The following is a guest post by Molly Peppo Brown, nutritionist and owner of Glow Juice Bar and Café in Ketchum.
When I was in high school, I always had an inclination to be vegetarian. I loved animals and had vegetarian ethics and compassion. However, I tried a few times to cut out meat in our meat-centered household and did not know how to properly meet my nutritional needs. I ended up eating mostly breads, fruits and vegetables. Of course, I didn’t feel well doing that and I concluded, “I just really need protein,” which I still hear a lot.
And yes, we all DO need protein, and we can get it from plants, seeds and other foods. We just need to know which foods to eat, how to prepare them, and create a balanced diet for ourselves.
Protein needs are highly individualized. Whether we are concerned about protein intake during high-demand times such as athletic training, pregnancy, high-growth teenage years, or just need adequate high-quality protein for daily output, the needs are much lower than we are led to believe. These needs can be satisfied with plant-based foods.
It isn’t protein Americans are deficient in—it tends to be vitamins, minerals that are found in healthy, sustainably grown and organic, mineralized foods. In fact, many people get double their protein needs on a daily basis, which can lead to an inflammatory reaction and create digestive stress.
Your cells need to be clean and functioning well to digest and assimilate nutrients. The cleaner your cells are, and the more bioavailable the foods you are eating, the more you can assimilate from your foods. An individuals' assimilation and digestion needs to function optimally to assimilate the nutrients from foods that you eat, no matter what they are.
If your digestion is weak, or completely blocked up from eating a diet high in animal proteins, genetically modified foods and processed foods, no matter what you eat, it will cause inflammation in your body and the nutrition assimilation will be compromised. If you eat clean, pure, organic, locally grown, high-quality foods, and cleanse once or twice a year to improve digestion, your whole body will benefit. You will get more out of everything you eat.
Plant-based proteins can and will meet your protein needs, free up your digestion to give your body more energy, clear up your skin, and support your metabolism. Not to mention, it is a light environmental footprint and requires much fewer resources and water than raising animals for consumption.
High-energy plant-based protein foods are: chia seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, spirulina crunchies, bee pollen, flax, almonds, walnuts, sprouted buckwheat, quinoa, beans, peas, and the list goes on.
At Glow, we emphasize meals that are balanced in protein needs, low-glycemic, and anti-inflammatory. If a protein powder is needed for post-workout recovery, there are some great ones out there. Animal proteins can offer protein, but little else. Plant-based proteins are high in fiber, minerals, enzymes, and vitamins—you get more out of the food you’re eating. Soaked seeds are highly assimilable and powerhouses of nutrition (soak seeds in water before consuming).
Not everyone feels that they can or want to be vegetarian, but every person will benefit from increasing the plant-based foods in their diets on a regular basis with some of the above foods, which will not only meet protein needs but all the other nutrients needed for health and well-being. Plant-based, live foods are anti-inflammatory, packed full of nutrition, easily digestible, and support the environment while saving resources. You just may feel better than ever with a diet rich in plant-based proteins!
Molly Peppo Brown is a health practitioner and nutritionist who opened Glow Juice Bar and Café in Ketchum in 2008. Glow offers organic, locally grown plant based foods, juices, and smoothies as well as regular classes and cleanses. Note: Glow's next fall cleanse starts October 5! For more info, visit www.glowlivefood.com.