We previously discussed the importance of protein and the dangers of not consuming enough protein as it relates to your immunity, strength and endurance. If you haven’t had a chance to read that article, please do so before continuing to read (otherwise, this article may not make much sense).
Now that you know the importance of protein in your diet, you need to make good decisions regarding where you source the protein that you eat. For individuals that eat meat and dairy products, getting enough protein should not be a problem. However, there are many health choices to consider if you’re going to eat meat, dairy and eggs for your protein sources (which will be discussed below). For vegetarians, getting enough protein can be a challenge; soy and certain combinations of legumes and grains can supply all essential amino acids.
Consuming a variety of foods from real sources such as eggs, meat, fish, whey or soy improves the potential of your body getting adequate protein and more specifically, amino acids on a daily basis. In addition to consuming a variety of lean, high quality protein, it is important that you strive to consume only high quality protein whenever possible. However, for some individuals, high quality protein may not be readily available. For instance, it’s not often that you’ll find organic steak or eggs on the menu at your local restaurant. Likewise the chicken you buy from the grocery store may not always be free range and you may have to settle for a farm raised salmon the next time you want grilled fish.
The worst thing you can do is not eat protein foods at all. The best thing you can do is make the best decision most of the time. If your body is healthy, eating some less-than-perfect foods from time to time will have less negative effect on your health wellness and performance.
Healthy aspects of animal foods
Humans have been consuming animal food for centuries – specifically meat, fish and eggs. Despite what some mainstream media outlets may report, the human G.I. (Gastro Intestinal) tract is well adapted for consuming food from animals with a history of mankind eating high quality protein, low carbohydrate diet with varying amounts of raw fruits, vegetables & nuts. As described by nutritionalist Dr. Maffetone, the media trend has been towards the misconception that meat consumption is unhealthy. However, there are variety of unique features of an animal food diet that are vital for health, wellness and performance:
- Animal foods contain all essential amino acids
- Vitamin A is found only in animal products
- Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient found only in animal foods
- Iron deficiency is prevented by eating animal foods which contain this mineral and in its most bio-available form
- EPA, the most powerful fatty acid and the one most preferred by the human body, is almost exclusively found in animal foods
- Animal products are considered dense protein foods with little or no carbohydrates interfere with digestion and absorption
- People who consume less animal proteins have greater rates of bone loss that those who need larger amounts of animal protein.
The Egg – A Nutritional Cell
Eggs can be called the “perfect food all wrapped up in one single cell”. Yes that’s right – an egg is an individual cell. In this single cell contains the most complete and highest protein rating of any food containing all essential amino acids. Additionally, eggs also contain many essential nutrients including significant amounts of vitamins a A, D, E, B1 B2 B6 folic acid and especially vitamin B12.
Simple Facts about eggs:
- An extra large egg contains approximately 75 calories; 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbohydrates
- Eggs also contain port minerals including calcium magnesium potassium zinc and iron. Choline and biotin, also important for energy production and stress management, are contained in large amounts in eggs. Most of these nutrients are found in the yoke of an egg.
- The fat in an egg yolk is also nearly a perfect balance containing mostly mono unsaturated fats and about 36% saturated fat.
- Egg yolks contain linoleic and linolenic – both essential fatty acids.
- Eggs have almost no carbohydrates less than 1 g making them the perfect meal or snack for the millions who are carbohydrate intolerant.
- Eggs come in many sizes and colors, not just white and brown. The color is dependent on the type of chicken, where the egg is laid and when the egg is laid.
- Eggs should always be stored in the refrigerator.
- Because of the egg shell is porous, there is a slight amount of evaporation of moisture from the inner egg which changes its flavor and freshness.
- If you’re not using your eggs quickly, then store them in a sealed container to prevent loss of moisture.
- Never store eggs next to highly favored foods such as onions and fish because they will absorb these strong flavors.
- Always store eggs with the large side up which spends the yolk effectively within the egg.
Most people love taste of eggs but many people are concerned about eating them because of cholesterol. Ironically, the cholesterol in eggs is not something to be feared but rather embraced in to an attempt to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
As outlined by Dr. Maffetone, “while eggs are one of nature’s most perfect foods, they’re only as healthy as the hens that lay them, since the nutritional make up of eggs, especially the fat, is dependent on what the chickens eat. For this reason you should avoid run-of-the-mill grocery store eggs that have been produced in chicken factories. The healthiest eggs are those that come from organic free range hens. This means that the chickens are raised on land that has been certified organic, free range hens. Free range means that the hens are allowed to roam and in doing so they generally will eat bugs and vegetable matter thus the eggs yield a better fat profile with more mono unsaturated fat and more essential fatty acids”.
If you can’t find organic-free range eggs, most grocery stores carry either one or the other: organic or free range. While organic and free range may cost a bit more than regular eggs, they remain a protein bargain. And if you can’t find organic or free range eggs, regular grocery store eggs are better than no eggs at all.
Before you buy your eggs, make sure that they are relatively fresh by looking at the date on the package. Another way to check for freshness is to shake them close to your ear. If you hear a sloshing sound, it is evident that the egg has lost a significant amount of moisture and there’s a big airspace within – avoid these eggs. Eggs also contain a natural barrier and invisible protecting coding which keeps out bacteria, never wash the eggs you’re going to store because you remove this natural protection.