Eating a 100% vegan diet I get asked this question often: Where do you get your protein?
Since Dr. Atkins came out with his high protein low carb diet, protein has been quite the rage. For a few decades, protein has been the answer to all kinds of questions.
How do I lose weight?
What should a balanced meal consist of?
Vegetables, starch, and protein.
How can I build more muscle?
I need a hearty meal that’s quick and filling. What should I make?
A protein shake.
These are just some of the common challenges that protein is supposedly the solution for. Not to mention, there are all kinds of diets out there that cater to high protein and low carb, such as the paleo diet, ketogenic diet and others.
High protein diets are often thought of as the solution to many physiological difficulties, and is painted a colorful picture in the realm of health. But, are high protein diets safe?
First, let’s talk about what proteins actually are.
Proteins are large molecules that play important roles in the body. Some of the functions of proteins include: antibodies protecting the body from viruses and bacteria, enzymes for essential chemical reactions, messengers, structure for the cells, transport and storage.
Proteins are made of smaller units called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids which can be combined to make a protein. The order of these amino acids determines the type of protein and its function.
Proteins are like a beaded necklace. The necklace is the protein, and the beads are individual amino acids.
How does the body respond to protein?
When we talk about the relevance of protein in the body, it is obviously very important, as it has so many vital roles.
However, the human body does not necessarily need the proteins we are eating. Let’s take a piece of chicken for example. When we eat that piece of chicken, which is a protein (the beaded necklace), the body cannot use that protein as is. In order for the body to use it for necessary functions, it must first break down this protein into individual amino acids (the beads), and then re-assemble these beads into the order necessary for specific bodily functions.
Remember that the order of amino acids in a protein determine the type of protein and its function. So let’s say the body is in need of a messenger protein. The chicken breast you just ate is not in itself a messenger protein. So the body will first need to dis-assemble the chicken into individual amino acids, and then re-assemble these amino acids into the exact order it needs to create a messenger protein. This takes time, energy and a whole lot of work!
So, what’s the whole point of all this?
The point is, high protein diets are not all they have been cracked up to be.
Proteins lack fiber and nutrients, slowing down digestion and leaving us with little to show for it. They leach energy from the body with their lengthy and taxing digestion process. In addition, proteins are very hard on the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands, essential components of an optimally functioning body. Digestion suffers immensely, as it is very hard for the human body to break down proteins.
Most proteins, especially animal proteins, are also acidic, which means they are on the opposite end of the PH scale that is required for human consumption. This is an important point because when the body is acidic (from eating too many acid PH foods like meat and dairy), amino acids from these proteins will tend to bind with minerals, metals and fats. This not only adds to toxicity and acidity in the body, but also creates a loss of available amino acids (building blocks of protein)! You can eat all the protein you want, but without proper bio-availability of amino acids, your body cannot use them.
The human species was designed to ingest and utilize fruits and vegetables, not heavy, dense proteins, and especially not in large quantities.
Please do not misunderstand. I’m not saying that eating protein is bad, but rather that high protein diets are destructive to the body’s organs and glands.
If you are on a high protein diet, or have ever been on one, what have you experienced in your body? How is your digestion? How is your energy level? Are you eliminating on a daily basis? How is/was your skin quality? These are some questions that may be worth exploring for yourself.
The body needs a very small amount of protein in a day, but many of us are over-consuming it and in turn, suffering the consequences.
Ok, so where do I get my protein from?
Great question! I thought you’d never ask.
The answer is fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. (Yes, fruits have amino acids!) These plants have amino acids, which do not need to be broken down first in order to be utilized by the body.
When we consume enough fruits and vegetables, our body takes from them what it needs, including amino acids and assembles them to perform important functions. There is no struggle to digest them, and as an added bonus, we are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals…naturally.
We are not only getting essential protein building blocks from these plants, but we are also getting fatty acids (building blocks of fats), and the healthy sugar we need to fuel our cells and survive.
Fruits and vegetables are detoxifying, nutrient rich, and alkaline. Alkaline is the ideal PH level for the human body, as we are an alkaline species. Many deaths occur from acidosis, where the body is too acidic (from eating too many acid foods) and cannot get itself back to an alkaline state fast enough to survive.
High protein diets: Nay! Highly overrated. There is little nutrition to be found in a high protein diet, and not only that, but it is highly destructive to the human body.
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