3 good reasons to eat protein on a detox

3 good reasons to eat protein on a detox

Before I jump into this week’s nutrition plan, I want you to take a couple of minutes to reflect on how you’re doing so far (a bit like we’re in therapy, only minus the luxury leather sofa and super expensive bill at the end).  Joking aside, practicing the art of reflection can do wonders for self-development.  We’re in week 3 of the Better in 30 plan and for most of us our motivation might flag.  Dare we admit, we may have even “slipped up” (although I hope you’ve realized by now there’s no such thing in my protocol).  I’d like you to take a moment to pause.  Perhaps sit down with a pen and paper in hand and jot a few sentences down.  What carbohydrates have you changed in your diet so far?  How have these changes made you feel?  What can you do to build on this? What fats did you upgrade last week?  Was it easy?  If not, why wasn’t it and how can you overcome the challenge when you try again?  

I’d like you to pay particular attention to the positives; your successes.  The changes that have made you feel good and that you’re proud of.  Just as Leon Taylor reminds us, it’s important you acknowledge and reward yourself for them (yes! I’ve finally got the perfect excuse to buy those Saint Laurent shoes – and now you know how I justify my shopping habits).  I guarantee you, your motivation will come back in an instant.  Done?  Feel better?  Brilliant.  Let’s get started again.

Let’s talk about meat and protein

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Over the past couple of years animal produce has developed a bad reputation.  And not without good reason.  The meat industry is mega business.  Livestock farming has made meat more readily available than ever.  The pressure on farmers to increase profit margins and meet growing demands has led to intensive and compromised breeding methods.  Battery cages, abnormally fattening up animals, antibiotic and hormone drug use, GMO grain feeding and the use of nitrogen fertilizers on animal feed are just some of the factors that have led to low quality meat.  Then there’s the highly processed burgers, sausages and nuggets advertised in supermarkets and fast food joints.  Not to mention the livestock industrialization and carbon emission debate (but that’s a whole other issue).  We’re eating more meat than ever before and our health has suffered.  The correlation of increased meat eating to the rise in cardiovascular diseases, obesity and certain cancers like bowel cancer, is uncanny.  It’s not surprising that people are ditching meat all together.

Good quality meat is a nutrient powerhouse.  It’s rich in so many vitamins, minerals and fats that support our health.

What a shame.  The truth is, we are omnivores.  It’s my view that eating animal produce is not the source of ill health.  Our loss of balance is.  Paleontological and archeological research tell us that early homo species ate a predominantly plant based diet and supplemented meat through scavenging and some hunting.  However, it’s the rise in our ancestral hunting that created an adaptive shift in human evolution.  Our brains grew, increasing our intelligence and our small intestines developed, advancing nutrient absorption.  As a result, we got bigger and stronger.  Good quality meat is a nutrient powerhouse.  It’s rich in so many vitamins, minerals and fats that support our health. Omega 3, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, A and D. Then there’s zinc, iron, magnesium and Coenzyme Q10 to name a few.  So it’s not surprising that it helped us develop into the superior species we are today.  But the opinion held by researchers is unanimous; there is one significant macronutrient found in meat that ultimately led to our advancement.  Protein. 

Meat versus plant protein

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Without a doubt, meat (and other animal products) is our best source of protein.  Most of us don’t realize that we can actually make our own protein (a.k.a amino acids).  However, there are 8 essential types that we can’t make, so we have to eat them.  Isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine (don’t worry you don’t have to remember them all).  What you do need to know is that animal products are the only type of food that provide complete sources of them.  You can find them in various plant based foods like peas, hemp, brown rice, lentils and quinoa.  However, you won’t find all 8 in a single source.  If you’re vegetarian, I highly recommend that you pay particular attention to the amino acids you find in each plant based food and supplement them.  This involves combining various sources so that, collectively, you receive a complete profile of the essential proteins.

What I encourage is a renaissance of the way our ancestors ate. 

So is this a carte blanche to eat fried chicken everyday?  Unfortunately not.  What I encourage is a renaissance of the way our ancestors ate; a predominantly plant based diet rich in leafy greens, vegetables, berries, seeds and balanced amounts of high quality meat.  Wild oily fish, grass fed beef, free range and organic chicken and turkey.  Basically animal produce that’s as wild and unadulterated as possible in the modern age.  And we only need very little.  Due to the negative hype surrounding processed meat and the deterioration of livestock farming, meat tends to be the first thing people cut from their diet when they want to get healthy or “go on a detox”.  I’ll tell you why you don’t want to do that.  It’s all to do with protein.

Why you should still eat animal produce on a detox

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  1. For a happy and resilient mind

How many times have you embarked on an extreme diet, possibly even calorie restricted, only to feel really low and give up after a week?  I’ve been there (countless times).  It’s miserable, isn’t it?  Besides starving, feeling ratty and becoming socially aloof, you turn into an emotional wreck (God help our friends and family).  Cue the binge and you’re back to square one.  Pointless isn’t it?  Serotonin and dopamine deficiency is a likely cause.  Both these brain hormones help us to feel happy and balanced.  They’re converted from essential amino acids tryptophan and phenylalanine, respectively; both of which are found abundantly in animal produce.  Not only do these neurotransmitters help to keep you happy and motivated to stay on track, serotonin supports better sleep and discourages binge eating. 

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Serotonin is converted into melatonin, the all important hormone that helps us get a good night’s sleep.  There are so many studies that show a healthy sleep pattern encourages weight loss and overall good health.  But here’s the biggie; insulin is a serotonin carrier.  That’s to say, it carries serotonin from the gut through the blood brain barrier so it can carry out its work.  You’re probably thinking… “but isn’t insulin the hormone that helps keep our blood sugar balanced?”  Yes, but that’s only one of its roles and it’s precisely the problem.  When we become serotonin deficient due to a lack of tryptophan in the diet (it’s also related to gut health, which I’ll explain a little later), our body panics and seeks to make up the deficit by increasing the amount of insulin.  The logic is, the more insulin you have, the more serotonin can be carried to the brain to make up the deficit. And what’s the fastest way to increase insulin?  Simple, sugar.  Your body will start to crave it and that’s when the binge happens.  Maintaining a consistent yet low level of tryptophan in the diet is the best way to prevent this from happening.  Grass fed beef, wild fish, free range turkey and chicken are your best sources.  For vegetarian alternatives, seaweed, spinach and bananas are good. However, the amounts they contain don’t come close to even a small portion of meat. 

  1. For healthy bowels and lower toxic absorption

Approximately 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut. This means a healthy digestive tract is just as important, if not more so, for lowering risks of binge eating and poor mental resilience. There are two really important types of protein that keep our gut lining in optimum condition; collagen and glutamine.  We have tiny perforations in our gut wall that allow nutrients to enter into our bodies. However, excessive amounts of sugar, gluten, alcohol and stress are some factors that can make them loose or ‘leaky.’  As a result, our bacterial ecology in the gut becomes disturbed, preventing us from effectively producing serotonin.

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But that’s not all.  The bigger gaps in the gut lining allow larger toxic molecules to enter the body, over burdening our immune system and more relevantly, our liver.  That’s why supporting gut health is critical for effective detoxification.  You can significantly reduce your toxic load simply by keeping those gut perforations nice and tight.  Collagen and glutamine found in animal produce may help you do that.  Dairy is rich in glutamine, but I prefer to recommend free range chicken or fish.  Collagen is concentrated in bone tissue.  That’s why the best sources are softer bones found in small fish or bone broth, which you can drink straight from a mug or use as a base for soups. The good thing about bone broth is it also provides a host of minerals and vitamins like zinc and vitamin A, which help keep our gut lining tight and healthy.

3. For better liver detoxification

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Liver detoxification is rather complex.  I won’t bore you with the details (although I have to admit, I find it incredibly fascinating).  In short, there are 2 phases and 6 pathways that various toxins take.  The entire process relies on the availability of certain enzymes which are made from amino acids.  So liver detoxification depends entirely on the presence of protein (I’ll never forget how surprised I was when I first heard that). Therefore, limiting it in your diet is not a great idea.  Of course our DNA makes most of these proteins, but eating complete sources of amino acids is really helpful.  Eggs, oily fish and organic, grass fed, whey protein are my favourites.  Assuming you’re not dairy intolerant, whey is a wonderful source of glutathione; a powerful antioxidant that supports approximately 60% of the detoxification pathways.  Eggs are great too because they contain your essential amino acids and they’re rich in sulfur, which also helps drive detoxification.  While oily fish like salmon provide protein along with important detoxing nutrients like Omega 3 and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10.  Both have been shown to support the liver and the Coenzyme Q10 mops up free radical damage that occurs during effective detoxing.

Here’s this week’s plan:

You guessed it. This week I’d like you to focus on upgrading your sources of protein. The goal is to support our mental resilience, build on the work we’ve done supporting our gut health, and prepare our liver for next week’s full on detoxification protocol.  Again, I’d like you to make some simple swaps from your current diet.  Here is what I’d like you to do.

  • Aim for no more than a quarter of your plate to be a source of protein. Limit eating animal based protein to a maximum of twice a day.
  • Aim to eat oily fish 4 times a week. Opt for wild whenever possible.  If it’s farmed, try to find organic sources.  It might cost a little bit more, but it’s better to eat small amounts of good quality than larger amounts of cheap low quality food.
  • Eat red meat once a week. The best source is grass fed and organic. Again, you want to aim to eat organic to avoid consuming meat that is contaminated with hormones and antibiotics.
  • Aim to eat an egg a day. Choose free range and organic brands.
  • Eat free range organic poultry approximately 4 times a week.
  • Support your local butcher, fish monger and farmers. The quality of meat they sell tends to be better than supermarkets.  They’ll also be able to answer any questions you may have about the livestock. 
  • Vegetarians should aim to supplement their protein sources by combining plants to reach a complete essential amino acid profile. Really good protein sources to include are peas, hemp, tofu, eggs, quinoa and lentils. 

Protein upgrades for beginners

If you:

Swap to:

Eat processed, ready-made burgers & sausages

Homemade burgers and organic sausages

Eat standard chicken, beef, turkey, pork etc.

Organic, grass fed and free range alternatives. Try eating less to balance costs.

Eat fish fingers, cod, haddock and other meaty fish

Oily wild or organic fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies

Protein upgrades for the nutrition savvy

If you:

Try:

Eat grass fed, organic meat and poultry

Organic offal meats twice a week. Liver and kidneys are much more nutrient dense than other parts of meat.  They used to be very popular but we’ve lost our appetite for them.  If you don’t like the taste, it’s worth mincing and combining with regular mince.  You (and your kids, if you have any), won’t even notice it’s in there.

 

Doing the #betterin30 challenge? Use the hashtag to tell us how you’re getting on, and you could win a personal session with one of our experts! 

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Kay Ali is our Better in 30 Nutritional Therapist.  She’s put together a food plan that’s so easy, you won’t believe it.  She is Head of Nutrition at Bare Biology.  She has over ten years experience working in the health industry and is a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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