Living in America, we have grown up hearing and believing that we get our protein from animal flesh and our calcium from dairy. As I was growing up (and I’m sure many of you had the same experience) we were taught and eventually somehow just knew that all meals centered around the protein. Were we going to have beef, chicken, pork or fish? And then what would we have with it?
Of course, there were some special occasions when we might have some fancy seafood such as lobster, crab, clams, scallops or some other seafood delicacy, or we might even indulge in duck, rabbit or deer if we were brought up in a community of hunters.
Thanksgiving was always turkey, and Christmas was often ham or occasionally goose. On my husband’s birthday, he always chose leg of lamb.
Breakfasts usually centered around ham or sausage or bacon and eggs. Lunch was often chicken sandwiches, or hot dogs or hamburgers. Dinner might revolve around meatloaf, or fried chicken, or turkey noodle casserole, or Italian sausage and potatoes, or any number of cuts of steak.
If the menu called for tacos or burritos or such fare, these too would be filled with meat and smothered in cheese. Even large salad meals would usually be filled with beef or chicken or turkey or shrimp.
You get the idea.
My goodness, how could a person even eat without everything being filled with animal protein and dairy?
To be honest, when I was diagnosed with cancer I was willing to do anything to beat this dreaded disease, so as soon as I heard that meat and dairy are filled with carcinogens I immediately and gladly gave them all up. But soon I wanted to understand more.
I quickly learned that there is a plethora of research and scientifically documented information out there, and now I have the science (as well as positive results) to prove to myself why eating the way I do now is giving me the best possible chance to survive and thrive!
So here are 5 Facts You Need To Know About Protein:
- IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor 1, is a cancer-promoting growth hormone that is released in excess when we eat animal protein. (From Dr. Michael Greger, Nutritional Facts. Org.) IGF -1 levels have been shown to be positively associated with breast cancer risk.
- While, of course, we need protein, too much protein is harmful to the human body. (Something we don’t hear being talked about while everyone is so worried about where in the world we are going to get our protein.). The average American consumes more than twice the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein. Animal-based proteins have been linked to a variety of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney stones.
- Excess protein does not make us stronger or leaner. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste. Animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, inflammation, and disease.
- Most vegetarians and vegans ( plant-based eaters) get 70% more protein than they need every day. The average recommended amount is 42 grams a day. Most Americans get way more than that (almost 80 grams). (The real problem with the standard American diet (among other things) is not getting enough fiber. But that is another topic for another post.)
- Where does all that protein in the animals we eat come from? Directly from the grass they eat! That’s right! Animal protein comes right from the vegetation they eat. And when we eat them we are getting ours secondhand (right along with all the chemicals and contaminants).
Eating plant-based meals not only gives us oodles of nutrients and antioxidants and vitamins and minerals and all that good stuff, but it also gives us plenty of fiber and protein and everything we need to thrive and survive and live a healthy satisfying life!
There is no need to worry about combining specific plant foods to make complete proteins either. Your body does that on its own by breaking down the amino acids and building them into complete proteins.
So we can relax and rest easy about the big protein issue!
One of my favorite cartoons is a picture of a koala bear with a leaf hanging out of his mouth saying, “You don’t eat plants? Where do you get your protein?”
Let’s all have a chuckle, and enjoy our protein-rich broccoli, lentils, nuts and seeds, rice and beans, etc. And we can be assured we are getting everything we need to give ourselves the optimum chance to survive and thrive!