of deficiencies in these minerals. The effects of calcium and iron deficiency are well known, those of zinc less so. Even a minor zinc deficiency in pregnant animals results in offspring with deformities, such as club feet, cleft palates, domed skulls and fused and missing ribs. In humans, zinc deficiency can cause learning disabilities and mental retardation. In men, zinc depletion decreases fertility. Man’s best source of zinc is animal products, particularly oysters and red meat.
“Usable vitamin B12 occurs only in animal products. The body stores a supply of vitamin B12 that can last from two to five years. When this supply is depleted, B12 deficiency diseases result. These include pernicious anemia, impaired eyesight, panic attacks, schizophrenia, hallucinations and nervous disorders, such as weakness, loss of balance and numbness in the hands and feet…Vitamin B12 deficiency has been found in breast-fed infants of strict vegetarians…”

Just as refined sugars and grains should be avoided, so also should processed protein products such as protein powders made from soy, whey, casein and egg whites. The high temperature processing introduces possible carcinogens as well as “over-denatures the proteins to such an extent that they become essentially useless.” (page 29)

Now that you know how important consuming meat, dairy and eggs is to your diet, next you should consider where you get these. Beef and dairy products should be from pastured animals and should be certified “organic” and should not have been given hormones or antibiotics. Chicken and eggs should be free-ranged, certified “organic” and should not have been given hormones or antibiotics. Fish should be wild caught, and deep sea cold-water fish are best as they contain the most omega-3’s. The variety wild game adds is also beneficial. The authors recommend eating some animal products raw or rare on a regular basis.

The authors suggest that there may be “something other than a concern for parasite contamination” in the Bible’s prohibition against pork, and that some studies suggest that pork may best be avoided. (page 32)

Shellfish is recommended for its high vitamin content; however, it should be “very fresh and in season.” (page 32)

How have we incorporated this into our diet? The first step we made was not due to the information in Nourishing Traditions, but was instead a benefit of my husband’s hobby. He is an avid hunter, as is my son, and we seek to put at least 5 deer in the freezer every year. Venison is free-ranged and organic by nature! I only buy beef hamburger perhaps once or twice per year. I never buy beef cubed steaks anymore. We occasionally buy steaks, but that is a rare treat. I don’t have a source in my area to buy free-ranged beef unless I am willing to commit to purchasing at least a quarter of a cow, and as rarely as we eat steaks, I feel that we can just pray over it for the Father to use it to the nourishment of our bodies.

As for chicken, there is a family-owned butcher shop in our area that sells free-ranged chicken. I haven’t checked their prices, but the prices in local health food stores have been way out of my range. I hope that if we are able to move to a place we want in the country so that we can raise our own chickens, but as for now, I still get mine at Sam’s Club.

I buy wild caught fish as it goes on sale (BOGO), but most of it comes from China and I don’t know if I really believe that it is wild caught. That’s just another food we have to pray over. Fortunately, we live close enough to the Gulf to get shrimp, although even here it is best frozen. As for eating things raw and rare – I don’t see that happening. The thought is rather repulsive to me, although I can live with a medium rare steak. If it’s bleeding on the plate, I ain’t eatin’ it. And sushi is completely out of the question…raw fish is bait not dinner ‘round here!

The most important concept to take away from this discussion is that a vegetarian diet, although politically correct and popular, is not a good idea for longevity and good health. Red meat should definitely be a part of your diet, as should chicken, fish, dairy and eggs. In our next discussion (next week), we will discuss the role of dairy in our diets further. Please join me again then!

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