For brain health, eating meat is one of the best steps you can take…
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, but with little or no meat, has long been touted as the best way to lower your risk for heart disease, prevent weight gain and reduce risk for certain cancers.
But as a medical doctor with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), I believe that meat (grass-fed beef…organic chicken, pork and lamb…and wild game and fish) has played a critical role in my recovery—and that meat can help protect against other autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and early cognitive impairment.
HOW MEAT BENEFITS THE BRAIN
• Meat provides vitamin B-12. A diet without meat raises your risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency. If your body doesn’t get enough B-12, you can develop neurological symptoms such as problems with balance and coordination, difficulties with decision-making and cognitive decline. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally only in animal foods such as clams, liver, salmon and beef. A synthetic form is often added to cereals and nutritional yeast, but I recommend avoiding gluten because many people are sensitive to it. Alternatively, you could take a B-12 supplement, but I prefer natural food sources, which supply additional vitamins and nutrients.
• Meat is the best source of complete proteins. Protein is essential to make, repair and maintain the structure of all the cells in our bodies, including cells in the brain. The amino acids found in protein help the brain produce crucial neurotransmitters that regulate mood and maintain and repair brain cells. If you don’t have enough protein to do this, brain function deteriorates.
Meat contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to manufacture protein. To get a complete protein from a nonmeat source, you would have to combine a grain and a legume, for example.
• Certain meats provide omega-3 fatty acids. Cell membranes throughout the body, including in the brain, rely on essential fatty acids to stay healthy. The brain is especially dependent on the omega–3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that are found in fish such as sardines, herring and anchovies (the fish I prefer to eat because small fish have less risk for heavy metal and plastic contamination) as well as organic chicken and grass-fed beef. These omega-3s help preserve the integrity of cell membranes in the brain and stave off neurological problems like mood disorders and cognitive decline.
While you can get alpha linolenic acid (ALA), another omega-3, from plant sources, your body can convert only small amounts of ALA into DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA supplements are available, but numerous studies have shown that foods high in omega-3s are more beneficial to brain health than supplements.
THE BEST MEAT FOR YOUR BRAIN
Most grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild game and fish are beneficial for brain health, but organ meats (particularly heart, liver and tongue) provide the most nutrition. Organ meats are chock-full of vitamins A and B and essential nutrients such as creatine, carnitine and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). There are a variety of ways to add organ meats to your meals and make them more palatable. To get the most nutrition from meat…
• Start with heart. Beef and bison heart taste a lot like steak, especially if you serve them up with mushrooms. Just don’t overcook organ meat, or it will be dry and tough. Cooking it to medium rare also helps the meat retain vitamins.
• Disguise liver. If you don’t like the taste of liver, purée small raw pieces of it in a blender with water to make a slurry. Add this mixture to soups, stews or chili, and let the food simmer a few minutes.
• Try sausage or liver pâté. Your local butcher can make a sausage out of ground liver and some other ground meat, such as pork or chicken. Start with a ratio of one part liver to six parts ground meat, and work up to a ratio of one to three. If you don’t like the taste of liver, ask the butcher to add spices to conceal it.
• Make a bone broth. Put the carcass of a chicken or beef or pork knuckle bones into a pot. Add one tablespoon of vinegar per one quart of water, and toss in one whole onion and carrot and a few cloves of garlic. Let the broth simmer for at least six hours, then strain out the bone, vegetables and foam. Use the broth as a stock for soup or drink it.
• Consider an organ meat supplement. If you just can’t stomach the idea of eating organ meat, consider taking a supplement. Good choice: Organ Delight from Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure (DrRons.com).
THE WAHLS PROTOCOL
Keep in mind that I’m not advocating a meat-only diet. In fact, the Wahls Protocol diet (the eating plan I developed to combat my own MS) starts by recommending six to nine cups a day (depending on your size and gender) of vegetables, fruits and berries (get twice as many veggies as fruits and berries).
In particular, I prefer green, leafy vegetables…sulfur-rich vegetables in the cabbage and onion families…deeply colored vegetables such as yams, beets, peppers and tomatoes…and brightly colored berries such as raspberries, strawberries and cranberries.
For meat, I recommend six to 12 ounces a day (depending on your size and gender) for disease treatment and prevention.
My regimen also incorporates a CoQ10 supplement, a spirulina or chlorella algae supplement and green tea—which is high in quercetin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.