Food Sourcing Tips: Maximizing Nutrient Density and Minimizing Contaminants
by the Near Country Provisions Team
Trying to eat healthily can be downright challenging, even for the best-intentioned and informed among us.
We wanted to share some tips for healthful cooking and eating, based on our particular expertise sourcing nutrient-dense, additive-free meat, fish and dairy in the Washington-Baltimore area.
We won’t opine here on the benefits of eating fruits and veggies (which are many!), or on the complexities of healthily consuming grains, but rather focus on proteins, which is what we know.
Tip #1: Pasture-raised meat and dairy is more nutrient-dense than factory-farmed meat
There are a lot of reasons to avoid meat from industrial farms, as they abuse not only their animal occupants but also the environment and, often, their workers. But let’s focus on nutrition. Meat that comes from animals who live freely at pasture their whole lives, foraging for the plants and critters they naturally eat, and getting exercise, is denser in nutrients including vitamins A, D and E, carotenoids, riboflavin and thiamine, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, fully pasture-raised animals aren’t confined in close quarters, which means they don’t need prophylactic antibiotics, so they can produce antibiotic-free meat. Finally, if the farmers you source from use regenerative-agriculture practices, it is possible that they will have eliminated use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, which harm local ecosystems as well as the body.
Melville, Katie, Ph.D, Why Pasture-Raised Animals are Better for Your Health and the Environment, on chriskresser.com, with 63 references to studies from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other researchers.
Tip #2: Cold-water fatty fish are crucial sources of Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids and specifically one called DHA are essential to human health, and under-represented in many modern diets. You actually can get Omega-3s from pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed beef and dairy (see above), but they are found more densely in “fatty” cold-water fish. Salmon is the most famous and popular of these in the West, and Herring and Sardines are great options, but we like to source Spanish Mackerel, which is populous in the wild, runs in Atlantic waters near Washington, and has a wonderful, fragrant flavor profile.
National Institutes of Health, Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, available on NIH Office of Dietary Supplements website.
Kresser, Chris, M.S., Why Fish Stomps Flax as a Source of Omega-3, on chriskresser.com.
Tip #3: Organ meats can round out a complete diet, and may be more accessible than you think
Organ meats are chock full of nutrients, notably the B-vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., A, D, E and K), choline, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. For good reason, our ancestors didn’t avoid them, nor do many modern cultures. If you haven’t yet acquired the taste for these ingredients, consider looking to relatable ethnic traditions that integrate them into balanced dishes, for example: Banh Mi (pork liver, Vietnamese); Liver Mousse (chicken liver, French); Chopped Liver (chicken liver, Ashkenazi Jewish); Steak & Kidney Pie (beef kidney, English); Sweetbreads (beef thymus, French).
Coyle, Daisy, APD, Are Organ Meats Healthy, appearing on healthline.com, with 28 references to studies from NIH and other researchers
We hope you find these tips helpful. Please share any feedback or questions you have with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!