Lesson 1: Up the ante to organic butter and eggs.
Ideally you should be consuming as many USDA organic food products as possible, however, if you only get one organic food it should be butter. This is because it is a highly concentrated form of milk. It is not uncommon for non-organic butter to have up to 20 times the level of pesticides of non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Now that you've reached the intermediate level, it's time to move up to organic pastured free-range eggs. Compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture contain:
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
These dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free-range pastured hens, vs. commercially farmed hens. Organic eggs don't have to be certified by law, so if you are fortunate enough to know someone who grows chickens and controls the feed and conditions, those eggs are typically better than organic store-bought eggs.
How to Find High Quality Eggs
True free-range eggs are from hens that walk about freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. A hen that is let outside into a barren lot for a few minutes a day but is fed a diet of corn, soy and cottonseed meal, plus synthetic additives, is NOT an organic free-range hen, and will not produce the same quality eggs as its foraging counterpart. Likewise, a hen that is fed an organic diet, but never gets to go outside is also NOT a true free-range hen, although it may currently slide through as an "organic" one…
A MAJOR part of a hen being truly organic is having free range access to outdoor pasture. It's not just about being fed organic grains. And this is a primary point of contention within the egg industry.
How to Know if You Found High Quality Eggs
The key to getting high quality eggs is to buy them locally, either from an organic farm or farmers market. You can gauge the quality of the egg by the color of its yolk. Organic pastured eggs have deep yellow or orange yolks, whereas commercially-farmed eggs tend to have very light-yellow colored yolks. You will need to be diligent about this as I have found many reliable sources of healthy eggs that invariably wind up cheating and don't put their hens on the grass Fortunately this is easy to tell as the egg yolks from these hens are yellow and not bright orange.
Finding organic eggs locally is far easier than finding raw milk as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens. To locate a free-range pasture farm, try asking your local health food store, or check out the following web listings:
If you absolutely must purchase your eggs from a commercial grocery store, look for ones that are marked free-range organic. They're still going to originate from a mass-production facility (so you'll want to be careful about eating them raw), but it's about as good as it gets if you can't find a local source. The Cornucopia Institute's report, Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture, contains a scorecard that rates nearly 70 different organic egg brands based on 22 organic criteria.
I would strongly encourage you to AVOID ALL omega-3 eggs, as they are some of the least healthy for you. These eggs typically come from chickens that are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Also, omega-3 eggs perish much faster than non-omega-3 eggs.
Avoid Overcooking Your Eggs
Eggs are one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol, so the way you cook them will influence the level of oxidized cholesterol in your blood. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to hardening of your arteries, which increases your risk of heart disease.
High heat will promote this oxidation. Since there is iron in the egg white, when it combines with the egg yolk that will also oxidize the cholesterol. Scrambled eggs or omelets are one of the least healthy ways to prepare eggs.
Surprisingly, the best way to prepare eggs is to not cook them at all and simply eat the whole egg -- yolk and whites -- raw. This is an advanced technique, so no need to rush on this one unless you feel especially motivated.
I realize the texture of raw eggs may not be very appealing. If you have strong objections to the texture of eggs, that can be easily modified by whipping them into a meringue or blending them in a protein smoothie. You won't even notice they're there!
If you're worried about contracting salmonella from raw eggs, please understand that this is a concern that is mainly directed at conventionally raised eggs. A 2008 survey revealed that organic laying hen farms have a significantly lower level of Salmonella; just 4.4 percent in organic flocks and 6.5 percent in free-range flocks, compared to more than 23 percent of farms with caged hens. So your chances of contracting salmonella when using organic eggs are fairly slim.
The Best Way to Purchase and Cook Chicken
If you are eating eggs it is likely you are eating chicken. This can be one of the healthiest forms of animal protein you can consume and it is the single largest source of animal protein I consume. However, I strongly believe it is important to pay attention to the details and be very careful to purchase the majority of your chicken from sources described in the Joel Salatin video above.
Your ideal chicken is pasture raised and exposed to loads of fresh grasses daily, along with associated insects and gets plenty of fresh air and sun exposure. Of course they don't get any antibiotics or growth accelerating hormones. The chickens are usually grown to eight weeks and typically range from three to six pounds.
I typically consume about two chickens a week and my favorite way to prepare them is to cook them whole for three to four hours in boiling water; the pot covered with a lid. Typically the entire bird will be broken down and most of the collagen and gylcosaminoglycans that are so beneficial for cartilage health will be readily available. About the only thing that I don't eat are the bones.
Lesson 2: Eliminate all fish from your diet, unless you know they have been tested and are mercury free.
Fish, whether farm-raised or caught from the ocean or freshwater sources, should now be avoided, as almost all fish are contaminated with mercury, PCBs and DDT. The only exceptions to this rule are fish like sardines and anchovies, as they are small enough to have minimal contamination;
Other fish that are less likely to be contaminated with high levels of mercury are:
- Summer Flounder
- Wild Pacific Salmon
Instead of consuming fish, it is now best to obtain the important omega-3 fats with DHA and EPA fatty acids from a high quality krill oil. In addition to being very high in omega-3, krill also contains almost 50 times more antioxidants than fish oil, which prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing before you are able to integrate them into your cellular tissue.
Additionally, the omega-3 in krill is attached to phospholipids that increase its absorption. This means you need less of it, and it will not cause belching or burping like many fish oil products.
Lesson 3: Get some valuable omega-3 fats from healthy meat.
Another way you can receive the necessary omega-3 fats is to eat from free-range cattle and game. Most wild game fit this description, but are not readily available for most us. Grass-fed beef or poultry are reasonable alternatives. Range-fed poultry is available from most health food stores or local organic chicken farmers.
Omega 3s in beef that feed on grass is seven percent of the total fat content, compared to just one percent in grain-only fed beef. It also has the recommended ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats (3:1.)
Grass-fed beef also contains a potent nutrient called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which has been linked to long-term weight management and health. The natural diet for ruminant animals, such as cattle, is grass. When left to feed on grass-only diets, levels of CLA are three to five times more than those fed grain-based diets. And that's just the start. A joint effort between the USDA and Clemson University researchers in 2009 determined a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed is better than grain-fed beef for human health.
In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was:
- Higher in beta-carotene
- Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
- Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
- Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
- Higher in total omega-3s
- A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
- Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
- Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
You still need to be careful when purchasing grass-fed beef at most stores. As of November 15, 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “grass-fed” label can only be used if the animals ate nothing but grass and stored grasses after weaning, and have access to pasture during the growing season, which is defined as from last frost to first frost.
However, according to the American Grassfed Association, which represents many raisers of grass-fed animals, the definition of "growing season" means that animals could be confined for long periods, and kept off of pasture even when there is grass growing.
The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef is to find a local rancher you can trust, and buy directly from him. This way you save the shipping, and can also receive a reduced rate on the meat. Alternatively, you can now purchase grass-fed beef from organic ranchers online, if you don’t have access to a local source. For more tips on locating a good source, please review this article .
An inexpensive yet effective way to determine if the meat is really from a grass fed animal is to purchase the ground beef. Slowly cook the beef until done, drain and then collect all the fat. Grass-fed beef fat will be relatively thin compared to conventionally-raised ground beef. It will also be a liquid at room temperature as it has very few saturated fats.
However, most of us live in large urban areas and do not have the time for this process. Just as it would be ideal to have an organic garden and grow your own vegetables, most of us elect not to do that due to time or space limitations.
Reconsider Strict Vegan/Vegetarian Diet
There are certainly justifications for choosing to be a vegetarian, but using science to argue that vegetarianism is the correct diet for everyone is fatally flawed. Many vegetarians use The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell to justify their decision. To summarize my objections to the China Study: I'm not opposed to vegetarianism; I'm opposed to any position that preaches one specific diet for everyone, and that's the foundation of the China Study.
Campbell maintains that no one should eat animal protein. He insists that all animal protein will cause diseases like cancer and refuses to acknowledge that many people's health fails miserably when following his program, and that when they include animal protein their health dramatically improves.
I believe your diet must be individualized. Some can thrive on very little animal protein, but when you remove ALL animal foods, you can easily run into trouble. You have to be very vigilant and keep close tabs on your health when you make a decision to exclude all sources of animal protein from your diet. As can be predicted by nutritional typing, about one third of the population actually thrives on a vegetarian diet. But that leaves about two-thirds who do not... Protein types in particular will fare poorly on a strict vegetarian diet.
To learn more, I highly recommend reviewing the following articles where the health effects of a vegetarian/vegan diet and The China Study is discussed in greater detail:
Lesson 4: Avoid soy.
Soy being a "health food" has become one of the largest, and perhaps one of the most dangerous, myths within the health food industry. Truth is, unfermented soy is not a healthy option, and I recommend avoiding all soy products unless they're fermented or sprouted. Although fermented soy has many beneficial properties, non-fermented soy products contain:
|Phytoestrogens (isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen
||Enzyme Inhibitors, which hinder protein digestion
|Isoflavones which can impair thyroid function
||Haemaggluttin, which causes red blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen take-up and growth
|Phytates, which block your body's uptake of minerals
||High amounts of omega-6 fat, which is pro-inflammatory
You should therefore avoid tofu, soy protein products and soy milk. If you use protein powders, it's important to avoid soy protein. Soy baby formula should NEVER be used for infants as soy formula contains the hormonal equivalent of about five birth control pills a day. Numerous studies have found that non-fermented soy products can:
Fermented soy (tempeh, natto and miso) and soybean sprouts don't have these problems and can be safely consumed. Just make sure they're not pasteurized, as that is an indication of insufficient fermentation. Please visit my soy information page for more details on why this food should be avoided unless fermented.
Lesson 5: Avoid pasteurized dairy.
It is clear that most people benefit from avoiding commercial milk that is loaded with hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. However, even if you are able to obtain organic milk that is free of these contaminants, you are still left with a food that is pasteurized and homogenized.
For further information on this topic you can read the article I wrote on why you should avoid drinking pasteurized milk. Many brands of commercial pasteurized milk also contain rBGH, which has a number of health risks, discussed below by Dr. Shiv Chopra.
Pasteurization is done to protect you from potentially dangerous infections like TB and brucellosis, but it unfortunately changes the structure of the milk proteins, particularly casein, to a far more allergenic food and is a major reason why milk allergies are the number one form of food allergy. In this level, you need to eliminate milk if you haven't already done so. You can have cheeses, particularly raw milk cheeses, if your body tolerates them well.
Some people have milk allergies. This is separate from a lactose intolerance which is merely an inability to digest lactose resulting in loose stools. Typically this is due to the protein casein. If you have a true milk allergy it is best for you to avoid dairy products entirely, even organic pastured raw dairy.