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The Zen of Protein Nutrition

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So you’ve heard about the importance of including more plant based foods in your diet. You’ve heard that eating in that way prevents cancers and heart attacks AND has EVEN been shown to reverse diabetes and cardiovascular degeneration. It’s no secret that animal consumption simply isn’t possible long term—between the hacking down of the rainforest to grow feed for cattle and methane farting and burping (Yes!!) cows, the environment is beyond compromised and our Earth simply cannot sustain herself (hello—that means us folks too) like this.


These facts are clear.


But how does this help you if you simply don’t have the information about your NEEDS and HOW you can get them met without throwing a big piece of animal protein down your throat?


I’m going to debunk the Protein Myth for you and give you some great (cheap) alternatives—and then at least you’ll have the info needed to make an informed choice (because that’s what it’s really all about—you choose based on solid information).


THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE
Protein is a vital macronutrient comprised of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for all the major parts of the lean human body—pretty important guys. Think of your body as being the Lego Village while the amino acids are the little components used to create each structure. The word protein itself is derived from protos, a Greek word meaning ‘first’, since protein is the basic material of all living cells.


Back to the amino acids now … There are some twenty-five different amino acids and they are pieced together in varying ways to make different types of proteins. Similarly, the letters E I L V can spell either live, evil or vile, depending on how they are strung together—same components but different outcome. Taking this analogy of letters and words a step further, the proteins form the material for our cells and organs in much the same way that letters make words that combine to form sentences and paragraphs.


Ever heard of the term ‘Essential amino acids’? So this is about the fact that there are eight basic guys that the body simply has to have to function (no joke!). Furthermore, from these eight, most of the other seventeen can be made. The balance of these eight amino acids in the protein of any given food determines its quality and usability. So how much protein do you need and what is the best quality protein?


ARE YOU CONSUMING ENOUGH?
Another confusing area! Poof! Let’s demystify.


The beliefs held in the early 1900s that we need approximately 120 grams of protein daily simply does not hold water any longer. Wait for it … those early findings were based on research funded largely by the meat and dairy industries—no surprises what they were voting for in shopping carts. Modern research from around the world now prescribes an intake of twenty to thirty-five grams a day for men and non-pregnant women. Protein deficiency is not something most people in the West need to be concerned about. On the contrary …


Taking a look at the Standard American Diet (SAD), one finds over consumption of protein resulting from over consumption of meat and dairy products. According a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the U.S. from 2007-2008, this diet provides a net protein intake of 101.9 grams to males and 70.1 grams to females a day—more than double the recommended daily allowance as suggest by national dietary guidelines. Believe me, this is NOT good news.


THE TROUBLE WITH TOO MUCH PROTEIN
Without going into too much detail at this time (a later blog post will be more focused on this, I still need to get your recommendations in), these are a few of the major issues (trust me, there are plenty more):


Kidney Diseases: Too much protein intake leads to an excess of nitrogen in the body. This in turn leads to too much strain on the kidneys which must expel the extra nitrogen through urine.


Cancer: The 1997 report of the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer, noted that meaty, high-protein diets were linked with some types of cancer – particularly colon cancer.


Premature aging: High meat consumption has been linked with tissue, cell and organ degeneration which are precursors for premature aging.


Osteoporosis and Kidney Stones: Protein is acidic—particularly meat. The body likes to be slightly alkaline. One way that your body compensates to buffer against acidity is to pull calcium out of the bones to make alkaline salts in the blood, which acts as a buffer against the acidity. With increased calcium excretion, one is at a greater risk for kidney stones (Ouch!).


THE BEST PROTEIN FOODS
There are pay-offs to be considered here. The best foods to eat for protein are not necessarily those with the highest protein content. You need to look at other factors, such as fat content too. Yes, I’m suggesting you lay off the lamb chops.


Studies have proved that all plant-based foods contain different amino acids at variable concentrations. Combining different plant proteins is enough to meet the desired protein requirements of the body.


A person eating a healthy balanced diet will not experience any shortfall in their protein intake. In a balanced and varied diet, where an assortment of proteins are eaten, the amino acids of one food compensates for the deficiency of others.


Here are my top ten favorite vegan protein sources:


1. Soy


2. Quinoa


3. Lentils


4. Beans


5. Peas and Chickpeas


6. Seeds


7. Nuts and nut butters


8. Seitan


9. Leafy greens


10. Whole grains


Okay! I think I’ve pretty much loaded you up here with that solid info so that you can make an informed shopping and eating decision when it comes to your proteins. Next post …  Let’s start preparing these ingredients.


Love, light and Spirulina*


Kerri


*Spirulina: A microscopic blue-green vegetable algae. It is a dried water vegetable eaten since the days of the Aztecs of Central America. The superior complete protein of this blue-green microalgae made it an important part of their diet—it contains ALL the amino acids. It provides a remarkable combination of beta carotene, chlorophyll, B-vitamins, complete protein, GLA, and a host of enzymes and minerals. Mix powdered Spirulina with water, fresh juice or a smoothie for instant digestion and results!

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