If you were to attend a wedding with a standout kosher spread including meat and other items, would you feel guilty of partaking of the food due to dietary concerns? I think the answer would often be yes, but it doesn’t have to be. After analyzing where modern research has come in terms of how to consume food, there is room to partake of both plant-based food and meat, poultry and fish.
In a previous article, we referenced the Mediterranean diet which has become very popular. Research has shown that on the whole, consuming large amount of fruits and vegetables and fish provides the optimum nutritional benefits to keep the body functioning properly. However, there’s more to the story. Recently, another diet, the Flexitarian diet, has also become popular. It calls for mostly plant-based consumption but notes that meat in moderation is also beneficial to consume. This is very important because some diets shun meat totally, but this diet does not. And the Mediterranean diet has many options when it comes to meat.
The origin of the plant-based versus meat movement was brought to the forefront by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II., who together authored The China Study which studied a large sample of individuals and extracted many hypotheses. One of them was that the plant-based diet has many advantages from a health perspective and that meat consumption can be responsible for the development of health ailments, such as cancer and heart disease. But this study must be taken in perspective.
Meat, Poultry and Fish
There is no question that meat has benefits as will soon be discussed. However, it’s important to note that there is also a hierarchy in that fish is healthier than poultry and poultry healthier than meat. As pointed out by heart.org, “In general, red meats…have more saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins…. such as beans. Saturated and trans fats can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse. The unsaturated fats in fish, such as salmon, actually have health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some plant sources, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest and the most common type of stroke”
Meat consumption should be watched, as Dr. Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard notes, “Consider red meat a luxury and not a staple food. The idea becomes yes to eating red meat but limiting the intake.” As Leah Wilheim, a registered dietitian (RD), points out, “According to the CDC, if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day, the Department of Health advises that you cut down to 70g, which is the average daily consumption in the UK. The serving size per meal of meat is no more than 3 ounces which is the size of a deck of cards. It is not a big size especially since meat shrinks when it is cooked.”
One method of trying to reduce meat intake is to serve it on the side or simply to equal out the ounces per week. Wilheim also points out, “Researchers say that red meat contains important vitamins and nutrients such as, protein, vitamin B-12, and iron.” Iron is a crucial mineral as noted by Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, a scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. He says, “The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body.” And Wilheim explains, “There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme is the most bio available in the body and is recommended. Examples of heme iron include – beef, chicken liver, organ meats, canned sardines and poultry. Non-heme sources include fortified cereals, beans, lentils, spinach, potato with skin, nuts and seeds.” The easy absorption of heme comes through meat, but for health purposes it’s better in moderation and through lean and not processed (preserved with additives) meats. The Cleveland clinic recommends eating, “Lean meat, skinless poultry and fish – no more than 6 oz. (cooked) per day; fatty fish eaten at least twice a week.”
I recently spoke with Mr. Yehuda Fink, the owner of OU Kosher certified David Elliot Poultry. This is a company with a long history that has been family owned and operated for over 3 generations. They take health seriously and their products can serve as a good option towards meeting your meat quota.
Wilheim further notes the basics when it comes to vitamins. She says, “There are fat soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamins K,E,D,A are fat soluble and all other vitamins including all B vitamins, vitamin C, niacin and folate are water-soluble. The difference is how they are broken down and where they are stored and how they leave the body. Fat soluble vitamins are contained in fats – fatty foods. They break down in fat and are stored in the liver (fatty liver) or fatty tissue. Water-soluble vitamins leave the body much faster. Each vitamin has a unique function in the body, they are needed in just the perfect amount and without that they can lead to deficiencies. Any vitamin or mineral that is taken too much above it’s RDA (recommended daily allowance) can have adverse effects and should not be consumed in large amounts. Your body needs all food groups and vitamins and minerals in appropriate amounts it is like fueling a car, if you put too much it’s not good and if your put too little it is not good.”
When it comes to vitamins, it’s also important to understand where they can be crucial for brain function. There’s a blood-brain barrier, a lining around the brain, that allows nutrients into the brain but deflects waste from entering. This barrier can wear down over time. Vitamin D is essential in keeping this barrier healthy and vibrant. If not attained through sunlight, a minimum does of 1000 (IU) of D3 is recommended. One option of where to obtain this vitamin is from the OU kosher certified company Maxi Health. The exact product name is Maxi D3 1000. Other important nutrients to consume to maintain a vibrant blood barrier are B1, Magnesium and in terms of fatty acids, Omega 3. As we mentioned in a previous article, achieving balanced nutrition helps the gut which is responsible for producing 95% of serotonin that is transported to the brain. This serotonin is responsible for controlling one’s mood. So with the proper intake of healthy proteins, vitamins and minerals a sound body and mind can result.
On the subject of herbs, Wilheim notes, “Herbs are complicated. Generally, they are okay to take but some herbs should not be taken because they have unhealthy effects on the body and can cause permanent damage on the liver. If someone eats a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, they can get their appropriate intake of vitamins.”
Another issue with herbs is that they are not FDA tested, meaning they skip any scrutiny in medically based trials. That being said, many herbs have become popular for use and can help in many ways, but it’s best to take them under the care of your doctor. If you’re looking to rub oils on your skin, such as coconut and sesame oil, before sleep, it has been observed that it can help with anti-anxiety, sleep and mood.
When you are heading to that wedding look at it as an experiment in how you want to eat. Fill your plate with nice salads, lean meats and fruits and vegetables. It’s true that your meat consumption should be watched, but it should also be taken advantage of for the benefits it provides. Try regulating portions and equaling 3 to 5 ounces on a daily basis or 21 ounces per week. Vitamins and minerals should be attained through proper eating, and if not possible, supplemented. Herbs should be taken under the care of your doctor as they do not undergo FDA trials, but can be useful in many areas.