When people think of protein they automatically think of animal protein - chicken, beef, pork, eggs, seafood.. you get the point. And what about when you think of lean protein, that usually means chicken, turkey, eggs and fish right? Oh and we usually think of weight loss when we think of lean protein, can't forget that.
How many times have you read a diet that says "serving of lean protein" in it somewhere (most likely at every single meal). I am just going to go ahead and assume that we have all read - and probably tried - a diet that is supposed to promote weight loss that is high in lean protein and low in carbohydrates. I usually don't like to make assumptions but I'm pretty positive on this one because they're everywhere and for some reason we blindly follow these low carb, high protein diets because we see people have success on them. But when they don't work for us we are left confused, sick and most likely starving and feeling worse than we did before.
For some reason a lot of us have this image of protein being a completely clean food engraved into our brains but what most people don't know is that a diet that is high in protein (the animal kind) is actually extremely dangerous to our health and is one of the main reasons that we are in the middle of a full blown obesity and diet related disease epidemic.
The scary thing is that protein is not a magical weight loss food whatsoever, in fact it's actually one of the biggest factors contributing to obesity today.
I explained in my last post that protein is made up of Amino Acids which are the building blocks for muscles, bones and many hormones in our body's so yes protein is essential to our health, but too much of a good thing is never actually a good thing.
WITH EXCESS PROTEIN COMES..
With all of the talk in the media of high protein diets comes a high protein demand and to keep up with this high protein demand, a large amount of the excess meat is typically poor (cheap) quality coming from animals that are raised in overcrowded, dirty, confined barns or houses where they are are mistreated and fed a diet of GMO grains and corn and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. So when we choose to consume this meat we are quite literally consuming the herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs as well as the GMOs that these animals have been fed and exposed to in their (short) lifetime. Gross right?
In fact conventional animal protein is so high in antibiotics and synthetic hormones that it is actually leading to antibiotic resistance in humans due to the high transfer rate of these drugs from consuming their protein.
A diet that is high in animal protein is also extremely high in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat, all of which are major contributing factors to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney disease, calcium stones in the urinary tract and even cancer.
THE TERRIBLE TRIO
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood and cells, most of the cholesterol in your body is produced by the liver and the rest comes from foods you eat. There are two types of cholesterol; Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is the “bad” aka unhealthy kind of cholesterol that builds up in your arteries and High-density lipoprotein (HDL)which is the “good” aka healthy kind of cholesterol that transports excess cholesterol out of your arteries to your liver to be removed. Cholesterol itself is not the bad guy, in fact our body needs some cholesterol in order to make hormones, vitamin D and digestive fluids, that is why our liver produces a small amount. It's when our cholesterol intake increases from our diet that it becomes a problem.
When our diet is high in cholesterol it starts to build up in the arteries, clogging them, making them less flexible and hardening them, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. When our arteries become clogged our heart has to work extra hard to push blood through and eventually this can damage your arteries and contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The daily MAXIMUM recommended intake for cholesterol based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet is 300mg per day but an ideal intake is 200mg per day and under.
Saturated fat is a type of fat that is typically solid at room temperature (think butter, the fat on a steak, etc). Most saturated fats come from animal sources like meat and dairy products but there are some that come from certain plant foods as well like palm oil and coconut oil. Too much saturated fat in the diet raises the LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood which as we just discussed increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The daily MAXIMUM recommended intake for saturated fat based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet is 30g for men and 20g for women but consuming under 15g per day is ideal.
Trans fat or trans fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that occur in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats (hydrogenated vegetable oil) for use in packaged and processed foods. There are two types of trans fats found in foods; naturally-occurring and artificial trans fats but the main dietary source of trans fat is from the artificial trans fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in processed foods. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels and lower your HDL cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
The daily MAXIMUM recommended intake for trans fat based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet is 5g per day but an ideal intake is anywhere between 0g-2g per day.
*Less is always more when it comes to these three things.*
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE CONSUME EXCESS AMINO ACIDS
Our body is constantly breaking down, recycling and reusing proteins and amino acids, so much so that we actually have enough amino acids stored in our blood plasma pool to sustain us for long periods of time without needing to consume aminos from protein in the diet. Our blood level of aminos never really drops unless we are in serious starvation mode (I'm talking weeks into starvation mode) so when we eat a meal that is high in protein (and amino acids) our metabolism raises because our body is trying to get rid of the excess aminos that it cannot store. So with that being said if you eat a meal that is high in both protein and fat (I'm looking at you Keto people) your body will ultimately prioritize breaking down and eliminating the protein and will store the fat (hello weight gain) from the meal. Unfortunately for all of us, our body's can store unlimited excess fats, our fat stores just get bigger and multiply as we need them but when we consume excess protein or carbohydrates (glucose) our body can just metabolize them.
EXCESS PROTEIN AND THE PLANET
If you follow me on instagram (shameless plug) then you already know just how passionate I am about animal welfare and the environment when it comes to the meat and dairy industry. It's no surprise that animal protein takes a lot more financial and environmental resources to cultivate than plant protein, I mean you literally have to raise, feed, drug, impregnate and slaughter the animals whereas all you have to do for a plant is water and harvest it. I bet you find know jay roughly 35% of the worlds grains are fed to animals and 80% of the worlds antibiotics are used on those same animals in the animal protein industry. Not to mention that 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.
Fun Fact: It takes 683 gallons of water to produce just 1 gallon of milk and a cow in the dairy industry can drink up to 50 gallons of water a day. Alternatively 1 pound of tofu requires 244 gallons of water, thats more than a 50% decrease..
HOW TO LOWER YOUR CONSUMPTION
Okay don't get me wrong, I know that change is hard and a lot of us have been raised in households that put animal protein up on a pedestal at every single meal. I'm not expecting you to change your ways overnight or even at all, what I am trying to do is shed some light on the fact that there has been a gross misrepresentation about how much protein we need in our diet and that it is actually hurting our health and our planet in the long run. The meat and dairy industry spends a lot of money to keep these facts in the dark, they pay associations to put their products on their "heart healthy" and "diabetes friendly" meal plans and they market themselves in a way that quite frankly confuses the shit out of the general population. Trust me, I know!
If you read this whole post and could not care less then that is okay, all that really matters to me is that you are informed of these things. But if you read this and are now thinking "holy shit I need to get a handle on my protein addiction and seriously start lowering my consumption" (which you should be) then I have some tips for you my friend!
- Start participating in Meatless Monday's - I know it's a trend but it's actually a really amazing trend with a ton of benefits. Ditching animal protein for the entire day once a week dramatically decreases your weekly consumption and helps the planet - if you were to skip meat and cheese one day a week for a year it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks!
- Incorporate more plant based proteins - everything has protein in it but the highest plant based protein sources are; lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, spirulina, quinoa, chia seeds and hemp hearts.
- Be adventurous - this is such a great opportunity to try new things that you might not have thought to try before.
- Find a plant based cook book that actually excites you - my favourites are the Thug Kitchen series and the Oh She Glows series.
- Look at the cuisines of countries with well known plant based staple dishes for inspiration - India and Mexico for are both great ones.
- Do your own research - knowledge is power and the more you know about this stuff the more you can spread the word and feel confident in your decision to lower your consumption and have the facts to back it up!
- Create a support system - educate your friends and family and get them on board, support makes making a change so much easier!
The most important thing when it comes to trying anything new is making small, smart and sustainable changes so that you don't shock your mind or body. If you go crazy and add 4 new types of legumes and grains into your daily diet you are going to end up shocking your digestive system and will most likely become backed up. Alternatively if you cut all animal protein out of your diet and don't replace them with plant sources of protein you will realistically be starving and lethargic that's never fun either.
As you all know I am not fully vegan so please don't take this as me preaching a vegan diet because that is not my intention. I do eat plant based 95% of the time but I also consume the occasional local free range egg or wild local salmon and I take collagen peptides daily because THAT is what feels good to me. I'm just trying to keep you guys informed on a subject that is close to my heart and also pretty controversial and confusing, I have so many clients and close friends and loved ones that have come to me feeling inflamed and sick but have no clue as to why and every time that I suggest it may be due to their animal protein consumption they fight me on it, until they actually try limiting their intake. I'm trying to get you to understand that we don't need to consume animal protein every day (or ever) but I do believe that moderation is the key to both happiness and health it's important to always do what feels right to you and what makes your body and mind feel good.
The ideal diet for you is the one you feel the best on - remember that, always.