When we chew the fat about eating animal skin; Whether it’s in the form of bacon, salmon skin or roasted chicken skin; It’s important to note what might lead many eager carnivores to shun it. Many media and health advocacy groups have demonized animal skin as something to be avoided. This is because it contains a high amount of fat. We’re told to “remove all visible skin and fat” when preparing meats and animal-based recipes.
Yet, as many Paleo devotees know, “good” fat can be a delicious and healthy addition to the diet. Salmon skin boasts a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. While organic, free-range poultry skin has high amounts of animal fat. Plus substances like collagen and gelatin, which keep our joints lubricated and strengthen our hair and nails. Additionally, the amino acids present in it provide a nice counterbalance to muscle meats. Which some mistakenly go overboard on eating when embarking on a Paleo diet.
Foods like muscle meats and eggs contain high levels of an amino acid known as methionine. In metabolizing this amino acid, it increases the need for another important amino acid, glycine. Where’s glycine found most abundantly? In animal skin and bones.
So, is it Paleo?
While it might seem obvious that eating it goes with the Paleo philosophy of “whole animal” (or nose-to-tail); Dire warnings from the mainstream media still might lead some to avoid eating it. It is generally touted as a good thing by many in the Paleo community.
What do the Paleo gurus say about animal skin?
Chris Kresser says: “It’s easy to eat too much muscle meat when starting the Paleo diet and not enough of the other parts of the animal (like the skin or organ meats). Because organ meats, skin, and bones (in the form of bone broth) are not a common part of the Standard American Diet (SAD), we don’t think much about incorporating these foods into our diet when we first start. However, it is crucial to include these parts (along with muscle meat) in order to nourish ourselves properly…Think about it: traditional cultures value every part of the animal and use them all in some capacity.
It is only very recently that we have started to pick and choose what parts of the animal we consume. Eating the whole animal ensures a balanced intake of all the amino acids. So, it is wise to do just that!Mark Sisson says: “Animal skin is fantastic. Although I wouldn’t recommend eating charred, crispy animal skin every day of the week (although braised, gently-cooked animal skin is fine all the time). Animal skin in and of itself is highly nutritious. As long as the animal in question was healthy and fed a good diet. I would never shy away from a serving of animal skin. Nell Stephenson says: “I have no qualms admitting it- one of my favorite parts of a meal featuring pan-seared or grilled or oven roasted wild salmon or black cod is the skin.
So much so, that it makes me cringe when I stop by the fish monger’s counter at my local market and see all the fillets have been skinned. Far too many people are still frightened of (good) fat and certainly would never deign to actually, purposely eat the skin. But they’re missing out! Not only is the taste fantastic, it’s actually part of the whole concept of eating the whole animal.
Fear, not the crispy goodness. Animal skin is Paleo if you can verify that the animal it came from was raised and fed in a healthy and sustainable way. It can be a nutritious (and tasty) addition to a Paleo regimen.