4 Protein Sources That Are Not So Healthy

While eating plenty of protein is essential, many people obsess over it. Yes, protein is a very important component of our diets — but all protein isn’t created equal! Just stuffing your face with any protein you can find can lead to overconsumption of unhealthy foods like conventional meat and highly processed protein bars. 

Whether you’re vegan or Paleo, let’s take a look at some of the most unhealthy forms of protein that you should avoid.

What?! From a nutritional standpoint, certain cuts of pork are a very healthy source of protein. Humanely-raised and pastured pigs excluded — a rare breed to find in your local market — there are many potential problems with pork as a regular source of protein. The standard practices for raising pigs is horrendous, and most conventionally raised hogs in particular contain one of myriad viruses. 

According to a Consumer reports study, almost 70 percent of the 148 raw pork samples tested were contaminated with the volatile bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica, which can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. Additionally, a study in the Lancet showed that Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus can, in certain circumstances, actually be transmitted to human cells.

While pork and some delicious bacon is fine from a protein standpoint, your best bet is to only consume pork if you know it has been raised in an exquisitely clean and humane manner. Every time you eat conventional pork, your body is potentially being exposed to these numerous viruses and toxins.

Peanuts can easily become contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin — a result from the storing process. Even if your peanuts are organic, this mold can still occur and is highly inflammatory in the body, so you’re better off choosing almonds or walnuts instead.

Additionally, peanuts are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can throw off our omega-3:omega-6 balance. An overload of omega-6s is highly common in the American diet and creates imbalance and inflammation in the body.

Processed soy
While the jury is still out on whether soy is a health food or not, we do know that highly processed foods are usually a less healthy option. Does your energy bar contain soy protein isolate or hydrolyzed soy protein? If so, this is a fractioned protein made through a highly chemical process—meaning you can’t make it at home. 

Unfermented soy products also contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid that impede nutrition and digestion and lead to mineral deficiencies. Even tofu, which is made from coagulating unfermented soy milk, is comparable in health to processed cheese slices. So tofu, soy milk, soy cheeses and other soy-based products aren’t quite as wholesome as you thought. 

A better choice is tempeh, which is a traditional form of fermented soy. Fermentation unlocks a lot of the nutrients and tempeh in particular is rich in isoflavones, which are super anti-inflammatory in the body and especially benefit the heart. But be aware, 90 percent of U.S. soy crops are genetically modified, so always buy organic.

Processed meat products
Many processed meats contain additives like preservatives and nitrates that are unhealthy to the body. Studies have also shown that processed meats lead to a higher risk of developing cancer. While we are at it, factory-farmed meats are loaded with pesticides, hormones and inflammatory agents that actually do harm to your body. 

Instead, always opt for grass-fed, pastured, humanely-raised animal products. You are what you eat and so are animals. Animals that eat natural, nutrient-dense products like grass are going to be healthier to eat than animals who consume grains and soy (especially GMO). Whatever the animals eat is essentially going to go into your body as well, so always choose animal products from animals who lived good, healthy lives.

Not all protein sources are created equal. Did any of these surprise you? What are your favorite healthy protein choices? Share below!

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