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Archive for March, 2012

Water dropletTwo weeks ago, I posted on the importance of protein and suggested that you take some time to determine how much is the right amount for you. This week, our food diary follow-up is more simple but just as important to a healthy diet: the importance of water.

Water is important for a properly functioning body. Staying hydrated can rid you of stress, headaches, tension, and cravings for sweets, all of which are caused by dehydration.

We Need Water For Good Health. Because our bodies are 70% water, we need a constant supply in order to function properly.  Everyday we must replace the fluids that our bodies use and lose through breath, sweat, urine, and stools. We can even promote weight loss by speeding up our metabolisms and lessening our desire for food, particularly sweets. In addition, increasing your water intake allows your body to efficiently eliminate waste products by increasing the need to urinate and therefore flushing more toxins out of your body, which can help reduce problems like acid reflux, ulcers, gastritis, and ailments of the colon, kidneys, bladder, and urethra.

How Much? We need at least 64 ounces, though recent studies suggest that we need much more and that different people need differing amounts depending on their weight, level of physical activity, climate, and diet. For example, a larger person will most likely need more water than a smaller person; a person living in the desert will need more water than a person living in a humid environment; a person who exercises regularly will need additional fluids to replace those lost through perspiration; and a person who eats a diet full of water-rich foods will need to drink less water than a person who does not.

What You Eat Helps Determine How Much Water You Need. Three main categories of foods will require you to take in additional fluids to maintain hydration and efficient elimination of waste products from your body:  sugar, caffeine, and meats.

For example, sugar is 99.5% carbohydrates and only 0.5% water, so you need large amounts of water to balance the intake of refined sugar. This is why sweets make you thirsty. Similarly, caffeine is a diuretic that increases your need for water, so you will need to increase your water intake for every caffeinated beverage that you consume.  Lastly, consider the amount of meat in your diet because a high-protein diet demands a large amount of water for metabolism and efficient elimination.  (This explains why high-protein diets like Atkins have high initial success rates: the body siphons its own water reserves in order to metabolize the protein, resulting in water weight loss.)

Get Your Water From Food Too. In her book Food and Healing, Dr. AnneMarie Colbin details the water content in various foods:

  • Lettuce, iceberg: 95.5% water
  • Carrots: 91.2% water
  • Cow’s milk: 87.4% water
  • Apple, raw: 84.4% water
  • Grapes, green: 81.6% water
  • Potato, baked: 75.1% water
  • Brown rice, cooked: 70.3% water
  • Kidney beans, canned, cooked: 69.0% water
  • Fish, cod, broiled: 64.6% water
  • Chicken, broiled, no skin: 63.8% water
  • Beef, T-bone, broiled: 36.4% water
  • White bread: 35.5% water
  • Sugar: 0.5% water

Knowing the water content of the food you eat is important: it will help you determine how much supplementary water your body needs to obtain through drinks.

Get The Fluids You Need – Not Just From Water. Any beverage without caffeine or added sugar is hydrating.  Good choices include real fruit juices (without added sugar, so check the label) and herbal coffees and teas. Herbal teas do not contain any tea leaves.  They are generally made from flowers, herbs, spices, and other plants; because they are brewed like tea, they are called “tea.”  Check the contents of your tea; if it has any kind of tea in it—whether black, white, or green; or contains leaves or tips—then it is not herbal.  Herbal teas can be great hot or iced.  Brew some at home, add stevia or agave nectar (both natural sweeteners) if you want a little sweetness, and keep it in the fridge.  Delis and groceries sell many good varieties of bottled herbal teas; find the ones you like most.

The same is true for herbal coffee, which is not the same as decaf and, unfortunately, is not widely available.  You can, however, purchase it at most health food stores.  My favorite brand is Teeccino (www.teeccino.com), made from carob, chicory root, and other herbs, and brewed in the coffee pot like regular coffee.

Ultimately, remaining hydrated and ensuring that your body is working as an efficient elimination system is not difficult.  And you might feel much better by simply drinking and eating more water each day.

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RESOURCES

Batmanghelidj, Fereydoon, M.D., Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You Are Not Sick, You Are Thirsty; Global Health Solutions, Inc., 2001 (2d ed.).

Cherniske, Stephen, M.S., Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug; Warner Books, 1998.

Colbin, AnneMarie, Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life; Ballantine Books, 1986.

Gittleman, Ann Louise, M.S., C.N.S., get the sugar out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet; Three Rivers Press, 1996.

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D., “Can You Drink Too Much Water?,” at About.com.

Lipski, Elizabeth, Ph.D., CCN, Digestive Wellness: How to strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion; McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Lipman, Frank, M.D., Total Renewal: 7 Steps to Resilience, Vitality, & Long-Term Health; Penguin, 2003.

Rosenthal, Joshua, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness; Integrative Nutrition Publishing, 2008.

Steward, H. Leighton, Morrison C. Bethea, M.D., Sam S. Andrews, M.D., Luis A Balart, M.D., Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar to Trim Fat; Ballantine Books, 1995.

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Peaceful chairsHere’s a great post by Jeff Gitterman on the importance of meditation. It is adapted from his book “Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity” © 2009 Jeffrey L. Gitterman, published by AMACOM Books (www.amacombooks.org).

As you’ll see, he’s not necessarily talking about “sitting crossed-legged on a cushion” but rather he’s referring to any activity that allows us to stop listening to the endless chatter in our heads. Some people call it the “monkey mind”; I know my “monkey” is very chatty most of the time and meditation will help “get me out of my head” and out of my own way so that I can accomplish things.

Here’s an excerpt from his article:

“When I use the term meditation, I don’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on a cushion but rather participating in any deliberate activity that helps us to disengage from a compulsive relationship with our stream of thought. There are numerous books that have been written over the years on the subject of meditation and how to disengage from the thinking mind or, more simply put, how to stop listening to the voice inside our head. It’s important that each of us find our own method that works best.

The benefit of learning how to disengage our attention from the thought stream is that we can then apply our minds more readily toward more constructive things, such as accomplishing tasks and connecting with other people and our own true purpose. It creates space within us — an opening that allows more energy to flow into us. In this seemingly paradoxical way, having more space in our minds allows us to accomplish more and more things in the world.”

Read the full article here.

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Swim lessonMy toddler and I are returning to swim classes tomorrow. She loves the water and will be happy to be in swim lessons again. Which got me thinking about all the great benefits of swimming as a form of exercise.

According to Tay Stratton, head swim coach at the Little Rock Athletic Club, who was interviewed for a WebMD article, “Swimming recruits all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes, she says. And because water affords 12 times the resistance as air in every direction, it really helps to build strength.” In other words, swimming is unique because it is cardio and strength training simultaneously.

So how do you get started? The same as all new exercise routines: Start slowly. Try to swim for 10 minutes, then build up to a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week. And include a warm-up and a cool-down, just like you would on a treadmill or in another cardio workout. You can also join a swim club or work with a swim coach.

We’ll be in the pool tomorrow. How about you?

Source: WebMD article entitled “Fitness Basics: Swimming Is for Everyone

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Over at AMSDaily, there is a great post entitled Take the Opportunity: Start a Good Habit, which explains that, after 21 days, you are well on your way to establishing whatever good habit that you choose. Check it out, and start that good habit today!

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In case “everything in moderation” went out the window, or down the drain, last night, here’s some information to help you out.

Foodimentary - National Food Holidays

Five Foodimentary Finds about the common Hangover

 The 5 Things that seem to work

1. Eating bananas the morning after a night of heavy drinking provides lost electrolytes like any food would, but it also specifically replenishes the body with lost potassium.

2. Avoid caffeine. A weak cup of coffee may be fine but too much caffeine can dehydrate your body even more.

3. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade actually will help.

4. Taking a cold shower switching from hot to cold will help balance your body temperature.

5. Next time try to drink equal amounts of water with every drink.

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NOTE: I am adding one new item to this list every day (so far) rather than creating a new post for each item. Check back daily if you are interested in my list!

My friends are I were out for our New Year’s Eve celebration and were discussing how important it is to be grateful. Actually, studies have shown that people who are grateful are much happier. Our discussion reminded me of my days in college when my friend Vanessa and I would send our grateful thoughts to each other via a daily email. So I thought I would do that again, except here at my blog. And I thought I would do one per day. Maybe it will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for. Here goes:

Cup of Coffee18. I am grateful for coffee — again. I know, I’ve said this before — two or three times, actually. But with a toddler and all her different sleep pattern “phases,” I continue to be grateful for this periodically. Teething is making things more difficult these days. One thing I have learned over the last 16+ months; everything is a phase. The difficult times pass. So do the good times, unfortunately. The circle — or cycle — of life, I suppose.

17. I am grateful for NPR. Without it, I feel like I would never know what is going on in the world!

16. I am grateful for my dogs who are learning patience for a toddler even though they would rather not learn that lesson.

15. I am grateful for the opportunity to read my author friend’s new novel-in-progress. It is such an amazing experience to see a work of art as it is being created and to — maybe — help with the process.

14. I am grateful for the pitter-patter of little bare feet running around the house on a nice, warm winter day in Connecticut. Music to my ears!

Infant Grasping Mother's Finger13. I am grateful for little hands that pat me on the back.

12. I am grateful for Tylenol to help a baby who is getting four teeth at the same time.

11. I am grateful that spring is right around the corner. Our winter has been very mild, but I am still looking forward to spring, and then summer!

10. I am grateful for our heat as it is getting cold again outside.

9. I am grateful for bubbles; they provide much entertainment for a toddler.

8. I am grateful that my daughter wants to kick a soccer ballwhilewearing a hot pink tutu! Girls rock!

7. I am grateful for the organizations that are here to help lawyers.

6. I am grateful for old friends.

5. I am grateful for the sunshine.

4. I am grateful for all the hand-me-down toys that we get. All in good condition and Sarah loves them all! So nice. Thank you!

Sherman Library3. I am grateful that Shermanites voted down the move in Town to rescind the money for the library to expand. Moving forward as promised was the right thing to do, and I am grateful that a large majority of citizen who voted recognized this.

2. I am grateful that my back is not bothering me these days. It is easy to take it for granted — even when it was horrible when it was a problem — when you don’t have to deal with it anymore.

March 1. I am grateful for opportunities. Sometimes it stresses me out because I feel like there are so many great opportunities that I’d like to take advantage of, but I just don’t have enough time to take them all. Still, I’d rather have more than enough than not enough.

29. I am grateful my husband was home for our snow storm. Even though it was only 3-4 inches, it meant I didn’t need to shovel! Thanks, honey.

28. I am grateful that my husband finally painted our guest bedroom. One more thing to check off on the looooong list of things to do for the house to be complete (which it never will be, I realize).

27. I am grateful for all the hand-me-down clothes that we routinely get from our friends. They are all so nice! Thank you!

26. I am grateful for all the words that my daughter is learning to say: mama, daddy, Eh-dee (for Emily, our dog), Antha (for Samantha, our other dog), hi, huh (for hug), dye (for bye), da (for dog), mow (for cat), el-t (for elephant), jus (for juice), bo (for snow), moon, heh (for head), oh-hay (for okay), no (that one is particularly clear), jes (for yes), apple, bubble, ball, duck, Elmo, Da-ou (for Caillou), book, eye, nose, Eye-t (for Violet), Hop (for Hop on Pop), I id it (for I did it), I id (for I do), ick (for kick), and a bunch more! She is so awesome!

25. I am grateful for my many good friends who are excellent cooks (thanks Jen and Ellen!) and invite us to dinner at their houses.

24. I am grateful that I have good teeth (so far, in part because I FLOSS) so my visit to the dentist is almost always short and not painful (knock on wood).

23. I am grateful Sarah has some nice, little friends already that she can play with at the park.

22. I am grateful that we have health insurance. I am not sick, but I do need to go to the doctor periodically. Our insurance is expensive, but I am glad that we have it. Not everyone is so fortunate. Not everyone is able to go to the doctor when sick. Not everyone is able to get check-ups and other preventive care. I am grateful that I am able to do all those things.

Green Granary logo21. I am grateful that I get to eat lunch out at yummy places like The Green Granary in New Milford, CT. Locally-sourced, mostly organic food that is always delicious.

20. I am grateful for a really comfy bed.

19. I am grateful for massage. I had an hour long massage today; much needed after too many nights sleeping in the glider in the nursery.

18. I am grateful for my writers’ group. It is so great to meet with everyone and see what everyone is working on and have the opportunity to have my worked critiqued. Word Weavers Rocks!

17. I am grateful that we are having a “southern winter” here in the Northeast! I grew up in Mississippi and this winter is like the ones we have there. Much better, as far as I am concerned.

16. I am grateful for an IT person’s ability to remotely access my computer so we don’t need to go through the talk-the-lay-person-through-IT-issues over the phone and my computer just works like it is supposed to work.

15. I am grateful for our IGA, our local grocery store. We live in a rural community, at least 15 minutes from everywhere. Without the IGA, running out to get a few things would be a much bigger deal.

chocolate chips14. I AM GRATEFUL FOR CHOCOLATE, particularly because it pairs so well with one of my other loves: coffee.

13. I am grateful for my daughter’s hugs. Sometimes, out of nowhere, she’ll just say “huh?” and walk over to me with little outstretched arms. And give me the most wonderful hug for no reason other than she wanted a hug with her mommy. I love those precious hugs from my 16-month-old sweetie!

12. I am grateful for my and my daughter’s healthy immune systems. We had a nasty stomach virus for the last four days and I am so glad that we are on the mend. Not everyone is so lucky to be able to fight off viruses and other sickness.

11. I am grateful that my parents treat me like an adult and not a child. It makes my life much easier.

10. I am grateful to have wonderful mommy-friends who have toddlers around the same age as my daughter.

9. I am grateful for ginger ale and cold water and tylenol. Yucky stomach virus is making me feel so crappy. And little Sarah too. Poor little girl.

8. I am grateful my husband is home from work tonight in time to help take care of the baby while she and I are sick with this yucky stomach virus.

6. I am grateful that I have a wonderful daughter who makes every day better and more fun!

5. I am grateful for Eli Manning! Hotty Totty! Go Giants!

4. I am grateful that the people around me who are suffering such tremendous losses right now have inner strength and outer support systems.

3. I am grateful for Girls’ Night Out with my awesome, fun, and funny girlfriends!

2. I am grateful for smart phones. Really, I would be lost without my Droid, and I wouldn’t get nearly as much accomplished.

Feb. 1. I am grateful for 60 degree winter days in CT this year. Very different than this time last year. At least this year I don’t feel like I must move to FL asap!

31. I am grateful for chocolate chip cookies. Do I need to say anything else?! Everything in moderation.

My dogs30. I am grateful for dogs (mine in particular, but dogs in general). I was sitting in the park today watching a man and his dog play – fetch, chase, heel, sit, stay. They were both having a great time. So simple, so sweet, so nice.

29. I am grateful for violins. I love the music made with that instrument. It can be lively and fun or sorrowful. I took my baby girl to her first symphony today and was reminded of how much I love violins.

28. I am grateful that it did not rain again today. We needed something a little less dreary today. It was nice to see the sun peaking through; it looked like hope.

27. See my post, A very sad day, for this day’s list.

26. I am grateful that the Danbury Fair Mall has a carousel and indoor play area where we can go to have some fun when it is cold and rainy here.

25. I am grateful for Rraci’s restaurant in Brewster, NY. If you live in the area, it is the best Italian food around and the service is excellent. We celebrated my husband’s birthday there today. Lobster ravioli was delicious!

24. I am grateful for the wireless Sony headphones that I got my husband for Christmas for the TV. Now he can watch “shoot-em-up” movies while I tap-tap-away at my computer and the baby sleeps. I can concentrate, the baby can continue sleeping, and John can hear the guns and the dialogue. Happy family.

23. I am grateful for indoor plumbing. Simple but true. Thinking back to our hurricane and early winter storm and remembering not having running water, not being able to shower or wash hands, or even flush the toilet. My parents grew up without indoor plumbing. I cannot imagine what it was like to have to get up in the middle of the night and go down the hill to the outhouse in the dark in the middle of winter! So, I am grateful for indoor plumbing!

Sarah & Me22. I am grateful that my daughter is 15 months old today and continues to amaze me. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to see her learn and grow and become a confident little being. It is one of my favorite parts of mothering: seeing Sarah learn new things and how excited she gets when she accomplishes something new.  If we could all remember to be so excited about such “little” things in our lives!

21. I am grateful for wi-fi and a laptop. I really enjoy being able to sit wherever I like while I work at my computer and being able to move about as well.

20. I am grateful that the people that work in the childcare at the gym are actually really great!

19. I am grateful for our propane fireplace that turns on with a remote control and has a blower to help heat things up during a cold CT winter.

18. I am grateful for WordPress. I am happy that I am able to share knowledge, stories, anecdotes, and hopefully helpful information with so many people at one time. Thanks WordPress for making it simple and effective!

17. I am grateful for a boatload of resources available to new solo practice attorneys. I am not new to the law, but I am new to the practice as a solo, so lots of great resources are very important.

Mommy & Me Yoga

16. I am grateful for my mommy & me yoga class every Monday. It helps keep me healthy and somewhat relaxed (for a person who is not good at relaxing). Because the class is with the babies, I cannot totally focus on yoga and breath like my pre-baby yoga classes, but it is still a wonderful (and necessary) class that I enjoy with my fellow yogi’s and yogini’s.

15. I am grateful for my baby girl’s mostly happy personality. She is a joy every day, and almost all the time. She has her moments, like everyone, but overwhelmingly, she is happy and curious and fun!

14. I am grateful for good friends and great laughs with them.

13. I am grateful for coffee. I know I already said I was grateful for coffee a few days ago, but today it is really just being grateful for the caffeine. Two nights in a row with very little sleep and the caffeine makes me human notwithstanding the lack of sleep so that I can have a somewhat productive day.

12. I am grateful that I no longer commute into NYC every day. I enjoyed my time there today, but I am happy I am not there 5 days a week.

11. I am grateful for our little town’s walking track and park. It makes it so much easier to get outside, get some exercise, and have fun as a family!

10. I am grateful for sunny days. They are motivating!

9. I am grateful for a helpful husband.

8. I am grateful that we have the means to have healthy and delicious food in our home at all times. Not everyone is so fortunate.

7. I am grateful for coffee, particularly good coffee, though I will drink bad coffee too. I actually love coffee. I keep my daily consumption reasonable (no more than 24 ounces) so the caffeine makes my day much better.

6. I am grateful for my parents who raised me to be strong and believe in myself, that if I want to do something, then just figure out how and then do it.

5. I am grateful for a warm house on a cold night with hot water for a lovely shower.

4. I am grateful for my babysitter Ashley who is reliable, calm, sweet, and available. And she cleans house too! Most importantly, Sarah has fun with her and feels safe.

3. I am grateful for hair color; I may have a few (0r more) gray hairs, but I’ll never have to know it!

image

2. I am grateful that I am able to stay home with my precious baby girl. She is the most interesting person I know and I don’t want to miss any moments with her.

Jan. 1. I am grateful that my husband, daughter, and I are healthy.

For what are you grateful?

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Two weeks ago I posted on how to determine the right kind of food for you. I hope that you were able to keep your food diary and experiment and that you learned about what kinds of foods work best for you. Whether you learned that you need lots of protein or a lesser amount, here’s helpful information about why protein is important, how much to eat, and from which sources to get it.

Photo of food groupsWhy Protein is Important

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of the human body.  These “building blocks” repair the body and largely control how you feel – both mentally and physically – on a daily basis.

For example, protein increases focus and energy by causing the body to produce dopamine and norepinephrine, two substances that make you feel more alert and full of energy.

Protein also causes the release of the hormone glucagon to regulate glucose (blood sugar) levels for proper brain function, which also regulates hunger and energy levels.

And because protein is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and fats, its lasts longer in the body, suppressing hunger and satiating the appetite so you feel full after you eat and maintain that feeling for longer.

Understanding the importance of protein helps us to begin to understand how consuming inappropriate amounts of protein might lead to symptoms and problems that negatively affect us on a daily basis.

Symptoms and Problems Associated with Inappropriate Levels of Protein

The most common problems associated with a diet that is too low in protein are low energy, cravings for sweets and fats, constant hunger, and even emotional instability and depression.

Fatigue and emotional instability can be caused by inadequate consumption of protein because the muscles weaken and the immune system functions less effectively.  This weakened state causes the body to work harder to perform basic bodily functions.  This inefficiency leads to always being tired, feeling out of balance and unstable, and getting sick more easily.  This state of low energy and general unhealthiness can lead to depression.

Cravings are another tell-tale sign of inadequate protein in the diet.  For example, cravings for sweets plus fats can mean too little protein.  Similarly, feeling hungry less than 2 hours after a meal is also a symptom of eating too little protein.  Without adequate protein, your body is unable to maintain blood sugar levels, causing you to feel hungry no matter how much you eat.

It is clear that eating too little protein can cause serious problems, but too much of a good thing is not any better.  To the contrary, eating too much protein can cause constipation and sugar cravings (as opposed to sugar plus fat cravings).

Consumption of too much meat, a primary source of protein, can cause sugar cravings because meat is high in protein and fats but has no carbohydrates.  Sugar is the exact opposite: it is only carbohydrates.  The craving for sugar is the body’s attempt to balance.  But consuming lots of animal protein and sugar, neither of which contains water, can lead to constipation.

It should be clear to us now that eating the correct amount of protein is critical to our everyday health and success.  But how do we know what is the proper amount of protein?

The Proper Amount of Protein on a Daily Basis

There appears to be disagreement in the health community regarding what is the proper amount of protein on a daily basis.

The USDA recommends only 50 grams of protein per day.  Dr. Barry Sears, author of A Week in the Zone and the popular Zone Diet, disagrees and instead recommends a minimum of 75 grams per day for women and 100 grams per day for men, which should be part of a diet with a proportion of carbohydrates to fat to protein of 40%-30%-30%, respectively.  Yet, the accepted nutritional standard ratio of carbohydrates to fats to protein is 65%-15%-20%, respectively.

It would be easy to throw our hands up in frustration at this point, stating, “well, I might as well eat whatever I want since everyone disagrees as to what is a healthy diet.”  But if we look closely, we see that there is common ground: the correct daily amount of protein lies somewhere between 50-100 grams and 15-30% of our daily calories.

A range such as this is exactly as it should be.  As Dr. Frank Lipman states in his book Total Renewal, everyone has a distinct genetic make-up called “biochemical individuality,” which means variations in our metabolism and biochemistry differentiate us.  Because each person is different, no one diet or amount of protein is right for everyone.

In order to determine the proper amount of protein for your “biochemical individuality,” experiment with protein by increasing and decreasing the amount you consume for a week or two.  Pay attention to the impact on your body, energy, mental state, hunger, and sustainability.  Observe how your body responds to the food you eat and how you feel after you eat certain amounts of protein.  Again, keep your food diary, making sure to track your protein even if you aren’t recording the other foods that you eat.

The Proper Portion of Protein per Meal is Approximately the Same for Everyone

While the proper amount of protein on a daily basis may vary widely, the “per portion” amount is approximately the same for everyone: 4 ounces of meat/6 ounces of fish for men, and 3 ounces of meat/4.5 ounces of fish for women, per meal.  The body cannot utilize more protein than this at one time, unless you are very active (e.g. a serious athlete).

The easiest tool for determining the proper portion size is with you at all times: your hand.  Dr. Barry Sears recommends eating a piece of lean animal protein no bigger and no thicker than the palm of your hand to constitute the proper portion size of protein.

Sources of Protein

Now that you know how much protein you should eat at each meal, let’s discuss the great variety of protein sources and the approximate number of grams of protein in each of those sources so you can begin experimenting and ultimately determine the daily amount of protein right for you.

There are two sources of protein: animals and plants, and each has its benefits and disadvantages.

Animal-Sourced Protein

In The Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears advocates lean protein in the form of skinless chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, fish, eggs and egg whites, and low-fat dairy (unless you have a diary intolerance).  Joshua Rosenthal of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and author of Integrative Nutrition, adds that all such sources should be organic and recommends that you “vary your protein routine.”  So, if you are going to consume animal protein, branch out and try duck, pheasant, buffalo, and lamb.

While animal-sourced food is high in protein, it has its disadvantages.  For example, meat is often full of saturated fat which can increase cholesterol, cause heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure.  Because animal protein has no fiber or water in it, it is difficult to digest and spends a long time in the digestive system, which can lead to cancers of the intestines and colon.  Meat can also be problematic because, unless it is organic, it likely contains hormones and antibiotics, which are toxic to the human body.

Plant-Sourced Protein

Many people completely forget that plants are a source of protein.  Beans and nuts are legitimate sources of protein.  Soybeans and soy products also provide a hearty source of protein.  Even whole grains and vegetables contain some protein.

All legumes are very high in protein on the plant-food scale.  Legumes include all beans and peanuts.  (Peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes.)  While beans are a great source of protein, many people have a hard time digesting them.  You can help remedy this problem by soaking the dry uncooked beans overnight in water, draining them, and cooking them longer than the recommended cooking time.  This process starts breaking down the beans.  When you eat beans, be sure to chew very well, another process in the break down that is digestion.

Of all legumes, the soybean is the highest in protein and is sometimes referred to as the “vegetable cow” because its proportion of amino acids is close to that of animal products and is thus considered to be a “complete protein” like meat.  Unfortunately, soy is the second most common food allergen behind wheat, and can be difficult to digest, except for edamame.  (Edamame is the young whole soybean and is relatively easy for the body to digest and assimilate.)  Try soy for yourself and see if it is a good choice for your body.

Because the protein found in plants is less “useable” by the body, it is beneficial to consume “complementary proteins.”  AnneMarie Colbin explains in her book Food and Healing that complementary proteins provide a higher amount of useable protein than merely eating the two sources of protein separately.  For example, wheat with 30 grams of protein and beans with 70 grams of protein, when combined, makes 133 grams of useable protein, not the 100 grams if eaten separately.  Common examples of complementary proteins are rice-and-beans, lentil-and-barley, cous-cous-and-chick-peas, and fava-beans-and-millet.  The traditional proportion is one part beans to two parts grain.  These are great sources of protein if you are vegetarian or are trying to cut back on your consumption of animal protein.

Nuts are also a good plant-source of protein.  Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios, contain good fats in addition to protein, but because they are rather high in fat, they are also high in calories, so you may want to limit your consumption of nuts if you are watching your weight.

Another easy source of protein is isolated protein powder.  It is primarily available as soy and whey.  Either is good (unless you have an allergy to milk products; if so, you should avoid whey).  They both have a long shelf life and can be added to many foods that would not otherwise contain much protein.  For example, shakes and smoothies, soups, oatmeal, stew, flour to make pancakes, muffins and cookies, and cake mixes.

Protein Calculator

In order to calculate how much protein you are eating each day, follow this guideline:

– 4 oz. meat or 6 oz. fish (again, use the palm of your hand to determine this portion size) = approximately 30 g protein

– 3 oz. meat or 4.5 oz. fish = approximately 20 g protein

– 3.5 oz. hard cheese = 21-26 g protein

– 3.5 oz. cooked red beans = 7-8 g protein

– 3.5 oz. milk = 3.5 g protein

– 3.5 oz. cooked brown rice = 2.5 g protein

So start experimenting with your protein.  Vary the amount of protein.  Vary the kind of protein.  Analyze your diet, and make changes if needed.  It just might change your life!

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Resources:

Atkins, Robert C., M.D., Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution: The Amazing No Hunger Weight-Loss Plan That Has Helped Millions Lose Weight and Keep It Off; Avon Books, 1992.

Colbin, AnneMarie, Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life, Ballantine Books, 1986.

Lipman, Frank, M.D., Total Renewal: 7 Steps to Resilience, Vitality, & Long-Term Health; Penguin, 2003.

Rosenthal, Joshua, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness; Integrative Nutrition Publishing, 2008.

Sears, Barry, Ph. D., A Week in the Zone; Harper Torch, 2000.

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