Yes my friends, it’s Part 2 time of my Healing Foods Series.
A little 4 part series that I’ve put together to help you (and me!) embrace all of those wonderful nutrient-dense foods that are in abundance and help us heal. For those of us living an AIP lifestyle, these are foods that we can still (and should) enjoy daily for their ability to build and improve our health. I’m sharing with you my 4 top highly nutritious food groups that you can add into your life, starting today. I’ve done all the research. You just need to sit back and enjoy.
Focusing on eating the most nutrient dense foods available to us means that the abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and amino acids can all help to correct and rebalance our bodies that have been affected by autoimmune disease. This includes supporting both our hormone and detoxification systems. By eating these foods, we are basically providing the building blocks that our body’s need to heal.
As always, pay attention to how your dietary choices make you feel. Everyone is different, so it’s up to you to decide which type of diet and foods ultimately serve you best.
Missed Part 1? Never fear, it’s right here.
So today I’m focussing on protein, and in particular, animal based proteins, as this is my chosen form of protein whilst healing this body of mine from my autoimmune disease – Hashimoto’s, and whilst I work my way through the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
When I speak of protein rich foods, I’m referring to fish, seafood, poultry and red meats. Not only are they essential for building and maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails, but they’re also a good dietary source of sulphur - an incredibly important mineral supporting the detoxification process in our body, particularly via the liver.
Eating protein with each meal (whether plant or animal based) has been scientifically proven to help keep our blood sugar levels stable, be associated with better body composition and greater bone density, as well as increase our ability to keep hunger at bay.
So what type of protein am I talking about specifically?
FISH | Including salmon, mackerel, sardines, sole, cod, seabass, seabream, haddock, trout and monkfish. Wild caught fish provides anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids - essential for good hormone balance and thyroid function
SEAFOOD | Prawns, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, lobster, crab. The omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, iodine and vitamin D are all found abundantly in seafood and have wonderful health benefits, such as improved brain development and protection against heart disease and stroke.
MEAT | Organic grass-fed beef, lamb, pork
POULTRY | Organic pasture-raised chicken, duck, quail, turkey
ORGAN MEATS | Organ meats like liver are packed with healing nutrients, like B vitamins, calcium, and other necessary vitamins
BONE BROTH | Bone broth is rich in collagen, gelatin, minerals and amino acids to help heal the gut. They’re already broken down which makes broth so much easy to digest
Why organic and pasture raised?
When eating protein, I personally try to choose organic grass-fed where possible, as it contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (and lower omega-6, compared to conventionally produced meat). It is also a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fat that reduces our risk of obesity, diabetes and many immune disorders (yep, including Hashimoto’s).
Even though organic grass-fed is definitely more superior, it’s not a necessity for those on a tight budget, as there are a few tips you can follow to help keep those pesky omega-6’s down as much as possible:
- limit your consumption of poultry – conventionally produced poultry has a very high omega-6 fatty acid content compared to its pasture raised relative
- stick with lean cuts of red meat – as the fats in conventionally produced meats aren’t the good fats that our body needs, unlike the fat from organic grass-fed meats
How much protein should I eat?
This question is a very personal one and should be entirely based on your own body’s needs.
Ideally you want to balance your macronutrient ratios (carbs, protein and fat) so that you are not spiking your blood sugar levels – as this is important for our digestion. Everyone is different and no one size fits all. So as a starting point, perhaps consider filling your plate with 40% vegetables, 30% fat and 30% protein, and tweak from there. Monitor how hungry you are between meals and how your digestion feels.
For me personally, I find 50% vegetables (at least), 25% fat and 25% protein works well at each meal. I find I feel heavy and lethargic when I eat any more protein than that. Again, for me personally, I’ve discovered eating more protein at breakfast and a little less at dinner also helps with my energy levels throughout the day – not to mention my sleep.
What is the best way to prep protein when healing a leaky gut?
The way we prepare our food can also have a significant impact on how we digest it.
For example, raw almonds are very difficult to digest compared to soaked and sprouted ones, and seared or quick fried meats are very different compared to their slow cooked counterparts. When dealing with any digestive or gut issues, it is more advantageous to focus on eating your protein as stews and casseroles, or cooked low and slow in broth like pot roasts. Meats cooked this way are significantly broken down and a lot more soothing on our digestive system.
Protein vs Plant Food
We get completely different nutrients from both animal foods and plant foods - one is not better than the other, as they are both equally valuable. I believe we need both to really get the full complement our bodies need to heal and stay healthy.
The key difference between animal and vegetable protein is in their amino acid profiles and the rate at which our bodies absorb and use these amino acids. As animal protein is similar to the protein found in the human body, it is used up more rapidly than those found in plants.
Stay tuned, because Part 3 is coming your way next week.