I am not, historically, much of a meat eater. Both of my parents were vegetarians (i.e., hippies) growing up, and I didn’t taste steak until I was 15 (also the age I got my first vaccination and my first kiss. It was a big year).
However, an unexpected result of my education at Integrative Nutrition has been not only opening my mind to adding more meat to my diet, but also the realization that the amount of processed meat and dairy substitutes I have been eating is probably not healthy. “Soy contains a variety of toxic chemicals, which cannot be fully metabolized by the body, unless it undergoes a long cooking, or fermentation process” (read more in depth).
Always paranoid about the effects of environmental toxins, chemical additives and synthetic hormones on my future reproductive capabilities (because my baby crazy reptile brain has serious intentions of reproduction), I am trying to limit my intake of soy products, particularly non-fermented and processed soy products (such as soy burgers, fake taco meat, tofu, soy milk, etc). Soy has high levels of isoflavones called phytoestrogens, which are similar to the estrogen hormones in our bodies but are produced by plants. “Although these isoflavones are weak estrogens, people who eat a lot of it can have their blood level of isoflavones as mush as 10,000 times higher than those who do not consume soy. Over time, high concentrations of isoflavones in the body can have a significant cumulative estrogenic and toxic effect, especially when they are exposed to organs that have sensitive estrogen receptors sites such as the breast, uterus, and thyroid” (source). Some people have also speculated (which I happen to believe) that all of these phytoestrogens, along with the other toxins we put into our body, are screwing up hormone levels and receptors in both men and women, and causing infertility and reproductive issues. This could in-part explain the epidemic of reproductive challenges that many people are facing today.
A healthy amount of soy is about 1 serving per week, and should be primarily fermented and non-processed soy products, such as miso, tofu, and tempe.
One thing that has really impacted my understanding of a healthy diet is the knowledge that all indigenous diets have some components of the following: 1) fermented foods such as miso, kimchi, yogurt or kombucha, and 2) whole, naturally fed and sourced animal protein, full of healthy fats and oils, in which all parts (liver, kidney, face, bone, marrow) of the animal are eaten. It kinda creeps me out to think about eating livers and fish heads, but turns out they had it right back in the day…these things are incredibly nutritious and full of healthy oils and fats that we are not getting enough of in our modern diet.
The really fundamental thing about eating meat is that whatever the animal eats, that is the nutrition that you are getting when you eat the animal. So if it ate grass from fertile soil full of minerals, then you are getting all that awesomeness. If it ate grain made from corn, was given tons of hormones to keep it from getting sick (because cows aren’t meant to eat corn and are therefore extremely susceptible to illness on a grain-based diet), then that is what you are eating. We are made to fear eating fats and oils in our culture, afraid that eating fat translates to getting fat. But actually fats and oils are super vital and important to our body’s proper function.
I bought this bratwurst sausage at the Albuquerque downtown grower’s market last weekend. It is locally raised, grass-fed, happy meat. It is quite apparent from its butchered appearance than I am an absolute novice at meat cooking, and I have to admit that I was terrified the whole time I was cooking it - terrified of germs on the counter, terrified of under cooking it, terrified of over cooking it. But all things considered I think it turned out pretty well. Either way, it was delicious.
Just to qualify, I certainly believe that every person is individual and vegetarian diets can totally work for some people and meat-based diets aren’t for everyone. Plus, there are economic/environmental considerations as well. It’s a personal choice that I am still exploring. But I definitely foresee that I will be raising my own animals for consumption sometime in the future. Boy I never thought I’d say that…just goes to show you - never say never!