Monday, November 1, 2010

So, where do YOU get your protein?

When I start to think the low-carb, high-protein fad has ended it seems to pop up in conversation somewhere.  Usually it’s coming from someone that is on a mission to lose weight.  I try not to go on a rant about how unhealthy and dangerous these types of diets are.  Instead, I offer my small bits of "wisdom" and then blog about it.  :) 

With all do respect Mr. Atkins (he’s dead, right?) the whole “low-carb, tons of fatty, cholesterol-laden protein diet” is such a load of crap (literally).  Protein is an essential nutrient, just as carbohydrates are.  ESSENTIAL.  There is no reason to practically eliminate carbohydrates (or any nutrient).  With that being said, increasing protein consumption and reducing carbohydrates in one’s diet is a difficult and unsustainable way to shed pounds.  Yes, some people lose weight with these diets but it has more to do with calorie reduction than cutting carbs.  By taking out breads, pasta, cereals, sweets and even fruits we are reducing our daily caloric intake by a significant amount.  Bingo!  It all goes back to calories in vs. calories out.  People, please don’t buy this bologna (or any bologna for that matter).  Carbohydrates are not evil.  We could get into the nitty gritty about complex carbohydrates and simple sugars, etc, but I am speaking very generally here.   

Being vegan, one of the most common questions I get is “If you don't eat meat then where do you get your protein?”   Everyone seems so concerned about my health but let me tell you, our country as a whole is not at risk for protein deficiency.  In fact, most Americans eat too much protein.

Excess protein provides all sorts of health risks:
  • Kidney Disease: When people eat too much protein, they take in more nitrogen than they need. This places a strain on the kidneys, which must expel the extra nitrogen through urine. People with kidney disease are encouraged to eat low-protein diets. Such a diet reduces the excess levels of nitrogen and can also help prevent kidney disease.
  • Cancer: Although fat is the dietary substance most often singled out for increasing cancer risk, protein also plays a role. Populations who eat meat regularly are at increased risk for colon cancer, and researchers believe that the fat, protein, natural carcinogens, and absence of fiber in meat all play roles. The 1997 report of the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer, noted that meaty, high-protein diets were linked with some types of cancer.
  • Osteoporosis and Kidney Stones: Diets that are rich in animal protein cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their kidneys and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Countries with lower-protein diets have lower rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures.
-Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The answer to that ever-so-common question of where I get my protein is simple: beans, lentils, grains, and vegetables.  Tonight, for example I am making chili.  Check out all that PROTEIN.  

While most omnivores get their protein from meat and dairy sources it is important to recognize that animal products are not the only sources of protein.  There are varying amounts found in most foods. 

I snapped a picture of the green grass and blue sky before I started my run tonight.  
The weather in San Diego has been to-die-for!

San Diego Harbor
Crappy cell phone pictures do not do justice!


  1. I HATE the protein question...I got it from my primary care physician recently. I had gotten my bloodwork done and was concerned about my cholesterol, because it runs in my family, especially the good kind running low (ah the excuse to eat as many avocados as I can manage!). I was so irritated by the question...she's a DOCTOR, surely she knows what protein is and that it is in EVERYTHING (it is, even in small amounts). Since listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (thanks to you!), I always want to respond to that question with "Well, where do you get your fiber?"

    Not to mention that low carb usually means cutting out pasta and this Italian girl cannot even fathom that.

  2. IS this a trick question? ;)
    Is that the temple?


    I get most of my protein in shake form [I need to work on this].

  3. not to mention your body requires carbs to metabolize fat...! nice post as always, kate!

  4. Oh, the infamous protein question! I used to feel the "gahhhH!!! really?! where do you get your vitamins??" energy build every time someone asked me that, but I now try to understand that not everyone sits at home and researches nutrition like I do, haha. The more people that ask, the better I say!

  5. I've never understood the Atkins diet. It just doesn't make logical sense to me. Didn't Atkins die from heart failure too?

    Besides the protein question, my new favourite is "where do you get your calcium from?" to which I reply, from the same place as cow's get theirs. It's amazing how no one ever questions the diet of my co-workers who eat all their meals out of the vending machine, but for some reason a vegan diet is always open game for critique!

  6. Sigh. Can't we all just get along? I actually like the Atkins diet, although not as much as I like the Paleo diet. And to correct a few inaccuracies, can anyone name an ESSENTIAL carbohydrate? There are ESSENTIAL fatty acids ESSENTIAL amino acids, but no such thing as an ESSENTIAL carbohydrate. Yes, there are good nutrients in some carbs: fruits and veggies. But grains and beans are not really designed for human consumption. Not only are they chock full of anti nutrients such as phytic acid, they're simply, calorie for calorie, incredibly nutrient poor. Protein IS important, as is fat. Carbs should be a secondary consideration to getting those two macronutrients. And they should come in the form of veggies mainly, with fruit as a once in a while accompaniment. If you choose not to eat this way, great, but don't bash diets you don't really know or understand.

  7. What I mean by essential, is that the body depends on carbohydrates as it's primary source of energy. Animals (including humans) break down carbohydrates during the process of metabolism to release energy. Which I am sure you already know. Yes, I think we can survive on a small amount of carbohydrates like you mentioned, but I don't think we can THRIVE.

    As far as beans go, I completely disagree. Beans, lentils and other nutritious legumes are the best sources of lean vegetarian protein. Legumes are made up of high-quality carbohydrates that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They tend to be notably high in soluble fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium. These heart-healthy nutrients help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, and they can reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Soluble fiber, in particular, keeps you feeling fuller for longer, so it’s a good tool for weight loss. Many studies suggest that folate can improve mood and memory. Magnesium prevents migraine headaches and works with potassium to help lower high blood pressure.

    Some legumes contain additional nutrients, such as zinc or vitamin B6. Zinc is a mineral that contributes to tissue growth and repair; it helps keep your skin and hair healthy. Vitamin B6 protects against age-related memory decline and also maintains healthy hair.

  8. I do appreciate everyone's input. We can disagree :) I am okay with that.


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