The easy answer is no. There are many people who are trying to improve their diets, but without knowing a single small detail it can be derailed quickly, even at stores like Whole Foods.
First, we need to address the “red meat” issue. We clearly have hunter gatherer genetics. We spent some 55,000 generations as hunter gatherers and it’s just not that easy to change. But, let’s face it–we probably weren’t the greatest hunters. Sure, we all envision our ancestors in a well disguised lean-to in camouflaged gear sporting a hunting rifle ready to take out a 12 point buck. In reality, our ancestors were probably better at hunting squirrels and insects than big game, although I’m sure the occasional hunter got lucky.
Overall, though, a plant based diet with <20% animal protein seems to be the best for us. Our choices for the animal protein we take in are critical and need to be of high quality. This last aspect is what is severely missing in our country and we’re paying the health price for it. When most people think of meat, they think of chicken, beef and pork. Or rather, commercially grown, hormone laden, grotesquely large-breasted chicken, corn fed, highly stressed, living in their own feces beef or pork. And we won’t even begin to get into the concept of xenohormesis in this post…
The greater our protein options are, the better. When we choose animal proteins, these need to be of the highest quality. That means organic, free range chicken. It means wild game. It means grass FINISHED beef.
The last is an important factor that many are not aware of. Even if an animal is raised as grass fed, if they grain finish (most commonly with corn), the ranchers have completely undone the benefits of the grass feeding. This will raise the omega 6 content of the meat, instead of the higher omega 3 content found in animals grass fed throughout the entire life cycle.
This particular study, although it is a mouse study, illustrates this point beautifully. Researchers looked at the effect of different feeding practices of animal proteins (grass fed, grain finished, wild) and how they affected prostaglandin levels. Prostaglandins can be pro- or anti-inflammatory depending on the type. PEG2 will promote inflammation while PGI2 will help to keep our blood clot free and lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The results, after 2 weeks on specific diets, are summarized as follows:
- chicken-based diet increased PGE2 (bad)
- PGE2 was lowest in with range-fed beef, range-fed bison, and elk (good)
- PGE2 was highest with grain-finished beef (bad)
- elk meat had the greatest PGI2 (good)
The bottom line is that we should maintain a plant based diet with our animal protein < 20% of our intake. If we take in animal proteins, they need to be of the highest quality and consist ideally of locally grown, grass fed throughout the entire life cycle beef, wild caught fish or wild game. The extra cost will be offset by the small quantities.