By Brenda Richter
One of the biggest questions on a raw-food, plant-based diet is where do you get your protein? Here are some quality plant-based protein sources: hemp protein, yellow pea protein, brown rice protein, flaxseed, chlorella, almonds, pseudograins, dark green leafy vegetables, figs, broccoli, cabbage, celery, kale, quinoa, mustard greens and lemon.
Why did I not include soy? Despite its popularity as a vegetarian alternative to animal protein, soy has several faults. It is difficult to digest and contains enzyme inhibitors that actually halt protein digestion.
Soy is highly processed and contains naturally occurring toxins and carcinogenic residues. Soy is also acid-forming in your body, and is also one of the common allergens, causing symptoms that are challenging to identify and frequently go unrecognized. Most soy is also genetically modified, unless organic.
Athletes often turn to whey protein, although this is derived from dairy. Another common allergen, it is also acid-forming in your body. Whey is an isolate, just like many “vitamins,” and your body does not recognize or process isolates well. Whey is difficult to digest and has only about 70 percent digestibility with the ability to absorb the nutrients. Low digestibility means your body cannot efficiently use the food for nutrients, and low protein absorption results in the protein being stored as fat.
Plant-based protein sources have many benefits: they are easy to digest and are alkalizing, low in saturated fat and promote a healthy body weight and energy level. Instead of burning extra energy to digest animal-based protein, this energy may be utilized for physical or mental activities.
Our culture has a bias toward high-protein foods. Animal protein is highly acidic. The more alkaline you are, the healthier you are.
Studies show that people who get 70 percent of their protein from animal products have major health difficulties compared to those who get just 5 percent of their protein that way. Seventeen times the death rate from heart disease and five times the likelihood of dying from breast cancer. A strong correlation exists between animal protein and several kinds of cancer.
Although there may be some nutrients in animal-based foods, when you consider the high volume of health risks in cancer, the high levels of acidity, the added stress and energy levels required to digest and extract those nutrients, in addition to the longer time it takes to break those animal proteins, it may not be worth the risks.
Vegetables carry all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) the body needs. Green leafy vegetables are particularly high in protein, at about 50 percent protein. Vegetables and fruits taken together have about 15 percent of their calories as protein. The Recommended Daily Allowance is only slightly higher than that (at 20 percent).
Consider the strongest animals in the world like the gorilla and the elephant do not eat meat, but live on grass and leaves. Expert research suggests we need only 25 grams, just one ounce of protein, a day. The average American eating meat, eggs and dairy gets 75 to 125 grams a day, three to five times more than we actually need. To learn more about the benefits of a raw food diet, go to myrawenergy.com.
Brenda Richter is a graduate of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, where she received her certification as a Raw Culinary Arts associate chef and instructor. She’s passionate about sharing the living foods lifestyle with others, and teaches raw culinary arts classes in the Rockford area.
From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue