I’m really tired of animal foods getting a bad rap in the health community. I’m going to say this point blank: the big pushback from animal-based foods and the blatant flocking to plant foods is a fad that — if you choose to follow — will leave you creating meals from sub-optimal food sources.
This is not an attack on plant-based foods. Plants have their pros and cons, just like animal foods do. But, if we’re being intellectually honest, there is no denying the ridiculous nutrition available from well-sourced, animal-based foods. And in some cases the nutrition you can get from animals is nearly impossible to get from plant sources.
Here’s my list of 8 ridiculously healthy animal-based foods that will push your health markers in a positive direction, reinforce your immune system, and drive your performance through the roof.
Healthy Food #1: Organ Meats
You should think of organ meats as nature’s true multivitamin. When you look at the nutrient content — vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and essential amino acids — of organ meats, little else compares.
Back in the day, these meats were reserved for the highest members of society and cherished for their nutritional value. Sadly, while we have the most access we’ve ever had to organ meats, very few people consume them.
I’m currently working on developing a complete guide to organ meats, but since that’s not finished yet I’ll direct you to this post by Mark Sisson.
Frequency Recommendation: At least once a week.
My best resource for grass-fed liver and other organ meats online: US Wellness
Healthy Food #2: Grass-fed Beef
Everyone should be well-aware by now that the most demonized animal food is red meat. Don’t eat red meat or you’ll get heart disease! It’ll give you cancer! Gasp!
Putting these misguided claims aside, looking at the nutrition profile of grass-fed beef makes me smile. Starting with the fatty acids, grass-fed beef is about 40-50% saturated fat, 40-50% monounsaturated fat, and 10% polyunsaturated fat.
If you’ve spent any time around here, you’ll know that we never fell victim to the great saturated fat myth. Saturated fat is my American Express — I never leave home without it.
Next is the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of grass-fed beef, which averages to about 1.5 to 1. This ratio is an important marker of health and we want to be as close to 1:1 as possible. Unfortunately, the average American can be as high as 30:1. Both grass-fed beef and wild fish are extremely close to the optimal 1:1 ratio.
Grass-fed beef is one of the best sources of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fatty acid that has potent antioxidant effects and has been linked to the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Vitamin K2, another vitamin growing increasingly hard to come by in food, is found in grass-fed beef (and dairy, organ meats, and eggs — go figure). K2 is a heart-disease busting powerhouse.
Frequency Recommendation: Consume grass-fed beef at least two to three times per week.
Healthy Food #3: Bone Broth
Do you cook with store bought chicken and beef broth? I challenge you to make some bone broth and see exactly what you’re missing out on. Bone broth is nature’s multivitamin, containing massive amounts of vitamins and minerals extracted from grass fed beef bones or healthy chicken bones.
Of course, there are other bones you can make bone broth with. And you can throw in things like chicken feet, which are rich with gelatin. Bone Broth heals the gut and the process of cooking the broth pulls the vitamins and minerals contained in the bones into the broth.
You can use the bone broth in any recipe that calls for broth or you can pour a cup of it on a cold winter morning and just drink the stuff. It’s a true animal-derived “superfood,” even though I hate using that word.
Frequency Recommendation: Get some both broth down your hatch at least once per week.
Healthy Food #4: Wild Salmon
Fish is the quintissential animal food that almost nobody will argue against when it comes to nutrition. Unfortunately, it’s easy to go wrong with fish. For starters, all farm-raised fish should be excluded.
In our manifesto, I note that “you are what you eat, ate.” Well, farm-raised fish eat soy pellets. Soy is an ANTI food. And the fact is that the soy the fish eat gets passed directly on to you.
I say it’s easy to go wrong because if you’re eating fish at restaurants or just picking up any random fish at the supermarket, there’s a good chance that you’re eating farm-raised fish.
But, fish is an essential food. And — contrary to some of the scare tactics (e.g. Mercury) that are out there — there’s little to worry about when it comes to safety if you’re eating well-sourced fish, which typically means wild-caught. Source matters because you want to eat an animal that ate other good stuff (not soy pellets).
Salmon is at the top of the fish quality list, rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Of course, you can consume other types of wild caught fish for variety.
Frequency Recommendation:You should aim for 1-3 times per week with high quality fish.
Healthy Food #5: Eggs
Possibly one of the greatest travesties of our generation has been the demonization of egg yolks and the promotion of egg whites. When you understand the truth about food and health, it’s quite clear that the recommendation should be reversed.
That’s right, it’s far more beneficial to eat the yolks and ditch the whites. Saying otherwise is akin to a crime against humanity.
The yolks are where all the nutrition is and egg yolks are particularly high in Choline, an essential B-vitamin that’s especially important for pregnant women.
But, what about the cholesterol? It turns out the recommendation to avoid consuming cholesterol was bogus too. Cholesterol is an essential component of diet and the ingestion of cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol levels (learn the truth about cholesterol here). Avoid the yolks and you’re missing all of the nutrition and health benefits.
Again, source quality is important here. If you’re eating eggs from chickens who were kept in cages, never got any sunlight, and dined on corn and soy feed, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Try to get eggs from a local source.
Frequency Recommendation: I try to eat eggs — in whole — at least every other day.
Healthy Food #6: Sardines
Taking a fish oil supplement? Maybe you should drop that and just tear into some sardines, which are extremely dense in O3s. They’re also a great source of fat, calcium, protein, B-vitamins, more Choline, iron, and potassium.
Concerned about getting your calcium without dairy? 5 ounces of sardines has almost 50% more calcium than an 8 ounce glass of milk. That’s an open and shut case.
The other thing about sardines? They’re damn convenient. You just eat them or add them some other dish — no prep necessary. They make a great snack too and are perfect for travel. How could this story get any better?
Frequency Recommendation: Party with these bad boys a few times a week and you’ll be in good shape.
Healthy Food #7: Grass-fed Butter & Ghee
Another food demonized by conventional wisdom is butter. And again, I say this is a travesty. Fat does not make you fat and cholesterol doesn’t give you heart disease.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can talk about why butter is essential. First, it’s rich in CLA, an essential fatty acid we talked about earlier. And grass-fed dairy products have 3-5 times the CLA content of their grain-fed counterparts.
Butter should be yellow, not white. That’s how you know it’s good quality. Compare the color of grass-fed butter to grain-fed butter and you’ll immediately that there’s a huge difference.
That color comes from the carotene (the stuff that makes carrots orange). How does it get carotene and other nutrients? Well, the cows eat grass and assimilate those nutrients, which show up in the dairy they produce. Again, you are what you eat, ate.
Grass-fed dairy is also rich in Vitamin K2 — think: heart health. Most importantly, grass-fed butter has an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:1, which is the optimal ratio. A ratio that’s more lopsided toward omega-6 — such as the ratio promoted by the “heart healthy” vegetable oils conventional wisdom tells you to consume — is responsible for systemic inflammation and is a key disease marker.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter that has the milk solids removed, which allows you to heat it to higher temperatures in cooking and can make it tolerable for those with dairy sensitivities.
Frequency Recommendation: Daily staple. Heck, you might even want to consider drinking the stuff.
Healthy Food #8: Raw Milk & Kefir
Raw milk shares the same benefits as grass-fed butter. And while we’re talking about all of this, here’s my official dairy recommendation: Don’t eat conventional dairy.
If you want to consume dairy, make sure it’s raw and grass-fed. If you can’t get well-sourced, raw dairy then don’t eat dairy. And absolutely don’t eat low fat dairy products. These products are loaded with sugar and often contain chemicals and hormones.
It’s amazing to me that people will vilify eggs, yet feed their children hormone-laced, low-fat chocolate milk. It’s such a bass ackwards world out there.
The pasteurization process of conventional milk kills much of the nutrition, as well as the enzyme lactase, which helps break down lactose and aids in digestion.
WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) did a survey of over 700 of their readers who reported lactose intolerance. Over 80% reported that they had no issue with raw milk, where previously they had a host of issues with conventional dairy. It’s not hard science, but it backs up what I’ve seen to be the case in people I know personally.
Kefir is a fermented milk and has additional benefits in that it contains probiotic cultures that promote gut health. It also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Tip: Using kefir externally has been shown to promote wound healing.
Frequency Recommendation: One or more times per week.
Which of these are a staple for you? — Let’s do a mini-contest!
Here’s what I want to do: I want to make it easy for people who come across this post to get started with incorporating these foods easily. So, use the comments section to post a link to your favorite recipe that incorporates these foods (or in the case of bone broth, kefir, etc. how to make them). No recipes with ANTI foods, obviously.
I’ll choose a random person who comments and send them a copy of any real food cookbook they want on Amazon (or one of my recommendations if they can’t choose).
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