Not all meat is created equal: is your meat ruining your health?

Probably the most imporant thing to spend your money on is clean meat. What is clean meat? Many of you may not be aware that all conventional meat is terrible for your health. I know you’ve seen grass-fed beef at the grocery stores, as well as organic meat, and you may wonder why it’s so much more expensive than conventional meat – and whether or not it is even better for you (hint: yes it is). You may not realize that this meat is so much better for your health, especially if you eat meat on a daily basis. It’s more expensive because of the way the animal is raised prior to packaging. Think about it: factory farmed animals are crammed by the millions into small spaces, fed genetically modified corn and soy, given antibiotics to fight off infections (more on this to come), and slaughtered and processed by the millions which leads to a cheap price on the packaged meat at the grocery store (because they use cheap feed, and cheap methods for processing). Whatever that animal previously ate, you are eating by eating the meat of said animal. I am going to discuss a few reasons why it’s important to spend the few extra dollars per pound on higher quality meat – not only for the sake of your health but for the sake of the animals’ well-being before it’s killed and also for the sake of our environment.

  1. You are eating antibiotics when you consume conventional meat: More than 80% of antibiotics in the year 2011 were fed to livestock in factory farms (NY Times Article by David Kessler). The animals are fed these drugs in order to keep them “healthy” in conditions that would otherwise make them sick. You may think this is good for us: that these drugs are protecting us from disease from the animals, when in reality, this is contributing to the rise of superbugs: deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  2. Eating conventional EGGS and CHICKEN can cause acne. The Western diet, which is usually high in meat and meat products such as eggs, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, increases insulin and inflammation in the body (Charles Bollmann, MD). Non-organic eggs, especially, come from poultry that is often fed hormones which will disrupt the hormonal activity in the body. The antibiotics that are also fed to these animals eventually makes its way into our system when we eat the animal/egg and this interferes with the balance of bacteria in our intestines. Intestinal bacteria plays a huge role in acne. While all people are different in their reactions to foods, if you are suffering from acne take a good look at your daily diet and decide if perhaps what you are eating is the culprit. Switch to organic!
  3. You are supporting the awful treatment of animals when you consume conventional meat: I really can’t go into much detail here because it’s truly heartbreaking. If you knew the treatment of the animals in factory farms you would not be able to eat the meat that comes from this. It’s hard to be a vegetarian, I know, I tried it for two months and couldn’t do it any longer because I started to feel very fatigued, weak, and just never satisfied from a meal which is why I now promote and live a mostly paleo-based lifestyle. You do not have to be a vegetarian but you also do not have to buy or support the meat of factory farmers! The animals in these conditions, pigs for example, are kept tightly packed in cages because it cuts costs. This causes severe distress to the animals as well as cause infection from sores and ulcers that may occur from the tightly packed spaces. This is an awful way to live – and another reason not to purchase conventional meat. Veal calves are also abused and forced to wear heavy chains to keep them from becoming overactive in their stalls. They are also kept in total darkness – which just seems absurd and abusive! Chickens are forced into small cages, similar to pigs, as well as the egg-laying hens. As little as 0.6 square feet of space per hen – which is smaller than a regular sized piece of paper! All you have to do is start buying better quality eggs – cage free AT THE LEAST! But even that’s not enough. I know it seems expensive but the only way to stop factory farming and this terrible treatment of the animals is if we vote with our dollars. Another disturbing fact: 82% of U.S. Dairies practice something called ‘tail docking’ – which is removing the tails of livestock by burning or constricting the tail with an elastic band. This causes pain (obviously), distress, and infection, and this has been outlawed by many countries, e.g., New Zealand. California is the only state in the United States where this is illegal.
  4. No antibiotics/hormones, grass-fed, organic, is HEALTHIER. As though this wasn’t already obvious, grass-fed beef and chickens that are either organic or pasture raised are much healthier for you (hint: no antibiotics given to the animals). Grass-fed beef comes from a cow who has grazed in a pasture year-round rather than eating processed food/corn/soy most of its life. This improves the quality of the beef, making it richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene and CLA (beneficial fatty acid). The cholesterol content of grass-fed beef is also lower than the cholesterol of beef from factory farms – 22-39%. This undoubtedly contributes to your total cholesterol intake. 500-800 milligrams of CLA is what you will be getting from a 4 ounce serving of grass-fed beef in comparison to non-grassfed. CLA is conjugated linoleum acid – it’s associated with immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass. The omega-3 fat content of grassfed beef is due to the wide variety of crops that are planted in pastures – which is where the animal is grazing. These are all reasons to spend the extra few dollars and always buy grass-fed beef as you are getting much more health benefits, all while supporting the farmers who practice cruelty-free livestock farming.
  5. Grass-fed meat is not the same as grain-fed. I want to reiterate this. Grain-fed meat will look similar and perhaps taste somewhat similar (though I disagree with the latter), it’s not healthier. These are two completely different meats. Factory farmed meat, aka grain fed, has the wrong fatty acids, contains obesity-causing hormones, and usually has mycotoxins which is a nasty biotoxin formed by mold in cattle food and meat processing. Following my paleo/primal lifestyle will only work for you if you are purchasing clean meat – so you simply must start putting in a few extra dollars and cut costs elsewhere so that you can buy this type of meat. The cow will not make nutritious meat if it’s not fed the proper ingredients. Feeding cattle junk food will turn them into junk food! Think about it…if the animal is living off of cheap, processed crap, its meat will turn into crap and you are then eating said meat/crap! 
  6. BETTER FOR THE WORLD. Eating grass-fed, purchasing pasture raised/NOT factory farmed meat is better for the economy and environment. Factory farming is awful for the environment because of the way the animals are raised, fed, and treated. With over 9 billion animals raised and slaughtered each year for human consumption in the United States alone, modern animal agriculture puts a huge strain on natural resources like land, water, fossil fuel. These circumstances are also contributing to climate change. In the US alone, factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure PER DAY. Factory farms store animal waste in huge lagoons, as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaking and spilling. In 2011 a hog farm in Illinois spilled 200,000 gallons of manure into a creek which killed over 100,000 fish! According to the USDA, animal waste can contaminate water supplies and omit harmful gasses into the atmosphere when over-applied to land (which factory farmers do). The demand for livestock pasture is a driver of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that 70% of land formerly supporting Amazon rainforests has been turned over to grazing (Farmsanctuary.org ). So once again, you are voting with your dollars as well as improving your health/cholesterol/appearance, quality of life for the animal, and helping the environment (or at the very least not harming the environment) when you you purchase grass-fed beef or pasture raised animals.

I hope this blog has at least opened your eyes to the fact that we all must get together and start to change the way animals are treated and harvested and stop supporting factory farmed meat. This includes all large company meat brands such as Tyson, Smithfield Foods Inc (world’s largest pork producer), ConAgra (owners of the Butterball brand), Pilgram’s Pride (undercover investigations showed workers violently throwing and stomping on chickens to kill them-major supplier for KFC restaurant), and Domino’s Pizza. AVOID THOSE BRANDS. One way to ensure the meat you are buying is NOT factory farmed is to shop LOCAL or at Whole Foods! Whole Foods has very strict standards regarding the meat they sell – a rating system of steps 1-5, with 5+ being the best (think pasture raised, happy animal 🙂 ).

SUMMARY

Spend the few extra dollars and ensure the meat you are buying is quality meat, otherwise, you are ingesting the awful things that animal ingested, as well as supporting mistreatment and abuse of animals. Choose labels that say NO ANTIBIOTICS (hormones are technically prohibited by the FDA although they are still probably used), grass-fed, organic (USDA organic stamp means the animal hasn’t consumed any genetically modified corn or soy which is important for our health,  as well as ensuring no antibiotics were used), pasture-raised, etc. Stop buying meat because it’s cheap – if it’s cheap, that means it’s not good for your health. Sorry, but it’s true. Your health will vastly improve if you make these changes.

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Rice: How Much Do I Eat and Which Kind?

I eat real, whole foods as much as possible and I DEFINITELY limit my grain intake, i.e., rice. I prefer sweet potatoes as my main source of a starchy carb. But, I do eat rice on occasion – a few times a week; and I always buy organic. I discovered after doing some research that rice can fit into a Paleo lifestyle if you are eating the right kind of rice – and that’s actually WHITE rice over brown. Yup. I know we’ve always been told that brown rice is superior and that you should not eat white rice – but in reality, they are BOTH CARBOHYDRATES and WHITE RICE is MUCH more easily digested than brown! And to be honest, who eats brown rice for nutrients?! I eat rice for a carbohydrate source – I aim to get my nutrients from vegetables, fruit, and grass fed beef/chicken/etc. **Note: if you are trying to lost weight/fat I do recommend you severely cut your carb intake and consume more veggies as your carb source – remember you can eat as many raw or steamed or roasted veggies as you want!***

Paleo lifestyle avoids grains because most/if not all grains irritate the gut. If you cut them out of your diet, I promise you will feel a million times better (or at least eliminate most of them! I still eat organic oats 1-2x per week and have no issues). I eliminated wheat/gluten from my diet in 2012 and ever since then I feel SO much better in terms of not being bloated or stopped up! But anyway, back to rice. Brown rice has a protective coating created by the plant which acts as its “shield of armor”. This shield contains toxic compounds that can irritate the gut. White rice is essentially the inside part of brown rice – so it’s very easy to digest! It has no nutrients, but also no toxic compounds. Read all about it here. Oh and FYI – if you have heard about the potential for arsenic to be in the rice you eat, well, it’s also more likely to be found in brown rice because it’s soaked up in the outer layer!! Read about that here.

So there you have it! If you must buy and eat rice, do buy organic, and choose a white rice variety! It is much easier to digest and allows you to get some extra carbohydrates if needed. I personally love the taste and texture of white jasmine rice. Try it out. It’s very inexpensive from Whole Foods and it’s so wonderful in many different dishes! It is important to select organic as rice often has lots of pesticide residue. Jasmine rice often comes from Thailand and according to this article here, many farmers use pesticides. It’s always important to choose organic when possible, because the USDA Organic stamp is not easy to obtain and the product must undergo many tests including non GMO verification.

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COFFEE: Why you Should Buy Organic!

I looooove coffee! I won’t drink just any coffee, however. It HAS to be organic. Many people hate the taste of coffee and honestly it’s because conventional coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides and it does taste like absolute crap. So people load their coffee down with tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners that cause cancer and weight gain. If people would just buy good coffee i.e., organic and ground fresh, they would realize that coffee is delicious BLACK – or with just a touch of coconut oil! It’s so much healthier that way! I am going to discuss why you should start buying organic coffee and grinding it yourself. You will find that it tastes so much better than Folgers, Dunkin Donuts, or Starbucks coffee. I don’t even like nor do I drink Starbucks coffee for that matter – it tastes bitter and awful to me! I buy dark Italian roast from Whole Foods or Sprouts and I grind it fresh, there at the store. It’s DELICIOUS. Anytime I travel I bring coffee with me because I refuse to drink the crap that’s out there.

Benefits of coffee (again, buy organic as coffee beans are sprayed with tons of pesticides!!):

  1. Helps burn fat (because of the natural caffeine) and boosts metabolism
  2. Improves physical performance (coffee = my pre-workout for 530 am gym sessions)
  3. Contains nutrients, and especially when you drink 3-4 cups like I do, these nutrients add up!: vitamin b12, b5, magnesium, vitamin b3 (niacin)
  4. It may protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia
  5. Coffee has protective effects on the liver
  6. Coffee can fight depression
  7. Coffee drinkers have lower risks of getting certain cancers including liver cancer
  8. Coffee drinkers appear to live longer
  9. Large source of antioxidants
  10. Increases cognitive performance

Now Reasons WHY organic is BEST:

Organic coffee beans are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This means cleaner beans (HELLO more antioxidants) and cleaner air and land! Not only is this better for you to drink but it’s also better for the earth as no toxic fumes are emitted. Most organic coffee is also grown the natural way – and the way the beans prefer – which is in the shade of forests! Most conventionally grown coffee beans are actually hybrids so that they can be grown in the sun – since it’s much easier to tend to a crop in an open field as opposed to a forest. So the non-organic varieties are hybrids designed to grow in the sun/open fields. Rain forests are demolished so that more open space is created for these conventional coffee beans which kills tons of animals as well as destroying natural habitats of these animals! Without tree cover/shade for the coffee beans, when it rains there is more water runoff, therefor most of the nutrients from the beans is washed away and then the chemicals used as pesticides washes away and into local water supply!

From Equal Exchange Website: “Most organic coffee is grown the natural way – within the shade of lush forests, providing a home for wild plants and animals, sustaining soil fertility, and keeping unique regional ecosystems alive. These forested farms also more resilient and better equipped to handle unusual weather patterns that are a result of climate change, making them a safer investment for farmers and their futures. Hundreds of thousands of acres of South American rain forests have already been demolished for various industries, but Equal Exchange has partnered with co-ops that are working to restore the land to its natural forested splendor while growing organic coffee.”

Hopefully after reading this you will consider buying organic coffee! Not only is it better for you, but you are also helping preserve rain forests and animals’ habitats as well as the lives of those animals! You are doing better for yourself and for the earth. Choose organic! It tastes better too!!

 

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Organic Wines: Affordable and delicious

Sooooo I love organic anything and everything, obviously, and I have found that organic wines not only taste better, but, you feel better after drinking them too! I used to drink wine just about every single night, however, that’s a terrible habit to get into AND it’s expensive. So now I have wine only on the weekends (or one night during the week if a special occasion) and I always buy organic if possible. I would much rather have LESS wine that is better for me and much more enjoyable and hopefully you all concur after trying these out.

Here is a list of my FAVORITES (red and white), how much they cost, and where you can find them (stores may differ in other locations, keep in mind).Try some of these out and let me know your thoughts!

  1. Natura, Winn Dixie, around $12 : I love this one for red and for white. The Chardonnay is OUTSTANDING. More on the buttery side, which I prefer; it’s very refreshing. Click the link to see how it looks.
  2. Frey, Whole Foods, $10 : This was the first organic wine I started to drink. Not as big of a fan of their white, but, the red is delicious and this is very affordable for a weekend guilt-free treat. Here is a picture of me enjoying the Frey with an avocado and balsamic!IMG_6563.PNG
  3. Candoni, Sprouts or Fresh Market, $13-$15 : This organic Merlot is OUTSTANDING. Probably one of my favorite reds! Here is how it looks: IMG_6561.PNG
  4. Bonterra, Winn Dixie, $11-13. This one is fantastic, I know for sure I have had the Pinot Noir and it’s so good!
  5. Last but not least are these two below, which can both be found at Winn Dixie I think. Cono Sur and Domaine Bousquet. Both delicious options! Go try some of these out and let me know your thoughts! #chooseorganicIMG_6562.PNG

Organic Or Not? Navigating the Produce Section

It has come to my attention that a lot of people are unaware of the dangers of pesticides on fruits and vegetables. I’ve also noticed that people do not seem to know what you MUST buy organic, versus other veggies and fruits that don’t necessarily HAVE to be organic. Some fruits and vegetables are not sprayed as heavily as others and some have very thick skins so if they ARE sprayed, pesticides do not seep through and saturate the crop.

I will list out what I always buy organic (you could not pay me to eat conventional celery), where I find it the cheapest (–>helpful for those in the Birmingham, Alabama area), and what I do not always buy organic. 

Dirty Dozen AKA BUY ORGANIC per Organic.org (pesticide cannot be washed off of these – celery actually acts like a sponge and absorbs all the nasty chemicals – YUCK talk about asking to get cancer!)

  1. Spinach (I buy organic girl brand in huge tubs from Whole foods)
  2. Apples (cheap at Whole Foods and Sprouts, my fav is pink lady)
  3. Celery (Whole Foods and Sprouts)
  4. Cucumber (Whole Foods and Sprouts)
  5. Strawberries (I always buy frozen organic from Whole Foods since I mainly use these in shakes and frozen lasts longer than fresh!)
  6. Sweet bell peppers (red/yellow; green ones don’t have to be organic and they are CHEAP! yay! – Whole Foods/Sprouts)
  7. Regular potatoes (honestly I never eat regular potatoes I only eat sweet but I pretty much buy all produce from WF it’s cheaper than Publix…and I do not shop at WalMart)
  8. Peaches (rarely eat these to be honest)
  9. Nectarines (same…rarely eat them, but, apparently you should always buy organic)
  10. Cherries
  11. Imported grapes (who knew it was specific to imported grapes only? I do buy organic wine only, actually, and Winn Dixie has a few good options; so does Whole Foods of course)
  12. Lettuce (often on sale for cheap at Whole Foods!)

Now the following below are the 12 least contaminated. As long as you know the dirty dozen though and always do your best to buy those organic, you will be doing pretty well!

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado (thick skin!)
  3. Bananas (again, thick skin; I buy TONS of bananas constantly and I will peel them and cut in half and freeze them in large quantities for shakes and because they are so cheap and healthful)
  4. Sweet corn (I don’t eat corn)
  5. Pineapples (thick skin)
  6. Mango (love love mango)
  7. Asparagus (I love asparagus!! I buy this weekly-very cheap at Publix and Sprouts-this is the 1 produce that is a little higher at Whole Foods, actually)
  8. Sweet peas (I never eat these…? )
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli (I eat this pretty much daily! Cheap at Whole foods or Publix or Sprouts)
  12. Papaya* (Actually, I have read that you should buy this one organic due to the fact it is a genetically modified crop..so try to buy this one organic as GMOs are awful and should not be supported.)

So there is my list! Figure out your favs and you can save money buy selecting those from the “don’t have to be organic” list! Notice that blueberries are not on the dirty dozen! So you can save money on those and get non-organic ones if needed. Always try to support your local farmer if possible…

Now go eat your veggies! Aim for 6-7 servings per day. cheers!