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.


Farm Life, Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Tips for Surviving Turkey Lurkey Day

Happy turkey lurkey day! Today, I’m missing my family. For several years, my mother, brother, and I spent our Thanksgivings feeding pumpkin pies to rescued turkeys and enjoying a vegan potluck at Farm Sanctuary. These days, things aren’t as simple and it’s harder to get together but there’s always next year, right? …Maybe? However, all is certainly not lost! Tuna and I will be sharing an entire sheet pizza and watching the complete season 3 of Haven. It’s my absolute fave and I never get to watch it.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a very small family and we’re all basically the best of friends. However, I know many of you have to deal with the exact opposite: a large family with some unpleasant characters. Because of this, you may be absolutely dreading your meal today and the holiday get-togethers to come. Well, that’s just plain sad. Let me offer you a few words of advice to get you through unscathed.

Sweet Pea Turkey Lurkey
Two friends critiquing my hair-do.

1. Be a realist: You’re relatives are never going to change so don’t go into this hoping that your words or actions will somehow turn them into someone who all of a sudden isn’t a jerk face. Like it or not, you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at and completely accept them for the jerk faces they are. In short, don’t expect a holiday miracle.

2.  Manage your expectations: A holiday get-together is no time to push for some kind of Oprah moment. Don’t go there hoping to confront your relative and then expect it to end in a group hug at the dinner table. There’s a time and place for confrontations and this isn’t one of them. Seriously, don’t invest your energy in trying to make that elusive holiday miracle happen. You have a better chance of being disowned.

3. Always take the high road: If you are unfortunate enough to have that passive aggressive relative who loves to pepper every conversation with remarks about your shortcomings, it’s perfectly okay to tell the person that their comment was hurtful and rude and just leave it at that. Since you just verbally checked their behavior in front of others, they will no doubt feel embarrassed and will strive to sink you down to their level by goading you into saying more or getting angry. Do not fall for this trick. Gracefully make the verbal check and swiftly move the conversation on before they have a chance to say anything else. Congratulations, you’ve maintained your dignity, stuck up for yourself, and just joined the ranks of Gandhi and King on the high road. You may have to do this several times but eventually that person will realize that if they want to make rude remarks, they will be embarrassed.

4. Avoid conflict: This goes without saying but please avoid all topics that could even remotely lead to an argument. If you are by nature a pot-stirrer, you’re probably thinking about your freedom of speech and how you should be allowed to bring up any subject you darn well please and how everyone is dying to hear your views on Obamacare and the state of the world today. However, please remember that the holidays are not all about you. Let me issue this challenge: avoid anything even remotely having to do with politics, depressing news, the state of the world, gossip, personal judgements, or anything resembling a criticism. This obviously includes the topics of conversation but also consider your TV channel/movie selection and the newspapers or magazines you may have lying around. These are all fodder for a potential conversation gone wrong. If you’re a pot-stirrer, a critical thinker, or are not one to easily reign in your opinion, let’s try either just being quiet and thoughtful (if this requires biting your tongue and sitting on your hands than please do so), asking others about how they’re doing, and/or focusing on something positive happening in your life or the world today. Yup, completely flip the switch for the greater good and comfort level of those around you. Be vigilant of the notion that the holidays are a festive occasion where we come together to feel better, not to walk away feeling worse.

Ling Ling Turkey Lurkey
Ling Ling and a feathered friend, both looking dapper.