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.




2012-05-07 13.24.41 It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I thought I would check in.  As of today, I’m a free agent when it comes to work– which is a completely scary thought. This past Sunday, I was lifting one of my patients (who is heavier than me–dumb idea, right?) and I literally burst the blood vessels in my head. Throughout the day, this turned into the mother of all migraines and I knew I should probably consider a trip to the hospital.  I tried to contact my supervisor to tell her of my situation but she never takes her phone with her and/or never answers so I knew I had to stick it out because Alzheimer’s patients aren’t safe to leave alone. So I put the needs of my patients first and worked through the pain for a grand total of 14 hours. This is not the first time that this has happened to me in this job. Usually the migraines are from not stopping to eat or properly hydrate but sadly, I have burst blood vessels in my head before because of lifting beyond my capacity. My supervisor (actually her husband) showed up four hours late to relieve me and found me a complete mess. By the time he got home, I could barely open my eyes and I was on the verge of vomiting. The pain was beyond comprehension. Eventually, I made it home, took two Aleve (my saving grace) and went to sleep with the complete joy of knowing I had to do it all again the next day. Monday comes and my head is still killing me, of course. I go to work and tell my supervisor what happened so she does the lifting for me that morning. The only problem is that she puts the patient on her couch without a pee-pad under her so she of course wets the couch. This becomes my fault because I should have been able to know when she was going to pee and lift her to get her changed. So I ended the day on Monday knowing that I had to choose between my health or my job.

To make matters very much worse, on my drive home from work I see a very fresh accident up ahead. There are about five fire trucks (presumably because it happened about a mile from a fire station) on the side of the road, no ambulance or police yet, and some people have pulled off. I keep waiting for someone to either direct me around the accident or tell me to stop but no one does. So I slowly keep on driving. I see what I think is a bumper in the road so I cautiously swerve around just a few feet from it. Then I realize that it’s not a bumper, it is, in fact, a person. I stopped my car right there next to him and froze in a complete state of shock and panic. Most of his dead body was on the left side of my car, one of his legs was on the right side of my car, his shoes were ahead of me. And my car is literally stopped on the fifteen-foot blood streak made by his head being smeared on the pavement. I couldn’t believe any of it. There were five or more first responders there and no one was managing the situation. This person’s body was just alone out in the middle of a dark, unlit, country road for someone (like me) to hit again. He wasn’t covered up, there was no one directing me around his body, there was no one there slowing me down, nothing. It felt like a complete disregard for life. I spent all day yesterday in bed basically. I just felt so lost. This morning, I finally searched for the accident to see what exactly happened. He was a 19-year old boy riding his bicycle. That’s all they know. It barely made the news.

2012-05-07 13.24.29It can all be taken away from us so fast and yet we live our lives like it’s forever. We’re one of the most intelligent species on the planet, yet we’re completely stupid. We worry too much, we’re afraid of anything that is even remotely meaningful, and we put everything off…even our happiness. What the hell are we waiting for? I just don’t understand sometimes. Clearly, I haven’t got any solid answers because I basically gave myself a brain aneurysm over a job. Once again, I must pick myself up and dust myself off and you think it would get easier but it doesn’t. And I’m not ashaimed to say that right now, I’m not okay. I AM NOT OKAY. And that is okay to say. None of us will ever be perfect so let’s stop striving for something that doesn’t exist. Sorry for such a depressing post. I promise the next one will be on the happier side. Pinky swear. Now, I’m gunna go make some lemonade out of these lemons because lemonade is freakin’ delicious!