When Eating Beef and Eggs can Help Balance your Liver
Because according to Chinese medicine we are still in the season related to the liver (Wood), I am continuing to focus my posts on various things you can do to help keep your liver balanced. Don’t worry…soon enough we’ll be in the season related to Fire, and you’ll get to hear some completely new stuff. :-)
Western vs. Chinese “Liver”
When acupuncturists use the word “liver”, we sometimes mean the actual organ as recognized by western medicine. But more often than not we mean the functions and characteristics ascribed by Chinese medical theory. If you are my patient and you have any kind of liver imbalance (which most of us do at least on some level since the liver is related to stress), then you know by now some of the “Chinese” jobs of the liver:
- Keeping your Qi flowing smoothly
- Regulating stress
- Regulating the menses
One of the major roles of the liver according to Western medicine is breaking down fats. While we don’t recognize this as a function in Chinese medicine, what I DO recognize in my practice is that the more steps people take to help their “western” liver function well, the easier it is for it to do its Chinese jobs. So let’s talk a little bit about fats you can eat that will actually help your liver function better.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
I think we’ve all heard by now that fats are vastly different, some of them crucial for health and some disastrous. Two types of fats that have caused quite a bit of confusion are Omega 3 and Omega 6. It is common to hear “get your Omegas in!”. But it is really only Omega 3 that we need to increase in our diet, because our modern diet is so over-filled with Omega 6, which can actually be damaging. More specifically, it is the RATIO of Omega 6 to Omega 3 that is important. Ideally, we would have a 1:1 ratio of 6:3, but even 2:1 is a goal to shoot for.
The leaves of green plants have the Omega 3s, while the seeds are what store the Omega 6s. Grains are very high in Omega 6, and with all the processed and grain-based foods we all consume, we have ended up with a dangerously skewed ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Adding to the problem, almost all meat consumed in the US is fed a diet it was never meant to eat: grains.
Feedlot vs. Grass-fed Meat
When feedlot meat is analyzed, it is found to have a very unhealthy ratio of Omegas, due to this feeding of grain instead of grasses. When the same meat comes from animals that are allowed to eat their natural diet and graze on pasture, it has a much better ratio of Omegas, getting much closer to what is healthy for us. Grass fed beef can typically have a ratio of 3:1, while grain fed beef is commonly 20:1.
The chart below illustrates this:
This not only applies to meat, but to eggs as well. People often ask me during our nutrition counseling, “What about eggs?”. My answer should always be, “Well, that depends…what kind of eggs are you eating?” Because factory eggs are definitely very high in very bad fat, while pastured hens lay eggs with two to TWENTY TIMES the amount of Omega 3s than caged hens. From the local harvest website, “Pastured hens’ diets are naturally complemented with bugs, earthworms, and other such critters that give their eggs a huge nutritious oomph.” Therefore they also have:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
So you can see that taking hens and cows off the pasture and putting them in feedlots and cages takes all the good stuff out, and maximizes the bad.
Liver, Stress, and what to do to help both
To bring this all back to Chinese medicine and your “Chinese” liver, one way to help balance the liver is by decreasing stress. And studies show that a large intake of Omega 3 helps balance emotions and anxiety. So when the liver is not stressed out, it will be able to do all its Chinese jobs better, meaning any of you who have liver related symptoms will benefit from increasing your Omega 3s and dramatically decreasing your Omega 6s. Many of the farms listed in my “Wisdom” two weeks ago (and posted on my blog) offer grass-fed and pastured meat and egg options. We are blessed here in Fort Collins to have access to some of the best foods for keeping our liver happy.
So if you never thought you’d hear a health care provider say “Eat your meat and eggs!”, then this is your lucky day. :-) As long as it means you’re eliminating your feedlot meat and eggs, then you’re taking a huge step forward. But remember…GREENS is where the Omega 3s are, and GREEN is the color of Spring, and GREEN foods will be the BEST for balancing your liver. So don’t forget to have a huge pile of greens alongside that yummy meat!