Paleo Diet Proteins and Why Animals Matter

Humans, cave man and modern man, are omnivores. The Paleo lifestyle builds on that meat-eating heritage. Anthropologists agree that our earliest ancestors were meat eaters, and scientists estimate that our genes are 99.9 percent the same as they were back then. Meat provides us with protein, essential fatty acids, and vitamins — just as it did for our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Our ancestors ate as much as approximately 3 pounds of protein a day! The meat they ate gave them an abundance of protein, essential fatty acids, and vitamins. It allowed them to build strong muscle and to store the fuel they needed for long walks and short bursts of energy (to, say, outrun a predator or take down dinner).

Modern cave men and women should you invest in the highest-quality protein sources you can afford. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Happy animals are healthy animals. And eating healthy animals makes you healthier. As much as possible, choose lean, grass-fed, and free-range meat. You earn bonus points for good health if it's also organic, and it should always be free of antibiotics and other fillers. Beef, buffalo, game, lamb, goat, turkey, chicken, and fish/seafood are all good sources.

  • Conventional can be okay, too. If a tight budget means you need to buy store-bought, conventional meat, you can still vastly improve your health. Choose lean cuts and trim visible fat before cooking, and then drain as much of the released fat as you can after cooking.

  • Go fishing! Another valuable protein source to pile on your plate is wild-caught, sustainable fish. Your best bets are fattier, cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, and herring. Tuna packed in olive oil is also a good choice. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for more recommendations and a helpful mobile app.

  • Scramble up some eggs. Eggs are a Paleo protein powerhouse. Rich in many key nutrients, especially fat-soluble vitamins A and D, egg yolk is also loaded with a B vitamin that's super brain food. Look for organic, pastured eggs with omega-3 for the best fatty acid profile. (Eggs are one food where you shouldn't settle for conventional production methods.)

  • Get wild! Wild animal meat — venison, rabbit, bear, wild-caught fish, even wild boar — is an excellent choice. It's very lean and full of healthy omega-3 fats. If you're going to splurge a bit on your food bill — or really imitate hunter-gatherers and do the hunting yourself — choosing wild animal meat is a wise way to do it.

Animal proteins help you reduce excess body fat, build lean muscle, and feed your brain with the nutrients it needs for peak performance. Incorporating adequate animal protein in your Paleo approach will vastly improve your health and well-being.

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