For better health, eat chicken wings, grass-fed butter

This Aug. 15, 2011 photo shows Rocco DiSpirito's warm salad of grilled chicken thighs, figs and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Before serving this dish, place the chicken thigh halves around the salad, then sprinkle the salad with the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
The skinny on eating healthier? Fat.

WTOP's Rachel Nania | November 30, -0001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON The road to better health is paved with chicken wings and butter. 

OK, it’s not that simple but physician and Los Angeles Lakers nutrition program director Dr. Catherine Shanahan says they’re a great place to start.

Shanahan is the author of “Deep Nutrition,” a book that calls for the return of “traditional foods” in place of the processed sugars and oils that are all too common on grocery store shelves.

“We abandoned what had essentially been an extremely healthy diet that most of the world was following, and we went to something completely different,” Shanahan said about modern eating habits.

In “Deep Nutrition,” Shanahan outlines the four pillars of the human diet — foods that are the backbone of diets that healthy communities around the world have been eating for generations: fresh foods (fruits and vegetables), fermented and sprouted foods, meats cooked on the bone, and organ meats.

If a few of the pillars sound a bit archaic for your palate, think of it in terms of chicken wings (or thighs), pickles and pâté.

“It’s not a fad diet. It’s returning us back to what kept us healthy for thousands of years before we all started getting sick,” Shanahan said.

So, how exactly do chicken wings improve your health? Shanahan says the four food groups interact with the very building blocks of human wellness: DNA.  

“Antioxidants [found in fresh fruits and vegetables] help protect your body against some of the processes that cause cellular aging and that actually can damage DNA,” Shanahan said.

Eating meat on the bone, and then stock made from those bones, helps joint health.

“It acts as an anti-inflammatory for our joints and interacts with the cells of our body that produce collagen, and collagen is what keeps us young,” she added.

Getting rid of vegetable oils and replacing them with natural fats helps to sharpen the mind and improve energy levels, and eating organ meat, such as liverwurst, floods the body with nutrients.

“We’ve heard about ‘eat your rainbow’ when it comes to vegetables, because the different-colored vegetables have different vitamins. Well, the same applies to the different organs of an animal. They all have a different nutritional profile that can benefit us in different ways, but very powerfully,” Shanahan said.

If you’re looking to ease into Shanahan’s food philosophy, choosing thigh meat over breast meat — which is popular among dieters for containing lots of protein and few calories — for your next meal is a simple swap.

“Yeah, everybody wants to get the maximum amount of protein, but with the Lakers, we help them understand that a truly complete protein builds more than just your muscle,” Shanahan said. “It’s important to do something for the connective tissue, which holds the muscle to the bone and lubricates the joints.”

The next time you’re at the grocery store, read the labels of your favorite foods.

“Grab what you’ve been buying and turn it around and look and see if it has one of the six vegetable oils, for example soy and canola you’ll see those in a lot of foods,” said Shanahan, who added that avoiding foods that contain these oils will help with brain function.

“When your brain wants energy, it makes you hungry. But if your brain is not being poisoned with these toxic fats and too much sugar, and it’s getting the healthy fats that are part of a traditional diet and lots of antioxidants, it will work better,” Shanahan said.

Limiting vegetable oils may even help to improve your mood and optimize your immune system.

“When you’re in a better mood, you’re more likely to take better care of everything else in your life, whether we’re talking about your own diet or exercising or organizing your file cabinet or being in a better mood at work or around your kids,” Shanahan said.

Finally, if you can only grab one thing on your next trip to the store, Shanahan recommends throwing some grass-fed butter into the cart. Its flavor is different from traditional butters, and so is its nutritional value it contains vitamins and omega-3s.

“It’s going to make all of your vegetables taste better and you’re going to get the natural fats from it,” she added.

That’s a change we can all get behind.

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