Have Your Veggies… and Protein too!
Hello my powerful Plante Lifers!
In the spirit of this month’s theme of Clean Eating, I’m diving deep into the power of plant protein! Now, I know the subject of plant protein vs. animal protein can be a little touchy for some, but I’m here to tell you—you can have your veggies… and protein too.
The average American adult consumes between 100 and 120 grams of protein each day—and unfortunately most of that is coming from high fat animal products like red meat and cow dairy. Those 120 grams are two to three times the USDA recommended amount (46 grams/day for women, 56 grams/day for men)! Now, we all know that the American food industries overwhelmingly push animal protein and dairy consumption, even if it’s not the best for our bodies. I mean, when was the last time you saw a commercial for lentils?
By making you wonder, “Where’s the beef?” or “Got Milk?”, it creates an environment of scarcity and need, but there is no such thing as a protein deficiency in industrialized countries, so you can relax.
Still, protein is a very essential component of a healthy diet. This macronutrient helps build strong bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. It’s used to create the enzymes and hormones that regulate your body and mind. Plus, if you want glossy hair and long nails, FYI – they are almost entirely made from protein. However, as (unhealthy) protein consumption increases, so do chronic diseases, such as inflammation, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
In The China Study, “one of the largest comprehensive studies of human nutrition ever conducted,” the negative effects of too much animal protein were staggering: “researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.”
I mean WTF!? But there is good news. The study also showed that a whole foods, plant-based diet, in addition to generally being better for you, may even reverse the effects of heart disease. So, the key here is increasing the quality of the protein you’re eating, not the quantity.
It’s long been debated whether you can get the same benefits of plant protein as you can from animals, and the answer is “YES!” But if you still need convincing, READ ON for more reasons to add the power of plant protein to your diet and my fav sources of healthy protein (both flora and fauna!)
Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. I am not a vegan. I am a healthy carnivore who carefully and consciously chooses the meat I consume. I have tried ALL the options (vegetarian, vegan, raw, you name it), and my body just did not do very well with that way of eating. I function better with a small amount of high quality animal protein.
But that is just me. You do you, babe.
If you’re interested in diving a little deeper on what might be best for you, I totally recommend checking out the book Eat Right For Your Type by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo. According to D’Adamo, your blood type can help determine what kinds of foods your body processes best. Type A’s tends to be vegetarian. Type O’s (like me) tend to be carnivores. Type B’s tends to be neutral.
So this article isn’t about wooing you to one side of the vegan debate or the other. It’s just to help you make healthy, conscious choices in the food you consume.
We touched on the importance of the energetics of food briefly a few weeks ago when I was talking about Fabulous Fats. The energy of the animals that we take into our body truly matters. The energy of an animal that is cared for, provided space to roam freely and graze on healthy, natural feed sources is night and day from the animals stuck in small cages, standing in their own filth, eating GMO grains, scared shitless until they die.
Just going to say it straight: Unhealthy animals yield unhealthy meat, period.
That is why it’s so important to start incorporating more plant protein sources into your diet! Also, the amount of water used and the methane gas released into the atmosphere from ranched cows is a major component of drought and the greenhouse effect. This is why so many people advocate for Meatless Mondays. If people just stopped eating meat one day a week, it would have an enormous effect on our planet.
Despite what you may have heard, a combo of plants can give you the same protein you can get from animals. Yes, there is a difference in the protein chains, but while the protein from meat is a complete protein chain, you’re also getting all the other bad benefits from the meat with it, like increased calories, bad fats and cholesterol. Plant sources may not offer the full protein chain by themselves, but when you combine them together, you can complete the full chains. So mix and match!
My Favorite Plant Sources of Protein:
• Lentils – 1 cup of cooked lentils = 18 grams
• Legumes, like garbanzos or black beans – 1 cup cooked = 14.5 grams
• Hemp Seeds – 3 tablespoons = 10 grams
• Quinoa – 1 cup, cooked = 9 grams
• Kale – 2 cups, chopped = 4.5 grams
(P.S. If you’re not a big kale fan, just remember this amount cooks down to a small portion.)
If none of these options are your style, here is a list of the highest plant protein sources.
I know it can seem really daunting to change the way we think about animal consumption. It’s such a huge part of the American diet. We’re constantly told that we need so much animal protein to stay strong and healthy, when we really don’t. So if you’re going to continue to eat meat (like I am, so no judgement!), it is essential to know where your meat is coming from.
I buy my meat from the farmers at my local farmer’s market. I guarantee, unless you’re in a food desert, there is a market near you with a vendor selling wild seafood and fresh meat. This way, you know exactly where your meat is coming from.
And don’t forget about the fish! Wild caught fish is amazing, but just be careful of deep sea fish because of the high levels of mercury and heavy metals in the oceans right now. Focus on Atlantic Mackerel, wild-caught Alaskan Salmon, Sablefish/Black Cod, and even the underrated Sardine. The same rules of energetics apply to fish as any other animal protein; just say no to factory farming. These fish experience the same awful confinement and health issues as their four-legged friends.
If you end up missing the weekly farmer’s market, check out Whole Foods and their selection of pastured-centered, organic meats. Look for this certified humane seal on packaged products as well: