Questions and Answers about PROTEIN

Check out these common questions about protein, with my answers:

how much proteinQ&A

Question: What about “PERFECT PROTEINS?” Aren’t those the best?

Answer: No, not at all. A “perfect” protein just means it very closely matches human flesh. In fact, proteins from plants, where the body builds from the “raw materials” of amino acids (protein’s building blocks) yield more durable muscle mass. They aren’t “perfect” proteins, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior. Quite the opposite.

Eating the flesh of animals does “bulk you up” more quickly. It also breaks down more quickly.

boddy builderAnd eating the amount of animal protein that bulks up a bodybuilder also dramatically accelerates aging and increases disease risk.

(For a moment, stop looking at a bodybuilder or fitness competitor’s body, 99% of them who overload on animal proteins and whey protein powders. Look at their FACES. They look OLD.)

Question: Should I be worried about getting enough protein?

Answer:  Again, nope. The World Health Organization says 5% protein is adequate! Even an exclusively plant-based diet averages about 10%, especially if it contains decent amounts of greens, legumes, and nuts/seeds. Virtually no one in the world has a protein deficiency. We do, however, have deficiencies in many nutrients found in PLANTS.

R U sureWhat does the average American eat, relative to the 5% “adequate protein” recommended by the most legitimized health organization in the world? Fully 20% animal protein! This is more than any culture in the history of the world has ever eaten.

And the China Study (Cornell/Oxford collaboration) found, by tracking 6,500 people in China, that eating 20% animal protein is highly correlated to cancer, heart disease, and other risks.

Question: What if I feel better eating more protein?

Answer: First of all, consider this. The research doesn’t say, only A blood types have high cancer and other disease risk if they eat a lot of meat. It’s ALL blood types who do. The New York Times called The China Study the Grand Prix of Epidemiology. It’s the biggest nutrition study in history, and its main macro implication is, high animal protein diseases lead to all the diseases of the modern age.

If you “feel better” eating more protein, it’s only temporary. It has nothing to do with your blood type. Or what your ancestors ate.  That diet has made its creator a lot of money, but it’s been very well and soundly debunked. (Sure, you feel better “eating for your blood type,” but that is because the diet eliminates refined carbs for ALL the diets. Virtually all Americans eat lots of processed carbs, and you will always feel better getting off them.)

The easiest way to explain why the Blood Type Diet is a sham is to ask you two questions and let you mull it over. Use your critical thinking skills. First of all, are ALL your ancestors from the same place? How do people whose ancestors are from different continents prescribe their diet according to A, O, or AB blood? And, why did every one of the ancient cultures the authors refer to have ALL THE BLOOD TYPES? That’s right, ancient Asians had O, A, B, and AB blood. Ditto ancient Europeans. Hmmm. Makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it?

If you feel better eating a lot of protein, it’s because when you shift to eating a plant-based diet, your body immediately begins to detoxify. That process often initially involves weakness and fatigue. That’s simply a transition.

vegan energyI felt the same way when I stopped eating animals, a temporary malaise. Now I virtually never eat any animals (a bite of red meat now and then makes me nauseous, which I couldn’t have imagined back in the days I ate a burger for lunch every day). And I have never had so much energy. In my 20’s, I was exhausted by the things I now do on a daily basis, and love every minute of it! When I was 22, I was exhausted by the time I rented skiis, drove to the resort, and strapped on my boots. I did it to be with my friends, but secretly I wondered, “What’s fun about this?” That was my attitude towards much of my life! Now I ski 2-3 afternoons a week, after working out in the morning and doing my job all day, and I still have plenty of energy for my evening.

I’m just a case study. My experience isn’t everyone’s. I get that. I’m just using my own experience as an example. The principles in this answer are a synopsis of much reading and research, and they are solid and well documented. Unfortunately some of the Food Cults of the past few decades have you legitimately confused, conflicted, and overwhelmed.

Give any shift towards nutrient dense foods TIME. Be patient with temporary reactions that aren’t always comfortable. Proteins are needed to build and repair. But excesses of them rob the body of minerals. Excesses of them radically increase risk of cancer and heart disease and auto-immune conditions, due to fragments of undigested proteins floating in the bloodstream en masse, far more than the body can metabolize.

If you do eat animal proteins, eat only range fed and organic. This will massively increase your grocery bill, whereas legumes and whole grains, with 10 percent protein (which is ideal for digestion) are very inexpensive.

eat bloodQuestion: What about “eating right for my blood type?” Aren’t O blood types supposed to eat lots of animal protein, and A types do well as vegetarians?

Answer: I have written more extensively on this subject on the site. ( read it HERE) Let me give you the nutshell version of why experts like Dr. Joel Fuhrman have thoroughly debunked the junk science that underpins this fad diet. Before you get emotional about this because you feel better “eating for your blood type,” let me point out that EVERYONE will feel better eliminating processed foods, and thankfully, the D’Adamos tell ALL of the blood types to eliminate processed carbs.

But the entire philosophy is based on where your ancestors came from. What to do about people whose mother and father are from two different continents / cultures? And what about the fact, just think about this, that ALL of those cultures had A, B, AB, and O blood types? It all falls apart here.

Certainly people are all different and there is no “one size fits all” diet. If you are very emotionally attached to meat, eat it. Just eat very little of it (there is NO “type” who shouldn’t eat disease-preventative, low-environmental-impact raw plant foods, none!). And eat clean meat. (It’s very expensive.)

Question: Tell me one more benefit to not over-consuming animal protein, to pinkie push me into eating more legumes and nuts and seeds and greens!

Answer: I confess I made this question up. No one has ever asked it of me before. It’s a totally opportunistic fake question designed so I can tell you THIS:

food moneyWhen the economic bubble supporting meat and dairy bursts, you’re not going to be able to afford meat or milk. It takes 20 pounds of plant food to yield one pound of beef. That’s why no other culture in the history of the world has eaten as much meat as we do! (Yes, some cultures who lived on the water ate LOTS of fish, or whale blubber. But this was long ago, when fresh fish nutrition wasn’t heavily counterbalanced by terribly polluted waters.)

Do the math. If one pound of plants costs $1, then a pound of meat, with NO PROFIT for the rancher, should cost $20/lb.! Oops, we forgot to factor in that that same pound of beef also requires 1,000 gallons of water! You read that right. One thousand gallons.

So, when the U.S. government stops propping up meat and dairy with subsidies, people will be FORCED to stop eating it, unless they have a ranch with all the raw materials and can raise beef and pigs and chickens themselves.

We might want to just get used to eating low on the food chain now.

athletes and experts quoted about eating plants

I don’t preach about the -isms. I don’t talk about or embrace words like raw foodist, vegetarian, or vegan, even though I do teach to eat a high-raw, mostly-plants diet. I leave it to you to figure out whether you want organic, clean eggs, cheese, milk, or meat as a small (5% or less) part of your diet. The implications of the biggest nutrition study in history, the China Project done by Oxford and Cornell, are clear: a plant-based diet can overcome carcinogens in our lifestyle. The standard American diet that includes 20% animal protein is a cancer feeder and puts us at high risk for that, and many other diseases.

I personally do not ever put animal products in anything I make at home. Organic eggs and cheese were the last things to go, at my house. There were less and less of them until one day I realized it had been 18 months since I had bought either of them. Making an egg substitute with 1 Tbsp. chia soaked in 3 Tbsp. of water works great. The baked product is more crumbly, but I can live with that. That’s all I used eggs for, anyway. The days of serving my little kids “toads-in-a-hole” for dinner were long gone. (A piece of bread, a hole punched out and an egg put in, fried in a little butter.) In the early days of my transition, we had that WITH a green smoothie!

It’s a rare occasion that I eat anything in a restaurant with animal products, either. I choose not to embrace those titles for two reasons. One, I think they are a turn-off to many people who are just starting out, wanting only to learn about and eat more nutritious food. I want to “be there” for the folks just beginning a transition to a high-quality diet.

Second, because I am often approached in restaurants, everything I eat scrutinized and commented on, and I don’t want to be held to absolutes. So I never call myself any of those labels even though I have eaten a high-raw, 95%+ plant-based diet for 18 years.

I’m supportive of those who do eat veg, vegan, and raw, and I’m proud of my vegan daughter who goes out of her way to eat only plants, so that there is no cruelty to animals caused by her life. (She’s a competitive soccer and cross-country athlete, and we look high and low to make sure there is no leather in her cleats and running shoes as well.) She and I have two very different ideologies that fuel our similar choices—hers animal cruelty, mine nutrition—and both are valid and important.

The quotes below use the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” quite a bit, but of course they’re not my quotes. But if extremist labels offend you, just consider these thoughts towards my agenda of helping you EAT MORE PLANTS! Regardless of whether you have a goal of eating no animal products. :-)

“A number of studies have shown that cancer risk is lower and immune competence is higher in individuals who consume a vegetarian diet. Epidemiological studies almost unanimously report a strong correlation between a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low cancer risk.”

– John Boik, in his book Cancer & Natural Medicine: A Textbook of Basic Research and Clinical Research

“I have been a vegan for almost two years now and the benefits have been tremendous. I have more stamina and it helps keep me in a positive state of mind. I didn’t realize how weighed down I was when I ate meat. I never really felt 100 percent until I freed it from my diet. Now, I can’t imagine going back to meat. I feel incredible.”

– Mike Tyson, World heavyweight boxing champion, in 2011

“Today you have processed meats and a lot of animals suffering unnecessarily for it. Now, some people just blow that off and don’t have a conscience about it, or they just don’t care. They wouldn’t eat their dog, but they feel that way about other animals. But for me, I decided to stop eating meat. I didn’t want to contribute to all of that. I’m not trying to change the world, or wear that on my sleeve, or make a political statement, because that just turns people away. I only have control over one person, and that’s myself. And I feel good about it.”

– Mac Danzig, vegan mixed martial arts champ

“I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.”

– Carl Lewis, nine-time Olympic gold medal winner

“Someone may say that there are some antioxidants in meat. They are not incorrect in saying this. But, it is like comparing a raindrop to a lake, with a piece of meat being the raindrop, and an apple or other raw fruit or vegetable being a lake of beneficial nutrients. Any antioxidants in the meat only got there by way of the animal eating plants. Animals, including humans, do not conduct photosynthesis, which is the process that takes place in plant cells when they absorb sun energy and store it, forming the colors in the plants. Therefore, antioxidants, which are in the natural colors of plants, are vastly more available in edible, raw plant substances, and much less present in meat, dairy, and eggs. By consuming animal protein to try to access antioxidants is less than licking the juice from a knife that just cut through a piece of fruit, instead of simply eating the fruit itself.

By consuming animal protein, you are also consuming free radicals, which exist and form in meat, milk, and eggs. So, even if you are consuming some trace amounts of certain antioxidants in the animal protein, you are countering it by also consuming the damaging free radicals in that animal flesh, dairy, or eggs. This scenario does not equal good nutrition – especially considering that meat, dairy, and eggs also contain saturated fat, cholesterol, and a variety of other substances that work against health.

Studies are constantly revealing how certain fruits and vegetables not only provide needed nutrients that are beneficial to health, but also that they contain and provide properties that prevent certain serious ailments, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease; limit intestinal exposure to carcinogens; and help the body to contain, transport, and eliminate toxins.”

– Sunfood Diet Infusion: Transforming Health And Preventing Disease Through Raw Veganism by John McCabe

Birthday season is over, but the CAKE was divine

Aug. 22 ended birthday season around here, when Emma turned 17.

ABC’s Wife Swap, filmed in 2007, when you agree to do the show, waltzes in and figures out what they can string you up for. (I knew they would. I considered it a game.) For me, it was the green smoothies, and the fact that I tell my kids, “The bus leaves at 7:22,” and then I leave them to walk to school, if they’re not ready.

None of that bothered me. What I didn’t see coming was that they would make a federal case about the two times I rented out a skating rink, or the municipal pool, for back-to-back parties for my kids. Each had their own party, their own cake, their own friends and presents. It wasn’t cheap to rent out the pool, and my kids decided that was what they wanted.

We did it just twice, the last time 6 years ago. The kids had a ball at their party.

Wife Swap made out that I am “obsessed with efficiency” and “won’t let them have their own party.” They purposefully failed to mention that all four of my kids are born within 3 weeks of each other. They made it seem as if my four children born at different times of the year are forced against their will to have a joint party because I don’t care about them.

I recently brought Patty out from Creative Health Institute. She works for us fulltime now, and we love her!  She became a long-term volunteer there for 18 months. I will tell you Patty’s story later, on a video, with her making Choca-Maca-Laca that I learned at CHI last year from Madeline Wilson.

The recipe is named that for the superfood ingredients Maca and Lacuma. But I LOVE this yummy recipe, and Patty lost tons of weight eating the Ann Wigmore diet plus two whole quarts, daily, of Choca-Maca-Laca! Wow. I guess “a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie,” because that’s a lot of calories. Remember Colin Campbell discovered in the Oxford-Cornell China Project that those eating a plant-based diet stay lean eating 200 calories a day MORE than animal-flesh eaters, who were not lean, ate!)

I also posted Patty’s raw peach cobbler on the blog a year ago.

Patty is a Level III raw chef, and she made this delicious cheesecake, with the ingredients in my kitchen, for Emma’s 17th birthday on the 22nd. All the kids loved it. She blends tangerines and peaches from my tree, into Rejuvelac, and tells the kids it’s Powerade. Even though she’s not a mother, she has the instincts: she tells them it gives them energy for school and sports. (It’s true, of Rejuvelac.) She puts a half gallon of it in the fridge, like at CHI, with a masking-tape label saying “Don’t drink this after 6 pm!” That’s because it’ll keep you awake.

The photo is of Patty with Cade (19), Emma (17), Libby (15) and Tennyson (12).

Sunday I’ll post the recipe!

Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet? I am troubled by the Weston A. Price Foundation’s claim. –Megan

From Robyn: I have noticed observationally that those on a long-term 100% vegan diet sometimes have dental problems. I do not think that this diet is necessary. (I wonder if there are good cooked plant foods that may be helpful to our health that can prevent deficiency, which people throughout time have utilized–grains and legumes, for instance.)

Nor do I think the evidence points conclusively to human beings needing meat, far from it, in the face of the Oxford-Cornell China Study. If you feel compelled eat animal flesh, it’s still clear that it MUST be organic and it must be minimal. Not three times a day as many Americans do.

(And I have noticed that when most people say “meat,” they mean beef and pork. When I say meat, I refer to the flesh of all animals.) Most people are B12 deficient, but the idea that vegetarians are deficient overlooks the fact that most meat eaters are, too. 80%+ of people in America are B12 deficient, in fact.

I don’t eat meat and I am not B12 deficient. I haven’t had a cavity in years (although my Sonic toothbrush may share in the credit for that—those things are amazing). My dentist says my teeth are “naturally white,” and when I go in for cleanings, I’ve been told twice, “I don’t know why you even come in, because you have no plaque on your teeth.” None of this was the case before I cleaned up my diet.

While the Weston A. Price research found that people who eat meat, among indigenous peoples, had strong teeth, we cannot compare that to modern populations and draw the conclusions that we should eat the kind of animal flesh that modern people do.

What we eat, and what people living far from a processed diet did at the time of Price’s studies, are terribly different. Today’s animals used for food are caged in tiny, filthy pens, and are full of antibiotics, hormones, and terrible diets of genetically modified grains or diseased animal parts. We cannot assume that because the native people Price studied had clean animal flesh in their diets, that means we can eat lots of dirty animal flesh and achieve strong teeth (and bones).

I have more to say, but local Dr. Garon Larson, D.D.S., says it better, in response to Megan’s question:

“Can I respond to Megan’s question about teeth?

I am a local general dentist who drinks green smoothies and eats whole foods and a plant-based diet with my family.   I was on ABC4 morning news yesterday and KSL noon news segment for children’s dental health awareness month (Feb).   The news anchor asked me what parents can do to help children have healthy teeth.   My answer:   Stop feeding your children the Standard America Diet, which is processed foods from cans and boxes, processed sugars, and fast food.   Give your kids real food to eat.   Absolutely the best thing you can do for your teeth, mouth, and body.   Healthy teeth are really important when eating a whole foods diet because this is real food and you need strong healthy teeth to chew and break down the food to digest it well and absorb the nutrients (unless you want to blend everything up in your Blendtec!).

Teeth form when we are very young, almost all permanent teeth have completed development of crown and most of the root by the age of 6-8 years old.   Good nutrition (from whole foods) is so important for our young children.   After tooth development, we are mainly talking about maintaining the teeth, which is removing food and debris which gets left on our teeth (biofilm).   Standard American Diet is very hard on teeth as full of refined carbohydrates and refined sugars, which the normal flora (normal bacteria) in our mouths use as fuel and metabolize these substances, giving off acid as a byproduct.   The acid demineralizes the teeth and begins the decay process.   Chewing whole foods which are fibrous stimulates the gum tissues, has a natural lavaging effect on them, and promotes healthy gums.

There is absolutely no need for animal products for healthy teeth or gums.   I received a certificate from E Cornell University last year in Plant-Based Diet and I can confidently say that and I am confident in the way my family eats…that’s the way my kids eat and they have great teeth!

Hope this helps put your mind at ease!

Dr. Garon Larsen”

Dear GreensmoothieGirl for Arizona, part 2 of 4

[By the way, that video I blogged on Sunday? Alternatives for milk? We had the wrong video up, but now it’s right!]

Amy: What’s the right balance of macronutrients?

GSG: Americans have been duped into thinking we need 20% protein. Dr. Robert Atkins spread that far-and-wide, popularizing the way fast-food-enamored America wanted to eat anyway. (Too bad bacon-and-eggs are NOT a way to health.) Poorly educated bodybuilders and personal trainers continue to perpetuate this skewed diet that consumes far more resources than is sustainable. (20 pounds of plants are needed to produce 1 pound of animal flesh for you to eat.)

There are two ways to achieve that 20%. One, eat a lot of processed protein products (bars and powders and drinks). Or a boatload of animal flesh (this is what most Americans are doing–many of them at all three meals).

Colin Campbell’s Oxford-Cornell China Project is the biggest nutrition study in history, documenting with both animals and then people that a high animal protein diet is linked to cancer, heart disease, and auto-immune diseases.

Read my review of that study here. Dr. Douglas Graham has begun to shift the obsession with macronutrients to a more appropriate breakdown. (He’s a raw vegan.) He advocates for 80-10-10–which is essentially just validating the perfect balance found in nature if you eat a fair variety of plant foods. The average plant food has 10% protein (and about 80% carbs, 10% fats). Greens, of course, have much lower fat and much higher protein.

If you are struggling to accept that 10% protein is perfect, consider that the World Health Organization states that 5% is ideal! Also, carbs aren’t bad. Carbs are your body’s FUEL and should be your predominant macronutrient. Just eat complex carbs, not refined ones that spike-n-crash blood sugar and insulin. That takes a toll on your energy and ages you quickly.

Very frankly, I pay very little attention to macronutrients. I guess I have a sense of what a balanced meal/snack is. For instance, I don’t eat fruit all day. I make sure to get nuts/seeds, greens, lots of veggies, and often some grains/legumes in my diet. But besides making sure each snack or meal is 60-80% raw, and purchasing and eating whole foods, I don’t worry about macronutrient breakdown.

(Do you think Adam and Eve did? Do you think your grandparents did? To me it’s a national neurosis–I’d rather see you focus on other things, because if you follow correct basic principles, macronutrients take care of themselves.)

Are “eating healthy” and “obsessed” synonymous? Part 2 of 3

Regarding faux diagnoses: I’m always frustrated when someone wants to create a pathology out of something healthy, as with this “orthorexia” thing that a number of readers wrote us about.

Fact is, before we had artificially-colored Cheez Whiz and a few generations of exposure to it, that kind of “food” would have been shunned. If you’d squirted a blob of it on a plate and put the can next to it, folks in 1875 would have skirted it, poked at it, maybe sniffed it…..but wouldn’t they have been terrified to actually eat it? They certainly would have never seen that color before. Imagine being at an 1875 farmhouse and explaining the ingredients of Cheez Whiz to the inhabitants.

If your senses weren’t dulled and changed by ubiquitous processed foods, wouldn’t Cheez Whiz seems like a really terrible, crazy idea? Yet now we are 180 degrees from there, where you have an eating disorder if you WON’T eat the Cheez Whiz.

So if we go back to eating the way people did for thousands of years–before cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases became common–now we are mentally ill.

I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn I reject coining the word “orthorexia.”

But. The way folks have made a healthy idea pathological is through “guilt by association.” Fact is, a lot of people who are really healthy eaters are ….. no offense if this hits close to home for anyone …… kinda neurotic people in general. In fact, their healthy eating comes from being a rather paranoid, fear-based person.

So, because some people who eat all-raw are, um, kinda “weird,” by mainstream America’s standards ….. then eating high-raw, by association, is weird. So goes the logic. And bam, we’ve got ourselves a new diagnostic label to toss around the internet.

Okay, so this is a tricky subject. I’m not naming any names. But just by nature of the subject matter on this site, I get TONS of email from people who sound like they’re losing a lot of sleep, over food. Lots of regular people read this blog, but some folks struggle with excesses of uptightness. They worry about all kinds of details, trying to find the “right” diet.

An older reader recently mentioned on this blog that her new learning curve about health and nutrition has resulted in family members calling her “obsessed.”

I replied that I think that’s what it looks like, when your eyes first open. It’s pretty natural to upset the equilibriums in your life initially, when you learn truths that you may have known nothing about for 50 years. You’re shocked, you’re excited, you feel like the scales have fallen from your eyes and everyone else around you is still in the dark!

You overachievers don’t do things in a small way. So suddenly you are voraciously reading everything you can get your hands on. You read all 12 steps in my course and try to do it all overnight. You listen to the audio files from 12 Steps in your car (for the 4th time) and feel resentful when a family member makes a snide comment. You carry your high-lighted, battered manual in your purse for when you get a spare 10 minutes to plan your groceries. You find yourself having a conversation with a stranger in the grocery store line about The China Study.

Sound familiar? (If so, it’s because I’m not making this stuff up. I’m taking it as examples from things y’all have told me, at classes or in emails.) More tomorrow about how “weird” I was when I started on this journey and what a healthier place looks like, once all the pieces settle into awesome habits.