Tuesday, November 8, 2011

High-Quality Protein

In a previous post I wrote about risk, about crossing intersections and looking both ways, maybe even slowing down a bit if in doubt.

OK, I also admitted that when younger I tended to just cross intersections, secure in the belief that I was in the right.

Much like I changed my approach to intersections as I aged, I have also altered my consumption of animal based protein (as in meat or fish). I found that it was one of the elements in my diet that deserved some special attention.

Let me first cover the gamut of other issues. We all know we need to cut down on fats and sugar in our diet, we need complex carbs, and we need vegetables. And don't forget fiber. I don’t plan to go over all of this - suffice to say we need a balanced, and varied diet. If you work out hard, 5 times a week, you get to eat a lot more than if you sit on a sofa. If you don’t work out, you don’t get to eat. Or you get fat and can view yourself as a typical American. (OK, a cheap shot - but we are the land where 1 in 3 is obese. This is a national problem, the predominant driver of our health-care costs).

But meat - that is a different animal.

When folk talk to me about their eating habits they pretty much always point out that they have cut back on red meat. To me, this is like stopping for stop signs and red lights - a no brainer. Yes, one can run stop signs and red lights - trusting in ones good luck to keep one from becoming a hood ornament on a Mack truck. And, one can eat lots of red meat, trusting in ones genetic make-up to keep from plugging arteries (would you like fries with that chunk of beef?).

Folk invariably point out that they have switched to eating turkey, chicken, and fish. So they are avoiding the pitfalls of red meat and are instead eating healthy meats!

Perhaps 10 years ago I started caring about what I ate - and actually thinking about the risks associated with my diet. It was pretty easy to cut out red meat - oh, except for BBQ ribs. Those still hurt. But there is way too much evidence out there that eating red meat will plug your arteries.

So I began cutting back on red meat. And, with time, I also started cutting back on chicken and turkey - my lovely wife has been a vegetarian for a long time, and it just made things easier when preparing meals. But I still ate a bit of salmon each week.

Then, in February of 2009 I read the book “The China Study”.

A little background here - I am an engineer who is fascinated by statistical analysis, and the power of data. I have managed research, I have 6 patents, and I have spent a lot of my career generating, analyzing and using experimental data. My wife is a PhD chemist who is also noted for her ability to do statistical analyses. Kelly has been fascinated by the healthcare field for years, and, in 2009, quit her day job and went back to school to become an RN. Kelly’s mom had a stroke when she was way too young for such things. Perhaps because of her mom’s stroke, perhaps because of our mutual fascination with health, for what ever reason, we both are deeply involved in living a healthy life.

OK - so I respect what we can learn from research - especially research involving large populations.

After reading the China Study I quit eating animal based protein - including cheese, milk, whey protein, chicken, salmon, that is how strongly the book influenced my thinking.

If you are into cholesterol levels you might be interested in the impact going vegetarian had on my chemistry. I had a complete blood work-up in December of 2008:

LDL (Bad cholesterol) - 114
HDL (Good Cholesterol) - 83
Fasting Glucose - 106
Triglicerides - 68

I will finish this post by saying I was amazed at the difference in my blood chemistry just 2 months after dropping animal-based products from my diet. Tomorrow we will look at those numbers.

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