Americans consume the most meat per capita in the world — more than 175 lbs. of pork, poultry, and beef per year, and evidence suggests this is far too much for optimal health.
Most of the meat consumed in American contains hormones, antibiotics, strychnine, arsenic, nitrites, nitrates, or go through pasteurization or processing… and all these things diminish the health value.
But protein is a critical part of our diet. Proteins are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. They are also a structural component of enzymes, cellular receptors and signaling molecules, and perform transport carrier functions.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, 22 of which are considered essential for good health. The amino acid components of proteins serve as precursors for hormones and vitamins. Your body can make 13 of these, but the other 9, known as “essential amino acids”, must be obtained from your diet.
Protein in your diet
Proteins are found in all types of food, but only meat, eggs, cheese and other foods from animal sources contain complete proteins, meaning they provide the nine essential amino acids. Animal protein is not superior to plant-based protein, nor is animal protein the only way to get a “complete” protein. Simply combining beans and grains, for example provides a completion of all the essential amino acids. The body can store them up for proper use and they do not have to be present in the same meal.
Protein from animal sources is only about 22 percent bioavailable. Animal protein usually always includes animal fat – which can also be good, in limited quantities. Too much animal protein or animal fat may increase cardiovascular risk and cancer risk, especially if burned or charred while cooking.
One recommendation is to limit animal source protein to 3-6 oz per day of meat (about as much as your fist). Three oz/day would equal about 70 lbs/year.
There are a lot of wonderful, healthy sources of plant protein that you’re likely to miss out on if you only look to animals for this important nutrient. Some of the healthiest plant-based proteins are:
- Quinoa (a complete protein)
- Nutritional yeast
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Vegetables like peas, spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, and mushrooms.
Your best bet is to get protein from a variety of high-quality sources, preferably steering clear of GMOs. If you’re vegetarian and have trouble getting enough protein from plants, consider whey protein, derived from milk.
Animal protein powder source
Protein powders come in three forms: whey isolate, whey concentrate and whey hydrolysate. The difference is the composition of the finished product, particularly the protein content. Whey concentrate is less processed than isolate and will breakdown slower and hence fuel your body longer. Isolate is better for immediate use — and has the higher protein content… around 90 percent. Some people prefer to combine these two together and get a “now and later” effect. Whey hydrolysates are popular for collagen protein for skincare.
4 good reasons for whey protein powder:
Besides providing all of the essential amino acids your body needs, high-quality whey protein from organically pastured cows also contains three ingredients of particular importance for health:
- Leucine – a powerful muscle builder, good for weight loss, protein synthesis, muscle growth. Whey protein is ideal because it contains FAR more leucine than other foods. Just 3 oz. of high-quality whey contains about 8 grams of leucine. To get that from other foods, you’d have to eat 1.5 lbs. of chicken, more than 1 lb. of almonds (over 3,000 calories) or 16 raw eggs.
- Glutathione – protects cells from oxidative damage. Glutathione has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, and antioxidants found in the fresh veggies and fruits you eat every day. Glutathione is an essential factor in energy utilization, detoxification, and anti-aging disease prevention of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, cancer and muscle fatigue and weakness.
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – good for weight loss. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) — a healthy type of omega-6 fatty acid found primarily in grass-fed beef and dairy products. CLA can help you lose weight via a number of different mechanisms, including:
- Reducing food intake
- Stimulating the breakdown of dangerous central body fat
- Inhibiting the production of body fat while preserving muscle (with the greatest improvements occurring when combining exercise with dietary intake of CLA)
- CLA also is a potent ally for combating:
- Immune system microbes
- HBP, cardiovascular disease, high LDL cholesterol & triglycerides
- Food-induced allergens
- Insulin resistance, inflammation
The key factor here is pasture-raised. Grass-fed cows have levels of CLA 300 percent – 500 percent higher than cows fed an unnatural grain-based diet.
CLA supplements are made by chemically altering safflower and sunflower oils – unhealthy processed vegetable oils turning linoleic acid into CLA.
Plant protein powder sources
Hemp – Ideal whole natural seeds. No soaking or grinding necessary. Hemp is known to positively affect health in the following ways:
- Nutrient density – 50 percent protein, 20 percent healthy carbs – mostly fiber, 30 percent healthy fat, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
- Heart health – L-Arginine makes nitric oxide which keeps the vessels pliable; promotes optimal blood pressure, decreases the risk of blood clots, and boosts recovery after a heart attack.
- Skin health – assists in reversing eczema and atopic dermatitis. Hemp seeds are a rich source of fatty acids in the optimal omega 6:3 ratio.
- PMS/menopause – Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in hemp seeds produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin has a role in the physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). GLA in hemp seeds may also help reduce the symptoms of menopause.
- Digestion – Whole hemp seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, supporting digestive health. Fiber also supports the heart and skin health.
- Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. Fiber from Hemp helps you to feel full longer and improve blood sugar control and weight management.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.
Pea isolate/brown rice isolate combination
I recommend combining pea isolate with brown rice isolate (1 scoop of each) to get the “complete” protein – 9 essential amino acids.
How much protein is right for you?
There are two main methods used to calculate optimal protein intake: by body weight or by percentage of macronutrient intake.
- By body weight: The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs per kg) of body weight. For someone who weighs 150 pounds, that means 54 grams of protein per day, which for a sedentary person might be ok, but with any activity – ranging from “recreational” up to “competitive” athlete, this would be way too little.
- Percentage of macronutrient intake: You will note that all nutrition fact labels on cans and processed foods, indicate (by default) that 10 percent protein is the RDA. Take 100 percent and subtract the ratio of the other two macronutrients (60 percent for carbs – way too high, and 30 percent for fat – way too low) and you get the government approved 10 percent left over for protein. This is the beginning of nutritional deficiencies and an unhealthy diet.
A better guideline is to make sure at least 15 percent (15 to 20 percent) of your daily calories come from protein. On a 2000 calorie per day diet, this is about 75 grams of protein per day, minimum. The balance being 50 to 60 percent healthy fats and 20 to 30 percent healthy carbs (lots of soluble and insoluble fiber).