Eat These Herbs to Improve Your Digestion

Gas and bloating is no fun.  But, it is one of the most common digestive issues.  Pressure, abdominal pain and uncomfortable changes in the waistline are not only annoying, but also indicative of digestive imbalance. One simple solution is herbs!  The good news is that if you eat these herbs to improve your digestion, gas and bloating won’t be a problem anymore!

While gas can form anywhere in the digestive tract, it largely results from bacterial action/fermentation in the large intestine.

When undigested foods make their way through the digestive tract, microbes there break them down and gases are sometimes released.  Carbohydrates and legumes tend to produce more gas as a byproduct of digestion.

Certain herbs can stimulate the secretion of digestive juices that assist the body in digestion and can help to alleviate gas.

bunch of parsley and fennel fronds

PARSLEY & MINT FAMILY HERBS

The parsley family of herbs (fennel, cumin, dill, coriander, anise, and caraway) and the mint family of herbs (peppermint, spearmint) are renowned for suppressing and relieving gas. Studies have shown that the essential oils in these plants are carminative (relieve flatulence), support the stomach and gallbladder to secrete digestive juices, are antiseptic and also help relieve spasms (spasmolytic).

A 2016 study found that anethole, a major constituent in fennel seed, restored delayed gastric emptying. In another trial, 95 percent of study participants taking an herbal mixture containing fennel, as well as dandelion, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, and calendula, experienced complete relief of colitis symptoms, including abdominal pain and cramping, within two weeks.

To use: Enjoy fennel or any of these parsley family seeds, by taking them in capsules, tablets, or tinctures; you can chew the whole seeds, use the leaves as part of your meals or prepare them as tea.  This gorgeous salad features thinly sliced fennel bulb and fennel seeds.  Give it a try!

ginger root and sliced ginger root

GINGER

Ginger root is a warming herb that is a traditional remedy for nausea, gas and bowel issues. This herb is useful for reducing gut spasms, neutralizing toxins in the GI tract, and boosting digestive juice secretion, including bile and saliva. Studies show that ginger enhances fat digestion by stimulating bile and pancreatic lipase enzymes.

To use: Preparing ginger as a tea and drinking it after a large meal to ease discomfort is not only flavorful, but also fragrant! For bloating, drinking ginger tea three times a day, or as much as needed to ease bloating is what many digestive experts advise. Ginger can be eaten raw and used as a flavoring for sauces, broths, dressings, etc.  Pickled ginger is a deliciously spicy treat that is a great addition to any Buddha bowl or salad!

black pepper ground and peppercorns

BLACK PEPPER

Perhaps the easiest herb to add to a meal, black pepper is one that you likely have in your cabinet or on your table right now!  The main active constituent of black pepper, Piperine, is known for increasing bioavailability and absorption of nutrients. It is commonly paired with other herbs in herbal supplements to increase absorption.  Piperine works in part by increasing intestinal motility, which in tern can help reduce gas.

Try: Adding cracked black pepper to your food.  Add cracked peppercorns to boiling water to make a spicy tea (with ginger it is a bit more palatable!).  Another option is to use capsules that contain piperine or black pepper extract.

 

Are gas and bloating an issue for you?  Does your digestion impact your life?  Ever find yourself unsure about participating in an activity or an outing because you don’t know if a bathroom will be available?  Are your clothes uncomfortable or tight after meals?  Is flatulence a problem?

Guess what?  You’re not alone!  These are among the most common concerns that I hear from patients.  Let’s get you feeling more comfortable.  Click here and schedule a FREE discovery call.  We’ll take 15 minutes together, talk about your needs and I’ll let you know how I can help.

5 Secrets to Creamy Coconut Milk Yogurt

Why am I sharing my 5 secrets to creamy coconut milk yogurt?  Don’t all plant-based foodies dream of creamy non-dairy yogurt?  I don’t know — but I can say that finding a delicious, healthy dairy free yogurt is something I’ve been engaged in for many years. Now, you name the brand and I’ve likely tried it! Unfortunately, great tasting dairy free yogurts usually have a couple of problems… they are:

  1. filled with sugar
  2. incredibly expensive and/or
  3. hard to find

Making delicious, nutritious DIY dairy-free yogurt tested my skills as a recipe developer! I made tasty yogurt that was super runny… thick yogurt that lacked taste or has a weird texture… and everything in between!  Nothing goes to waste, because — smoothies, lol!  Smoothies are a great place for DIY yogurt fails to be utilized!  But, I’m going to save you time and trials with my 6 secrets to fail proof creamy coconut milk yogurt (5 in the list below and a BONUS in the Notes!)

The Secrets to Success

  1. Use full fat coconut milk.  Aryo-D Coconut milk is what’s worked best for me.  You can purchase it on Amazon https://amzn.to/30z9glN 
  2. Use a starter that is designed for non-dairy milks.  I tried several, but settled on one which has a small amount of rice starch that acts as a thickening agent.  Non-dairy milks lack the protein structure to develop the same texture as dairy milk.  A small amount of thickening agent really helps, and while you can add this separately, I find it more efficient and cost effective to just buy an all in one starter.  If you have a corn allergy, please note that most non-dairy starters use corn starch as their thickener.  My favorite, and the one you can grab at this link on Amazon, uses rice instead of corn.  https://amzn.to/3cVKaQy
  3. Feed the bacteria!  A little maple syrup is just the right thing to feed your starter and help the bacteria flourish.  Dairy milk has an abundance of lactose that bacteria uses to fuel growth.  Non-dairy milks lack the simple sugars, so just a touch of maple syrup is key.  You may wonder about adding honey.  I advise against it simply because honey is beautifully antibacterial and actually prevents the culture from growing well.  If you like the flavor of honey, hold off and use it as a drizzle once your culture is ready!
  4. Be consistent.  Temperature fluctuations will stall the growth of your culture and in some cases, really make the process miss.  A crock pot, dehydrator, Instant Pot or yogurt maker will offer you a consistent, warm environment for the culture to develop!
  5. Be patient.  Unlike dairy yogurt that seems to set up in a few hours, non-dairy cultures require more time.  In my trials, I tested at 4 hour intervals and found that my preferred texture is developed at the 30-36 hour mark.  If you prefer a looser yogurt, try a spoon after 24 hours and see where things are at!

Sarah’s Creamy Coconut Yogurt Recipe

32oz Aryo d coconut milk or Aryo-D Coconut Cream

1 sachet Country Trading Co. Non-dairy starter OR 4 Bio Kult probiotic caps (opened – you want the powder, not the capsule!)

1 Tablespoon maple syrup (the real stuff, not a sugar syrup maple flavored substitute)

  1. Whisk everything together and pour into 3 clean quart mason jars.
  2. Place these onto a trivet in your instant pot.
  3. Cover and hit the button for your yogurt setting; use the plus button to adjust the incubation time.
  4. You need at least 8 hours but can go 24-36 hours for thicker yogurt!
  5. After incubating, remove your jars. Cover them and place them in the fridge.

Your non-dairy yogurt will get thicker by the day.

 

NOTES

  • The Aryo-D coconut cream makes a naturally thicker and creamier end product and does fine with Bio Kult instead of the non-dairy starter.  If you prefer to make your yogurt with any added thickener, this is definitely the way to go!  Also, Bio Kult capsules are economical and can be used as your daily probiotic.
  • For Greek style yogurt, I’ve got one final secret for you… When you’re whisking in your starter or probiotic powder, also mix in 1/3 cup Laird Superfood Creamer powder!  I have the best results when I blend 1 cup coconut milk with the creamer in my Vitamix and then whisk that back into the rest of the coconut milk.  The creamer is powdered coconut milk and, just like those dairy recipes that call for powdered milk to make them thicker, we’re calling on coconut milk powder to work a little more magic here.

These Two Sexy Low-Sugar Smoothies Are Your New Secret Weapon

Low Sugar Smoothie Ideas  

Smoothies are a filling and nutrient-dense, but I can’t tell you how many of my clients come in wondering why their weight loss has stalled or why they are breaking out when everything seems to be on point… smoothies included.

The problem with many smoothies is that they are loaded with high glycemic fruits which spike blood sugar and can trigger hormone imbalance and a host of other health issues.

Don’t ditch your blender just yet, though!

Healthy smoothies are not only possible, but they’re easy and delicious! 

The keys to making smoothies that will be your new secret weapon on the journey to health:

  1. Take a break from sugar-laden fruits like bananas, mango, and papaya.
  2. Opt for fiber, fat, and protein from flaxseeds, hemp seeds, dark leafy greens, and avocados.  Believe it or not, cauliflower is another great substitute for banana when it comes to creaminess and neutral flavor!

Your body will get the nutrients it needs to remove toxins, boost weight loss, and help to strengthen your immune system, minus the blood sugar spike from traditional smoothie recipes.  

I love drinking a green smoothie first thing in the morning to get my day started.

The Green Magic Smoothie (see below) is my favorite energy booster.  If you’re struggling with extra stress, try the additional cacao or maca for magnesium and minerals known to help keep stress levels in check. 

Green Magic Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder or 1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)

  

Wellness 101 Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ orange, peeled 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds 
  • Dash of cinnamon 

For both smoothies, simply add all ingredients to your high powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You can add ice if you prefer a colder drink.  Do try to drink your smoothie right away as these are best fresh. 

Tip: If 2 cups of spinach grosses you out, start with 1/2 cup and work your way up.  Baby stepping is a-ok when it comes to shifting into healthier habits!

 

Your Action Steps:

  1. Comment below and share your favorite low-glycemic smoothie combo.
  2. Post a pic of your secret-weapon smoothie on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @yourholistichealthcoach and hashtag #smoothieswsarah 
  3. Join me over on Facebook and on Instagram (Like and Follow so you don’t miss a thing!)
  4. Check out my new partnership with Soul Path Wellness — we are offering off a FREE 7-Day Sugar Challenge October 20-26. Don’t miss out on this goodness — trust me!  Get all the details here! 

 

Cheers,

Sarah

 

Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch

Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch

When you think about kitchen safety, your mind may jump to burns and cuts, and while those certainly are serious, I want to share some insights that will help keep you safe.  Prep, storage and surfaces are as important to kitchen safety as knowing how to work around flames.  So… let’s dig into my top 6 tips for kitchen safety:

My Top 6 Kitchen Safety Tips

1. Clean Up
Ensure your foods and surfaces are free of germs, pesticides & toxic chemicals by using natural cleaning products.  Bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for a surprisingly long time: Research shows that Salmonella and Campylobacter survive for short periods of around 1 to 4 hours on hard surfaces or fabrics. Norovirus and C. difficile, however, can survive for much longer. In one study, C. difficile was shown to survive for 5 months. Norovirus can survive for days or weeks on hard surfaces!  

Washing fruits and veggies before you eat them not only takes care of surface dirt and dust, but can safely wash away many germs too. Unfortunately, things like E.Coli cannot be washed away.   Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology explains, “once the bacteria have attached themselves to the surface of a vegetable, they become much harder to kill.”  When bacteria attach to a surface, they produce a substance called “biofilm,” which encases the bacteria in a sort of shell and helps them stick to whatever they’ve latched onto. Biofilm keeps the bacteria from being washed away and also protects them from chemicals that could kill them.  In other words, adding a few drops of bleach to the water you use to wash vegetables will kill any bacteria in the water but won’t do much to the bacteria on the vegetables.

E. coli doesn’t just sit around on the surface of vegetables, either. The bacteria can also penetrate into the interior tissues of the plant, where nothing can reach them. 

So, the bottom line is that you can and should wash your produce… but there are some things that even washing won’t fix.  Good growing practices, transportation and storage all help. 

Hand washing is also key to safe and healthy cooking!  Washing with soap and water for 15-30 seconds should remove 90-100% of any bacteria and dirt on your hands.  Be sure to lather up AND use a rubbing/scrubbing motion on your palms, top of your hand, between fingers and under your finger nails.  The physical action of washing is as necessary as the soap, so think of good hand washing as a coordinated effort between soap and action!  In a pinch, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help you kill pathogens on your skin… but hand washing is always preferred!

As far as surfaces and produce, this is what I do:

  • I like this spray for counters but I also make my own counter cleaner with raw apple cider vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
  • I use this wash to get my produce clean and free of waxes and pesticides. I rinse with this or soak hard-skinned fruits & vegetables in a bowl of cool water to which I’ve added a splash of raw apple cider vinegar and some baking soda.

 

2. Choose Safe Materials
Cutting boards come in various materials and in many cute shapes and sizes.  Use the wrong material, though, and you risk getting sick.  Therefore, let’s talk about what materials make for safe cutting boards.  BPA free plastics are one option, and there are companies that make cute colored ones that are popular.  I prefer tempered glass and while some people may wonder about durability, I’ll tell ya that my favorite board was a wedding gift almost 22 years ago!  Go glass, I say!  It’s eco-friendly to boot!  Wood is my second choice.  Bamboo is a renewable and sustainable option.  I like olive wood and maple boards too for veggies, fruits, nuts and grains.

 

  • When prepping raw meats or fish, it’s important to use a non-porous cutting board.  This is the non-porous board I use in my kitchen.
  • Wood boards are great for preparing veggies, fruits, nuts and grains.  I love this board!

3. Respect Raw

Raw, whole foods should be a part of every healthy diet.  With a little know-how, you can ensure that what you’re eating is as safe and healthy as it can be!

Raw veggies:
According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, “Once microorganisms contaminate fresh produce, they are difficult to wash off. Therefore, it is important to prevent contamination in the first place! Washing (with clean running water) can reduce the number of bacteria on produce by 99 percent; however, this does not guarantee that no pathogens are present. Pathogens, even at low numbers, can still cause illness. Using proper temperature control and cleaning and sanitation practices can reduce your risk of foodborne illness.” (source: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/FST/FST-234/FST-234-PDF.pdf)

 

Raw meats and seafood:
Meat and seafood should be wrapped separately and transported home from the market in it’s own bag. Once home, keep one shelf or one set of storage containers specifically for your raw meats and seafood.  While I am plant-based, my family enjoys some animal protein, so I am careful to follow this rule — lots of fresh veggies, greens and fruits go through our fridge so I need to be sure that it’s a safe, clean environment.

General rules:

  • Do not wash produce until you are ready to eat it.  Washing and then refrigerating adds moisture that can cause the produce to rot or harbor bacteria.
     
  • Refrigerate perishable produce (such as strawberries, leafy greens, precut and ready-to-eat bagged produce, etc.) in a clean refrigerator at 41 F or below to maintain quality and safety.

     

  • Discard produce if it has not been refrigerated within four hours after cutting, peeling, or
    cooking.

     

  • Store raw produce on shelves or in bins above meats, poultry, and seafood to reduce the risk of cross-contamination from dripping juices.

     

  • To maintain freshness and quality, place your produce in perforated bags when refrigerating.  These cotton mesh ones are what I use (they wash beautifully and last!)

     

  • Store produce that does not require refrigeration on a clean countertop or in a cupboard or pantry out of direct sunlight.  Farmer’s Almanac created a list of foods that don’t need to be in the fridge — read it here.

     

  • Separate the produce that releases ethylene gas during ripening (such as apples, pears, bananas, and mangoes) from other produce to extend its shelf life by preventing premature spoilage. This can be done by placing it in a separate refrigerator bin or by storing those fruits in “green bags” or “green bins” like these…

Tip:  I bring a cooler that has a couple of big frozen ice packs in it when I go to the market in the summer.  Makes it easy to store perishable foods for the trip home while keeping them cold.

4. Take Care of Leftovers

  • Refrigerate or Freeze Leftovers Promptly — to reduce the chance of bacteria growing, get your leftovers into the fridge or freezer within two hours of preparation (or one hour on days over 90º F). Any perishable foods sitting out at room temperature for longer than two hours should be discarded.
  • Reduce Temperature of Hot Foods Quickly — this discourages bacterial growth. To speed the cooling process, separate large quantities of leftovers into smaller containers. It is okay to place hot leftovers directly into a properly operating refrigerator, provided large quantities have been divided into shallow containers for quicker cooling. Leave hot foods partially uncovered while cooling, and then cover them completely once they reach 40º F or freeze.
  • Reheating — When reheating leftovers, get the internal temperature to at least 165º F before eating it. If using a microwave, stir the food periodically to help promote even reheating. Frozen leftovers can be thawed in the refrigerator for reheating later. You can also use a microwave to thaw frozen leftovers if the food will be consumed right away.
  • 3-day/3-month rule — If you haven’t eaten your refrigerated leftovers within 3 days, toss them.  For frozen leftovers, 3 months is the general rule of thumb.

5. Stay Sharp!

When my dad was teaching me how to cook, one of the first lessons was knife safety and knife care.  Respect is the name of the game with a knife.  I recommend having these knives (I use the first 3 regularly, but you may want the 4th!):

1. Chef’s Knife  (8” or 10″ — or both) — this is what I use for most prep work.

2. Paring Knife  (3”) — perfect for small jobs like hulling and slicing a strawberry, or peeling an apple. It’s also a good knife to have children use when they first start learning to work with knives – it allows their little hands to have more control.

This set of 4 utility paring knives will fast become your favorite in the kitchen!

3. Long Serrated Bread Knife — um… perfect for slicing bread… and exceptional for slicing tomatoes!  This one is light-weight and durable.

4. Slicing/Carving Knife (10”) — this is the one that I have but don’t use much.  If you cook meats, you will want this as it slices and carves better than the others.

 

I hope my Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch help you enjoy season after season of safe, satisfying kitchen time. 

Healthy happens here… healthy food choices, healthy connections… it’s all self-care when you boil it down.

Now, if you’d like to enjoy some recipes to highlight the last of the fresh summer produce I’d like to offer you the opportunity to explore my favorite tasty summer dishes, cleanse your body and relax your mind with my signature Summer Cleanse.  Even though the days are not quite as hot as midsummer, the body can use the bounty of nutrition still coming from our summer gardens, Farmer’s markets and CSA’s! Let me help you take the guesswork out of health!

The Fall Detox/Whole Food Cleanse begins October 3rd and doors will be opening soon.  In the meantime, give your body the gift of summer loving with the Summer Detox —   I think it’s the perfect 7-day plan for these late Summer days!  Enjoy $30 off the Summer program in this End of Season FLASH SALE (only available until 9/18/19!)  Scoop it up for $67 for the next two weeks only! 

While you’re waiting for the Fall program to open, join me for a delicious blend of smoothies, juices, soups, salads, snacks, desserts, and other simple, satisfying, nourishing recipes.  Besides the tasty food, your digestive system will enjoy much-needed summer vacation and restoration.  You’ll release some of that BBQ bloat and the inflammation brought on by the summer ice cream stands!  You deserve to feel lighter heading into Fall.  So, join me for this fabulous week of recipes and coaching.  Let’s get together and get our glow on!

We all need a little of that!

 

Get the Summer Reset before time runs out!

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Blueberries for Your Brain

Blueberries contain high levels of flavonoids.

Flavonoids are super supportive of brain function.

In one study, participants with the most flavonoids in their diets had better cognitive function over a ten-year period than those with the least. Another study linked daily blueberry consumption to improvements in memory and increased blood flow to the brain.  Proanthocyanidins (a category of flavonoid), protect the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage from some environmental toxins.  Impressive.

Plus, these little gems taste great, are rich in fiber and antioxidants and support overall health too!

Start incorporating more blueberries into your daily diet.  Check out my recipe below for a beautiful blueberry sorbet that can help!

 

This sorbet is so lovely. 

4-5 cups frozen blueberries
juice of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
torn mint leaves

Add all ingredients except mint to your food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Top with mint.  Scoop and serve OR pour into a freezer-safe container to serve later.

The Low Down on Protein and How Much You Really Need

As a plant-based eater, one of the things I hear all the time is “Where do you get your protein?”  People want the low down on protein and how much you really need! With high protein dietary approaches like Paleo and Keto in the limelight, I also see a huge emphasis on protein intake: shakes and bars especially.  By the end of this article, you will understand

  1. What protein is
  2. Why it is important for your good health
  3. How much you need
  4. Where you can get it

What is Protein?

  • an essential nutrient, which means that without it, you can’t survive.
  • contained in every part of your body: bones, muscles, skin, hair, fingernails, blood, organs, eyes and is second in volume in your body only to water.  

Why do I need it?

It’s a simple but critical reason: the body requires protein in the same way it requires carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.  Because protein is a major component in bones, nerves and other organs it makes sense that we need it for the physical structure of our body.  However, protein is involved in many body processes as well — enzyme production, cellular repair, cellular growth, hormone production, general energy requirements.  When we lack adequate protein, our growth is affected as well as our bone structure and bone density, muscle strength and stature, brain health and general body chemistry.  This is important stuff, so let me fill you in on the science and then we’ll talk about how to get enough protein for optimal health.

 

Understanding Protein

Protein is made up of amino acids.

There are 20 different amino acids:

  • 10 can be manufactured in the body so we don’t need to get them from food
  • 10 cannot and must be obtained from food sources — these are the ones called “Essential” amino acids because it is essential that we get these from food sources.

The University of Arizona’s Biology Project gives the following summary:

“The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

The essential amino acids (that we cannot produce internally) are arginine (required for the young, but not for adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are required in the diet.

Plants, of course, must be able to make all the amino acids. Humans, on the other hand, do not have all the enzymes required for the biosynthesis of all of the amino acids.”

Enough of the right stuff

The failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids has serious health implications and can result in degradation of the body’s proteins. Muscle and other protein structures may be dismantled to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. “Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use the amino acids must be in the food every day.”(Biology Project)

So, we can make certain amino acids and not others.  The ones we can’t make MUST be consumed from dietary sources or the body WILL BREAK DOWN its own protein sources to get what it needs.  This is one reason why people can lose muscle when on very restrictive diets or when they are sick and cannot eat.  The body breaks down muscle to get the supply of amino acids needed for critical functioning.

 

You Complete Me

Now, you may have heard the term “Complete Protein.” These are made from all 10 Essential Aminos (the ones that your body cannot make on its own) and are most commonly found in animal foods, like meats, eggs, and fish, but there are plant sources too.  We will get to sources in just a minute but it’s good to know that you have options and a variety of sources.

The main take away from this lesson is that Amino Acids are the building block of proteins.  There are 10 aminos that we absolutely need to get from foods.  Aminos are crucial to the regulation and maintenance of the body because the body not only uses them for critical functions but is also structurally comprised of protein.

How Much do I Need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is calculated by age and weight; gender can be a factor during the teen years and during pregnancy and lactation.  I created the chart below to make it easy to see where your needs fall.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) based on body weight, include age-related adjustments for the extra protein needed for growth
(USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine)

For adults, the basic calculation for daily protein requirement in grams is
Body weight in pounds x .36 = grams needed per day 

Got Super Powers?  You know who I’m talking about… all the pregnant ladies, breastfeeding moms and athletes?  Well, then the numbers adjust!  People who call upon their bodies to do Super things require approximately double the amount of protein that the rest of us do.  The great thing is that caloric needs increase for these bodies as well.  Focusing on eating a variety of whole foods will ensure that you get the increased calories as well as fats, carbs, and proteins.  When we get down to the sample menu, you’ll see how very easy it is to meet your needs as calories increase.

Am I getting enough?

The money question!  Thankfully, it’s easy to answer and really simple. Regardless of whether you eat meat or don’t, getting enough protein usually isn’t an issue.  The issue becomes the quality of the protein and making sure that you don’t get TOO MUCH. 

  • Meat eaters typically consume SIGNIFICANTLY more protein than is required. 
  • Plant-based eaters, even strict raw vegans can consume more than enough protein daily. 

Am I getting too much?

What’s the problem with too much protein?  Well, there are a couple of things. 

  1. The first is that excess protein puts a strain on your kidneys. 
  2. The second is that if more protein is consumed than the body needs for building, maintaining and repairing tissue it will either be converted for use as an immediate energy source if there is not enough glucose(from carbohydrates) or it will be stored as fat. 

We don’t want either of those things… we want balance! 

When looking at dietary approaches like Keto, Atkins, and Paleo, consider what the extra protein load can do in your body and whether a protein heavy approach feels right for your body.   For balance, the key is to choose your protein sources wisely.  Clean, lean proteins are best.  Plant-based proteins provide the added benefits of significant fiber, micronutrients and complex carbohydrates (all of which are necessary for overall balanced health).

What are the best sources of protein?

Animal

The most common sources of complete balanced protein, as mentioned earlier, are animal foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.  These sources come with a cholesterol load as well as any environmental toxins that the animal consumed — so things like hormones, pesticides, systemic illness suffered by the animal all become a factor. 

Plant

Most plant proteins are missing one or more of the essential amino acids, but that doesn’t cause problems unless you are only eating one vegetable all the time and nothing else.  Because we naturally have meals with multiple elements where one item is deficient another will have the missing piece, so eating a variety throughout the day will ensure that you get what you need.  Plant sources can come with pesticide loads if they’re not organic and the level of nutrients may vary depending on the growing season.  

The idea of “complete protein” needing to come from single food sources or needing to be specifically combined in plant-based meals is no longer regarded as true.  Though there are a few superstars in the plant world that are complete BALANCED proteins: Quinoa, Hemp, and Soy.  These are foods that contain fairly equal levels of the 10 essential amino acids.  Other plants still contain the 10 essential amino acids, but not in balance like quinoa, hemp, and soy.

It’s not like this is a secret; this data has been publicly available from the USDA for decades, and now the USDA’s database is even online.*

Amino acid need from the World Health Organization, food composition from the USDA nutrient database.
The analysis is for each individual food all supplying calorie needs (closest to the “low active” category for a 5’11” 181lb. 25BMI male, as per the FDA).

What to Eat In a Day

Here is a sample daily menu that easily provides 82 grams of protein.  Protein values are approximate, but you will get the idea.

What to Eat Grams of Protein Added Benefits
Green juice    or smoothie 2+ grams of  protein Lots of   micronutrients
1 cup quinoa   + 1 Tbsp nuts 13 grams of protein Manganese,   magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats
Apple or   Celery   + almond   butter 8 grams of protein
(1 gram from apple or celery, 7 from nut butter)
Flavonoids,   polyphenols and fiber to help regulate blood sugar, pectin, vitamin C, micronutrients//vitamin   K and calcium, B vitamins in celery; healthy fats, vitamin E, B2, magnesium,   potassium, copper
Salad with   ½ cup black   beans, ¼ cup hemp seeds 19 grams of protein
(1 from 2 cups of romaine and spinach greens, 7 from beans, 11 from hemp)
Vitamins   A, K, C, Calcium, fiber, healthy fats, omega 3, folate, molybdenum
Veggies +   ¼ cup hummus 12 grams of protein Micronutrients,   fiber
Broccoli   stir fry + 4 oz tempeh   + ½ cup brown   rice 28 grams of protein
(6 from 2 cups broccoli, 20 g in 4 oz tempeh, 2.5 g in 1/2 cup brown rice)
Isothiocyanates   (cancer-fighting compound), Calcium, vitamin C, K, A, fiber, zinc, probiotics

As you can see, it’s not hard to rack up the protein using plant sources.  If you choose to use animal proteins, know that a little goes a long way:

What to Eat Grams of Protein Added Benefits
1 cup   milk 8 grams of protein calcium
3 oz   meat 21 grams of protein  
8 oz yogurt 11 grams of protein Calcium,   probiotics

 

The Bottom Line

You can easily get enough protein by consuming a variety of real whole foods in the form of fruits, vegetables.  Not 100% veg?  Lean meats, dairy, and fish are all sources of complete protein but they are concentrated and present added cholesterol into the diet as well as the possibilities of contamination from ingested hormones and antibiotics.

Commercially hyped protein powders, shakes, and bars… likely won’t hurt you, but also likely won’t help you.  If you are very active or need an occasional meal replacement, then consider a product that is as close to whole food as possible and one that does not contain genetically modified soy.

Ultimately, eating a balanced diet full of greens, beans, fruits, and veggies is a healthy way to go because you will be fueling your body with nutrient dense, low calorie, high fiber foods that are rich in amino acids.  According to nutrition and health expert, Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his groundbreaking book Eat to Live, “almost any assortment of plant foods contain about 30-40 grams of protein per 1,000 calories.  When your caloric needs are met, your protein needs are met automatically.  Focus on eating healthy, natural foods; forget about trying to get enough protein.”  Eat well, eat real, eat a variety of rainbow-colored natural foods… Whatever you choose, choose smart for a healthy body.

 

Want to learn more?  Check out these resources:

  • references for protein in vegetables chart
    Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition (PDF), World Health Organization (2002). Recommendations on p. 126. Recommendations are an “average requirement” of 0.66 g of protein per kg of ideal body weight, and a “safe level” of 0.86 g/kg.
    USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (accessed August to December 2009)
    FRUIT: Average of Apples, Pears, Grapes, Bananas, Plums, Oranges, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Strawberries, Peaches, Nectarines, Cantaloupe.
    VEGETABLES: Average of Broccoli 27.2%, Carrots 8.7%, Celery 17.3%, Corn 13.4%, Cucumber 17.3%, Green Beans 21.6%, Lettuce icberg 25.7%, Mushrooms white 31%, Onions 12.4%, Peas 28.8%, Potato 10.8%, Spinach 49.7%, Tomato 19.6% (accessed December 2009)

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