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 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, Web. 4 October, 2012.
2. “What Are Protein Foods?”, UDSA, Web. n.d.
3. “The Politics of Meat.” Steve Johnson, n.d. Web.
4. “Quinoa: March Grain of the Month.”, 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”, Jeff Novick, Web. 11 February, 2012
7. The McDougall Newsletter December 2003: Protein,, Dr. John McDougall, Web. December 2003
8. “Diets of Athletes at the Ancient Olympics.”, Web. n.d.
9. Kleiner, Susan and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Power Eating-4th Edition. Mercer Island. 1998. Print
10. “The Myth of Complementary Protein.”, Jeff Novick, Web. 3 June, 2013
11. “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?”, Dr. John McDougall. Web. April, 2007
12. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.”, Eliza Barclay, Web. 27 June 2012.
13. “The United States Meat Industry at a Glance.”, Web. March 2011.

The 6th Thought: Splurging

“Splurging is the key to life…How would you appreciate vegetables if you never had chocolate? You couldn’t live without a little chocolate, a little French fries…I still splurge when I can, but that’s why I try to exercise almost every day.”

-Source Yahoo News

What a poor message being communicated to Americans by the first lady, Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move! program at the annual White House egg roll event. This quote, by an overweight mother of two is along the same lines of “everything in moderation is okay.” As Jeff Novick, MS, RD says, “items we know that are causing harm to Americans right now are the excess consumption of added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.” The numbers don’t lie and I have written about this previously, people are moderating the WRONG foods. Yet splurging is just another word for moderation and not a good message to be sending when heading up an expensive government program.

Someone also needs to tell Mrs. Obama that nutrition and eating right, not exercise is key to life. Many Americans still don’t understand nutrition and the roll it plays in their life and health. Many will claim to be healthy based on how they look or their weight, but what do the blood results show? Exercise is important, but one must take control of what and how they eat before they imagine eating anything and splurging are okay, as long as you are exercising.

Food Funk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am calling it a food funk, that is what I have been in recently with the news of a triple bypass heart surgery for my dad about 12 days ago. Much of the anger, frustration, confusion and stress has subsided, but I question if what I am doing is good enough for my health and goals I have set? Many already view my way of eating as extreme, which is fine. I don’t have an issue with what or how much eat. No longer am I overweight or suffering from an increasing cholesterol number, a testament that changes to my lifestyle have resulted in a healthier being.

Much of my nutritional rebirth started with Dr. John McDougall and expanded to others; Dr. Caldwell B Esselsytn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Jeff Novick MS RD,  along with many celebrated Internet cooks and educators who share their knowledge, experience and recipes. I won’t say what I have learned is correct, although I would like to think that, there will always be an opposing group who present information against a plant based lifestyle. That’s fine, as what works for me might not work for you.

There are also a number of people I communicated with on a daily basis via Facebook who’s opinions I respect when it comes to promoting a healthy way of eating. Many of these individuals, at one time were sicklier or heavier than I was and turned around their lifestyle. I am still amazed at the results I accomplished and that I now control my health, not the industrial medical complex or big pharma, who continually pushes pills to make you feel better.

I have been described as orthorexic, which (in my opinion) is a made up disease by Stephen Bratman, M.D. “Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy” (source). Taking that ridiculous statement into consideration, I feel I am making better decisions when it comes to foods I want to ingest, as well as foods I want to avoid. “Bratman proposes an initial self-test composed of two direct questions: “Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?…Does your diet socially isolate you?

Does my diet socially isolate me? Within my circle of coworkers and friends, yes, it probably does, but I don’t have a problem with it. I can find an acceptable and pleasurable meal nearly anywhere. Yet, people I talk to feel my way of eating is “too restrictive.” On the contrary I am probably eating a wider variety of food now than I was 2 years ago. Most everything I eat is better for me promoting my health to where it is now. No longer do I need to eat animal products (meat and dairy) in order to thrive. Yet that continues to be an uphill battle, even if you have just suffered two heart attacks and successfully had bypass surgery.

Every meal I eat is pleasurable, my motto now is “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”, which is what I was doing 2 years ago. Popular opinion or that of individuals doesn’t phase my strong convictions when it comes to how I have chosen to eat. I am happy to have cut the animals products and dramatically reduced the oils, sugars and sodium. I still have my vices, but continually monitor what I am eating, in hopes of further refining what I fuel my body with.

If those refinements see a further change in what foods I eat, in the name of health, so be it. Nothing is permanent and change can be beneficial. During my previous 2 years, I took 30 days to see how I would feel while going gluten free. While I didn’t feel any different that doesn’t mean wheat or gluten would be something to remove in the future. GMO or genetically modified organisms has been a hot topic when it comes to our food supply, which include corn and soy. These two foods are currently in my “healthy” way of eating. Some claim wheat could be damaging to your health. Chances are wheat will be the next food to be reduced or cut out. There are many other options for grains; barley, brown rice, spelt, kamut and quinoa just to name a few.

Clean Eating

clean-eatingI have never been an avid fan of social media, mainly because I have had this web site for nearly 15 years and it’s what I consider my space to say whatever I want and am not bound by being tracked, criticized or censored. Like millions, I have a Facebook account, at one time I used Twitter, but it was beyond what I required. These days because of social media we are seeing new catchphrases popping up. One that seems to bother me, the term “clean eating.” Dr.David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center defines clean eating as, “food that’s for the most part real food and not encumbered with things that compromise health: artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, sugar substitutes” (source). I am on-board with his definition as I attempt to eat clean. Unfortunately it’s his interpretation.

Processed food is a major culprit when it comes to “clean eating.” The U.S. has the highest obesity statistics (out of 22 industrialized countries) with nearly 2/3 of Americans over age 20 are overweight and nearly 1/3 of Americans over age 20 are obese. This is a growing trend that rapes annual healthcare costs approaching $240 billion! (source)

Paying strict attention to package labeling is a commonsense approach to clean eating, the shorter the ingredient list, the better the food is for you. While that is a general rule of thumb, it’s not always guaranteed. Jeff Novick, MS, RD writes and discusses nutritional labels in great detail in Fast Food DVD – Volume 3 “Shopping School” but also makes Understanding Food Labels available, which runs down 10 quick reference tips. Jeff’s You Tube videos are worth watching in order start decoding labels when you shop.

Clean eating seems to mean different things to different individuals. Here are a few examples from the Stronglifts Inner Circle I subscribe to:

I started eating clean in March (avoiding all processed foods, minimal carbs, no alcohol or sugar, etc) and lost about 4lbs.

The most rapid weight loss I have experienced was with eating very clean. I cut sugars, grains, dairy(except butter) and alcohol for three months and lost 35 lbs going from a very fat(for me) 245 lb down to a stocky 210lb.

The main thing is to eat clean. Take it easy on the starchy carbs, sugar, etc.

I’m a big believer in a clean, lower fat diet (when I’m not such a lazy ass). My staples are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and mixed frozen vegetables. Lots of protein, good carbs, little fat. I’ll throw a pat of butter in the veggies and use a bit of olive oil for cooking. Other meats include fish, shrimp, lean red meat occasionally. Almonds, some eggs, beans, no fat cottage cheese in moderation, fruits

It seems many individuals toss around “clean eating” as it relates to their diet, but many don’t seem to have a grasp what clean eating means to their health. It also appears there is some agreement in avoiding processed food, sugar and alcohol. Not once I have heard remove oil from a clean eating statement. Many still eat under the premise that olive oil is “heart healthy” and necessary in their daily diet. “Lean” meats or “grass fed” meats seems to be commonplace for the clean eater.

I used to frequent The Gracious Panty, Tiffany put together a great site with many “clean recipes.” After liking her on FB, I started to see more and more recipes that I did not consider clean. Many recipes include oil and dairy, neither of which I consider to be “clean” as it relates to health. Oil is the big offender at 120 calories per tablespoon with no nutritional benefits. A recent article said “that everyone should be getting up to four tablespoons a day in order to protect their heart” (source), but the specific US study is not specified. That would be adding close to a pound of oil (3360 calories) a week into your diet! Since when is that considered healthy? Guess that could be the American equivalent to “moderation.”

The Gracious Pantry goes on to provide another definition of clean eating. “Eats Lots Of Plants. Include Meats (meats that are whole and straight from the butcher). Enjoy Grains. Read Labels (try not to purchase foods that have more than 3-6 ingredients). Eat Fewer Ingredients. Eat 5-6 Small Meals A Day.” Yet she is quick to say, “I am doing what is right for MY body and for MY health. Every person is different. What works for me, will not necessarily work for you.

Personal I think “clean eating” and “cooking light” are bogus terms that only cause confusion and frustration. I don’t consider the examples cited above as “clean” since none of them take health into consideration. I don’t believe many are skilled in the art of nutrition and take many claims they read at face value, such as “olive oil is heart healthy.” The magazine, Cooking Light was terrible! I subscribed to this prior to changing my eating habits and I actually fooled myself into thinking this was a healthy lifestyle. Cooking light really meant lowering the fat intake, but did nothing for sodium, sugars and cholesterol. Just look at their vegetarian offerings to see examples.

I have many friends who believe they are healthy because they eat clean. While they might not use those words they will argue in defense of how they eat claiming they are in good health. Debatable. Unfortunately as much disagreement there is among experts when it comes to nutrition and health “clean eating” is here to stay, regardless of how it’s defined. Throwing in my two cents, I do eat clean. I have removed all processed foods from my diet, I limit my sodium and sugar intake, I don’t eat meat, dropped dairy and never use added oil. Any oil I digest is in its whole food state (avocados, nuts and olives). I also claim I am healthier because of how I eat.

The 6th Thought: Plants vs Animals

“To wrongly suggest that people need to eat animal protein for proper nutrition encourages consumption of foods known to contribute to the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, many forms of cancer, and other common health problems.”

-Jeff Novick, MS., R.D.
The Myth of Complemtary Protein –

Something I hear all the time on the weight lifting forum I frequent, “you are getting incomplete proteins” since I don’t include animal protein in my diet. This is a myth “inadvertently promoted and popularized in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé.” Unfortunately this myth doesn’t seem to die, as Dr. John McDougall found out in a response to the medical journal Circulation, the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association, which wrote :Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in one or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins.” Barbara Howard, Ph.D., head of the Nutrition Committee, replied on June 25, 2002 to Dr. McDougall’s letter, stating (without a single scientific reference) that the committee was correct and that “most [plant foods] are deficient in one or more essential amino acids.” Clearly, the committee did not want to be confused by the facts. So don’t worry about my protein intake and I won’t comment on your poor diet choices.