Tuesday, April 23, 2019
I'm a vegetarian. How can I get enough protein?
If you are a vegetarian you’re probably used to being asked, “Where do you get your protein from?” Everyone becomes very concerned that you aren’t getting enough protein, but in reality, protein deficiencies in America are rare. Although meat is a standard protein staple in the American diet, many other non-meat sources can meet your protein needs. Protein is found in dairy products (cheese, milk, and yogurt), eggs, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities of starches and vegetables. The USDA recommends 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. When broken down in day-to-day life, that can look like having 2 protein foods at each meal (eggs at breakfast, tofu at lunch, and a veggie burger at dinner) and 1-2 protein foods at snacks (such as yogurt or nuts). The flexibility of how to get your protein is up to you, but overall most Americans get plenty of protein regardless if they eat meat or not.
Protein has many valuable functions in the body – building tissue and muscle, hormone production, immune function, energy when carbohydrates are not available, and preserving lean muscle mass. And while there are some populations that might have higher protein needs – such as elite athletes, pregnant women, and older adults – society can certainly overvalue protein as the “ultimate” food group that you should eat all the time. This tends to stem from the same mindset that demonizes other food groups as being “bad”. Food does not have moral value. Eating more protein than your body needs is associated with its own side effects and medical conditions, as is the case with eating too much of any food group. Finding the balance of all the food groups and eating them in moderation keeps your body and mind healthy and functioning at its best.
People choose to adopt vegetarian diets for many valid reasons, such as compassion for animals, trying to reduce their carbon footprint, or for religious reasons. Although a vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate, it’s important to be mindful of the intention behind following a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diets aren’t necessarily more healthful or less healthful than an omnivore diet and restricting food groups can feed into disordered eating. If the goal is to lose weight or restrict certain food groups, it’s important to explore that with your dietitian and therapist.
Tori Davis, MBA, RDN, LDN - is one of the two nutritionists/dietitians at The Awakening Center. You can contact her for individual nutrition counseling by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Friday Food! "Fear of Carbs!"
We're going to have a regular Q&A with The Awakening Center Nutritionists every other Friday on our Facebook page. If you would like to submit a nutrition question feel free to send it to email@example.com.
Here's our first Question: I am so afraid to eat carbs because everything I read says carbs are so bad for you. Why can’t I cut them out entirely?
It’s a trendy thing for the media to do - to pinpoint certain macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins and turn it into a low-fat diet, low-carb diet, high-protein diet, you get the drift. We always seem to be reading about why we should prioritize one macronutrient over another. When I was growing up, fat was the enemy. Most snacks were morphed and modified to be lower in fat. Even foods that never contained fat to begin with were labeled “fat-free” as a marketing ploy. Since trends eventually lose their spark, it only makes sense to slowly start shining this bad wrap on another macronutrient, right? Once it became evident that making foods fat-free or low-fat did not live up to its hype, the media decided to turn against another macronutrient. So now carbs are the enemy…but fat is okay again?
It’s confusing and frustrating right? Who do we even believe anymore? I think carbohydrates started to carry some stigma when the paleo diet grew popular. Carbohydrates were demonized as the media spread messages that they caused weight gain and bloating. Although these messages are trendy and appealing, there is little to no evidence to support these claims. In fact, this nutrition myth is very problematic as it leads to disordered thoughts and behaviors around eating and potentially inadequate nutrition.
Carbohydrates are our body’s primary source of fuel and because of this, they resist storing carbohydrates as fat. It would not make sense to store that preferred and valued energy as fat. Carbohydrates provide us with quick energy as they are digested and transported into the cells quicker than any other macronutrient. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which then travels through our blood stream to supply energy to our brain, muscles and nervous system. Our brains are actually not able to store glucose; therefore, they need a constant, reliable supply. If we do not give our bodies enough carbohydrates, it will begin to break down protein in our muscles, tissues and organs to use as energy. This is why low carbohydrates are not sustainable and can cause increased stress on the body. For optimal functioning, your body requires 50-60% of its total daily intake to come from carbohydrates.
We can agree that all of our bodies are different. What works for one individual may not be best for you. But one thing that is certain and consistent across the board is that all of our bodies require carbohydrates in order to flourish. The media will continue to tell you otherwise simply because it’s trendy and seductive right now, but don’t give in. Don’t fight what our beautifully instrumented bodies are innately born to do.
Karlee Pinto, RD, LDN - is one of the two nutritionists/dietitians at The Awakening Center. You can contact her for individual nutrition counseling by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org