Quality over quantity
When I speak of protein, I’m referring to both animal and plant foods, including fish, seafood, poultry and red meats as well as eggs, legumes and whole grains. 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.
NOTE – My personal healing journey at this moment in time has me avoiding many of the common plant proteins. This includes grains, legumes, beans and soy beans due to their tendency to cause further gut inflammation in an already inflamed environment.
so what is protein?
FISH | 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. Animals that eat only grass contain 2 to 3 times the amount of CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids), higher levels of antioxidants like vitamin E and A, and a healthier ratio of omega3 to omega 6 fatty acids
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
LEGUMES* | In particular, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and pinto beans all contain good amounts of slowly digested carbs and the fibre found in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, promoting a healthy gut
GRAINS* | In particular ancient grains including spelt, teff, barley, sorghum, farro and einkorn as well as gluten free grains including quinoa, amaranth and wild rice are all complete sources of protein. Oats, though not considered a complete protein still contain higher-quality protein than other commonly consumed grains like rice and wheat
NUTS + SEEDS* | All nuts including natural nut butters and milks as well as hemp, chia and flax seeds (note hemp contains 50% more digestible protein per ounce than chia and flax)
FRUITS + VEG | In particular broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes*, green peas*, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, guava, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines, bananas
SOYBEANS* | Edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk. Considered a whole source of protein, providing the body with all the essential amino acids it needs
FORTIFIED NUTRITIONAL YEAST | High in protein, fibre and vitamin B12, giving dishes a dairy-free cheese flavour
SPIRULINA | A blue-green algae containing magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium and essential fatty acids
* Depicts foods to be avoided when following the Autoimmune Protocol or a healing Paleo diet
why organic and pasture raised?
Eating organic helps to reduce our body’s total toxic burden, as these foods have not been treated with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, ionizing radiation, growth hormones and antibiotics. Seriously. Who wants to be eating those?
Eating organic is also more nutritious for our body - being richer in nutrients and antioxidants and lower in heavy metals. Good soil nutrition has also been shown to increase the production of cancer-fighting compounds called flavonoids.
When eating animal 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
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, soups and dahls. Proteins cooked this way are significantly broken down and a lot more soothing on our digestive system.
As grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid – an anti-nutrient which binds up all those wonderful minerals we’re eating, preventing our body from fully absorbing them – it’s a great idea to soak them first overnight, or for up to 48 hours if possible, changing the soaking water frequently and then rinsing before use. This process helps maximise the nutrient density of these foods.
Beans are a little different, and to maximise their nutrient value and digestibility, they’re best soaked, drained, rinsed and soaked again for a day or two.
Yes, this all sounds like a lot of palaver to go through, however if you’re like me and you value your health and in getting the most out of the foods you spend good money on, then it’s so worth the extra time spent and forethought.
Have questions or want more on this topic, a great resource can be found here at Nourished Kitchen.
animal protein vs plant protein
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 personally 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.
However, always remember that our bodies are all different, and what works for one may not work for the other. Learning to tune in and really listen to your own body is key.