The Protein Myth

Contrary to what you might have been told, you do not have to eat meat to get adequate supplies of iron. It is a myth that vegetarians suffer from iron deficiency more than meat eaters! In fact, meat eaters obtain on average 86% of their iron intake from vegetarian sources!

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is normally obtained through food in your diet and by the recycling of iron from old red blood cells. Without it, the blood can not carry oxygen effectively. Anemia develops slowly after the normal stores of iron have been depleted in the body and in the bone marrow leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable.

Approximately 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men are iron deficient. Women, in general have smaller stores of iron than men and have increased loss through menstruation, placing them at a higher risk for anemia. Symptoms of anemia include weakness, fatigue, depression, coldness of the extremities, dizziness, overall pallor, noticeably pale and brittle nails, pale lips, and in some cases loss of menstruation. A simple CBC blood test at your doctor’s office should deduce whether you have anemia.

Good sources of iron include whole-grain breads and cereals, leafy green vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, watercress, brussel sprouts, arugula, spinach, sprouts and parsley, molasses, lentils, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, olives and dried fruits such as apricots and figs. Additionally, you can supplement your iron intake with iron supplements, Spirulina supplements (Pacifica makes a good product), bee-pollen or a Green Powder drink (BerryGreen, Amazing Grass or Nature’s First Food are all good brands.)

Iron absorption is enhanced when consumed alongside Vitamin C so liberally sprinkle the juice of a lemon over your kale or spinach, drink orange juice in the morning with your toast, and overall try to pair your meals so there is a combination of iron and Vitamin C for maximum absorption.

While I am a vegetarian and find that I get all of my nutrients from vegetable sources, I am not going to get on my soapbox and tell everyone to stop eating meat. Many of my clients (and friends and family) tell me that they feel week and unbalanced when they do not eat it.

So, if you must eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy, it is essential that you eat it in moderation. With the popularity of the Atkins diet, many were left with the belief that eating protein makes us skinny. Eating a diet primarily based upon protein will make us lose water weight at first and place our body in a constant state of ketosis (ie. stress) where in a panic our body burns our fat stores instead of carbohydrates or even protein. This is not a healthy, long-term solution. And, have you seen many fat vegetarians? What about meat-eaters?

On the standard American diet, most of us consume far more protein than we need. To calculate how much protein your body needs CLICK HERE. For some examples to put things into perspective, as a 5′6″ female, I need 26.6-47.3 grams. My husband needs 36.4-64.7 grams. This is not very much when you consider just how much this is!

3.5 oz of chicken has 16.79g, turkey 23g, beef 30-36 g, salmon 25.56g, tuna 29.91g, tofu 17.19g, walnuts 15.03g, cashews 15.31g, peanut butter 25.09g, egg yolk 15.86g, cheddar cheese 24.9g, whole milk 3.22g and ½ cup of brown rice 2.58g. If you eat just one 6 oz. piece of salmon (normally restaurants even serve closer to 8 oz,) then you will have met more than your daily requirement!

Secondly, it is also essential that we only buy farm-raised, free-range and hormone-free meats, dairy and eggs. Oprah did a wonderful segment called Making Conscious Choices a few weeks ago. Please visit her site and watch the show. She does not advocate becoming a vegetarian, but she discusses conscious choices we all can make. Not only is it important to make sure that the food you are eating was handled in a humane way but you also do not want all of the hormones and antibiotics entering your children’s or your own body.

Meats from animals that are farm-raised and have grazed on the land (and have not been shoved into feed lots) and eggs from chickens that have been free-range are much more nutritionally dense, better for your bodies and better tasting!

You can easily get all of your protein needs from vegetarian sources such asquinoa, brown rice, tofu, tempeh, seitan, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and swiss chard, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beans such as lentils, black beans, and kidney beans, avocados, nuts such as walnuts, pecans and almonds, all-natural almond and peanut butters, soy and rice milks. If you personally feel like you have to eat meat or fish I totally respect that but just be aware that there are many other sources of protein and iron. Instead of having protein from animal sources try to substitute some vegetable and grain sources for your optimal health.
Following is one of my family’s favorite recipe:

Grilled Tofu (in under 20 minutes!)

1 package extra-firm tofu
Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Chopped red & yellow peppers and/or celery and tomatos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain the tofu, pat dry and slice into cubes. Place the tofu in a casserole dish and liberally cover with olive oil and soy sauce. Cook and turn periodically until very brown and done. Sprinkle the chopped vegetables on top to decorate and enjoy!

Tofu “Club Sandwich”

1 package extra-firm tofu
2 slices “Fakin Bacon” (purchase at whole foods in dairy section)
2 slices of 7-grain bread
1 tomato
Sliced lettuce
Tofu or canola mayonnaises (Vegenaise is the best!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain the tofu, pat dry and slice in ¼ inch thick pieces. Place the tofu in the oven in a casserole dish with the “fakin bakin” slices at for 15-20 minutes. When done, add tofu and “Fakin bakin” to bread along with sliced tomatoes and lettuce. Slather bread with mayonnaise and enjoy!

Often I cook the grilled tofu recipe one night and then make sandwiches the next!

1 Comment

  • allen
    July 30th, 2014 at 4:34 am



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