"It keeps your energy up and cravings at a minimum and builds muscles while burning fat, but it is often the one nutrient many lack in their diet: getting enough protein."
Consuming adequate protein is a REALLY important component of a healthy diet. It builds and repairs our bodies so it’s literally essential for life. This is true ALL of the time, and even MORE so when we have a health challenge.
A few months ago I fell and badly injured my ankle and foot resulting in a week of "rest, ice, compression, and elevation" and 10 weeks of wearing a maximum support brace to allow me to get around and see massage clients (my main source of income). Not surprisingly, at the end of each day I was seriously tired, needed to put my foot up, and the idea of preparing food was simply out of the question. The soup and salad bar at the local Whole Foods became my go-to source for food, with occasional meals from their hot food bar or at a local restaurant. While there are a lot of worse choices I could have made, I found myself getting more and more exhausted, craving carbs and caffeine, not sleeping well, and experiencing pain and inflammation in my muscles and joints that just wouldn't go away no matter what I tried.
Recently I saw a recipe by Dr. Amy Myers for Grass-Fed Filet Over Lemon Zest Veggies. It sounded so good to me that I printed the recipe, went to Whole Foods and shelled out $28 for 2 small filet mignon steaks, and went home and devoured it. The next morning I woke feeling MUCH better! As I was pondering that, I remembered a video and article I share in the Nutritional E-Cleanse Program about The Hidden Signs of Protein Deficiency by Dr. John Doulliard.
Upon reviewing this article, Dr. Doulliard stated that the body stores much of its protein reserves in the synovial fluid around the joints, to be used to rebuild the muscles and joints after strenuous exercise. When one is protein deficient, this reserve is the first to go. As a result, the joints stiffen and the muscles tighten. This kind of pain does not typically respond to standard musculoskeletal care. In addition to muscle and/or joint pain, he also lists constant cravings for carbs, inability to sleep well, and low energy, moodiness and stress as the main symptoms of protein deficiency. WOW - that really got my attention... I definitely need to pay better attention and up my protein consumption!
Additional signs that you might not be getting enough protein are:
- slow recovery from injuries
- hair, skin, and nail problems
- fluid retention
- getting sick regularly
- brain fog
- low libido
- poor detoxification
- digestive difficulties
- estrogen dominance
- blood sugar instability
- weight gain
Dr. Doulliard goes on to say that red meat is the most acidic of all protein sources and the more acidic a substance, the deeper it penetrates the tissues and the better it stores - which probably explains why I felt so much better. After red meat is fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes (acid to akaline).
how much protein do we need?
Most people don’t get enough protein. And the elderly, athletes, those recovering from illness or injury, or people who are stressed, on a weight loss diet, or have digestive issues or low stomach acid are even more at risk of protein deficiency.
Often times we will reach for sugar or foods that turn into sugar when not consuming enough protein in our diet which can lead to blood sugar imbalances and weight gain. However, when adequate protein levels are maintained, it is often easier to manage cravings and weight since protein increases satiety, keeps us full longer, and helps curb the appetite.
Strive for a serving of protein the size of the palm of YOUR hand at every meal - including breakfast!!! Or if you’re a “numbers” kind of person, take your optimal body weight, divide in half and consume 1 gram of protein per pound. (For example, a 150 lb. person would need 75 grams of protein per day.) For most people, that means 20-30 grams at each meal. Here's a list to help you get started.
- Fish 3 oz = 17-24 grams
- Poultry 3 oz = 25 grams
- Lamb 3 oz = 22 grams
- Eggs 1 egg = 6 grams
- Legumes 1 cup = 15 grams (high carb)
- Tofu 1 cup = 20 grams (high carb)
- Nuts 1 cup = 25 grams (high carb, really high fat)
- Seeds 1 cup = 35 grams (high carb, high fat)
- Brown rice 1 cup = 5 grams (high carb)
- Quinoa 1 cup = 7 grams (high carb)
VEGETABLES HIGH IN PROTEIN:
- Asparagus 1 cup = 6 grams
- Bean Sprouts 1 cup = 4 grams
- Broccoli 1 cup = 5 grams
- Brussels Sprouts 1 cup = 7 grams
- Collards 1 cup = 7 grams
- Kale 1 cup = 5 grams
- Spinach 1 cup = 6 grams
- Corn 1 cup – 5 grams (high carb)
- Edamame 1 cup = 12 grams (high carb)
- Peas 1 cup = 8 grams (high carb)
- Potato 1 = 4 grams (high carb)
- Winter Squash 1 cup = 4 grams (high carb)
Please note that it doesn't take much animal protein at all to meet your needs. However, while it's possible to get enough protein as a vegetarian, one really has to be conscious and committed to do it. As you will see in the above chart, legumes, grains, and the higher protein vegetables also have a high carbohydrate content, and nuts and seeds have a VERY high fat content as well – all of which can contribute to overweight. To get adequate protein as a vegetarian, I would suggest eating eggs regularly, using approved protein powders, and LOTS AND LOTS of non-starchy veggies with a SMALL amount of legumes, grains, starchy vegetables and nuts & seeds.
"Lucky for us, protein is available in many forms, raw and cooked. No matter what type of diet you follow, we have a number of ways to add more protein to our diets in a healthy and delicious way."
~ Lea Basch
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Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Holistic Nutrition Educator and Master Massage Therapist with a private practice in Graton, CA.
Passionate about helping people transform their health through holistic nutrition, she facilitates the 23 day online Nutritional E-Cleanse Program seasonally with coaching, compassion, and humor.