I'm going to spend the next few blog posts answering some questions. Every time someone wants to discuss my eating habits, I get the same questions over and over again . Starting with the #1 question I get, not only because it comes up so often, but because I feel it is vital that everyone has the facts about this overwhelmingly misguided perception perpetuated by the media and the-billions-of-dollars-a-year meat industry.
Where do you get your protein?
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this question...I could buy a billboard! First, I will discuss why we need protein, second, sources of protein and more importantly, third, I will explain why too much protein is bad NOT good.
In 1839, protein was discovered and since then has been revered as “THE” most important nutrient for the human body. (I could write pages on just protein; so, I'm going to try and control myself and make this as user-friendly as possible. I encourage you research this topic; check out the sources that I have cited at the end.) Protein is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids; essential and nonessential. Nonessential amino acids (11) are the ones our bodies manufacture themselves and we do not need to find in our diets. Essential amino acids (9) are the ones that we must consume through food sources. Animal sources of protein are complete proteins, which means they contain all the essential amino acids. Plant based proteins can be incomplete; whereas, not every plant contains all of the essential amino acids, but some do! (No worries about plants and amino acids! We'll discuss this later) Wait?! “Did you just say animal protein is better?!” NO! I said it was a complete protein. Yes, it contains all the essential amino acids; however, animal products are not a good source of protein. Animal products cause diseases. Check out some of these facts:
Ok, Ok, you are seeing it, right? Scientifically and clinically, the consumption of animal products has been shown to increase risk of all diseases. So play it safe and get your protein from plant sources.
Protein is found throughout the plant kingdom and shocking as this may be for some people, some plants have more protein than meat! GASP!! Now, don't go believing that myth that you have to eat “complementary proteins” meaning you have to eat certain plants in specific combinations to meet your amino acid needs. Eating a diet rich in plants will meet ALL of your needs. Jeff Novick, RD explains it best on his website: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/3/28_The_Myth_Of_Complimenting_Proteins.html
So what plants can we eat? ALL OF THEM!! Here's a great info-graphic showing the protein in plant foods. This graph is based on the percentage of protein per calorie. As you can see, plant foods are rich in protein. A majority of them containing between 20-30% protein!!
Now that you've got all the facts, STOP worrying about protein! Protein deficiency in the United States is extremely rare and only happens in persons not getting enough calories to meet their daily needs. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the average woman and man needs only 46-56g of protein per day, with the physically active individuals needing slightly more.
Something you do NEED to be concerned with is TOO MUCH protein! The majority of Americans get MORE than the recommended daily allowance! The body takes excessive amounts of protein, coverts them to fatty acids, which are then stored as fat. Also, the excess could be filtered through the liver and kidneys adding extra stress to these detoxifying organs. The consumption of higher amounts of protein have been linked to increased cancer rates, bone disorders, kidney problems (specifically kidney stones and cancer), liver diseases, and heart disease.
Stop worrying about protein, carbohydrates, and calories! Start eating plants and lots of them. Next, week I will continue the question series with “Do you eat bread?”.
Do you have a burning question you would like answered? Ask me in the comments or send me an email and I will try my best to help you out!
Peace, Love, Plants,