Believe it or not, proteins contain the same complex substances as carbohydrates and fats: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen — but that’s where they stop and start. Protein is also made up of 16 percent nitrogen.

Why does that matter? Our bodies need nitrogen to make proteins in muscles, skin, blood, hair, nails and DNA. We obtain nitrogen from protein-containing foods in our diet, such as meat, fish, legumes, nuts, eggs, milk and many vegetables, too.

The term “protein” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to be in first place.” We all require a sufficient amount of protein per day to build strength to do our work, whether it be studying English, building a spreadsheet or planting a garden. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average male and 46 grams per day for the average woman. If you’re eating foods like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy in some form every day, you’re probably already doing pretty well, protein-wise.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, it may be a bit more challenging to get all the protein and essential amino acids that the body needs. Actually, there are plenty of high protein sources which come from plant-based foods. I am not advocating one diet or the other (remember: Choicetarian) as I probably eat a plant-based diet at least three times per week.

As with any food we put into our bodies, protein is not just about quantity—it’s about quality. The sources of those proteins make a difference. Grass fed beef is far superior to conventional for many reasons. Grass fed beef contains less total fat, has more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E.

And as we approach the holidays, turkey is another food to consider. Since the 1960s, large-scale poultry producers have added arsenic to their poultry feed. Although inorganic arsenic is a toxin, small amounts speed the growth of the birds, make their breast meat pinker and kill certain bacteria.

Is this practice harmful for humans? Chronic exposure to high levels of arsenic has been linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a decline in brain function. But as long as poultry meat has fewer than 0.5 parts of arsenic per million, the USDA has decreed that it is safe to eat (Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 116).

And of course we’re all aware of the health benefits wild salmon has over farmed. It’s also critical for the environment if we want to continue to consume these types of proteins.

Today is the final day of the season for Long Meadow Ranch at the Napa Farmers’ Market. Stock up on a wide variety of their local, grass-fed beef for the winter.

Grass-Fed Meatloaf

If you have time to sauté the veggies first, they are more tender after baking. Personally, I like the crunch so I skip this step. I also add ground flax-seed as a binder, but one egg is fine too.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 large carrot, grated

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1/2 zucchini, diced fine or grated

2 cloves garlic, grated, pressed or minced

2 lbs. grass fed ground beef

Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2- 1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup ground flax seed, or 1 egg lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix all ingredients gently as to not overwork the meat. Form into oblong shape and place on parchment lined baking sheet or a square Pyrex dish. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on your preference. Top with one of the pestos from my last article on 10-11-16.

Karen Schuppert is your local nutritionist promoting a healthy appetite for a thriving Napa. For more recipes and class information visit her website www.karenschuppert.com

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