My beef with protein

complete proteinListening to the Food Revolution Summit and staying with my mother these last few weeks have been an eye-opener for me. The things I thought were obvious to the rest of the world clearly are not. My mother has been on a diet pretty much since she came out of the womb and her latest craze has been a high protein, low carb diet. I’m not a fan of these diets because many people think that high protein means greasy bacon and burgers. Sure, they lose weight but at the expense of their arteries and kidneys. To each his/her own though.

What gets my goat the most about Ling Ling’s new diet is that she’s using yogurt as her source of protein. Adding to my frustration is that I witnessed my friend’s 3-year-old child eat four sausage patties for dinner and ask for two more like it was nothing. Plus, she washed it all down with a sugary yogurt drink. Am I the only one that thinks meat and dairy are not ideal sources of protein, for anyone? Am I taking crazy pills?

This is definitely not a rant to get you to go vegan or vegetarian. It’s a battle I know I can’t win. I could wax poetic about all the benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet: it’s humane, it takes far less land (and resources such as water) to grow vegetables compared to livestock, it doesn’t pollute our environment, etc… but you’ve probably heard all this before and you may have too much on your plate already to worry about the bigger picture. I gotcha. All I’m asking is that you consider your own health. All I ask is that if you’re going to all the trouble to be on a diet and get healthy than please take that extra step and think about the quality of food you’re ingesting, not just the quantity.

Here are Johns Hopkins’ findings on the role dairy and meat play in cancer development (I strongly encourage you to read the entire list here):

  • Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion.
  • Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.
  • When the person’s immune system is strong, the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.
  • An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.
  • Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus.
  • Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic; it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken, rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones, and parasites, which are all harmful.
  • Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remains in the intestines and becomes putrefied, leading to more toxic build-up.
  • Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from meat, or eating less meat, more enzymes are available to attack the protein walls of cancer cells, allowing the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

The other downside to using milk products as your source of protein and calcium is….well there are many actually. Here is what Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has to say:

  • Clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones.
  • A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children.
  • It is possible to decrease the risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as kale, broccoli, and other leafy green vegetables and beans.
  • Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet. Diets high in fat and especially in saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease and can cause other serious health problems.
  • A low-fat, plant-based diet that eliminates dairy products, in combination with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may also reverse it. —Yes, heart disease can actually be reversed without medicine or operations!!!!
  • Consumption of dairy products has also been linked to higher risk for various cancers, especially to cancers of the reproductive system. Most significantly, dairy product consumption has been linked to increased risk for prostate and breast cancers.
  • Milk contains contaminants that range from hormones to pesticides.
  • Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in dairy products pose health risks for children and encourage the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Here is what the PCRM specifically has to say about yogurt:

Yogurt has gained an undeserved reputation as a healthful snack, but the high-sugar, high-calorie nutritional content actually makes yogurt comparable to ice cream or pudding. In addition, dairy consumption is linked with increases in both ovarian and prostate cancer. Men who consume the highest amounts of yogurt raise their risk of prostate cancer by 52 percent.

Sorry to say, milk and yogurt does not do a body good. It’s does a body very bad. I know, I know, I’ve totally burst your bubble haven’t I? Whoops, my bad. There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. No worries. People always ask me how I manage to stay alive (and chubs even!) without eating meat and only enjoying a minimal amount of dairy. Clearly, somehow, I do manage because my body hasn’t completely fallen apart yet. I’ll admit to completely hating fruits and vegetables. They’re totally gross. If I had my druthers, I’d happily exist only on carbs. My compromise is that every day I hide all of the healthy stuff in a smoothie: kale (yuck!), carrots, frozen berries, almonds, celery, apples, flax, cayenne pepper (helps my digestion immensely), oats, honey, etc… Lately, I’ve stopped using the pre-made protein powders because they’re loaded with flavorings and excess sugar and many of them are made with dairy derived proteins which defeats the whole purpose.

So how do I get my protein, you ask? My lightbulb moment came during a recent “discussion” with my mother over her belief that yogurt was a great source of protein.  I decided to add about a cup of cooked quinoa to my regular smoothie concoction to see what it tasted like and low and behold, it was actually delicious. My skeptical mother even agreed with me for once. If you don’t know, quinoa is a complete protein grain with all eight essential amino acids, it’s super easy to cook, any grocery store carries it, it’s much cheaper than a protein powder, and you can make it in bulk and store it in the fridge for future smoothies. I’m completely sold on it. So if you’re making smoothies, which I suggest you do if you’re like me and hate to eat healthy, sneak some cooked quinoa in there and forget the meat and dairy.

Kashi actually has a fun website devoted to protein and it’s super easy to use. First it helps you calculate your daily protein requirement based on weight and activity level (apparently I need around 51g). Then it provides a planner so you can compare and contrast different foods. For example, one egg has 6.2g, an 8 oz yogurt has 14g, one cup of quinoa has 24g and a 3 oz hunk of beef has 24.9g. Don’t fret over any of this though, most Americans get twice as much protein as they need–it adds up quickly. For example, by using the Kashi calculator and planner, I can see that just my daily smoothie provides me with 37g. I’m almost to my 51g in one fell swoop. Unless you barely eat anything or are an athlete, don’t worry your pretty lil head over not getting enough. Just worry about where it’s coming from and what undesirables (hormones, cholesterol, antibiotics, sugar…) are coming along for the ride.

There’s a batch of cooked quinoa that I’ve been working from and it’s already blended into this smoothie. You can’t even tell, it just thickens it and adds a slightly nutty flavor. If you don’t like the taste, just rinse off the quinoa before you cook it.



Drug use & cancer: An unfortunate contrast

A field of Steph’s favorite flowers.

Yesterday, I lost an old friend to leukemia. We worked together at Planned Parenthood for almost nine wonderful years and let me tell you, she was one of the kindest people you would ever meet. Honestly, I cannot think of a single moment when she was mean or annoying or unfriendly or too busy to be kind. She was a sweet, gentle soul who was always giggling and despite impossible odds, she always managed to keep herself out of office politics. Steph was a young girl–several years younger than I–and not only did she leave behind her PP family but she also left behind a young son and husband. I can’t imagine how hard it’s going to be for her son to deal with losing his mother way too early in his life.

Steph’s struggles with cancer began in July of 2012 and yesterday her body finally gave up and understandably sought peace. Cancer is such an impossible battle. I watched it literally consume my sister’s body until there was nothing left. I admire anyone who bravely fights an illness of this kind and the people who stick by their side the whole way. Take it from me, watching a loved one go through something like that is beyond painful. It takes all the strength you possess and more.

I’ve noticed that people who face life-threatening illness tend to buckle down and prepare themselves for the fight of their lives. They develop an unshakable will and determination to do whatever it takes to live. However, I can’t help but consider the contrast too. I think of the people out there who have their health and are not facing death, yet they give up way before their time. A friend of mine lost the love of her life last Christmas Eve. His death was in part due to drug use. She has not gotten over this loss and probably never will. To add insult to injury, just a few days ago, almost exactly a year later, she lost a good friend to drug use. There’s a lot of shame around using drugs, so much so that even close friends are unaware of one’s private struggles with addiction. That’s a lot of energy spent hiding one’s pain from the world and I can see how it would be consuming. I hope for all of those suffering that the will to live overcomes shame and that help is sought.

Hard, deadly drugs seem to be becoming more prevalent in our society today. My 46-year-old brother has lost several friends in the past few years to drugs. He lives in Ocean City, MD and heroin use seems to be exploding there. This absolutely shocked me to hear because, first of all, I thought that only rock stars and Hollywood actresses did heroin and secondly, well…doesn’t everyone and their mother know that heroin is one of the worst recreational drugs one could ever take? If you’re going to a resort town to party, why the heck would you pursue a potential overdose of a toxic substance? Am I alone in this? I just don’t get it. When I was down there last, we went to Rehoboth Beach, DE for some food and they’d just busted a bunch of people selling heroin needles right on the beach. This is the place where we spent our summers as a family! Even in our hometown, they’re finding meth labs every day. What the hell are people thinking?

Rest in peace my friend. Until we meet again.

It’s this contrast that I find puzzling. Some people will fight with every last fiber of the being to live and some easily give up. I’m not going to sugar coat any of this and I have no desire to be judgemental but this isn’t an issue of education or lack there of. The entire world knows that heroin, meth and the like are toxic and potentially lethal. When you begin taking drugs like this, you must know in some capacity that you are giving up on life in some way shape or form. Yes, it’s a form of escapism, and I know life is hard but when I think about people like Steph who face almost certain death and refuse to give up, I have very little pity for those who are feeling down so they need a drug-induced pick-me-up.

Then there is this horrible grey area where unsuspecting people are being sold death in pill form by drug companies. I feel for the well-meaning folks who are hooked on prescription drugs, such as opiate pain medications (basically heroin hiding under a fancy name). We are told that drugs are bad and that they’ll kill you, yet drug companies slap a new name on a deadly substance, provide doctors with incentives to prescribe it, and now people assume that what they’re being given is safe because doctors know best. The only thing safer about these prescribed drugs is that there is dosage, side effect, and contradiction information provided. They’re most certainly as toxic and habit-forming as any street drug though.  They slowly modify and breakdown the body just like any other drug and people often forget that innocently mixing them with alcohol or even Tylenol can be fatal. With the best of intentions, people get hooked and if worst comes to worst and the doctor cuts you off, these medicines are so commonly prescribed that they can easily be found in the pocketbook of the person next to you. And if desperation takes hold, don’t worry, you can find it being sold on the beach in a family resort town.

I just don’t know what to think about all of this. Some people fight so hard for life, some do everything they can to escape it, and some are just duped. Your thoughts?