You Are What You Eat…Ate!

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Yep, that’s right. I’m taking you down a rabbit hole here. We’re all familiar with the adage “You Are What You Eat,” which relates to Hippocrates’ belief that “Food is Medicine.” Every single bite you take (or sip you drink!) contributes to a positive or negative hormonal reaction within your body; cumulatively, those bites and sips add up.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it this way, but your overall health directly correlates to the sum of your food and drink choices. Food can either be medicinal or detrimental to your health. Food is powerful.

Here’s where the rabbit hole comes in: You’re not only what you eat, but you’re also what you eat…ate!

Remnants of any animal’s feed and treatments—like corn, grains, antibiotics, growth hormones, and grass—are transferred to you. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you ingest traces of the pesticides or manure that nourished all of the fruits and veggies you eat.

Since you’re the sum of your food and drink choices, you’re also the sum of any nourishment your meat and produce received. Mind = blown?!

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the best sources of animal protein and produce so that you can be sure everything you eat was awesomely nourished prior to its demise. (RIP!)

Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) vs. 100% Grass-fed Meat

In the same way that you are what you eat, a cow raised in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is the sum of its diet of grains, hormones, antibiotics, and sometimes even candy. CAFO “farmers” (if you can even consider these operations “farming”…) feed their animals whatever is most convenient, which often translates to “cheapest” and “most fattening.” Thus, grains and candy win!

cows heads peeking out of cages in a confined animal feeding operation

Meat is often demonized because, when we imagine the face of grocery store meat, we picture the above. CAFO farming is neither healthy nor sustainable. Therefore, if you make a habit of eating CAFO meat, you’re negatively impacting your own health and the health of the environment. (To read more about the environmental impact of CAFO meat, click here.)

100% grass-fed meat is an entirely different story (thank goodness!). The cows raised on regenerative farms roam freely on acres of grass, breathe fresh air, and bask in sunlight.

Brown cows feeding on grass in the mountains

When you make a habit of eating 100% grass-fed meat (sometimes called “grass-fed, grass finished”), you may positively impact not only your own health, but also the health of the environment. That’s right—the process of regenerative farming can actually improve the essence of the soil!

FYI…Buying beef labeled “grass-fed” is not good enough because most cows raised in the U.S. start out on a pasture eating grass. Then, they’re transferred to feedlots and fed corn, grains, and other fattening crap. Since the cows ate some grass, sellers can deceivingly label the meat “grass-fed” to raise the price. Beware of this money trap!

Farmer’s markets, high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods, and even wholesalers like Costco sell 100% grass-fed meat. You just have to keep your peepers peeped!

If online shopping is your thing, e-grocery platforms like Thrive MarketButcher Box, and/or Crowd Cow sell high-quality animal protein, support regenerative farming practices, and take the guesswork out of shopping.

What about pork, chicken, and fish?

Same story, different animal!

Commercial, factory-farmed pigs and “broiler” chickens (chickens raised just for their meat) are inhumanely raised and nutrient-depleted; heritage-breed/pasture-raised pigs and chickens are nutrient-dense and part of a sustainable agricultural system.

Some fish farming practices are better than others, but wild is usually the best bet. However, you want to be sure the wild fish was bred in a sustainable manner. To find seafood guides by state, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site.

Again, you can buy pasture-raised pork; free-range, organic chicken; and wild fish at farmer’s markets, high-end grocery stores, and even Costco (sometimes! Not all pork/chicken/fish at Costco gets an A+ rating. Read the packaging!).

Or, you can order from an online grocery service like Thrive MarketButcher Box, and/or Vital Choice.

Okay, so what about produce?

If you’re eating non-organic produce, you’re likely ingesting a boatload of pesticides. However, farmers can use certain types of pesticides on organic produce, as well. Thus, produce is a tricky one. Read my prior post—“The Dirty Dozen: Produce You Should ALWAYS Buy Organic”—to shop smart!

Fortunately, there’s been a 300% increase in the availability of organic produce since 2002, so you can often find organic fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store. Still, visiting your local farmer’s market is probably the best option because you can actually chat (imagine that!) with farmers about their pesticide use.

Some other lesser-known organic produce purchasing options are:

Aren’t high-quality animal proteins, fruits, and vegetables more expensive?

Typically, yes.

However, I truly believe that paying more is worth it when it comes to 1) your health and 2) doing what’s best for the environment. Also, as Mark Hyman, M.D., points out, “…use meat as a condiment or as I like to say a ‘condi-meat.” Animal protein shouldn’t be your focus; prioritize vegetables at every meal!

I eat much less meat now than I used to, so I can afford to only buy the best stuff.

Also, feel free to buy frozen produce if it’s more cost-efficient! (Read my prior post “Frozen Produce Is Just As Good (If Not Better!) As Fresh Produce” to learn why.)

The bottom lines:

  1. Never forget that you are what you eat…ate! Cheaper animal protein and produce translates to poorer health. But…supply and demand, people! The more we demand 100% grass-fed/organic/pastured food, supply should go up and cost should go down!
  2. Embrace your local farmer’s market or a monthly subscription service (like the aforementioned Thrive MarketButcher Box, Crowd CowVital ChoiceImperfect Produce, and/or Farmbox Direct) to buy the highest-quality meat, poultry, pork, fish, and produce.
  3. Patronize restaurants that support local farmers and use only the best ingredients in their dishes. With just a little research, you can probably find a blog/resource listing the healthiest restaurants in your area. I just did a simple Google search and found this one for my city (New York)! (If you’re a New Yorker, you must eat at Hearth!)
  4. Ask questions to shop and eat smart. Utilize the knowledge of your local butcher, and don’t be afraid to ask your server the source of the beef, chicken, pork, and fish on the menu!

Any questions/comments? Share your thoughts below!


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Picture of cows in a feed lot operation above cows feeding on grass in a pasture above title - You are what you eat ate