You are what you eat.
Well, obviously not literally. I am not suggesting you will transform into a cow or a tomato or even a slice of cake, but that phrase has merit since your diet affects your overall body composition and health. Sure, the (literal) dumbbells at the gym can assist in sculpting such a physique, and those fancy diet capsules at the drugstore might provide quick weight loss, but a diet that combines the proper proportions of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein creates the ultimate lean, mean, long-lasting machine.
Of course, with all the current media focus on the latest superfoods and fitness fads, one may easily end up confused and frustrated about exactly what is considered healthy and appropriate to consume. However, the numerous undeniable success stories of high intakes of lean protein combined with low consumption of carbohydrates prove the great importance of incorporating significant quantities of quality protein into your diet.
Grass fed and organic beef, pork, chicken, and fish make the list of supplying healthy and essential amino acids to the body, but so does another animal we tend to overlook-the bison, or American buffalo. Bison meat is low fat, sodium, and caloric content and offers a high amount of protein and iron, all while retaining the bold flavor most red-meat fans adore. Various dietary lifestyles, such as the Paleo Diet and Whole30 diet, have proven that a diet which combines the proper quality and quantity of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and LEAN protein provides the key ingredients to maintaining a leaner and healthier body. Bison is much leaner than beef and lets the health-conscious consumer satisfy the hankering for red meat too.
The Paleo and Whole30 Diets (The What Diets?)
Numerous studies and success stories can attest to the essentials of eating mindfully and selectively. The paleo diet, for instance, reiterates the necessity of a balanced, protein-enriched diet while staying away from the overly processed food groups packaged on the shelves of the local supermarket. This diet recommends consuming foods similarly to our Paleolithic ancestors, such as eating meat and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. The diet avoids dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, fatty meats, and foods that are very high in salt content. This diet has succeeded in generating the physique most Americans desire.
Another new dietary approach, Whole30, incorporates many of the paleo concepts, and then kicks it up a notch. Developed by a husband and wife team with a background in sports nutrition, the Whole30 program focuses on a month-long regimented diet plan that excludes any added sugars (natural or artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, MSG, sulfites, and any paleo-approved baked goods. Its strict thirty-day platform resets the metabolism and improves body composition, creates higher energy levels, provides better quality of sleep, improves athletic performance, and reduces food cravings. Many people claim the Whole30 diet cleared up their acid reflux and eliminated their autoimmune disorders for good.
So, what counts as lean, healthy protein? In addition to traditional lean meats such as chicken and fish one should consider grass fed beef, bison, goats, and some lamb as these are lower in saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories than their factory-farmed counterparts. These meats also contain far more:
- Vitamin E, which maintains the structure and function of cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle
- Beta-carotene, which consists of fat-soluble compounds that can convert to retinol, which is essential for vision and growth
- Vitamin C, which supports normal growth and development
- Omega 3-fatty acids, which lower the risk of coronary heart disease and improve the cholesterol
Factory farming methods are often cruel to the animals themselves and depend heavily on hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs which produce meat of questionable value while being more harmful to the land, air, and water. The hormones, antibiotics and other drugs ingested by these confined animals may keep the prices low, but they eventually end up in our food supply and create unknown risks.