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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Level 1
Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Level 2

Proteins: Be Selective of Your Protein Sources

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In this level, you will need to more strictly limit the types and amounts of protein you eat, opting for high-quality, organic products.

Strictly Eat Organic Eggs and Raw Butter

The first step is to make the switch to high-quality, organic raw butter from grass-fed cows and eggs from pasture-raised hens. I advise you to stop buying eggs and butter from conventional grocery stores, as these products mostly come from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Instead, look for a trustworthy local farmer who uses only natural methods to raise livestock. To help you find a farmer in your area who can provide you high-quality raw butter and eggs, check out these resources:

How You Cook Your Egg Matters

I laid out the benefits of high-quality pastured eggs in the first level, but this time, you need to focus on not just the type of egg, but also how you prepare it. Remember that eggs are rich in dietary cholesterol, and heating your eggs can lead to an increase in oxidized cholesterol levels in your blood. This can then cause hardening of your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.

The iron in the egg white, when combined with the egg yolk and then heated, can oxidize the cholesterol. This is why scrambled eggs and omelets are the least healthy ways to cook eggs.

Poaching or soft-boiling are ideal methods for cooking eggs, but the optimal method is to not cook them at all. Instead, eat the whole egg – yolk and whites – raw. The texture of raw eggs is not very appealing, so the best solution is to mix the eggs in a smoothie (you won’t even notice that they’re there).

Unless you are immunocompromised there is little need to worry about getting salmonella from eating raw eggs, as long as you acquire the eggs from a trustworthy source. In fact, CAFO eggs actually pose a higher risk of salmonella because of the use of antibiotics at these factory farms.

The Benefits of High-Quality Organic Raw Butter

Contrary to what many “health experts” tell you, butter is actually a health food with a plethora of benefits. It is a wonderful source of nourishing fats and long-chain fatty acids that are used by your body for energy. It is also rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K2, antioxidants, lauric acid, lecithin, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), as well as minerals, including manganese, selenium, zinc, chromium, and copper.

A study found that eating a meal rich in butter lowers fat levels in your blood better afterwards, as opposed to one rich in olive, canola, or flaxseed oil. Raw butter also contains the Wulzen Factor, a hormone-like substance that is said to prevent arthritis and joint stiffness. Conventional butter does not have this factor, as it is destroyed by pasteurization.

However, it is not only butter that you should get in raw form, but all forms of dairy, including milk and yogurt, from organically raised grass-fed cows. Avoid pasteurized products as much as possible. Raw dairy benefits you more because it contains essential digestive enzymes. Pasteurization, on the other hand, destroys these enzymes. This is why drinking pasteurized milk can tax your pancreas, promote disease, and trigger allergies.

Not only that, pasteurization denatures milk proteins, diminishes vitamins, destroys vitamins like B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and promotes the growth of pathogens. In fact, most food illnesses today are related to pasteurized and processed foods, and not to whole organic foods like raw milk.

Opt for Organic Pastured Chicken

Chicken is a great source of protein, and is recommended in this level, so long as you make sure to stay within your ideal protein requirement (refer back to the computation in the previous section). However, like eggs, the source of your chicken is of utmost importance.

Only eat organic pastured chicken that are allowed to roam and forage for their natural diet of worms, insects, seeds, and green plants. They are a far, far healthier option than CAFO chickens that are kept in cramped and dirty cages. Find a local farmer that lets hens forage freely outdoors. To see how this looks like in the real world, watch this video featuring farmer Will Harris of White Oak Pastures.

Organic pastured chickens will not put you at the same risk of diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria like salmonella that CAFO chickens do. In fact, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) claims that contaminated CAFO chicken parts cause nearly 133,000 illnesses each year. FRONTLINE cites an even higher number, saying that salmonella-contaminated chickens sicken an estimated 200,000 Americans each year.

What’s more, CAFO chickens are chlorine washed. While this anti-microbial bath is believed to reduce pathogenic bacteria, it can actually make the problem worse. Workers in these CAFOs have complained of asthma and other respiratory problems due to exposure to the chlorine bath. This practice is so bad that it’s banned in the European Union (EU).

Organic pastured chickens are not given antibiotics, a practice that CAFO chickens are routinely subjected to. This is very important, as agricultural use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease, which poses a direct threat to human health. Antibiotics also contaminate the environment through run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water, further increasing the risk of drug-resistant bacteria.

Handle and cook chicken carefully and thoroughly to prevent the risk of food poisoning and diseases. According to the USDA, the best way to cook chicken is to bring it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate any contamination present. Remember, failing to follow these safe handling instructions can magnify your risk of contamination. Even washing your chicken is ill-advised, as it allows bacteria to spread around your kitchen.

You should also designate separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables. Do not cut vegetables using the same cutting board you just used to prepare chicken or other meats.

Eliminate All Fish From Your Diet

In this level, you must aim to eliminate all contaminated fish and seafood from your diet. While this food group is a great source of protein as well as beneficial omega-3 fats, fish are highly polluted, and chances are the toxic effects will outweigh the benefits.

There are only a few types of fish that you should eat, and that is wild-caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies, and sardines. These are generally safe from contamination, as they are not allowed to be farmed, and therefore are always wild-caught. What’s more, sockeye salmon has a short life cycle, which reduces its risk of accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins.   

When purchasing these types of salmon, make sure that the label says “Alaskan salmon” or “wild Alaskan salmon,” or “Sockeye salmon.” Canned varieties labeled “Alaskan salmon” are also recommended, and are an inexpensive alternative to salmon fillets.

Make sure that the salmon you buy has received the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This assures that every component of the manufacturing process, from harvesting the raw materials to manufacturing and packaging, has been scrutinized by the MSC and independently audited to make sure it meets sustainable standards.

Seafood Watch can also help you find sustainable seafood choices. Check out their database for more seafood options, or download their Sustainable Seafood app on your smartphone. Other labels that can indicate more sustainable products include:

  • Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed.  This signifies third-party certification.
  • Fishwise. It specifies how the fish was caught, where it came from, and whether the fish is sustainable (or environmentally threatened).
  • Seafood Safe. It conducts independent testing of fish for contaminants, including mercury and PCBs, and recommendations for consumption based upon the findings.

The Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef

For another beneficial source of animal protein, grass-fed beef is a great option. However, most people are often confused about the term “grass-fed,” and in many cases, it has become an abused and manipulated term, like the word “natural.”

Most all calves are fed grass when they are young, which is one factor that allows less scrupulous producers to get away with calling their beef grass-fed. However, the key to a truly grass-fed product is the finishing. Remember, optimal beef is both grass-fed and grass-finished beef.

In the interview below, I talk with Joey Jones, founder of the Grass-Fed Network, about the grass-fed and grass-finished meat industry, and how you can ensure that you’re getting high-quality beef.

When you switch to grass-fed that has also been grass-finished, you can enjoy multiple benefits, such as higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and healthy fats. It also has a more balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to live near grass-fed producers. In this case, you can check your local grocery store to see if they sell grass-fed beef, and be sure to look for the country of origin.

Ideally, you should choose grass-fed beef that is produced in the U.S. over imported meat. This is because other countries’ standards of raising cattle are different from ours. The American Grass Fed Association certification is the best certification to insure this. Another option: Responsibly raised local lamb (which are always grass-fed).

To find a trustworthy source of grass-fed beef near you, you can check out these resources:

  • Grassfed Exchange is an association of pasture-based livestock farms with a searchable database of places where you can purchase high-quality grass-fed meat.
  • Eat Wild's Directory of Farms has over 1,400 pasture-based farms and is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Local Harvest can help you locate farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy from farms, restaurants, stores, inns and hotels, and even online outlets in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Farmers Markets gives you a national listing of farmers markets.
  • FoodRoutes’ "Find Good Food" map lets you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

Avoid Non-Fermented Soy

At this level, you should completely eliminate non-fermented soy from your diet. If you care to review the thousands of studies published on soy, I believe you would agree with me that the risks of consuming unfermented soy products FAR outweigh any possible benefits.

It is not widely known that the amount of omega-6 fat the public consumes from soy oil has increased 1,000 times between 1900 to 2000. Many experts believe that this increase in highly processed omega-6 oil has played a major role in the increase in chronic degenerative diseases.

Improving your omega 6:3 ratio is a powerful method to improve your health, and avoiding unfermented soy products will help you improve this ratio.

Additionally, soybean and soy-based foods actually promote kidney stones in people prone to them, mainly because of their high levels of oxalates, which bind to calcium in your kidney to form kidney stones.

A more concerning reason why soy should be eliminated from your diet is it’s one of the most genetically engineered crops in the U.S. today. It is well established that over 95 percent of soy in the U.S. is genetically modified and contains high levels of Round Up and glyphosate residues. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup Ready herbicide, may be to blame for the rising rates of many chronic diseases in Westernized societies.

Avoid Peanuts – Choose High-Quality Nuts Instead

I generally do not recommend peanuts, mainly because they’re very heavily sprayed with pesticides and contaminated with aflatoxin, a toxic mold. They are also relatively high in omega-6 fats, and may end up skewing your omega-6:3 ratio. Even peanut butter has been found to have no beneficial health effects—mainly because most brands are loaded with processed salt and hydrogenated trans fats. (Note: peanuts are only “nuts” by name – they’re actually a legume).

I do, however, believe that raw organic nuts are an important part of a healthy diet. Some of the best choices are macadamias and pecans. Less beneficial due to a less healthy protein and carb content are walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts (no more than 2 to 3 per day), and almonds. Raw nuts are a near-ideal snack, as they’re loaded with healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. People who eat nuts have also been found to have lower risk for metabolic syndrome and have lower systolic blood pressure.

To maximize their health benefits, make sure the nuts are truly organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized. Most almonds, even those that are typically labeled “raw,” have gone through pasteurization because this is required in the U.S., so make sure you seek vendors who sell these nuts in small quantities and have a waiver from the pasteurization requirements. Some nuts, like almonds and walnuts, have nutrients in the skin, so opt for these instead of skinless varieties.

As I covered in Level 1, it’s very important that you don’t overeat protein, as your body will convert excess protein you consume into glucose, which impacts your blood sugar level and your insulin response and this may get stored as fat. So although all the sources of proteins I’ve covered here are high-quality and healthful, you want to be certain that you don’t eat more than your requirements for adequate protein.

Again, the formula for determining your protein requirement is one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (your total body weight multiplied by your body fat percentage.) Click here to review the protein section of Level 1 for more of a review of protein quantities.

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