If you’ve read my “Where Do You Get Your Protein” post, you learned that we really only need a maximum of 10% of our daily caloric intake to come from protein. For the average person on a 2000 calorie diet, this would come out to be at the most approximately 50 grams of protein per day as recommended from the FDA, CDC, WHO & USDA.
The reason the “experts” give 10% as a goal is because this number gives a margin of safety for factors that contribute to the inability to digest and absorb some of the protein we eat due to: the cooking process, absorption problems due to illness, the quality of protein, etc. Basically, we really don’t need the full 10%, but if we aim for that number, we are more likely to ensure we get enough. For more information about this, read this report:
PROTEIN FOR GROWTH
The time in a person’s life when they need the most protein is when they are growing at the fastest rate; when they are an infant. What is the recommended protein requirement for babies? Let’s look at nature’s recommendation, mother’s milk. A woman’s breast milk has only 5.8% calories from protein, and is able to sustain a healthy baby through the biggest growth phase it will ever have. As an adult, we do not need as much protein, because we are not growing at the same rate.
A popular infant formula brand, Enfamil, includes 2.1 grams of protein per 100 calories. This means mothers who give their babies this formula are feeding them 8.4% of their caloric intake from protein.
Similac infant formula includes 2.75 grams of protein per 100 calories, which is 11% calories from protein.
So ask yourself, as an adult, do we need more protein than a healthy growing baby?
Therefore, keep in mind that 5% of caloric intake from protein is absolutely sufficient. Striving for 10%, however, is not a bad practice in order to make up for those factors that inhibit protein digestibility and its ability to be absorbed.
Cooking is one of the main hindrances to getting enough protein. When we cook foods at high temperatures, the proteins become denatured. A chemical reaction occurs in the heating process that changes the molecular structure of the protein and destroys or diminishes its original properties. Simply put, it changes the protein so that our bodies cannot use it. When a protein is denatured, it cannot be broken down into individual amino acids in order to be used by the body. The body therefore sees it as an invader, something to be eliminated. So by cooking meats, dairy, eggs, and plants, we are destroying the very protein we think we are getting from these foods, and thereby rendering these amino acids unusable by the body.
THE COMPLETE PROTEIN MYTH
In the past, many people believed the myth that you needed all of the essential amino acids in each meal in order for your body to properly use them. This has been found to be untrue. We do need all of the essential amino acids, but do not need all of them in the same meal, or even in the same day for the proteins to be used properly in our bodies.
I also outlined in the previous protein post that we do not need animal products to get enough protein in our diets and that plants have more than enough protein to sufficiently meet our daily protein requirements.
So, how exactly can we get enough from plants? How much do we have to eat in order to get our daily requirements?
First, I recommend that you use cronometer.com in order to find out exactly what your macronutrient ratios are, and how much protein you are getting from your diet. (It’s FREE)
Here is a breakdown of what I ate on a random day:
(Click on picture to see it larger)
I had orange juice for breakfast, a banana and date smoothie for lunch, a small pre-dinner meal of apples, and a large rainbow salad for dinner with a few sunflower seeds and avocado. I also took a multivitamin, a B-12 vitamin, and a D3 Vitamin due to the lack of sunshine in Michigan’s cold winters.
As you can see, not only am I getting enough protein (48.8 grams), but I am also getting all of my essential vitamins and minerals, without all the unneeded sodium, cholesterol, or trans fats that I used to get eating a Standard American Diet (SAD). I get a lot of my protein from my leafy greens, however, each piece of fruit I eat also adds to my protein intake, so it adds up after I consume enough calories.
How many calories should you eat? It all depends on your activity level and body weight. In Dr. Grahams book, “The 80-10-10 Diet” he outlines a way to estimate the number of calories you need per day. Start by taking your ideal/desired body weight and multiply it by 10. For me that would be 120 x 10 = 1,2o0. Then add 20% to meet basic daily activity needs ( 240 calories). Then add calories for exercise, 300-600 calories per session. This depends on the duration and intensity of your workouts. Note: if your job is very physical, you might need another 800-1,600 calories or more. So if I added 600 calories for a rigorous workout and 300 calories for extra walking I did running errands, my total caloric needs for the day would be 2,340 calories. My caloric needs would be less if I did not do as much physical activity or exercise, or more if I did more. On days where I am very physically active, eating 3000 calories sufficiently meets my needs, but I don’t eat 3,000 calories every day.
Here are some common fruits and vegetables and their protein content based on percentage of calories:
So really, as long as we are getting enough calories from plants, getting enough protein is not a problem. What we should be asking ourselves is, am I getting the majority of my calories from Carbohydrates, or Fat? Which is healthier? Could getting too much protein be detrimental to my health? Stay tuned for more info on those questions.
I encourage you to use cronometer.com to and look at your macro and micro nutrient breakdown. 🙂
Check out my updated video: Raw Vegan Protein Facts.