Friday, March 18, 2011
Red Meat: To Eat or Not to Eat?
I grew up wishing we could eat more red meat (as in, more than once or twice a month), but when I had a family of my own I gradually got back into the habit of eating it sparingly. The last little while when I have served my family meat it has been almost exclusively poultry. My husband and I didn't miss red meat (and I was quite turned off to it for a long while), and we felt healthy. Our 3-year-old has never been very partial to meat, so she didn't miss it either. But our 6-year-old is a different story.
Back here I wrote about this daughter and her cyclical viruses. Not knowing what else to try in my quest for her consistent health, I began including regular probiotics in her diet, as I mentioned, which did seem to help somewhat. However, I then came into contact with the woman I mentioned here, and she opened my mind to a whole different level of things to think about. I have so much more to learn from her, but the basics of what I have learned are that in order for the human body to maintain optimal health and functioning, it must obtain several electrolytes through diet and/or supplementation. Because each of us is different, what you are deficient in (which is causing various troubles for you, whether emotional, physical, or both) is probably different from what I am deficient in. And what this woman thought my daughter was deficient in was quite a surprise to me. My daughter had never tested low in iron and I had thought she was getting plenty of milk, but I was advised that her recurrent viruses were probably due to her being low in iron and calcium. I learned that iron is the electrolyte that keeps viruses away, so that made sense. Even though I didn't relish the thought of putting red meat back into our diet (since that is the easiest and most efficient way to get enough iron), I was willing to try it if it would make a positive difference in my daughter's health.
What has happened has been quite a revelation.
First of all, I realized how much my daughter loves red meat and how excited she gets over meals that have beef or pork in them. Now I know I should have picked up on this hint long ago and made the connection that her body needs it, even if mine doesn't. The first week of this reintroduction of beef into our diet, I tried to include it in every dinner to give her body a high, consistent dose of iron right off. In the weeks following, I've pared it down so that we have it a couple to a few times a week. I have also come to realize how much more milk she needs than I was previously giving her.
The result of this experiment so far is that, instead of getting sick every 14 days (or less), our daughter has now been healthy for a little over a month! That is huge, especially because that hasn't been the case since last October. So we really feel like we've had a breakthrough.
I still believe in eating (particularly red) meat sparingly (as in once a week, or so) and find it disgusting how much red meat the majority of the people in our society are accustomed to eating. But maybe I just don't need that much compared to someone else. I would also prefer to only eat beef from free-range cattle that are not fed hormones (or any other gross stuff). But I am certainly learning that beef (and other red meat) does have its place. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent article entitled It's the Beef, which I highly recommend. It discusses topics such as: Does beef cause heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and asthma?; the truth about cholesterol; mad cow disease; E. Coli; and whether or not vegetarians live longer than meat eaters.
So while many of you out there are vegetarians, and while that may work for your body makeup and electrolyte needs (although I am beginning to doubt this as I continue learning), it is not necessarily the right diet for everyone. Therefore, while this site from a nursing school web page honors 15 outstanding athletes who are also vegetarians, I have to wonder what the long term effects may be on their well being, particularly if any of these athletes have substituted soy products for meat (which is a topic for another post).
As I mentioned before, I still have much to learn about the electrolytes our bodies need and how to tell which ones we are personally deficient in. And, as usual, as I continue to learn I will continue to pass it on to others who are interested.