Archive for April, 2009

The Great Protein Myth

Posted in Health on April 30, 2009 by Powered By Produce

The first question I always get after telling someone I’m a vegetarian is, “But how do you get enough protein?” The idea that meat is the only source of protein is a myth that has been ridiculously perpetuated through our culture (thanks in part to the USDA, who protects their beef farmers… more on that in a future post). The way Americans talk about protein, you’d think protein deficiency was the numer one health risk. PS – it’s not. In fact, it’s not even on the list of ailments doctors are worried about in any country where basic caloric needs are being met. You’d have to be suffering from starvation (or be on a really terrible crash diet) to acquire a protein deficiency, but at that point, protein deficiency probably wouldn’t be your biggest risk.

Instead, what doctors are concerned about is an intake of too much protein. Humans only need 10-15% of their calories to come from protein , but the average American consumes twice this ammount daily. (Pregnant women and athletes need slightly more, but I’m not talking about people who go to the gym once a day, I’m talking about professional athletes who work out as a job.)

So, why is excess protein harmful? Because your body can store excess carbohydrates and fats, but not protein. The excess protein gets converted into either fat or acid. To try to neutralize this excess acid, your kidneys leech calcium from your bones, stressing the kidneys and putting you at a higher risk of osteoperosis. (Coincidence that the highest rates of osteoperosis are in the most-meat-eating countries? No.)

What about the high protein diets, like Atkins? As your kidneys furiously try to rid the body of excess protein, you lose a significant amount of water which shows up on the scale as weight loss.

But, I still haven’t answered the question of how I, as a vegetarian, get my protein. Of course we all know that beans contain protein (23-54% calories from protein), but so do just about all other unrefined foods including: lettuce (34%), broccoli (45%), spinach (49%), cauliflower (40%), celery (21%), potatoes (11%), grains (8-31%), nuts and seeds (8-21%), and even fruits (5-8%). It would be near impossible to not get enough protein.

There is also a myth floating around out there that plant proteins are “incomplete” proteins. Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 8 “essential” amino acids that we must get from our food because our body can not produce them on its own. While it’s true that meat contains all 8 of these essential amino acids, so do plants. Some plants may be lower or higher in different types of amino acids, but no plants are missing any of them. So, just by not eating the exact same thing over and over, all of them are acquired in ample amounts.

Knowledge Is Power

Posted in Miscellaneous on April 29, 2009 by Powered By Produce

We live in a culture obsessed with food, yet we know so little about what we eat. We are so far removed from the source (the actual cows, or fields of grain) that of course we never consider where the Big Mac we’re gobbling down came from, or what it contains.

My naive quest for the perfect diet led me into a world that had never before crossed my mind. As I learned more and more about where my food comes from, I became more and more fascinated with this process, of which consumers are so unaware.

I think it is important to know what you are putting into your body (and what your hard-earned money is paying for), so I am starting this blog to share information about the food we are consuming.