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Not so long ago, we worried about the saturated fat content in many sources of protein. To avoid saturated fat, people ate fat-free foods that were loaded with refined carbs and sugar. As it turns out, the sugar did far more harm than the fat. Now we have discovered that the saturated fat in dairy and animal protein has a neutral impact on health, and no negative impact on heart health. We would have been better off avoiding the refined carbs, while also making sure the protein we were eating was clean.

The distinction between healthy protein and dangerous protein relates to whether it is clean or dirty. Animal protein from feed lots is often loaded with pesticide residues, up to six different growth hormones, and perhaps the most toxic agent of all—nitrosamines.

Pesticides aren’t only associated with cancer, they can cause memory loss as well. Growth hormones are associated with increased cancer risk. If you eat animals fed growth hormones to stimulate weight gain, you consume those weight-gain inducing hormones, too.

Nitrosamines are preservative chemicals used in the production of most processed meats (such as sandwich meats, hot dogs, sausages, pepperoni, ham, and bacon) to extend their shelf life. Not only are they associated with much greater risk for cancer and overall death, but recent studies have shown that they are brain toxins, too. Researchers have found that administering nitrosamines to rodents will not only cause insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver, but will lead to immediate neurodegenerative injury and Alzheimer’s disease. In studies when they injected a nitrosamine-related compound into mice, they immediately acquired insulin resistance and showed signs of brain injury. The bottom line—nitrates in processed meats (deli meats, ham, and bacon) can cause permanent neurological harm and increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Healthy sources of clean protein include:

  • Wild seafood
  • Cage-free, organic-fed poultry
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Pasture and organically raised pork

The challenge is that these products are sometimes hard to find.

Vegetarian sources of protein are also excellent choices—enjoy beans, organic/non-GMO edamame and tofu, organic yogurt, and protein powders in shakes.

From a recent trip to New Zealand and Australia, I was pleasantly surprised to see that cage-free, organic-fed poultry and grass fed beef were advertised on menus and restaurant marketing, and were readily available. I happened to be speaking for a physician group touring the area. Nearly 70% of the beef produced in Australia is grass-fed, and New Zealand has strict laws that make their dairy and animal products really clean. It made me sad to think why it is so hard to get clean protein in the USA.

The good news is that things are changing gradually, and more and more options are coming available. The staff at my own medical clinic have recently found a great source for clean protein ButcherBox and they have started ordering a mixed box of protein, which ships direct to your door on the schedule you choose.

If you need help finding animal protein without pesticides, hormones, and nitrates, with free shipping and good quality, check out the link below for ButcherBox—even their bacon is chemical and nitrate free.

ButcherBox, Back to Nature.

Also, for excellent quality clean seafood, I highly recommend Vital Choice, Wild Seafood & Organics.

I’m hopeful one day it will be easy to find and enjoy clean food. Until that day, keep searching!


I wish you the best of health!

Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS