Is Protein Good or Bad?
Just like for carbohydrates and fats, we can make good and bad choices for protein consumption when on a ketogenic diet.
What makes a protein good or bad? Quality and quantity both matter.
What Is a Protein?
The building blocks of a protein are amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that are needed for the body to create its own protein: skin, hair, nails, muscle, etc. The adult human body can synthesize 13 of these amino acids, but there are 9 that are called essential amino acids. The word essential, in this context, means the body can’t make them. They need to be obtained from the diet.
A dietary protein source that has all 22 amino acids present, is called a complete protein. An incomplete protein has one or more amino acids missing.
The body can not create its own proteins (skin, hair, nails, muscle, enzymes, etc.) unless all 22 amino acids are present.
Eating a diet that is high in incomplete proteins can lead to a protein deficiency, as there may not be enough of all the amino acids present.
Let’s take a closer look at the sources of protein: plants and animals.
Plants typically have incomplete proteins, with a few exceptions:
- Hemp Seed
- Chia Seed
Those who choose not to eat animal products should be careful to practice food-combining to ensure that they get a complete dietary protein.
All plant protein can be considered “good” proteins if they are organically grown, with a possible exception of…
There is plenty of controversy about soy protein.
In America soy is usually genetically modified. This genetic modification add a natural plant molecule called a lectin to the plant which allows it to withstand spraying with herbicide.
So, this creates a few problems:
- Lectins are largely indigestible and can be a major source of intestinal inflammation. For a more in-depth article on how that happens please read “Dietary Sources of Inflammation”.
- Soy beans will have herbicide residue on them. This herbicide is glyphosate which the World Health Organization has said is a probable cause of cancer.
- Unrelated to the genetic modification, soy is estrogenic. The medical literature seems to show conflicting data on whether or not the estrogenic effects of soy are a problem for women. Much of the problems seem to depend on the season of life a woman is in: pre-menopausal or post-menopausal? History of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer or non-estrogen receptor breast cancer?
If you’re going to choose to eat soy-based products, make sure it’s organic and limit consumption to 2 to 3 servings per week. Eating fermented soy products like miso, tofu, and naturally fermented soy sauce, will largely deactivate the lectins that are naturally present in all legumes like soy beans. If you have a history of ER positive breast cancer, consult your physician.
Some may be confused by a discussion about eating animal protein on what I’m calling a Plant-Based Keto-Diet.
I’m defining plant-based to simply mean that plants (good carbs) are the foundation foods for this way of eating. It’s okay to eat animal protein, it just needs to be done in moderation. The amount of dietary protein would be dependent on a persons activity level and age. To learn how to calculate your ideal protein consumption level please see the post on Three Potentially Life Saving Benefits of Low Protein Consumption.
All animal proteins are complete proteins. For this reason, they are often referred to “quality proteins”. But, no surprise, there are good and bad animal proteins. It all depends on how the animal was raised.
How each animal should be raised is a topic that requires its own website, but across the board, animals should be raised in a way that honors they way they were designed to function. All animals need quality food, clean water, clean air, and exposure to sunshine.
Really, all the things that people need for healthy bodies, are the same things animals need for healthy bodies. When animals are given food that they are not designed to eat, they get sick. Just like people.
Bad Animal Protein
Bad animal protein comes from animals that have been raised in a way that requires them to have
- antibiotics to deal with disease and infection from close living quarters,
- hormones that stimulate muscle growth or increase production of milk.
Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in America, are given to animals in the human food production chain. The result of that over- and inappropriate usage is helping to contribute to antibiotic resistant infections in animals.
When those animals are slaughtered, the are sent to your local grocery store for human consumption. Resistant bacteria are then passed on to us.
Clear links to meat containing antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found to outbreaks of UTI’s, sepsis, pneumonia, and more.
Eating this kind of protein won’t make a difference for weight loss–you would still lose weight. But it will also NOT decrease your risk of disease—it will increase it. And that is NOT the goal.
Good Animal Protein
Good animal protein comes from animals that were raised in a way that honors the form and function of the animal: that is, it honors the animal’s design.
Cows are ruminant animals. The form and function of their intestinal system is designed to digest grass and only small amounts of grain that they would get from mature grass that has gone to seed. They can take all that grass and make fat, protein, and carbohydrate out of it. Ah, the beautiful ruminant–my favorite barn-yard animal!
Not all animals can survive on pasture alone: chickens are a grain-centric animals. Most pig varieties need supplementation other than pasture also, but ALL animals will be healthier outside, in the fresh air and sunshine, with varying amounts of pasture available, and not sitting or standing in tight quarters in their own manure.
Animals that are raised this way, also have healthy fat composition. You can learn more about Good and Bad Fat here.
How much protein should you eat? Read this article on “Three Potentially Life-Saving Benefits of a Low Protein Keto Diet”.
Do one good thing for your body today–change the kind of protein you eat.
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