Today I was thinking to myself, what would I want to know about nutrition (had I not studied it)? Where does one start?
This can vary, depending on your focus.
Are you trying to lose weight?
Increase your immune system?
Maintain your overall wellness?
With the lifestyle I lead, you can fulfill all of these, albeit you may have to adjust your intake just slightly in order to gain/lose weight. With the new year approaching my goal is to provide all of you with more nutrition and wellness tips, so that you have the tools to attain the healthiest version of you.
Whether you’re plant based, vegetarian, an omnivore, or consider yourself a straight up carnivore, protein is a hot topic. There is such a skewed perception when it comes to protein. I could really go on and on about this topic for hours. Who knows, this may be post one of many. We’ll see how it goes.
Even those who aren’t plant based or vegan, are asked how much protein they’re consuming. Because it is common to think we need XX amount of protein in order to lose weight or build muscle, etc. And this is true… to an extent.
So I’ll do my best to answer questions such as these.
– How much protein do we really need?
– Are vegetarians and vegans (or those who consider themselves plant-based) lacking protein?
– How does animal protein affect our body compared to plant based proteins?
– What are sources of plant based protein?
All valid questions!
The history of protein is interesting. In the 1800’s, protein was discovered and thought to be the most important nutrient. At the time, protein was thought to only exist in animal form, which was the “highest” quality. Of course human kind, wants the “highest” quality, however, how was this quantified back then? One factor people considered was increased body growth. This may be ideal for muscle mass and farm animals, but what comes with body growth? The growth of cancer cells, the contributing conditions for heart disease, and for young girls this could even result in elevated breast cancer risk from estrogen levels.
Fast forward a century, a panic initiated as people thought there was a protein deficiency contributing to malnutrition. This misconception was later debunked, and it was learned that the issue could have been due to changes in gut flora (we’ll talk about gut flora later, the gut it super important to our health).
Let’s discuss, what is considered the most perfect food for humans?
Human breast milk.
Is breast milk full of protein? No.
In fact, out of all mammals, human breast milk has one of the lowest contents of protein. And this is right where it needs to be.
As an adult, the best way to calculate your recommended amount of protein is to first start with your ideal weight in pounds, multiply by 4, and then divide by 10. You can add or subtract 6 pounds to the final answer to get an appropriate range, as everyone is a bit different and other variables come into play such as activity and actual weight.
Now we know how much protein we actually need. So, what is the best source of protein?
Well, what I’m about to share with you, is what made me evaluate the way I was eating. Have you heard of IGF-1?
IGF-1 is a cancer promoting growth hormone produced by the liver with the intake of protein (emphasis on CANCER). This hormone makes things grow, which when we are older, can lead to cancer. Studies have shown that the increase of this hormone is not associated with total protein intake. Rather, higher levels of this hormone was related to the intake of only animal protein (compared to plant protein).
Did you know that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
So, if we’re safer avoiding animal protein, what are our options for plant based protein?
(And remember, you may not need as much protein as you once thought. You can use the equation above to determine the proper amount for you.)
By now you know I don’t like to focus on certain nutrients offered by one food source. Yet I’m listing protein rich foods for all of you to consider as alternatives to animal protein. What you’ll find with many of these alternatives is that they provide other nutrients, so your intake of them is going to go above and beyond just protein.
The list is actually rather long, so here are some of my favorites:
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- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Nutritional Yeast
As I mentioned above, the list of plant proteins is extensive (organic tofu, legumes, seeds, peas, nuts, and whole grains), and these are just a few of my favorites. Challenge yourself to eat more of these mighty plant proteins, and less animal products. I bet you won’t find yourself hungry!