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When Eating Your Meat ...

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a blog by Cindy Bailey of the Fertile Kitchen™, September 28, 2010

Although studies have shown that protein from plant sources is better for your health than those from animal sources, this does not mean you have to give up meat to help optimize fertility. You do, however, have to eat meat that is lean and organic.

When I say meat, I’m talking about all manner of poultry, beef, lamb, pork, goat and so on.

Why Organic?

The main reason to eat meat organic is that it’s free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Growth hormones in meat can affect our own hormones negatively, which is not good for our fertility.

In addition, organic meat comes from animals that have been eating a vegetarian, all-organic diet free of chemicals, additives and preservatives. The organic feed also cannot contain any genetically modified foods. This makes life easier on your digestive and immune systems, thereby allowing more energy and health for your reproductive system.

Why Lean?

In addition to choosing organic meat, you’ll also want your meat lean. The reason? Chemical pollutants, such as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and dioxins, find their way through the air, soil and grass into our livestock, regardless of whether the livestock has been raised as organic. Those chemicals tend to settle in the animal’s fat.

Consider this quote from m a 2004 Business Week article:

“While 47 percent of the produce sampled by the USDA in 2002 had detectable pesticide residues, only 16 percent of grains and 15 percent of meat tested did. Most of the residues found in meat (almost always in the fat) were from long-banned chemicals like DDT, which remain in the environment and is not a problem organic farming methods can solve.”

So be sure to cut out the fat or buy your meat lean!

If You Have to Skip Organic

I'm often asked: "Does it have to be organic? Organic meat is so expensive!" Organic meat can also be hard to find in some parts of the country.

If you have to skip organic, I suggest this: if it’s all natural, meaning that it doesn’t contain antibiotics, growth hormones, preservatives or additives, and if the animals have been eating an all-vegetable feed, that’s what’s most important. If the feed itself is not organic, that’s not as bad, especially when you consider the above quote from Business Week.

However, keep in mind that if a package of meat is labeled “all natural” it may not mean everything I just listed. You may have to call the manufacturer and ask them what their meat does and does not contain and what they’ve been feeding their animals. See my article on Natural vs. Organic Labeling here on FertilityAuthority. It’s better to stick to organic as much as you can.

Whole Foods Market sells organic chicken and beef. For the all natural variety, Niman Ranch appears to do a great job, and their meat is sold in many places.

How Much Meat Should I Eat?

For red meat, I would also recommend limiting it to once or maybe twice a week, as it’s higher in saturated fat. You don’t have to eliminate beef entirely, as it’s a great source of iron and other nutrients (especially helpful for male fertility) and helps to build blood.

If you’re someone who eats a lot of meat every day; for example, eggs for breakfast, ham sandwich at lunch and chicken for dinner, it’s not a bad idea to replace some of that meat with more plant sources of protein, such as beans, nuts and grains. You can get protein from fruits and vegetables too.

Avoid Processed Meats

Before I send off, I just wanted to comment on processed meats. Absolutely do not consume them!

I’m talking about hot dogs, canned chicken and most sandwich meat. They contain preservatives, nitrates (in most sandwich meats)and who knows exactly what else.

In that same 2004 Business Week article mentioned earlier, Michael Hansen, a senior research associate at Consumers Union, said that processed meat such as hot dogs “might contain bits of brain or spinal cord and eschewing cuts sold with the bone.” That’s just gross.

Bottom line:

  • Stick to lean, organic meat.
  • In the case of red meat, limit to one serving or so a week.
  • If you can't get organic, do the best you can with a truly all natural variety.
  • If you eat a lot of meat every day, replace some with plant protein sources.
  • Feel good and live longer.
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