Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fertility and Meat: Hey, Cow, Don’t Mess With My Hormones!

When you’re on a fertility diet (and even when you’re not), I highly recommend that you eat lean organic meat, with an emphasis on lean and organic. When I say meat, I include poultry, so I’m talking about chicken, beef, lamb, goat, turkey… I’m not a big fan of pork, though. Too much saturated fat. It’s really hard to find the leaner parts.

The main reason to eat organic meat is that it’s free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Growth hormones in meat can affect our own hormones and anything that messes with our hormones is a threat to our fertility. Stay away!

Additionally, meat that is labeled organic is supposed to have been fed organic feed, which basically means the cows and chickens and lambs have been eating a diet free of chemicals and additives. The organic feed also cannot contain any genetically modified food. All of this makes life easier on your digestive system and immune system, thereby giving more energy and health to go to your – you guessed it – reproductive system.

This is all really good. You can still eat your meat, just eat organic. Although I would go one step further and say, in terms of red meat (like beef), don’t go overboard. Limit to once a week because, for one thing, those meats are higher in saturated fat.

Now, I know how hard it can be to find organic meat, especially beef and especially in some parts of the country (or world). And I know too how much more expensive such meat can be. Are there any compromises?

I would say no: this is your body we’re talking about, this is a baby you’re making. But if you had to, I would say this: if it’s all natural, meaning that it doesn’t contain antibiotics, growth hormones, preservatives or additives, and if the animals have been eating an all-vegetable feed, that’s what’s most important. If the feed itself is not organic, eh, that’s not so bad, especially when you consider this quote from a 2004 Business Week article:

“While 47% of the produce sampled by the USDA in 2002 had detectable pesticide residues, only 16% of grains and 15% of meat tested did. Most of the residues found in meat (almost always in the fat) were from long-banned chemicals like DDT, which remain in the environment and is not a problem organic farming methods can solve.”

Note that the residues were found in the fat, which is one reason I emphasize lean meat. By the way, don’t eat the skin either.

If you’re buying from the butcher, ask about the antibiotics and growth hormones. Ask about whether it’s organic. Whole Foods sells organic chicken and beef. For the all natural variety, Niman Ranch appears to do a great job, and their meat is sold in many places.

If you’re buying packaged raw meat, check the label. Call if you’re not sure. “Organic” can be obvious, but “Natural” is not, as that term can get loosely interpreted. Our Foster Farms ground turkey says on it “All Natural. 100%. No preservatives.” I called to make sure that also meant no antibiotics or growth hormones, which was the case.

Now, a quick word about processed meat. NO! Absolutely do not consume them! I’m talking about hot dogs, canned chicken and most sandwich meat. Do I really need to explain why? They’re processed. They contain preservatives, nitrates (in most sandwich meats), and who knows exactly what else. In that same 2004 Business Week article, Michael Hansen, a senior research associate at Consumers Union, said that processed meat such as hotdogs “might contain bits of brain or spinal cord and eschewing cuts sold with the bone.” Again, ew! Gross.

Bottom line: stick to lean, organic meat, and in the case of red meat, limit to one serving or so a week. If you can't get organic, do the best you can with a truly all natural variety. Feel good and live longer.

Some links:
Products - Foster Farms FAQ, Organic Valley, Niman Ranch
Other reasons to eat organic meat