There is a persistent debate in the raw food world about protein and how much you really need.
In traditional nutrition, it has become accepted that we need protein and LOTS of it. In fact, you could even say we’re a protein obsessed culture.
But in the raw food world, we’re always told you get all the protein you need from broccoli (a slight exaggeration but you get the picture) and that plant sources are just as adequate, if not better than animal sources of protein.
Who is right?
I want to break ground – as a raw foodist – by saying there is some truth to both. What?!?!
Yes, as a society, we are likely too obsessed with protein, especially animal protein, but, in the name of personal experience, some people need more protein than others, myself included.
Today I want to reach out to those of you who’ve tried a raw or plant-based diet and just felt like you weren’t getting enough protein. This happens! And it is discouraging when you keep hearing from other raw foodists to “Buck up, you’ll get used to it and No you don’t have a deficiency.”
The more clients I work with and, as the years tick on for me being a raw foodist, I realize there is something to be said for bio individuality, the concept that we are all different (or that, at least, we all fall into several different groups of shared similarities).
I’m a fervent believer that we can all thrive on a plant-based diet, however, I also believe some of us need to tweak this diet to match to our own needs. While for one person a green smoothie keeps them satiated until noon, another person might be “starving” by 10am.
Put simply, some people just do better when they have more protein in their diet. I find athletes, and really busy people (mothers or caregivers, like myself) have a higher protein need (as do children and pregnant women).
The source of the protein is key: No, we don’t need protein from animals including meat and dairy; in fact too much of this type of protein leads to a higher chance of getting a dreaded disease, being sick and dying younger. Yikes!
For my clients I always recommend starting lighter on protein for one or two, or more days and then listening to your body. If you feel like you’re “missing” something, try adding some raw brown rice protein powder to your smoothie or juices (I like Sun Warrior, pictured below) and take another listen to your body.
How long will I have to do this?
Some people need more protein just as they are transitioning to a more whole foods diet (and getting used to eating lighter) and then “graduate” to needing less. Others, like me, simply fare better when they include more plant based protein in their diet continually (i.e. there is no graduation). Does it mean I have it every day? No. But it helps me most days.
For many, adequate protein intake can mean the difference between succeeding and failing on a plant-based or raw food diet.
Early on in my interest in raw food, I was constantly told that I didn’t need much protein but, 5 years later (and some struggling with this “inevitable” transition) I still find I do much better when I include this extra protein in my diet.
Who is right? No one. We’re all slightly different.
What works for one, might not work for another. As well, some days we’re simply hungrier than others. For many women, it is cyclical and corresponds to the time of their menstrual cycle, when they find they are hungrier than usual.
How do I get this extra protein if I need it?
There is an abundance of protein in a plant-food diet but it is often less filling than animal sources. Nuts and seeds are a rich source of protein, however, it is really easy to overdo too many nuts and seeds in the raw food diet, which can slow our digestion and transit time of food and simply add too much fat, albeit healthy, to our diets. Sprouts, wheatgrass and greens like kale have a lot of protein also but getting it from this way solely can be tiresome.
As well, if you are vegan, soy products like tofu and tempeh are rich sources of protein but it is highly allergenic and is still hotly debated in regards to the impact it has on our bodies hormonally, as it has naturally occurring estrogen (I do consume it in moderation though).
For these reasons, I recommend a protein powder like Sun Warrior sprouted brown rice protein powder that can be added in smoothies. Hemp protein powders work well too but I often find they are not palatable enough and quite gritty.
As well, opt for a reputable protein powder and, if you’re dairy free (which I recommend of course), steer clear of whey powder and supplements, which is dairy based (another topic – do we need yogourt).
I hope this post helps you to find your raw or plant-based magic so that you can reach your fullest potential. For those needing some more personal attention, please inquire about my lifestyle coaching.
What has been your experience with protein on a plant-based diet? Do you have a protein powder you love? Care to disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below!
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