Sources Of Protein: Everything You Need To Know About Plant Based Protein (Part 2 of 3)

15 Bean MixWritten By Becki Andrus

One of the most common questions that people ask me is “If you don’t eat meat every day, how are you getting enough protein?” This is the second part in a series of blog posts to help you to understand the truth about protein. If you haven’t already, please read part 1 of this series.

Is More Protein Really Better?

The high-meat, low-carb diet fads have led a lot of Americans to believe that more protein is better. This is false– there is actually no scientific evidence proving that higher amounts of protein (above the daily recommended amounts) are beneficial to avoid disease and improve health.

In fact, studies are showing that diets too high in protein can lead to health issues such as kidney problems, liver problems and osteoporosis. Here are some details:

  • A high protein diet put stress on the kidneys because they have to work harder to remove waste from the system.
  • When extra protein is consumed, it strips the bones of calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis.  The reason the bones are stripped of calcium is because meat is an acidic food, and the body uses the calcium to digest the protein and neutralize the acidity. Higher amounts of protein means that your body needs to use higher amounts of calcium, and if there isn’t enough calcium available it will be pulled from the bones.
  • Also, remember that high-protein meats often contain higher levels of fat, which can lead to other health problems. Studies have shown that a diet high in animal protein can lead to life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

But, Aren’t High-Protein Low-Carb Diets Good For Weight Loss?

Popular diets such as Atkins and the Zone Diet promote high amounts of meat intake and lower amounts of other foods. But, the problem with these eating plans is that they don’t provide adequate nutrition for health– and people that stay on these diets for a long period of time can experience health risks due to the fact that they are missing essential vitamins and minerals that are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The American Heart Association discourages these high-protein diets, because of the health implications of eating so much meat (and not enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc).

Also, the problem with these fad diets lies in the fact that they are not effective for long-term weight loss. They may help a person to lose weight immediately, but once the person goes back to a “normal” eating style they often gain the weight back.

The last problem that high-protein diet-ers find is that they will often experience bowel troubles because their diet is lacking in fiber. Some of the fad diets suggest taking over-the-counter supplements to keep the bowels moving along.

Take a moment to think about that… they know that a side effect is constipation, and instead of using nature’s way to solve the problem (i.e. foods with fiber) it is suggested that you use man-made, artificially produced supplements. These supplements might temporarily relieve the symptom, but they are not fixing the root of the problem!

What About Soy Protein?

Many vegetarians default to soy based products for their protein source. Soy has been touted as a great protein source because of the fact that it contains all of the essential amino acids. Additionally, there are many tasty soy-based products that are very similar to the “real” thing… you can buy soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy sausage, etc.

There are several problems with soy based products, and recent studies are finding that high levels of soy consumption can lead to health problems such as liver, pancreatic and stomach cancers. Additionally, researchers are finding links between soy consumption and thyroid problems. Varies studies have shown that soy consumption can cause hormonal problems (which can lead to fertility problems).

The reason soy can cause hormonal imbalances is because it contains phytoestrogens, which resemble human hormones. When a woman eats soy products, these phytoestrogens are released in the body and they mimic the functions of estrogen. But, this can cause problems because the soy chemicals block the estrogen from accessing it’s receptors and fulfilling it’s purpose. So it is common for estrogen levels to decrease because the phytoestrogens are not allowing the hormones to function properly. Eating soy on a regular basis can cause the bodies hormonal balance to be thrown off as larger quantities of the phytoestrogens collect in the body.

When men eat soy, they can also experience hormonal imbalances because the phytoestrogens also trigger their hormone receptors. Because men have less estrogen than women, the phytoestrogens can cause him to have an excess of estrogen in his body. (And what manly-man wants an excess of estrogen?!?)

To take the soy problem even 1 step further, 98% of all soy is now produced as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This means that the biological makeup of the soybean was altered in order to create a “superior” product. Scientists can alter the makeup of the soybean in order to make the plant more resistant to insects and disease, grow faster, grow bigger, etc.

GMOs are uncharted territory, we don’t know the long-term effects of altered organisms because they haven’t been around long enough to see what happens over longer periods of time. I personally prefer to stay away from GMOs as much as possible.

Another reason that soy products are not ideal for health is because the processed soy products (such as texture vegetable protein, soy burgers, soy hot dogs, tofu, etc) often contain multiple harmful ingredients– chemicals and unnatural ingredients are added to make them taste good. They often have higher levels of sodium, preservatives, artificial flavors, and MSG.

Now, there is an exception to this soy debate, and that is fermented soy products. Foods like miso and tempeh have been fermented, and as a result it makes the phytoestrogens less likely to disrupt the hormones in the body. Because of this, it is suspected that miso and tempeh can be a good way to eat soy.

Does this mean that you should never eat soy? Not necessarily. I am personally ok with consuming soy every so often because I enjoy the texture and taste dynamic that it brings to my meals. Occasionally I will add a small amount of tofu or textured vegetable protein to a dish, but it is not a regular occurrence at my house.

Side note: The topic of soy deserves more detail than this, but since this blog post series is focusing on the overall topic of vegetarian protein I don’t want to derail the discussion too much. I will try to write more information about soy products and health in a future blog post.

So, if you aren’t supposed to eat meat or soy on a regular basis, then how are you supposed to get enough protein? Keep reading… tomorrow I will be going into detail about the best plant based protein sources. You will be amazed to see how many options there are! 🙂

Tomorrow will be part 3 of this 3-part blog series. I will be talking about: 1) The best sources of plant protein, 2) Food combinations, and 3) The biggest mistake that many vegetarians make. Don’t miss out on the last part of this blog series, subscribe to the RSS feed in order to receive updates when new content is posted.

Also, if you found value in this blog post, please help me spread the word. I would appreciate it if you could take just a moment to share it with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or via email. Thank you!

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  1. Sources Of Protein: Everything You Need To Know About Plant Based Protein (Part 1 of 3)
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One Response to “Sources Of Protein: Everything You Need To Know About Plant Based Protein (Part 2 of 3)”

  1. Nicole says:

    Wow, this is very enlightening. I had no idea! I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post. Also, I am headed to check out some of the books you recommended. Thank you!