Protein. It’s vital for our health. But did you know that too much protein can actually increase the rate of chronic disease and weight gain? The other day I was at a popular “healthy” chain where they offered a gluten-free, hemp-seed brownie, advertised to have tons of protein. First of all, not only was this thing laden with sugar, but after eating a balanced meal, more protein is redundant. It can actually be detrimental to your health, as studies have shown that eating more protein than your body needs causes weight gain, inflammation, dehydration, stress on your kidneys, and loss of important bone minerals.
The average American consumes 100-120 grams of protein a day, which is about two to three times the amount we need. Despite these statistics, it still seems everyone is paranoid about getting enough of the stuff. When in reality, chances are you don’t even have to worry about protein deficiency, as it is almost nonexistent in developed countries.
How much protein do I need?
The USDA’s recommendation is .36 gram of protein for every pound of body weight. However if you are pregnant or lactating, are an athlete trying to build muscle and/or you work out more than an hour at least four times a week, or are under stress, you need .45 gram per pound of body weight.
Where should I get my protein from?
Whether you choose to get your protein from animals or plants is completely up to you. Being vegetarian is a lifestyle choice that should come from a genuine desire to change your diet, not because someone told you to do so. Alternatively, if you are eating meat, it is important to get it from a healthy and sustainable source.
Is it possible to get enough protein without eating meat?!
One of the most popular misconceptions that people have about a plant based diet is that it is impossible to get enough protein without meat. Well guess what? I’m here to inform you that this is a myth!
It is entirely possible to get your daily requirement of protein without eating meat. In fact, the leanest, cleanest sources of protein are beans and other legumes, as less than five percent of their calories come from fat. They are also free of cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics. A variety of plant-based protein powders can also be found on the market today. This is an excellent way for vegetarians and vegans to make sure they are covered. I put a heaping scoop everyday in my morning smoothie.
What about protein from meat?
Meat consumption has dramatically increased in the US over the past century, and sadly, the quality of meat has declined. A large amount of the meat consumed is of poor quality, originating in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where animals are kept in unclean and inhumane conditions. These animals are fed a diet of mostly GMO grains instead of grass, resulting in meat that is full of Omega 6’s. Furthermore, these animals are injected with hormones and antibiotics that also end up on your plate.
Grass-fed and pastured meat (as well as dairy and eggs) is superior to that from animals raised in CAFOs in many ways:
- Higher in total Omega 3’s
- Higher in CLA, a potential cancer fighter
- Higher in vitamin E
- Higher in the B vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
- Higher in the minerals magnesium, potassium, and calcium
- Higher in beta-carotene
When you are next faced with the decision between factory farmed meat and organic, pastured meat, remember that a healthy animal means a healthy you.
Happy clean eating!
Health Coach Jenna