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Written by Ildiko on July 29, 2012 – -
by Tera Warner“Where do you get your protein!?” This is by far the question people ask me the most. Questions like this are classic for revealing the degree to which we actually know very little about protein, at all.What’s the big deal about protein? Most people talk about “protein,” but what we should be addressing are the amino acids– the building blocks of protein. Whenever we digest foods that contain protein, it has to be broken down into amino acids, and peptides.
A protein is really just a huge compound containing hundreds of thousands of amino acids connected in very complex ways. Protein is one of the three macronutrients we consume. In many ways, it doesn’t really make sense that we are so concerned about our protein. Take a look at the gorilla, a close genetic relative to humans and a creature with a very similar anatomical structure to humans, and you’ll see that it’s perfectly possible to get sufficient protein on a plant-based diet. I mean, look at the elephant. No one would dare say that animal is missing any protein, and the elephant feeds on almost exclusively leaves!
Now, while you’re not an elephant, your body’s anatomical structure is a lot closer to that of the gorillas, it’s still a fascinating observation. Plants can definitely provide enough protein. If you’re getting enough calories in general and eating a wide variety of wholesome, natural foods, there’s no reason you should worry about protein at all!
In fact, your body actively recycles protein. People who reduce their protein intake often need to eat a lot less protein because they recycle their protein much more efficiently. On a regular basis, we excrete protein from our dying cells in the gut, and we reabsorb those proteins. We also have some protein/amino acids secreted in the bile and we reabsorb that, too. We also have enzymes, secreted by our pancreas, and all those digestive enzymes are also made of protein, and we reabsorb them as well. So we are very good at recycling our protein and therefore we don’t need that much; especially if our intake is fairly low.
All plant materials include amino acids, with no exceptions, and therefore there should never be a lack of amino acid in our diets. However, watery greens have much less protein (2 – 3% of total calories) than cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, or broccoli), which have about 10% of their calories coming from protein (which is exactly what the food and drug administration recommends). Green leafy vegetables even have a higher percentage of calories coming from protein.
So if we are eating protein, it needs to be in the form of amino acids which are easy to digest. We don’t want protein, we want amino acids. Of course some of the reasons many of us choose not to consume our protein from animal sources is because of the negative consequences (including cortisol, putrefaction, toxicity, ammonia, acids, loss of minerals, etc.), as well as increased toxin creation within the animal meat, such as many nitrates, nitrosamines, and nitrites, created during the cooking and preparation of meat.
Nonessential amino acids are far more important than the essential ones. Nevertheless we do need to get some amounts of essential ones, and it is easy to get them from green leafy vegetables, legumes, some grains, broccoli, cauliflower and nuts and seeds. They have adequate amounts of amino acids in them for everyone’s needs if you eat a sufficient amount of them.
The recommended daily allowance for Americans is between 46 grams and 53 grams, but most people average 100 grams a day. The World Health Organization recommends protein as only 6% of the total caloric intake.
For children, it still goes by percentage of body weight or by percentage of calories received through protein as a part of the diet. Even mother’s milk has very little protein.
So as long as children are consuming enough calories, and as long as they don’t have metabolic disorders or lack of appetite as a result of neurological imbalance, they should not have a problem getting sufficient protein for all of their needs.
Most protein powders used in muscle-buffing sports drinks contain “whey protein isolate.” Whey protein isolate can possibly damage the kidneys, cause allergic reactions, increase cancer risk, and prostate disease in men. Building muscle does not require tons of protein. (Gorillas and elephants are 100% vegan and are far stronger than any human being.)
You don’t need to add fancy things to your smoothies, or pump up your salads with protein powders. Just eat what makes sense, according to nature, and observe the results yourself when you start eliminating excess protein from the diet. You can add whole hemp seeds, spirulina powder to your smoothies if you want to boost your protein quotient. .
Make gradual changes to your diet. Add whole foods, juices, and smoothies, at a rate that works for you. Be nice to yourself as you make the changes. Listen to your body and what it needs. Your organs don’t have voice boxes. But they do speak to you by how you feel. Listen to your body, and when you choose simple foods from Nature, then trust you’re on the right track.
No one is saying that a plant-based diet has to be right for you, but before you decide it is or it isn’t, give plants a chance and see how you feel. Ultimately at the end of the day, that’s what’s more important!
What is your favorite raw food recipe with cruciferous veggies? Any plant-based protein recipes you’d like to share? Please share them below in the comments section! Tera’s formal studies were in anthropology, English and primate studies. After years of dabbling in the study of herbs, nutrition, fitness, aromatherapy and natural health she stumbled upon the “the raw food diet” and has been actively living the lifestyle since 2003. She gets her protein from plants. If you’d like to experiment with how you feel on a plant-powered diet, check out our 7-Day Rabbit Food Challenge, and bring the boyz!
Very informative article. I do consume quite a bit of protein daily due to the sport of figure bodybuilding. I also do green drinks and smoothies daily. My 1st meal of the day consists of a whole bag of spinach in my smoothie. It’s difficult to break a habit of too much protein daily but I definitely believe the more green you eat the healthier you are on the inside. Thanks again!
Interesting read. I have never been a meat eater. I have been advised by a wholistic doctor in Harley Street, London that I need to eat more protein diet in the morning to prepare my body for menopausal. However since the diet I have been suffering from a skin condition despite few visits to the GP (who prescribed me with betnovate cream/steroid) and the wholistic doctor who thinks that I need to cleanse my liver; my condition is getting worst. I have dry spots all over my body and when you scatch it infects other area. I often have a sensation like something is moving under my skin especially around my face and on my head! At one time I thought I was having numbness in my face due to this sensation. All these caused by protein overdose??
it looks like you need to maybe consult more the holistic doctor and doing a liver cleanse could be great now, since spring is here.
But, most of all, just listen to your body and try to note which foods make your skin condition worse or better.
I hope you will find the answer and that your condition will clear up.
Very interesting information. My 6-year-old son weights about 37 pounds and is not an energetic boy due, I believe to his low muscle tone, so I have been giving him extra protein (animal) but he has a hard time passing his bowels, even if he is not constipated. I would like to switch him to a raw diet but because of sensory issues he eats only pureed foods. Two qustions for you:
1-Where can i find raw food recipes that can be pureed while at the same time being tasty.
2-I am not clear yet how much protein he should consume.
Hi Rosaura: You can find pureed raw food in several books in the Raw Mom store:
Sunsational Baby Food
Creating Healthy Children
All of them are excellent books.
Thanks for asking! Althea, Raw Mom Blog Editor.