Healing Diet Part 2: CLEAN PROTEIN

Summary

  1. You only need 0.8-0.9 g/kg of protein a day
  2. The best clean protein sources are plant-based whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  3. Proper preparation and adequate consumption is required to meet your daily requirements.

Protein, protein, protein … supplement companies and mass media tell us we need to eat protein to build muscle, stay lean, lose weight, reduce hunger, reduce cravings, boost metabolism, increase fat burning, etc. [1]

However do you know that there are different kinds of protein and some are healthier than others?

Before we get into that, how much protein do we need?

How much?

“According to the US/Canadian Dietary Reference Intakes, the RDA for protein of 0.8 g protein/kg/d is “…the average daily intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all [~98 %]… healthy individuals…” The panel also states that “…no additional dietary protein is suggested for healthy adults undertaking resistance or endurance exercise.” 

S M Phillips. Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S158-67.

Answer: 0.8 – 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day

For example if I’m 60 kg, I require 60 x 0.8 = 48 g of protein a day, 54 g if using 0.9 g/kg.

For calculations in pounds, take your weight in pounds multiplied by 4 and divided by 10.
E.g. 60kg = 132 lbs. 132 lbs x 4 / 10 = 52 grams

Notice that, contrary to popular belief, you do not need to increase your protein intake despite engaging in resistance or endurance exercise.

In fact, the above recommendation are “based on experimental evidence (mostly nitrogen balance), to be more than sufficient.” and that there is still not enough evidence to suggest that higher intakes are beneficial for athletic gains. [2]

“People are more likely to suffer from protein excess than protein deficiency. The adverse effects associated with long-term high protein diets may include disorders of bone and calcium balance, disorders of kidney function, increased cancer risk, disorders of the liver, and worsening of coronary artery disease. Therefore, there is currently no reasonable scientific basis to recommend protein consumption above the current recommended daily allowance, due to its potential disease risks.” [3]

Toxic Protein?

Be warned, certain protein sources are more toxic than others.

Did you know that in the US, 5 million pounds of slaughterhouse by-products like meat and bonemeal are re-fed back to farm animals?! Most of the lead passes through them into their waste, however even their waste (cow, pig and chicken faeces) are fed back to the animal again! Thus this practice of feeding animals back to animals causes levels of contaminants to build up in their bodies. [4]

Meat and offal, especially liver and kidneys, can carry over from plants and concentrate the toxicants of environmental and plant origin and their metabolites. Processing of meat may lose or reduce the concentration of some substances and ibid create new, including toxic ones.

Meat toxicants can be divided by their origin as:

1. Geochemical pollutants from soil, such as arsenic.
2. Mostly anthropogenic environmental pollutants, such as lead, PCBs,
or pesticide residues.
3. Toxic metabolites of microorganisms, such as mycotoxins inhabitating feed plants.
4. Endogenous plant toxicants, such as ptaquilosides.
5. Animal endogenous poisons, such as phytanic acid.
6. Veterinary drug residues.
7. Toxicants, borne in meat during processing and storage, such as PAHs, botulinum toxin, or biogenic amines.

Püssa T. Toxicological issues associated with production and processing of meat. Meat Sci. 2013;95(4):844-53.

Besides toxins, other concerns regarding consumption of conventional livestock are hormones and antibiotic usage, as well as the carcinogens produced when you cook meat.

However much toxins you are exposed to, ultimately what matters is how much you absorb.

In fact, humans eating a vegetarian diet have a much higher exposure to toxins like lead through their diet but they also have some of the lowest concentrations of these toxins in their blood!

There seemed to be a tendency towards higher faecal elimination of lead following a change to a vegetarian diet, with nine subjects on average tripling their elimination of lead, three unaffected, and four dropping by about half. … A shift towards a diet characterised by large amounts of raw vegetables, fruits, and unrefined foods, whole grains, with the exclusion of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (though it did include fermented dairy, like a type of soured milk), as well as cutting back on processed foods and junk. … got significant reductions in heavy metals, including cutting their lead level nearly in half. … within three months, their toxic heavy metal levels went down, and stayed down. How do we know it wasn’t just a coincidence? Because they went back up a few years later after the study was over, after they went back to more of their regular diet, and their mercury, cadmium, and lead levels shot back up to where they were before.” [4, 6, 7, 8]

So, depending on your individual absorption and clearance rates, these toxins can accumulate in your body and impair healing or worse, cause further damage/disease in the long run.

Thus to minimise toxin exposure, and accelerate healing, you’d be best to eat mostly cleaner sources of protein.

Animal vs Plant Protein

By now you should be able to guess which type of protein is better for us? The red 🥩 or the green🌱 one? (Matrix reference there😉)

If you chose the green pill, you’re absolutely right! 🌱

Another case for clean protein is because different types of protein have very different effects on our bodies.

It turns out animal protein profoundly impacts human kidney function, increasing the workload of the kidneys through hyperfiltration. From red meat to white meat, fish, eggs and even dairy, it appears that animal protein seems to induce an inflammatory response. [9, 10, 11]

“This may help explain why our kidneys fail so often. Unlimited intake of protein-rich foods, now generally regarded as “normal,” may be responsible for dramatic differences in kidney function between modern human beings and their remote predecessors who hunted and scavenged for meat here and there. Sustained, rather than intermittent, excesses of protein require us to call on our kidney reserves continuously, causing a kind of unrelenting stress on our kidneys that can predispose even healthy people to progressive kidney scarring and deterioration of kidney function. On the other hand, administration of an equal quantity of vegetable protein does not appear to have the same effects.” [12]

Michael Greger M.D. FACLM

We all know that chronic inflammation is one of the cardinal signs of disease and something we want to minimise on a healing diet.

Clean Protein

Now that you are more aware of the dangers of animal protein, what are some good sources of plant protein?

Legumes contain an average of about 10% protein – 10g of protein per 100g. Although some have are higher in protein than others.
They include lentils (9%), Peanuts (25%), Chickpeas (9%), Edamame (10%), Soybeans (16%), Tofu (12%), Tempeh (18%) and beans (9%): Kidney, Black, Pinto, Adzuki, Navy, etc

Whole grains offer an average of 4% protein. I emphasis consuming whole grains because that way you are not missing out on most of the nutrients and fiber too.
Great examples include Quinoa (4.4%), Amaranth (3.8%), Oats (2.5% cooked in water), Spelt (5.5%), Millet (3.5%), Rice – white (2.4%), wild (4%), brown (2.5%), etc

Nuts give you an average of 15% protein.
NUTritious examples range from Walnuts (15%), Brazil (14.3%), Almonds (21.2%), Hazelnuts (15%), Pistachio (20.6%), Pecan (9.2%), Macadamia (7.9%), Cashew (18.2%), etc

Seeds provide about 17% protein.
Great examples include Flax/Linseed (18.3%), Pumpkin (24.5%), Sesame (17.7%), Sunflower (20.8%), Chia (15.2%), etc

Values taken from https://nutritiondata.self.com This is my go-to site for reliable nutritional data on food! Just remember to change serving sizes to suit your region (e.g. 100g vs 1 cup). Its sources come from the USDA so do bear in mind that depending on where your food is grown, its nutritional profile may not be the same. e.g. New Zealand soils are lacking in zinc, magnesium, selenium and iodine.

IMPORTANT: Whenever possible, choose Organic or Spray-Free to minimise your toxic load from pesticides. Foods grown this way are also GMO free and have higher mineral and nutrient content.

“The Plant Protein Combining Myth”

Because most plant proteins do not contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids required by us, there is a myth that you have to eat certain groups together at every meal to obtain what you need such as beans with grains. However that myth is now debunked.

“There is no need to consciously combine different plant proteins at each meal as long as a variety of foods are eaten from day to day, because the human body maintains a pool of amino acids which can be used to complement dietary protein.” [14]

Marsh, K. A., Munn, E. A., & Baines, S. K. (2013). Protein and vegetarian diets. The Medical Journal of Australia199(4), 7-10.

IMPORTANT: Variety is the name of the game. A healthy diet will consist of a variety of different protein sources throughout the day from legumes to nuts and seeds and grains.

Clean Protein Preparation

Soaking my weekly proteins overnight before cooking helps remove anti-nutrients and improve digestibility.

Many plants create anti-nutrients that are meant to stop animals from eating their parts or to prevent the whole seed or grain from being digested so that they can propagate through the animal’s poop.

As the name suggests, anti-nutrients like Phytic-acid and enzyme inhibitors produce the opposite effects of nutrients when consumed. Instead of nourishing, they ‘rob’ us of nutrients, decrease digestibility and in the long-run, may result in mineral deficiencies. [15, 16]

Here’s a summary of how to prepare CLEAN PROTEIN for consumption [17, 18]:

All you need:

  • warm filtered water
  • acidic medium ~ yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, milk kefir and coconut kefir.  Note that all dairy needs to be cultured.
  • baking soda for legumes
  • warm place in the kitchen
  • time

Legumes

  1. For kidney shaped beans, put beans, a pinch of baking soda and enough water to cover in a large pot and soak for 12-24 hours.
  2. For non kidney shaped beans like black beans and other legumes, soak with water and 1 TBL of cider vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of dried legumes used.
  3. For maximum digestibility, it is best to rinse and refresh the water and baking soda or the acidic medium once or twice during the soaking period.
  4. Once soaking is complete, drain, rinse, add fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add a few cloves of peeled and crushed garlic if desired and simmer for 4-8 hours until soft.

Grains

  1. Cover grains completely with filtered warm water. For every 1 cup of liquid you will need 1 tbsp of acidic medium.  
  2. All grains with the exception of brown rice, buckwheat and millet, need to be soaked for 12-24 hours. Buckwheat, brown rice and millet have low levels of phytic acid and only require 7 hours soaking time.
  3. Cover and place bowl in a warm place
  4. Rinsing grains thereafter is not required but can be done. Do note that many soaked grains will take less time to cook then non soaked grains. 

Nuts & Seeds

  1. Dissolve about 1 tbsp of salt to 3-4 cups of filtered warm water in a medium bowl
  2. Completely submerge nuts and seeds in the water
  3. Leave uncovered on the counter or other warm place (not the refrigerator) for at least 7 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Rinse in a colander and spread on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet.
  5. Bake in the oven at the lowest temperature (40 C or 150 F is optimal) or dehydrate until completely dry. This step is important, as any remaining moisture in the nuts or seeds can cause them to mold.
  6. Dehydrating time can often be up to 24 hours, so a dehydrator simplifies the process but isn’t necessary. [19]

Personal Application

Once a week, I soak a big pot of clean protein overnight. Usually this consists of about 100g of a bean, a lentil and a whole grain. I go for different types and colours each week to get variety. I then boil them with water and some salt and spices. Voilà! A convenient protein source I can scoop into lunchboxes or easily reheat for dinner during the week!

Besides that, I regularly consume nuts and seeds too. I have yet to get into the habit of soaking nuts and seeds and dehydrating them but I sprinkle them on almost every vegetable dish and snack on them on other occasions.

Additionally, ground Flaxseeds are a part of my daily diet I definitely don’t miss! I have at least a tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day for its myriad of benefits. They are really easy to add to anything and I even mix them into freshly ground peanut butter and Tahini.

Tahini (or sesame butter) is something I also regularly consume because it is a rich source of calcium.

You can probably tell by now that I don’t consume meat or dairy on a regular basis. The only animal product I still purchase these days is 6 free range eggs a week, eaten 2 at a time on alternate days.

One of the few downsides is that of sheer quantity. You have to consume a lot more clean protein to meet your daily requirements but I assure you its well worth it. Most plant-based sources like those mentioned above also have fiber and many other nutrients that facilitate digestion and increase your satiety so people end up losing fats and feeling healthier (especially with bowel motion) when they make the switch!

Clean Protein Effects

Since transitioning to more CLEAN PROTEIN, overall I just feel so much cleaner, healthier and less inflamed. Its as if I’ve given my body the chance to detoxify by replacing most animal products with plant ones.

  1. Inflammation – significant reduction in inflammatory symptoms in my body such as stiff arthritic joints in the morning
  2. Mucus – no longer get sinus or mucus buildup in the mornings too
  3. Skin – I have been receiving continuous feedback about how much my complexion has improved. I definitely attribute this to the increase in vegetable consumption as well (see part 1 of Healing Diet)
  4. Recovery – no change in recovery from workouts, in fact, I may be recovering better
  5. Autoimmune – of course I should mention that all of my past autoimmune symptoms no longer bother me anymore!
  6. Gas – Although you may produce a little more flatulence than usual from the beans, I realize that there is often little to no odor but when I consume animal products again these days it smells as if “something died in there” 😵

Summary

  1. You only need 0.8-0.9 g/kg of protein a day
  2. The best clean protein sources are plant-based whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  3. Proper preparation and adequate consumption is required to meet your daily requirements.

Related posts

  1. Healing Diet: Overview
  2. Healing Diet Part 1: A GREEN Foundation

Final notes: do note that when it comes to nutrition, there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for everyone. Diets should be individualised because everyone is different and will require different amounts of protein and some may tolerate some types of protein better than others. For example people with high histamine levels may not do so well on high-histamine foods like Walnuts vs Macadamias. So learn to tune in with your body and observe its reactions and how you feel after eating certain foods. If you are still unsure, do consult a holistic healthcare professional like an experienced naturopath.

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-to-eat-more-protein#section1
  2. S M Phillips. Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S158-67.
  3. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-great-protein-fiasco/
  4. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-lower-heavy-metal-levels-with-diet/
  5. Püssa T. Toxicological issues associated with production and processing of meat. Meat Sci. 2013;95(4):844-53.
  6. Vahter M, Johansson G, Akesson A, Rahnster B. Faecal elimination of lead and cadmium in subjects on a mixed and a lactovegetarian diet. Food Chem Toxicol. 1992;30(4):281-7.
  7. Srikumar TS, Johansson GK, Ockerman PA, Gustafsson JA, Akesson B. Trace element status in healthy subjects switching from a mixed to a lactovegetarian diet for 12 mo. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55(4):885-90.
  8. Srikumar TS, Källgård B, Ockerman PA, Akesson B. The effects of a 2-year switch from a mixed to a lactovegetarian diet on trace element status in hypertensive subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1992;46(9):661-9.
  9. P Kontessis, S Jones, R Dodds, R Trevisan, R Nosadini, P Fioretto, M Borsato, D Sacerdoti, G Viberti. Renal, metabolic and hormonal responses to ingestion of animal and vegetable proteins. Kidney Int. 1990 Jul;38(1):136-44.
  10. AY Chan, ML Cheng, LC Keil, BD Myers. Functional response of healthy and diseased glomeruli to a large, protein-rich meal. J Clin Invest. 1988 Jan;81(1):245-54.
  11. J Lin, FB Hu, GC Curhan. Associations of diet with albuminuria and kidney function decline. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 May;5(5):836-43.
  12. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-type-of-protein-is-better-for-our-kidneys/
  13. https://nutritionfacts.org/2018/12/20/do-you-have-to-combine-plant-proteins-at-a-meal/
  14. Marsh, K. A., Munn, E. A., & Baines, S. K. (2013). Protein and vegetarian diets. The Medical Journal of Australia199(4), 7-10.
  15. https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/living-with-phytic-acid/
  16. Shi, L., Mu, K., Arntfield, S. D., & Nickerson, M. T. (2017). Changes in levels of enzyme inhibitors during soaking and cooking for pulses available in Canada. Journal of food science and technology54(4), 1014-1022.
  17. https://www.westonaprice.org/proper-preparation-of-grains-and-legumes-video-by-sarah-pope/
  18. https://wholelifestylenutrition.com/health/is-soaking-grains-and-legumes-necessary-and-how-to-properly-soak-and-prepare-them/
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