Proteins, proteins, everywhere…
It’s OK to eat less meat
Cutting back on meat sounds much more appealing to my patients than giving up meat completely. Extensive research supports that eating animal protein significantly increases the risk of chronic disease and some cancers, and it’s clear that most of us would benefit from less meat consumption. Consider reducing meat consumption by applying a different portion measuring tool – the “OK” sign you make with your thumb and forefinger.
It’s “OK” to decrease meat consumption. French and German nutrition researchers agree. They studied 148,610 adults in the Cancer Prevention Study, and found that plant-based eaters were forty percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters. Subjects with the highest meat intake had an approximately thirty to forty percent higher colon cancer risk. This data adds to an already impressive and alarming body of data regarding meat consumption from US-based studies and other studies worldwide.
The most interesting part of the study, however, is the definition of “heavy” meat consumption in France and Germany. Heavy meat consumption is defined as just two ounces of meat a day in their study. That’s the amount of meat contained in the “OK” sign. The first step in getting back to good health is resetting meat consumption to this much lower level, getting acclimated, and working on further reductions from there. Beans, grains and potatoes are good nutritious and delicious replacements for that animal protein that used to be taking up too much room on your plate and in your colon.
Healthy Snacking: Edamame
This popular Japanese snack might be one of the smartest snacks around. Beans are an excellent source of protein, and probably the best source of protein in a plant-based diet. One cup contains a whopping 22 grams of protein. The carbohydrates in beans are complex carbohydrates, so they provide an optimum fuel source for your body, burning slowly over several hours after eating. In the presence of 8 grams of fiber per cup of beans, the complex carbohydrates absorb even more slowly.
Maybe that’s why beans have a second meal effect. In addition to balancing blood sugars between meals, beans stabilize the blood sugars through the next meal also. Each meal of beans helps to smooth out your metabolism for 6-8 hours after the meal, both by adding a good serving of fiber and a slow-absorbing complex carbohydrates. The fiber, carbohydrates and protein combine to make edamame a much more satisfying snack than crackers or pretzels. Edamame is also a good source of iron, with 1 cup providing 20% of your daily needs.
Some controversy swirls around this bean, about whether the plant-based estrogens – or phytoestrogens – could increase breast cancer risk, but that’s not the case. In fact, breast cancer survivors who choose soy and other beans instead of meats and dairy actually experience a survival benefit, living cancer-free for a longer period of time.
Beans protect cancer survivors from recurrence in two major ways. First, the phytoestrogens in soybeans protect the estrogen receptors from stimulation by the much stronger estrogen molecules, limiting estrogen stimulation. Also, eating beans may displace a less healthy alternative, like procarcinogenic meat or dairy from the plate.
Top Plant Protein Sources
When most people think about protein, images of milk, eggs, chicken and steak pop into their heads. Did you know though that every – yes, every – whole food contains protein? From your morning fruit smoothie to your evening rice and beans, finding plants packed with protein is easy to do. And not only is it easy to do, it’s easy for your body to use.
You may have heard about certain foods having “complete” or “incomplete” protein and about the need for “food combining”, but be wary; these ideas turned out to be bad science that has been subsequently debunked. Here’s why:
The term “complete protein” refers to foods that have all nine essential amino acids present in the correct proportion for your body to use to build protein. The term “incomplete protein” refers to foods which have all the essential amino acids, but are simply low in one or more of them. This is called the “limiting amino acid”. While it’s true that most whole plant foods have one or more limiting amino acids, they actually should be referred to as “underabundant” in certain amino acids. Each different amino acid is available in abundance to make healthy proteins.
All plants contain protein and at least 14% of the total calories of every plant are protein. If you are meeting your caloric needs with plant-based foods, you are getting enough protein, period. Our bodies are brilliant, and every food that goes into your system must be broken apart and its nutrients absorbed. During the digestion process, amino acid chains from all sources are broken down and made ready for our bodies to use. There are a growing number of vegan bodybuilders, ultra-marathon runners, and award-winning athletes out there to prove that meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet is simple and successful.
As for where to get your protein, here are some clues: there are about 10 g of protein in 250mls reduced fat milk, 120g tofu or 200g yogurt. A cup of cooked legumes has 16g of protein; an egg has about 6g; 150g cooked fish has 36g and 150g beef or chicken has about 40g.
If you’re like me, pumpkin is one of your favorite fall foods. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 9.35 grams of protein! That’s over two grams more than the same quantity of ground beef. Their high protein content and level of nutrients makes them a wonderful addition to any salad or snack – and a weight-loss secret weapon!
Grilled asparagus with a balsamic vinegar drizzle is enough to make my mouth water. Eight spears of this delectable veggie have 3.08 grams of protein, with virtually no calories!
One ounce of peanuts (approximately 28 peanuts dry roasted without salt) has 6.71 grams of protein.
Almonds are at the top of the nut chain when it comes to nutrient density, which means they will keep you full longer. With one ounce (approximately 24 nuts) containing 6.03 grams of protein they are a wonderful addition to any snack or meal.
One cup of chopped broccoli = 5.7 grams of protein and tastes ah-mazing dipped in hummus!
And then, there’s quinoa, the queen of the grains. It has the highest percentage of protein content at 16 percent per volume! This means that a measly ¼ cup (dry) quinoa has 6 grams of protein.
Some simple math proves the point. If you consume 2000 calories per day from plant sources containing 14% protein, the total number of calories from protein equals 280. Divide 280 calories by 4 (there are 4 calories per gram of protein) to find that this diet would supply 70 grams of protein — more than enough for the average man or woman. Classic studies of protein nitrogen balance have shown that women require, on average, 30-50 grams of protein per day and men require 50-70 grams per day based on weight. However, we likely require less for optimal functioning. Even though there is some controversy surrounding the optimum level of protein in the human diet, you don’t have to worry or take part in the debate.
Here are some more healthy protein sources, devoid of saturated fats and cholesterol, and with the added bonus of being non-inflammatory too:
- 1 avocado – 10 grams
- 1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
- 1 cup spinach – 5 grams
- 2 cups cooked kale – 5 grams
- 1 cup boiled peas – 9 grams
- 1 cup cooked sweet potato – 5 grams
- 1 oz. cashews – 4.4 grams
- 1 oz. sesame seeds 6.5 grams, 3 tablespoons of tahini – 8 grams
- 1/4 cup (2 oz.) walnuts – 5 grams
- 1 oz. pistachios – 5.8 grams
- Nut butters – peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter – 2 tablespoons has about 8 grams of protein
- Amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, wheat germ, oat bran are other grains with a high protein content.
- 1 cup oatmeal – 6 grams.
- Sprouted grain bread products – buns, tortillas, bread. Pack a sandwich or a wrap and you’ll get 7-10 grams from the bread alone.
- Spirulina and chlorella are used often by vegetarians and vegans for their rich nutrient content, and protein content.
- Hemp – 30 grams of hemp powder in your smoothie gives you 11 grams of protein.
Seven Ways That Eating Beans Will Make Your Life Better
More great news is coming all the time about the benefits of choosing even a small amount of beans for protein. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and it’s the second most deadly cancer. It’s also a cancer whose prevention is close to my heart. I managed the hospice care of my older brother as he died from colon cancer, so it goes without saying that I am personally very motivated to help others find better ways of eating to prevent these issues.
People who choose to eat beans, peas, or lentils more than twice a week decreased their risk of colon cancer by 50%, in one six-year study that tracked over 32,000 people. Proper nutrition can dramatically cut colon cancer risk, but admittedly it’s hard to make changes without the support of family and friends. Plenty of studies have found beans to significantly decrease the risk of colon cancer, but most recently, the way that beans work to balance intestinal flora has captured my attention. If you can cut your chance of colon cancer in half by eating beans just a few times a week, imagine the benefit of eating beans daily!
Beans are higher in calories than most plant foods, so they work really well to replace meats and dairy in people who are transitioning to a healthy diet. The way that their fiber breaks down in the colon is nothing short of dietary magic.
By replacing a protein devoid of fiber (meat) with a protein high in fiber (beans), more fiber is presented to the bacteria in the colon. We used to think of fiber as a bulking agent that was indigestible, helped you feel full, and kept you regular. It turns out that fiber isn’t digestible by humans. However, fiber is easy to digest for the bacteria in the colon. The healthy gut bacteria stimulate and increase blood flow in the colon by as much as 50%.
Our intestinal flora make short chain fatty acids with it. Short chain fatty acids have a number of health benefits, including lowering the PH of the colon, increasing mineral absorption and also promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria. In fact, teenagers are found to have improved bone density on high fiber diets, due to the increased calcium absorption.
One specific short chain fatty acid, butyrate, also is the primary food for the cells lining the colon. Butyrate from dietary fiber halts cancer cell growth and causes cancer cell death. Short chain fatty acids also detoxify and alleviate oxidative stress, and also have other inflammatory effects.
Unbelievably, the story doesn’t stop there. Fiber binds polyphenols, a class of phytonutrients that have an array of healthy effects. Most dietary polyphenols in plants are locked to the fiber, and have to undergo digestion to be liberated from the fiber and made available to help prevent cancer, heart disease, and reverse cellular aging.
I recommend that people eat one cup of beans every day. Not only do they protect against colon cancer, they stabilize blood sugar and help you feel full. They’ll also reduce cholesterol levels, according to a recent analysis published in Canada.
Here’s a great video from Dr. Greger on the topic!
In summary, eat more beans to:
- Decrease your appetite
- Balance your intestinal flora
- Decrease your cholesterol
- Decrease your risk for colon cancer
- Improve mineral absorption and decrease risk for osteoporosis
- Reverse cellular aging
- Nourish your colon and stimulate healthy, cleansing blood flow to the colon walls
Eat them in:
Bean burritos, chili, as beans and rice, taco salads, bean dip, hummus, bean soups, tofu, as beans atop a spinach salad. Post your favorite bean dish on our Facebook page, or mention it to your Get Waisted Coach, and you could be featured in an upcoming post!
- “Colorectal Cancer Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control. November 2010.
- http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/index.htm (accessed February 2011).
- Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15.
- Agurs-Collins T, Smoot D, Afful J, et al. Legume intake and reduced colorectal adenoma risk in African-Americans. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2006 Dec;17(2):6-12.
- Lanza E, Hartman TJ, Albert PS, et al. High dry bean intake and reduced risk of advanced colorectal adenoma recurrence among participants in the polyp prevention trial. J Nutr. 2006 Jul;136(7):1896-903.
- F Saura-Calixto. Effect of Condensed Tannins in the Analysis of Dietary Fiber in Carob Pods. Journal of Food Science. Aug 2006; 53(6):1769 – 1771.
- L Bravo, R Abia, F Saura-Calixto. Polyphenols as Dietary Fiber Associated Compounds. Comparative Study on in Vivo and in Vitro Properties. J. Agric. Food Chem., 1994, 42 (7), pp 1481–1487.
- Faris MA, Takruri HR, Shomaf MS, Bustani YK. Chemopreventive effect of raw and cooked lentils (Lens culinaris L) and soybeans (Glycine max) against azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci. Nutr Res. 2009 May;29(5):355-62.
- Williams EA, Coxhead JM, Mathers JC. Anti-cancer effects of butyrate: use of micro-array technology to investigate mechanisms.
- Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):107-15.
- Hamer HM, Jonkers D, Venema K, et al. Review article: the role of butyrate on colonic function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jan 15;27(2):104-19.
- Ha V, Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, et al. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ. Published ahead of print April 7, 2014
- S Arranz, J M Silván, F Saura-Calixto. Nonextractable polyphenols, usually ignored, are the major part of dietary polyphenols: A study on the Spanish diet. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Nov;54(11):1646-58.
- F Saura-Calixto. Concept and health-related properties of nonextractable polyphenols: the missing dietary polyphenols. J Agric
- Food Chem. 2012 Nov 14;60(45):11195-200.
- IS A Abrams, I J Griffin, K M Hawthorne, L Liang, S K Gunn, G Darlington, K J Ellis. A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005Aug;82(2):471-6.
Beans–The Closest Tie to Longevity
Among different populations around the world, beans are the most consistent dietary link among those who thrive. Consuming beans as a regular source of protein appears to extend your life and add to the quality of your life in a more consistent way than any other dietary intervention. People who eat beans regularly enjoy a lower body weight, less belly fat and lower blood pressure than people who forgo beans. Rather than chuckling about the gas-producing effects of beans, bean and tofu eaters should be grinning about their wickedly good health.
In one study, people who ate three or more servings of beans per week dramatically reduced their risk of pre-diabetes. We think this is because the fiber in beans is excellent food for the healthy bacteria that live in the colon. When these healthy bacteria are thriving, sugar levels stabilize.
Researchers studied bean consumption in comparison to caloric restriction for weight loss. Study participants were asked to eat five cups of beans each week, without any further advice regarding restriction to other food groups. Bean consumption was as effective as portion control in reducing risk factors related to metabolic syndrome.
Beans also contain a wide range of cancer-fighting chemicals, especially isoflavones and phytosterols. Beans provide a heaping helping of soluble fiber – 15 grams in one cup of black beans. About ten grams of fiber daily has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent. Beans also contain saponins and phytosterols that also help lower cholesterol.
On a cautionary note, beans contain some substances that interfere with the absorption of beta-carotene and vitamins B12 and D. Cooking beans thoroughly not only promotes easy digestion, but also inactivates most of these substances so that vitamin absorption is not an issue. Consider adding herbs like lemon balm, kombu, fennel or caraway during cooking to improve digestibility.
Hummus is a great way to add more beans to your diet. Dr. Mary loves the Sabra brand classic singles to take her beans on the road.
By Dr Mary
Do you feel gassy and bloated all the time? Congratulations! That’s a good sign that you are introducing new foods into your diet that your tummy isn’t used to seeing, and a good sign that this is the diet with the results that will finally last for you. Adding highly processed, low fiber foods usually results in constipation. Adding new, unusual foods like grains and beans can change your digestion dramatically. People who rely on grains and beans as sources of protein increase the the frequency of bowel movements. You’ll also see a 40% decrease in diseases like diverticulosis and appendicitis with a healthier diet.
If your symptoms are new, you may benefit from a visit with your doctor. If you’ve experienced traveler diarrhea, it may have long lasting effects on the GI tract, causing ongoing intermittent episodes of diarrhea for years.
Your doctor can also check for celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, with a very sensitive blood test. True gluten intolerance is rare and easily identified with this simple test.
Finally, your doctor may have recently prescribed antibiotics that killed off your customary digestive tract bacteria. You can replenish those with probiotics. You’ll find a wide selection in the refrigerated section of your health-food store. However, you’ll need to keep your system alkalinized to support the growth of those healthy bacteria in your colon. Do that by continuing to select healthy, whole foods as your primary sources of nutrition.
Ok, so now back to the potentially troublesome foods. Every one of these food groups harbors substances that can be fermented by the bacteria in your digestive tract, causing gas. If you have trouble digesting them, consider cooking them thoroughly first. Also, if your system isn’t used to them but you really want to enjoy the healthy benefits of these foods, just add them to your nutrition program a little more slowly, and give your gorgeous body a chance to catch up with you. Smaller servings will help.
Cruciferous vegetables: Higher fiber contents causes gassiness after ingestion of broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Legumes: There are ways to tame the magical fruit. If you are preparing them from scratch, soak beans well, discard the soaking water, cook them thoroughly, then rinse them again. Some people also add kombu (a sea vegetable) or baking soda to the cooking water.
Gluten: Only 1 in 200 people is diagnosed with celiac disease. Often, grains are processed with yeast and sugar in the US. Sourdough grains that are broken down with a fermenting process are much better tolerated. Be sure you are selecting grains from a great bakery that uses a “mother” to ferment the grains before you quit enjoying these healthful, delicious foods. Buy the best naturally leavened bread here: http://pleasantonbakery.com/buy-our-bread/
Sugar: Natural fruit sugars are great energy sources. But the amount of sugar in sodas and juices can exceed what your digestive tract can absorb. For example, a banana has 14 grams natural sugar; a 20- ounce soda has 4.5 times that amount. The extra sugar ferments, producing gas.
Dairy: Most people do not digest the milk sugar, lactose, after they are beyond their toddler years. Dairy is made for infant digestion. Leave the dairy products in the case and notice if the gas and bloating cease.
Also, don’t forget about eggs. Egg protein seems particularly difficult to digest, and you may find that removing whole eggs and limiting your exposure to pastas that are high in eggs will help you be more comfortable.
Public Health Nutrition: 7(1), 77–86, Nutrition and lifestyle in relation to bowel movement frequency: a cross-sectional study of 20 630 men and women in EPIC–Oxford, Miguel A Sanjoaquin*, Paul N Appleby, Elizabeth A Spencer and Timothy J KeyCancer Research UK, Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Gibson Building, The Radcliffe Infirmary,Oxford OX2 6HE, UK
BMJ2011;343doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4131(Published 19 July 2011)Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD