Red meat has long been vilified, as its consumption is associated with many health problems. However, Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician and natural health guru, recommends an eating plan for some people that is very high in red meat and relatively high in fats. The diet consists of large percentages of two food sources other doctors have been telling people to limit or even eliminate.
Red meat is high in purine, one of two classes of nucleic acid, and important for metabolic signaling. The abundance of purine is one of the foundations of this one dietary plan suggested as part of Dr. Mercola’s nutritional typing program. His contention is that one person’s poison is what another person thrives on. He explains how different peoples’ metabolisms process foods differently, so while some people particularly look for a low-purine diet (such as those with gout), other people function poorly if they do NOT eat a diet high in purine.
One of the focal points of this recommendation is that because purine helps in energy metabolism, this diet is best for some individuals to give them optimal energy. Also, with the combination of healthy fats, plentiful vegetables and lack of dependence on grains, another notable feature is satiation. When people in need of this high-protein, high-purine diet have been eating otherwise, their main complaint is constant hunger and need to snack (usually on carbs); this diet eliminates that by providing high quality fats in addition to protein.
Dr. Mercola’s website features a free test to help determine the way your body metabolizes foods and then recommends one of three types of diets as the better approach for your body. People classified as “protein-types” will find the lists of foods and eating plans full of purine-rich foods—red meat, vegetables such as asparagus and cauliflower, and the dark portions of white meat (thighs, etc.). The diet features many particulars, one of which is a lack of grains—in fact, the first two weeks on the eating plan is recommended to be gluten free! Fruits are limited to certain ones identified as best for this metabolic type. The meals consist, always, of meat and vegetables, and the vegetables are always to be consumed with a source of healthy fat—everything from butter to nuts or avocado.
This diet is not without its critics. Joel Fuhrman, MD, takes issue with it for multiple reasons, in his article “Do-It-Yourself Metabolics for Meat Eaters.” Certain people are roundly discouraged from eating this way, as it directly leads to an overabundance of uric acid that can be very problematic for some conditions. Dr. Mercola does not recommend the plan for everyone—it’s not a carte blanche recommendation for meat-lovers to gorge themselves on burgers. (In fact, while every meal is centered on meat, some may be dismayed to find that recommendations include plenty of fish, and the portions may be too small for fulfill some meat lovers’ fantasies, not to mention the high vegetable content.) He lays out a detailed plan tweaked by decades of experience with patients at the Dr. Mercola Natural Health Clinic in Texas.
A Harvard study this spring came out with some surprising results when studying the health effects of consuming processed red meats versus unprocessed red meats (a distinction most previous studies don’t make). They found that while unprocessed red meat had no correlation with heart disease or diabetes, the consumption of processed red meat was found to increase heart disease rates by 42% and diabetes rates by 20%. (Click to read “Not All Red Meats are Heart-Unhealthy.”) Based on these results, attention is turning to the salt and nitrates used in processed meats as the real culprit in the health problems.
But again, even the researchers in this study don’t suggest an unbalanced diet overloaded with red meats; you don’t want meat consumption to displace the intake of fish and fresh produce (something Mercola’s protein-type diet is very aware of in its approach).
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