The word protein literally means “primary substance.” It’s an appropriate name. For every tissue in the body, from brain to little fingernail, is built of and repaired by protein. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are central factors in most body processes too. They make antibodies against infection, create hormones and ensure you have enough haemoglobin in your red blood cells. Every enzyme has protein as its basic component. This is why we need good quality, clean protein from eggs, nuts, and organic, fermented, soy products if you are vegetarian. If you are not vegetarian, then fresh fish gleaned from clean waters, organic poultry, wild game, and organic meat from animals free to graze is ideal.
THE ANIMAL QUESTION
Whether we like it or not, the highest quality protein is animal-based. And the most important nutritional feature of both meat and fish is their cellular structure. For it is very similar to our own. Nutrients we absorb from animal proteins are easily transformed into our own tissue and blood. Even small amounts of top quality animal protein can be enormously strengthening to anyone deficient in strength and energy. In addition to being the best power foods available, all good quality animal protein boasts an abundance of minerals and trace minerals.
SHUN FACTORY FARMING
Not only is caged and physically restricted animal farming an abomination in relation to the horrific suffering it imposes. Such domestic meat and much farmed fish is laden with hormones, poisons and antibiotics. If you routinely eat large quantities of meat, you can end up not only with a high level of uric acid in your body, but with a tendency to form a lot of mucus and to build up toxicity in your own body. This is why when I eat meat—and I prefer fish or game—I eat only certified organic meat from free range animals. The difference in flavor is undeniable. Also, I know that the animals I’m eating have been carefully raised and are free of both excess fat and toxicity.
When selecting meat or fish, there are two major considerations: Make sure it’s fresh, and as unprocessed as possible. Buy fresh fish and seafood instead of the processed forms, such as crab cakes or smoked and breaded fish. There’s no harm in having the odd slice of smoked salmon, provided it is naturally smoked— however, the more a fish is processed the fewer benefits it will bring for high level health. (And most smoked salmon has sugar added to it these days, so read labels carefully.)
BLESSED OMEGA 3s
If possible, add fish to your diet once or twice a week. For fish is rich in “pre-formed” omega-3 fatty acids—DHA and EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the levels of triglycerides—blood fats characteristic of insulin resistance syndrome which can put you at risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also spur fat burning, as well as lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart function.
Often, flaxseed oil is promoted as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. And it is—at least in the sense that flax contains a great deal of linolenic acid, precursor to DHA and EPA. The problem is that, when you are relying on flaxseed for your omega-3 requirements, your body has to convert linolenic acid to DHA and EPA for this to be beneficial. Most people can’t make this conversion—especially if they have eaten a lot of trans-fatty acids, or an abundance of omega-6 fats, in the past. Also: Omega-3 from flax oil is a shorter chain fatty acid, which in some people is changed into arachidonic acid. When in excess, this causes inflammation. By contrast, EPA and DHA in fish oils are great anti-inflammatories.
If you are overweight or insulin resistant, it is likely that your body cannot make this conversion, possibly because you, like most of us these days, have taken in an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids in comparison to the omega-3s. That’s why taking a good fish oil is wise (see below for my favorite).
MAKE IT FRESH
The key to good fish is buying it fresh. Ask the person serving you which fish is the freshest, and what days of the week different kinds of fish arrive in the shop. You can tell a lot about the freshness of fish by its smell and look. Fresh fish does not smell fishy. It smells more like the salty bite of a sea breeze. If it’s a whole fish you are looking at, pull back its gills. They should be bright red. The moment they go pale pink or grey, you know the fish has been sitting in the shop too long. Try poking the flesh of the fish with your finger as well. If it springs back instead of forming an indentation, then you’re lucky enough to have a piece of fresh fish on your hands. Check out the eye of the fish, too. It should be dome-shaped and clear, not sunken or murky.
The meats we get today are a far cry from those our Paleolithic ancestors hunted. The closest you can come these days is wild boar, rabbit, buffalo, venison and kangaroo. These meats are higher in protein and lower in fat than the meat from domestically farmed animals. Where a piece of meat from wild game boasts about 22 grams of protein in each 100 gram portion, domestic meat can sometimes contain as little as 15 or 16 grams. Wild meat is also much lower in fat. The ordinary meat that you buy in the supermarket is six times as fatty and only about three quarters as rich in protein as that of game meat. That being said, all organic red meats like beef and lamb from grazed animals are excellent sources of zinc, a mineral that’s enormously important—not only for insulin balance but for the skin and the reproductive system. Free-range and organic meat is far better than factory farmed in every way.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
I was a vegetarian for twenty years of my life, and I believe that a vegetarian diet is ideal for some. In my mid thirties, however, I discovered that vegetarianism was not ideal for me. This may well have been because my ancestors, being Nordic, spent most of their lives living on fish, salted meat and whatever cabbage they could dig up from frozen ground. Our genetic makeup determines to a great extent what works for us and what doesn’t. When I added fish and game to my meals, my energy levels soared. I looked and felt better.
Each of us is unique. This not only determines what kind of foods we thrive on; it also determines what kinds of foods are best for us at any particular time of our life. For instance, many women at menopause find they do much better by cutting meat out of their diet. Others discover just the opposite—that they need to add more animal protein. It’s a question of “suck it and see”. Following the principles of a good diet, explore what works for you. Don’t hesitate to shift from eating more fruit at one time of your life to more vegetables at another, more fish at another. The human body is always changing, as are our needs for various foods.
I’d like to share with you a couple of my favorite recipes. Try them out and let me know what you think. If you have favorite protein recipes of your own, do send them to me. I will share them with others and of course credit you for them.
CRUNCHY GREEN PRAWNS
When it comes to prawns, green means raw. These are the best. You can buy them fresh or frozen in every form—shelled, unshelled, whole, or heads removed. If you’re lucky enough to find fresh ones, make sure they really are fresh since, like other shellfish, prawns go off fast. Eat them the day you buy them. I like to eat them whole, partly because they are so beautiful and partly because I like the crunchy texture of the shells. I always eat the shells since the shells are filled with chitin—a protein substance which cosmetic manufacturers now use to strengthen skin from both within and without. Like most shellfish, prawns are rich in iodine and in the antioxidants zinc and selenium. Prawns are great for people who eat very little, because they are an easily-digested form of top quality protein. They are also a good source of calcium, iodine and the important omega-3 fatty acids, which not only protect the heart but offer good support to hormonal health, skin health and beauty. Crunchy Green Prawns can be cooked under a grill or on a barbecue. You can even flash fry them on a teppen yaki grill or in a heavy frying pan if you like. They are delicious hot. But you can also make them for a picnic and serve them cold.
What You Need
750g of King prawns, uncooked. You may peel and de-vein them if you wish.
2 limes, cut in wedges
2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, chopped
For the Marinade:
3–4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of spring onions, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50g of fresh ginger, finely shredded
A small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The juice and finely shredded zest of 2 small limes (if you can’t get limes then use 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons of sake, tamari or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds broken up with a mortar and pestle
Coarse-ground black pepper to taste
Snow pea sprout heads to use as a garnish (optional)
Wash the prawns carefully in cold water and then dry with a tea towel. Place all of the ingredients for the marinade, except the lime zest, chopped garlic and 1/4 of the chopped coriander into a food processor or blender. Purée to a paste. Pour into a bowl, add the garlic, the lime or lemon zest and the remaining chopped coriander and mustard seeds, then mix into the paste by hand. Place the prawns in the bowl and, using your hands, turn them over and over until they are covered with the paste. Put on to a flat glass dish and cover. Set it in a cool place—the fridge itself if it happens to be the middle of summer—for at least three hours.
Cook on a teppen yaki grill, a barbecue or under a grill in the oven until they are crunchy. Serve with lime wedges. Don’t throw away any of the marinade—cooked or uncooked—that still remains. It is delicious to spread over the crunchy prawns. It takes only a couple of minutes a side to fry these and very little more under a hot grill or on a barbecue—all you want is for them to turn opaque. However you cook them, eat them with your fingers—shell and all. All sensuous food tastes better this way, but prawns especially. I serve them with a combination of basmati rice and wild rice—about half and half—and a bright green salad of wild rocket with whatever fresh herbs, from basil to lovage, that I can harvest from the garden or find at the market.
AND FOR MY VEGETARIAN FRIENDS:
CORIANDER ORGANIC TOFU
Thanks to the intense flavor of coriander, this herb works well to enhance the bland flavor of tofu. This recipe goes well with steamed vegetables—especially broccoli—and kasha (steamed buckwheat). Make a tofu sandwich of it, or add this tofu to a salad to make it a one-bowl meal rich in protein and in plant factors for health.
What You Need
400g of firm organic tofu (non-GMO)
2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil
2” finger of fresh ginger, shredded fine
1/2 cup of fresh coriander, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of tamari
1 teaspoon of wild honey, or a pinch of granular stevia
Sea salt and freshly-ground red pepper to taste
Cut the tofu crosswise into slices that are approximately 3/8 inch thick. Mix together all the other ingredients in a bowl, then dip each tofu slice into the mixture you have created. Heat a heavy frying pan grill or teppen yaki grill. Use enough olive oil or coconut oil on top of the grill so the tofu will not stick. Place the tofu on the grill, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly-ground red peppercorns, and cook at a high temperature until browned. Turn and brown again. Serve immediately as a tofu sandwich or in a tofu salad or simply as is, with loads of beautifully colored fresh vegetables. The whole cooking process takes no more than 3–5 minutes.
I hope you enjoy them.