T H E 6 T H F L O O R

Life in 6 Land

T H E  6 T H  F L O O R - Life in 6 Land

Protein

gotproteinA conversation was initiated by my sister the other day when she commented via Facebook Messenger regarding a reply I posted to one of her foodie pictures, “I sure did eat that chicken.” This after she had viewed Forks Over Knives and said she was considering a plant based lifestyle. Needless to say I was ecstatic to see her taking control of her health. Positive changes were on the horizon, much like my experiences, she would see weight loss, a decrease in aches/pains and an increase in energy and overall glow. These changes would benefit her when it comes to her passion, participating in Spartan Races throughout the year. I was thrilled at what the future would hold for her.

Last Monday the topic turned to protein. “Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can’t be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It’s essential that our diet provide these. 1” Eight of these amino acids the body cannot produce and require a source. Many Americans link protein with meat, prior to changing to a plant based lifestyle meat was always part of my diet. Recommendations from the USDA as “commonly eaten protein foods” list “Meats” as the top protein source, but nowhere are vegetables mentioned 2.

My sister was taken back by my answer as it related to the amount of protein I eat, “30?!?!? That’s really low. For you.” In reality that number was actually higher, 45-50 grams, as I was reciting it from memory, when I was tracking my daily food intake for nearly 2 years. I can guarantee that level would have elicited a similar surprised response. When I made the decision to stop eating “animal byproducts,” dairy and added oil I also tackled the challenge to learn nutrition. I was under many misconceptions I had been fed since I was a child learning about the food pyramid and nutrition through school.

gr-totalmeatconsumption-462All the nutritional information I have gained is supported by science and research from well known individuals like Dr. John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. My opinions were not formed based on “broscience” gleaned from weightlifting forums, Paleo enthusiasts or crossfitters. Nor were they taken from the USDA, supported by powerful meat trade and lobbying organizations: the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, all of whom have a powerful pull in Washington D.C. 3

While meat still tops the list as the primary source of protein, there are other, healthier options available, yet they go against the conventional norm. Take quinoa as example,  8 grams of protein per cup. “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom. 4” Other foods that get shunned include; rice and beans, soy, chia, buckwheat, seitan and vegetables.

Brussel sprouts, spinach and broccoli each contain 6 grams of protein per 1 cup . Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete.com has a comprehensive chart of Vegetarian Protein Foods, listing the amino acid, recommended daily amounts from WHO (World Health Organization) and the best vegan sources.

The amount of misinformation continues to promote meat as the top source for protein. Wrong statements from experts include:

Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in 1 or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins. (American Heart Association)

Single plant protein foods usually are lower in protein quality than most animal proteins because they lack significant amounts of various essential amino acids. (Tufts University Medical School)

Other protein sources lack one or more amino acids that the body can’t make from scratch or create by modifying another amino acid. Called incomplete proteins, these usually come from fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. (Harvard School of Public Health)

These are a sampling of quotes compiled by Dr. John McDougall from his monthly newsletter, the article is titled, “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein. This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day. This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables. For example, rice alone would provide 71 grams of highly useable protein and white potatoes would provide 64 grams of protein 5.

protein-fight-club-logoSo where does the confusion comes in? What is the recommended daily allowance? Why is more suddenly better? Since when are non-meat proteins “not as good?” Worse, what are the repercussions of too much protein on the body? In America, protein usually begins and ends with meat, recently we have seen the dairy industry promoting milk as a source of “high quality protein” in their ads. Unfortunately many Americans won’t question what is being promoted by the dairy and meat industry with their agendas.

Just how much protein does the body need daily? In the words of Jeff Novick, MS, RD, “I don’t know.” He goes on to say, “The only way to know the actual protein needs of any one person on any given day is to do a nitrogen balance study on that person on that day. But, realize that whatever your needs where today, they may be different tomorrow.6

Based on the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for both men and women is 0.80 g of good quality protein/kg body weight/d and is based on careful analysis of available nitrogen balance studies. 7” Using my body weight of 175 lbs (79.37 kg) that equates to 63 grams of protein daily.

In 1905 Russell Henry Chittenden published his findings on protein in Physiological Economy in Nutrition. These findings contradicted what German physiologist, Dr. Carl Voit concluded that protein intake for people should be 118 grams per day, which became known as the “Voit” standard. One hundred years ago he wrote, “We are all creatures of habit, and our palates are pleasantly excited by the rich animal foods with their high content of proteid (protein), and we may well question whether our dietetic habits are not based more upon the dictates of our palates than upon scientific reasoning or true physiological needs.7

Through experiments on himself, trials conducted at Yale University and scientific research on protein, Chittenden in 1904 concluded that 35–50 g of protein a day was adequate for adults, and individuals could maintain their health and fitness on this amount.  Studies over the past century have consistently confirmed Professor Chittenden’s findings, yet you would hardly know it with the present day popularity of high protein diets 7.

Suvée,_Joseph-Benoit_-_Milo_of_CrotonThe role of protein can be linked back to Milo of Kroton, Olympic wrestler in the sixth century B.C. said to be one of the strongest men in ancient Greece. Olympians came from the upper social strata in Greece, these families could afford to feed on more protein-rich legumes and meats to build muscle and did not have to rely on mostly breads, fruits and vegetables 8.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many people thought protein was a miracle food because muscle magazines hyped it so much. Bodybuilders and other athletes would follow diets made up mostly of meat, milk and eggs. The raw-egg milk shake was particularly popular, thanks to Rocky Balboa. Why would anyone swill such a concoction? The answer is simple: misinformation. Articles and advertising from those days falsely communicated the notion that protein from raw foods, particularly eggs, is more available to the body for building muscle than protein from cooked foods is 9.

Since the 1990s we have seen protein supplements and powders promoted. Muscle magazines ads and commercials. Misinformation regarding protein continues to fuel debate with a whirlwind of misinformation. One fact still remains, the RDA for protein intake is 8 grams per kilogram.

“Incomplete amino acids” is a term I heard constantly when I was registered at Stronglifts Forum as it relates to my plant based diet and being successful while lifting weights. This myth regarding as it relates to veganism was disproved years ago, says Jeff Novick.

The “incomplete protein” myth was inadvertently promoted and popularized in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé. In it, the author stated that plant foods are deficient in some of the essential amino acids, so in order to be a healthy vegetarian, you needed to eat a combination of certain plant foods at the same time in order to get all of the essential amino acids in the right amounts. It was called the theory of “protein complementing. 10

Lappé certainly meant no harm, and her mistake was somewhat understandable. She was not a nutritionist, physiologist, or medical doctor; she was a sociologist trying to end world hunger. She realized that converting vegetable protein into animal protein involved a lot of waste, and she calculated that if people ate just the plant protein, many more could be fed. In the tenth anniversary edition of her book (1981), she retracted her statement and basically said that in trying to end one myth—the inevitability of world hunger—she had created a second one, the myth of the need for “protein complementing. 10

As the health of Americans continues to decline and obesity continues to rise when will we realize our diet is the root of the problem. “The healthy active lives of hundreds of millions of people laboring in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America on diets with less than half the amount of protein eaten by Americans and Europeans prove that the popular understanding of our protein needs is seriously flawed. 11” Since the early 1930s, meat consumption in the U.S. has risen dramatically. In 2012 an estimated 52.5 billion pounds of meat were consumed! “Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet. 12” On average American men consider 6.9 ounces of meat a day or 50.6 grams of protein. Women eat 4.4 ounces or 32.2 grams. 13

Health issues start and end with food on your plate. As Dr. McDougall says, “Misinformation leads to disastrous outcomes. People have serious health problems like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory arthritis that can be easily resolved by a diet based solely on plant foods. However, advice to make this dietary change may be withheld from you or a family member because of the erroneous fear that such a diet will result in a greater catastrophe, like a nutritional collapse from protein deficiency.” My awareness on how and what I eat has increased after 3 years of following a plant based diet. I am more aware of the inaccuracies that continue rear their ugly head as it relates to this lifestyle, especially protein. Yet no one can deny the health benefits I have experienced. Still with proof (me) standing in front of them, many won’t accept this lifestyle as an alternative in order to promote their health.

1. “Nutrition for Everyone: Protein.” CDC.gov, CDC, Web. 4 October, 2012.
2. “What Are Protein Foods?” USDA.gov, UDSA, Web. n.d.
3. “The Politics of Meat.” PBS.org. Steve Johnson, n.d. Web.
4. “Quinoa: March Grain of the Month.” WholeGrainsCouncil.org, Whole Grains Council, n.d. Web.
5. Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. J Pennington. 17th Ed. Lippincott. Philadelphia- New York. 1998.
6. “Protein Requirements” jeffnovick.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 11 February, 2012
7. The McDougall Newsletter December 2003: Protein, nealhendrickson.com, Dr. John McDougall, Web. December 2003
8. “Diets of Athletes at the Ancient Olympics.” topendsports.com, Web. n.d.
9. Kleiner, Susan and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Power Eating-4th Edition. Mercer Island. 1998. Print
10. “The Myth of Complementary Protein.” forksoverknives.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 3 June, 2013
11. “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?” drmcdougall.com, Dr. John McDougall. Web. April, 2007
12. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.” npr.org, Eliza Barclay, Web. 27 June 2012.
13. “The United States Meat Industry at a Glance.” meatami.com, Web. March 2011.

3 Years Plant Strong

3yearsToday makes it 3 years plant strong after making what some was called “extreme changes” in my life. The decision to take control of my health was unlike any other challenge I had undertaken. At 42 years of age, I was feeling overweight, rundown, sore with aches and pains, constant migraine headaches. Since turning 40 I had undergone two knee surgeries and I wasn’t the same person I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago before taking that road less traveled on my journey to health.

I have a coworker to thank for getting the ball rolling (read Live to Eat) recommending the documentary, Forks Over Knives. After viewing this documentary I was left stunned. I didn’t know what to think, everything I thought I knew about nutrition (like most Americans) was not what it was. Many of the foods I enjoy under the guise of “health” had been promoted by conglomerates like the beef and dairy industries in order to profit not to maintain health.

FOK moved me, so much so that on the day before Halloween I made the decision to get healthy and stopped consuming foods that were making me sick and fat; meat, dairy and added oils. Many thought I was crazy and didn’t understand the reasons for these changes. In fact, many didn’t really care to listen or show interest in getting healthy. I happened upon Dr. John McDougall and my life changed. It wasn’t easy at first, as I had to learn nutrition all over and forget the inaccuracy I was fed growing up about food groups and what many Americans fail at, moderation.

Removing all meat from this way of eating was an easy decision, but wasn’t done for ethical reasons. This was the first step in a long journey to health. Cooking with added oils was challenging, as the first question I asked myself, “how am I saute my veggies?” Little did I know a small amount of water or vegetable broth works wonders and provides a real food taste instead of oil laden flavor. Dairy was the third part of the equation. As it was I didn’t drink much milk and rarely ate cereal but had never had milk alternatives; soy, almond, hemp or rice. In the end cheese would be the one “food” I missed. I struggled with not eating cheese to the point I would use that fake vegan shit, which was probably more processed and worse for you than dairy cheese.

Through it all I was able to overcome some early challenges. I made a commitment to my health and started recording everything I ate. While I wasn’t counting calories I was tracking food for my benefit, in order to see trends and provide a visual record of where I started and the goal I wanted to achieve. I purchased and read The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. It was these words that reinforced what I had seen on FOK. The program sounded easy and I saw no reason I couldn’t follow it and be successful.

When I started the program I weighed 219, at times I had tipped the scale above 200 pounds, but at my physical on December 27, 2011 I weighed 216 pounds and had a total cholesterol (TC) of 264 mg/dL, which had continue to rise the previous 3 years. To think it wasn’t my pants and shirts getting smaller, but me getting larger, in part due to the fact of my poor eating habits at work and home. The health problems I faced were being fed by the dairy, meat and oil I continued to include in my diet.

It was a sign of good things to come when I weighed in on the day of my physical over 20 pounds down from where I was when I started less than 30 days ago. At the start of December I weighed in at 190 pounds and my clothes were fitting. The more impressive number I swooned over, the fact I dropped 64 points in my TC! 64 points! I was shocked and amazed that doing nothing but changing the way I ate could make such a powerful statement. It was this real world experience I required that let me know I was doing the “right thing!”

Like man who had just found Jesus, I thought this was my savior. In some regard it was, if I had not made wholesale changes in my life I would continued down that destructive road to deteriorating health. As it was I had turned my health around and I was beginning to reap the rewards and feel the benefits.

Since that day in 2011 I have learned valuable information regarding nutrition. I have connected with many individuals whose health, at one time, was worse off than I was prior to beginning. I have tried many new plant based recipes that I never knew existed, found new and exciting chefs I turn to on a daily basis. People like Julie Marie Christensen who promotes a “protective diet” Chef AJ who cooks “unprocessed” Susan Voisin who’s foods are fat free and vegan and Cathy Fisher “who has straight up good food,” just to name a few. I found I can still sink my teeth into oil free, fat free pizza thanks to Mark Sutton.

Since reaching my target weight of 175 pounds that is where I have remained (+/- 3 pounds). It’s been amazing that it actually gets easier to eat and those foods you thought you would miss, you don’t . I have no problem going to a BBQ without grabbing a slab of meat, burger or dog. No longer do I favor cheese on my pizza. Potatoes have been a godsend and is a cornerstone of this way of eating. Unlike meat, potatoes satiate my hunger. I don’t need to feel guilty eating a few pounds of potatoes a night, unlike choking down that 16 oz. steak I used to desire.

Vegetables and grains now make up my core meals, it’s not all salad, all the time. I would end up being very hungry if it were. My body now thrives on carbohydrates (goes against everything the Paleo crowd promotes) daily. I have learned how to scrutinize labels for ingredients I don’t want to eat. No longer do I (try) eat foods with additives in them. It’s amazing what the FDA approves to be used in food, my body is better for it as I won’t trust the government when it comes to how I eat.

While I would love to say a plant based diet is for everyone, sadly it is not. There are many who will swear how they eat is “healthy” or “clean” and they know how to eat in moderation. That’s great! Enjoy your food and all the best as it relates to your weight and health. While I do promote a plant based lifestyle, it’s not exclusive or better than any other diet, I just know how my body has healed itself and thrived in the past 3 years. The journey has been amazing. I look forward to improving my life as I get older.

The 6th Thought: No Mo’ Potatoes?

The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need.

-Michelle Obama (source)

Is Michelle Obama really that uneducated when it comes to nutrition? How can she claim that too many potatoes are being consumed by women and children? Cite some sources for me please. Maybe I should introduce you to Dr. John McDougall, who would not agree with your statement. I think it’s a great idea to include potatoes in the WIC program. Potatoes do not make you fat. Eating potatoes prepared in oil or slathered with butter will lead you down the road to obesity. All it takes is a bit of education when it comes to nutrition and you can learn what you should be eating. Don’t hate the potato. “This conflict over the potato shows how backwards ideas can become when money is at stake” (source).

potato_nutritionIt’s unfortunate that misinformation and myths continue to make media headlines. Many Americans rely on meat for protein and dairy for calcium, while potatoes are nothing but empty calories and fattening. The potato has been a staple of civilizations, first being cultivated in South America as far back as 13,000 years ago. Spanish conquistadors brought the potato back to Spain in 1570, where it slowly spread through out Europe. “The most dramatic example of the potato’s potential to alter population patterns occurred in Ireland, where the potato had become a staple by 1800. The Irish population doubled to eight million between 1780 and 1841 — this, without any significant expansion of industry or reform of agricultural techniques beyond the widespread cultivation of the potato” (source).

Butter Better?

butter_betterLast week I posted a link on Facebook from the UK Daily Mail, Why Are We Fatter Than Ever?. Take a moment to review the graphs and associated data. There are a combination of factors that see obesity and health related illness, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD), on the rise. It’s not surprising all are interrelated as obesity is a factor in both diabetes and CHD.

Back to my post, which drew a smattering of comments from friends and acquaintances on the topic with a varied level of understanding in nutrition. Now, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I play one, even if I happened to stay at a Holiday Inn Express, but a comment caught my eye in response to some who said, “I feel like crying. I LOVE butter. Excessive amounts too. The response was “No, grass fed cow butter is good for you.”

Now, I have nothing but the utmost respect for my friend who responded with the “grass fed” comment and in some regards there is probably truth to be had eating “grass fed”  or “free range.” I made the decision to stop eating meat, favoring to go to the source and eat the grass, so to speak. I had to chuckle a bit as “grass fed” ranks up there with the term, “clean eating.” This was something that would require further research into, yet I didn’t think I would stumble onto this “superfood” while dabbling on the Internet.

The Business Insider carried the same graphs as from the UK Daily Mail site, titled What’s Wrong With The Modern Diet? As I read their commentary on the graphs, I stopped at number five.

5. People Replaced Heart-Healthy Butter With Trans-Fat Laden Margarine.

butter

The graph looked straight forward as “the “war” on saturated fat was an increase in margarine consumption.” But it was this comment, “Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease (like Vitamin K2), therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine may have done a lot of damage (24),” which led me to Authority Nutrition.

Based on my reading, the individual in question does not have a nutritional background, but is a medical student and personal trainer, who “has spent years reading books, blogs and research studies on health and nutrition.” Doctors fail to make the grade when it comes to nutrition. “Thirty years ago, only about a third of medical schools required a single course on nutrition. That number has since dropped to only 1 in 4…No wonder doctors get failing grades in tests of basic nutrition knowledge about diet and heart disease, our #1 killer. More disturbing, the percentage of medical instructors that think this deficiency is a problem has also dropped over the last decade” (source).

Before I get well off topic, let’s handle the “grass fed” comment. Authority Nutrition has a piece under ‘Healthy Eating’ titled, “Grass-fed Butter is a Superfood For The Heart.” My heart stopped or so I thought. Butter is now good for your heart? I just had to research further. I found another top 10 list of superfoods and at #9, raw organic grass-fed butter. Understanding there are high quality nutrients, such as vitamins (D, E and K2), as well as trace minerals, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), “healthy” fats like omega-3 and omega-6, as well as Glycospingolipids (protects against infection) and Wulzen Factor, which ensures calcium remains in your bones and isn’t leached in joints and other tissues.

Still butter is fat and commercial butter must be at least 80% fat (source). I still hear the written words echo in my head from Dr. John McDougall, “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” At what point do the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to food, like butter? For all the “superfood” qualities it possesses it’s still 3200 calories/pound. A level high enough for weight gain or an inhibitor to prevent weight loss. Again, the words of Dr. McDougall are present, “people love to hear good news about their bad habits.”

There is no escaping the fact you are ingesting pure fat into your “healthy” body because it’s now labelled as a superfood. Many require butter on a wide variety of foods, I was this way just 2 years ago, but realized all this salty, fatty substance did was mask the true taste of food. Butter is still high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It’s other SUPER qualities; good at clogging arteries, super yummy, super addictive, super fattening.

As an option, I will still choose the safe and healthy way to get my EFA (essential fatty acids), in natural packaging such as starches, vegetables and fruits. “Here they are found in the correct amounts in protected environments surrounded by vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals to make them balanced nutrition. If you desire higher concentrations than are present in these foods then you will want to include more nuts, seeds, and soybean products in your diet” (source). I will continue to bypass butter, as it’s not better for me or my health.

Obsessed with Eating Healthy

obsessed_with_foodEating healthy isn’t easy, but it’s not as difficult as some make it out to be. The media (here and here), as well as physician Steven Bratman and clinical psychology will have you believe otherwise. Bratman “coined the term “orthorexia nervosa”  to denote an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating” (source). I do have an obsession to be healthy, but I find nothing unhealthy about the decisions I make and the foods I eat. Call it what you will, but in no way am I “obsessed with the “perfect diet” and the cleanliness of food, eating on a highly regulated regime” (source). In fact I don’t believe I have ever termed how I eat, “perfect.” Nor am I better than anyone who doesn’t agree with how I eat. That won’t stop me from discussing it, as I am obsessed with eating healthy.

“People love to hear good news about their bad habits” (source) says Dr. John McDougall.

They’re Thinking: “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Look at me, I’m still alive. Life would not be worth living without my favorite foods: beefsteak and banana cream pie. Plus I have read chocolate, cheese, and wine are good for me

I understand: I was once at the same place myself. I could not see past my own dinner plate. I once believed pizza and milk chocolate sundaes were great sources of protein and calcium. I now know that this is untrue. More importantly, because I now eat differently, I see the world from a new viewpoint. As I walk by a table surrounded by overweight diners, the cause of their conditions is obviously the spread of rich foods set before them. A U-turn in your thinking can cause you to become drastically different—trimmer, younger, happier, more functional, and less medicated—too” (source).

Still no amount of data, scientific study or physicians and nutritionists will convince people to change how they eat, in the name of health. People refuse to give up their “favorites” even if they are slowly killing them. Cancer, obesity and heart disease probably wouldn’t stop some from continue to dine on their bacon, butter and fat laden meals.

Eating healthy has consumed my life the past 2 years, but that’s a good thing. My blood work numbers, appearance and health are a testament to the power that food has when it comes to your health. Prescription drugs are no longer part of my daily regime. No longer do I walk into the closet only to find my pants are getting smaller, when in reality my ass is getting bigger. Physical activity level has never been higher, as I work towards my first 2014 goal of accomplishing a 50k, something I would NEVER have considered just 2 years ago.

So call me what you want; obsessed, compulsive, crazy, stupid, vegan, vegetarian, plant based, deficient, extreme, impossible, fanatic, the results don’t lie. My health has flourished and will continue to do so based on MY food decisions. So if being obsessed with healthy eating is a disorder, I hate to think of the disease and illnesses of those following a Western pattern diet.