We are taught and conditioned throughout life that proteins are a macronutrient essential for healthy bodies, that we need protein to survive, and the best way to consume it is through animal products. When one decides to give up animal products, whether for health, ethics or even taste, the big question is, “Where do we get protein?”
It is entirely possible to be healthy, in fact, to thrive, without consuming any animal products. Muscles do not atrophy, organs do not go into failure, skin does not lose elasticity. The excessive consumption of animal protein may cause those consequences. Let us examine what proteins are, why they are considered essential, and why the consumption of them has spiraled out of control.
Proteins are chains of amino acids that are twisted and folded up on themselves. Proteins are not essential, but amino acids are. Proteins make up antibodies, enzymes, hormones and cellular structures. However, upon eating protein, especially that which comes from an animal, the digestive tract must break down the protein into the basic amino acids, then puts them back together again in sequences that our body needs. Animal protein requires a lot of digestive energy to break down, hence the theory behind eating high protein diets to lose weight. In essence, the body is using more calories to digest the food.
It is well known and accepted that proteins will denature in certain environments, for example, too hot, too salty, too acidic. How do most people eat animal protein, which is very acidic by nature? By cooking it, of course. According to chemistry, this renders the amino acids as useless. This puts a tremendous strain on the digestive and lymphatic systems. What I have observed in my clinical practice is that the body stores all that it cannot use or eliminate. This leads to inflammation (edema, bloating, allergic reactions in the face), weight gain around the abdomen and distended, spastic and improperly functioning intestines. After several decades of eating this way, it is no wonder that more chronic diseases are plaguing younger people than ever before.
This is a major problem, and capitalism is fueling this meat-fed society to eat more. Currently, eating bacon is trendy, to the point where other meat products must have bacon on them. Bacon is a salty, fatty, greasy food product that is by no means healthy. Eating a fist full of bacon and avoiding fruit is not the answer to any health concern. However, if bacon sells itself and other products, it will be sold. The three main animals that Americans consume (cow, chicken, pig) are fed corn. Corn is a governmentally subsidized crop, not to mention Monsanto is a billion dollar company that basically has a hand in all consumer goods. On top of this, there is an obesity epidemic in the United States, and we are now obliviously misled to believe that eating a Paleolithic or Ketogenic diet is the answer to weight loss. All of this is leading to a messy situation that is not benefiting anyone except for those making money.
It used to be well known that in order to regain health and vitality, more fruits and vegetables must be consumed. Now the information and food selection has gotten so vast and complicated we cannot even determine what is good for the human to eat. Locally sourced plant products are still best for the planet’s and our own health. Plant-based diets can provide the essential amino acids we need to repair tissues and create new structures in the body.
When comparing the three animals consumed to the myriad of plant foods out there, the variety of the plant-based diet is evident. Therefore, it is possible to eat so many different plant-based dishes and obtain all the macro and micronutrients necessary for vitality and radiant health.
We owe it to ourselves to investigate what is really going on with certain health trends. This is done with proper knowledge, so before consuming anything, examine why you are doing it that particular way. Knowledge and experience trump any health food fads that are only existing in this moment. We all want to be vital for this moment and many more, so transcend beyond that which is popular now and you will enjoy the simplicity and success of healthy living. QCBN
By Katie Borchert, NMD, LAc
Dr. Borchert has office hours daily at Partners in Health Care Naturally in downtown Prescott, 343 S. Montezuma St. She is also available for home visits, a great way to help the whole family. The clinic website is prescottnaturopathicdoctors.com and Dr. Borchert has Facebook and Instagram accounts featuring naturopathic living.