by Paul Tarbath
It is true, protein has been and still is a hotly debated and controversial area with the meat and dairy industries constantly brainwashing people with the idea that that their products offer the only useful source of protein, which of course is animal protein. So, when people switch or want to switch to a raw food diet, which is one built solely upon plants, they can become rather concerned about this area of nutrition. However, the claim that humans need to get their essential amino acids (protein) from meat and dairy products and in ‘large amounts’ is nothing more than a falsehood that has been planted by the meat and dairy industries in their bid to promote and sell animal products with little or no regard for people’s health.
The other important thing to understand is that apart from not needing large amounts of protein in your diet, getting your protein from animal products, rather than plants, has inherent health issues. These include:
- Immune system dysfunction
- Kidney and liver damage
- Kidney stones
- Cancer promoting
Animal foods have a high percentage of protein which is of an acidic nature for, which humans are simply not designed for. On average, over 25% of kidney function is lost over a lifetime (70 years) from consuming a standard western diet, as reported in the N England Journal of Medicine Sept 1982.
Protein is required by the human body for a whole host of vitally important functions, which include:
- The growth, maintenance and repair of all cells
- Is a major component in all organs, muscles, skin, nails, hair, bones and teeth
- Used in digestion, metabolism and the transportation of nutrients in the blood.
- Required for immune system function
- Used to create enzymes and hormones
As human beings (adults), we require what are termed ‘the 9 essential’ amino acids through our diet. Amino acids are the building blocks which are bodies use to make the proteins it needs. Indeed, our clever bodies have a system by which they can re-use amino acids from proteins it no longer needs to create new proteins (known as the amino acid pool). Very efficient as this process is, we still need to ‘top-up’ our amino acids with the proteins we get from the foods that we eat.
How Much Protein Do We Actually Need?
The World Health Organisation and the United States Department of Agriculture both recommend that you should be getting 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight every day (for the average adult) which includes a good margin for safety. So according to this guideline, for example, if someone weighed 70kg they would need to be consuming 56g of protein from their diet every day.
To look at it in a slightly different way, in terms of total calories consumed per day the general guideline given by many health organizations is that 10–35% of our total calories should come from protein. Obviously these figures (10-35% of total calories) leaves considerable room for manoeuvre and also raises the question of how much do we truly need to be healthy?
In Professor Colin Campbell’s ground breaking book ‘The China Study’, he notes that only 5-6% of dietary protein is required to replace the protein that is regularly excreted by the human body (in the form of amino acids). For instance when a child is in the breast feeding stage (the most powerful stage of growth that it will experience in its entire life), the percentage of protein it will be receiving from the mother’s milk is just 6% of total calories. With the understanding that infants have the highest rate of growth and so the greatest need for protein why then would we as adult humans need so much more? As anyone can see, this is far away from the 10% – 35% of total calories often cited by health bodies (as detailed above) and much closer to the lower end of the scale which is recommended by many health professionals such as Dr John McDougall, Dr Douglas Graham (10% or less) and Professor Colin T. Campbell again less than 10%.
In fact, the serious effects from the over-consumption of proteins has been known about for well over a century. In a Physiology Economy in Nutrition (dated 1905), Russell Henry Chittenden, a former President of the American Physiological Society and Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale, stated:
“Proteid (another term for protein) decomposition products are a constant menace to the well-being of the body; any quantity of proteid or albuminous food beyond the real requirements of the body may prove distinctly injurious…Further, it requires no imagination to understand the constant strain upon the liver and kidneys, to say nothing of the possible influence upon the central and peripheral parts of the nervous system, by these nitrogenous waste products which the body ordinarily gets rid of as speedily as possible.”
Is it any wonder that so many people are now suffering from a whole host of diseases when it can be clearly seen that many are over-consuming protein on a large scale? Just to highlight the serious situation modern society now finds itself in with regards to the over consumption of protein, take a look at the following dietary regimes and their percentage of protein from total calories:
- Atkins Diet 30%-70%
- South Beach Diet 20%-50%
- Paleo Diet 19-35%
- Standard Western Diet 15%-32%
Where should I get my protein from?
The simple and enlightening fact is that you can easily and safely meet all your body’s protein needs by consuming a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with an intake of 5% – 10% of total calories from protein easily achievable. Many health professionals now see 10% protein of total calories as the maximum figure we should all be aiming for to be genuinely healthy! For as long as you eat enough calories on a raw food diet and include abundance of greens, you can be sure to meet your protein requirement. It is also very reassuring to know that protein deficiency in the modern world is very much unheard of, whilst an excess of is very much a real threat to people’s health.
If you are still concerned about your protein needs or simply interested about how much protein you are consuming you can use what is called the Cron-o-meter (nutrition software) available both online or as a download from www.cronometer.com or as an alternative you can also set up a free account on the website www.nutridiary.com which is also free nutrition software design to help you track your nutrient intake on a day to day basis by inputting all the foods you eat and their quantities.
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