Category Archives: Supplements

Being Vegetarian: Protein Pressure

I can’t deny it no more. I love you vegetarians.

So I better not leave you hanging right? Right!

Pic: The Food Guys

While there are many drawbacks to a typical vegetarian diet, the one major drawback is a lack of protein. All vegetarians who chooses to make a change towards the better, face this huge challenge. They all go – ‘Cheese is bad, soy is bad, eggs have cholesterol… what the hell do I eat for protein?!’

So let’s get to the meat of the issue shall we? (See what I did there? Yea I’m awesome like that!)

Slim Pickins:

Vegetarians have few protein options and it is important that they use these options wisely in order to reach their goal of nutritious diet.

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Legumes and nuts
  • Protein supplements

The deal with these protein options is that in addition to protein these foods come with other junk (phytoestrogens, lectins, phytic acid etc.) which make it unsafe to consume these foods in higher quantities.But fear not…  I gotcha back!

Make no mistake – animal products are an absolute necessity for optimal health, but we’ve got to work with what we have and hence the rest of this post will be dedicated towards finding an optimal mix of these third world proteins to get the most nutrition possible.

1. Eggs:

Eggs are by far your best protein option due to their exceptional nutritional profile. If you don’t know by now, egg yolks are far superior to the whites and yes, you are sinning every time you throw out an egg yolk! Click here to see the detailed nutritional info in eggs. No you don’t get it. Click that link… now!

Every vegetarian should include eggs in his/her diet (unless of course you’re allergic to them). Buy organic cage free eggs and eat at least 2 whole eggs every day. I know I know. You’re worried about the cholesterol in egg yolks. Here you go – Research shows that dietary cholesterol (especially via egg consumption) has no adverse effect on plasma cholesterol. And why organic cage free eggs? – Here’s why.

2. Dairy:

Sure dairy could irritate your gut and a bunch of folks are intolerant, but if you are a vegetarian you better have some dairy in your diet. Dairy proteins are complete proteins and come with beneficial fats.

We can spend days talking about raw dairy vs organic dairy vs regular dairy, but I have more to cover. So here are my recommendations – If raw dairy is available and you can afford/tolerate it, that should be your first option. If not, organic full fat dairy is the next best. If all you can afford is regular dairy, get the full fat version.

Whole milk and whole milk yogurt are calorie dense and contain ~ 12-15 gm of protein per cup. In addition to this, yogurt (which is produced by bacterial fermentation of milk) contains helpful live cultures that aid digestion. Yes, yogurt > milk.

(Note: Yogurt can be consumed in modest quantities by those who are lactose intolerant since the lactose has been fermented by the bacterial culture.)

Cheese is a great source of dairy protein (especially for those trying to keep the carbs low) offering ~ 6-7 gm of protein per ounce. Yes, cheese has some saturated fat, but there is no real evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. So get some awesome full fat, unprocessed cheese and top your vegetables or eat it with some berries or have a couple of ounces with some fine wine.

If you want to cook with cheese, your best options are paneer and halumi. These two can be grilled, browned, used in a curry or however else you like to cook ’em. If you’re a cottage cheese lover, then that’s definitely another option. Each cup offers ~ 25-28 gm of slow digesting protein (casein).

3. Soy:

I’m sure you’ve heard the good and the bad about soy. The funny thing is, people who promote soy describe it a freakin super food and those who demonize it deem it pure evil. While it is easy for meat eaters to hop on and call it evil, the decision isn’t that simple for vegetarians.

Since this could get VERY long, I’m going to present to you just the facts.

Just so we’re clear – whole soy beans and fermented soy are possibly good for you in moderate quantities… processed soy products are NOT!

From a proteinstand point – soy is a complete protein and a couple of ounces of tempeh 3-4 days a week will probably help more than hurt, but consuming large quantities of soy products (tofu, fake meat etc.) will mess you up!

4. Legumes & Nuts

I have no idea where this ‘Oh lentils/beans are all protein’ nonsense was born, but this is where it will die.

Lentils and beans contain protein, yes. But they also contain 3-4 times more carbs. But when was the last time you ate just lentils/beans? Most people eat them with other grains like rice or wheat and now the carb to protein ratio shifts to ~ 10:1. Are you with me here? When you eat rice and beans, you’re not eating a protein rich meal. Wake the hell up!

In addition to this, in their unfermented form, legumes/beans contain enough phytic acid to harm you. I want to write about soaking/fermentation of legumes/beans, but most of you wont do it right anyways so I will just direct you to this article from the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF).

Summing up – legumes are not a great source of protein, but if prepared per the WAPF guidelines, can offer some protein and a good amount of fiber.

From a protein standpoint – eat soaked legumes/beans in limited quantities 2-3 times a week.

Nuts? Well, they’re pretty much all fat and contain negligible protein. Enough said.

5. Protein Supplements

Protein supplements are exactly that… supplements. You can use them to supplement a nutritious diet. In other words, if you have removed the junk, sugars and grains from your diet and if your diet revolves around real foods with plenty of vegetables and healthy fats you can include protein supplements in order to obtain your protein requirements.

Your options for protein supplements are whey protein powder, egg protein powder and hemp seed protein powder. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but if you buy one of these look for a brand that offers high protein (>20 gm), low carb (<5 gm), low fat (<4 gm), low cholesterol (<15%) and low sodium (<15%).

Note: An exception might be hemp seed protein powders which contain more carbs, but most of them are fiber.

Mixing it up!

Now for the important part – How does all this come together in a vegetarian diet?

Repeat after me – Variety. Is. Key!

Eating any food item (and that means ANY food item) over and over again will create deficiencies over the long term and hence it is critical to consume as many different types of foods as possible. This holds true for vegetarian protein sources as it does for fruits, meat, vegetables and everything else.

Case 1: 150 lbs male (Sedentary)

Protein requirement ~ 70-75 gm

  • 2 eggs [~ 14 gm protein]
  • 2 oz tempeh/tofu [~ 14 gm protein]
  • 2 oz paneer [~ 14 gm protein]
  • 1 cup whole milk [~ 12 gm protein]
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt [~ 15 gm protein]

Case 2: 150 lbs male (Active, strength trains, interested in muscle gain)

Protein requirement ~ 140-150 gm

  • 4 eggs [~ 24 gm protein]
  • 2 oz tempeh/tofu [~ 14 gm protein]
  • 2 oz paneer/cheese [~ 14 gm protein]
  • 1 cup whole milk [~ 12 gm protein]
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt [~ 30 gm protein]
  • 1 cup cottage cheese [~ 30 gm protein]
  • 1 scoop hemp/whey/egg protein powder [~ 25 gm protein]

But my case is unique…

  • If you have allergies/health conditions, talk to your doctor first.
  • If you weigh more/less, increase/decrease quantities.
  • If you dislike cottage cheese, have an extra scoop of protein powder.
  • If you’re moderately active, your protein requirements will fall between these two extremes and I’m sure the post has enough information for you to create your protein menu.
  • If you don’t eat eggs and milk products, this is not the blog for you!

Peace out!

PS: This post, like other long informational posts, took a lot of time and effort. So please share your thoughts in the comments section and spend a short minute to share this post. Buttons below!

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Supplements – Fish Oil

If there is one supplement that I would take for the rest of my life… that would be fish oil. And you should too. In a market where you pay a gazillion dollars for fat burners & tummy trimmers or whatever the hell it is that people pay for… this is one truly great dietary supplement with reams of data supporting all the claims.

Now we obviously cannot discuss fish oils without touching Omega-6 fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acids and the relation between the two. Let’s have a quick look.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

These are a family of unsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position. Click here for a list of Omega-6 fatty acids. Research suggests that excessive amount of Omega-6s relative to Omega-3s have detrimental effects on ones health [1, 2, 3]. The detrimental health effects are due to systemic inflammation caused by their conversion to n-6 eicosanoids. We get plenty of these from vegetable oils and our existing diets are pretty high in these. The Omega-6 Omega-3 ratio can be as high as 30:1 in some cases while the optimal ratio is 4:1 or lower[4,5]. Click here for detailed information on Omega 6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

These are a family of unsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position. Click here for a list of Omega-3 fatty acids. We need to get more of these Omega 3s in our diet in order to balance out the omega 6:omega 3 ratio we discussed previously (Click here for detailed information on Omega 3 fatty acids). In short, these Omega-3s help in reducing systemic inflammation which is the major cause of pretty much all bad things that can happen to you… from weight gain to diabetes.

Clearly, we are taking in more than required Omega-6s and not enough Omega-3s. Reason? Most vegetable oils & nuts contain Omega-6s and hardly any Omega-3s. So our goal should be to increase the amount of Omega-3s we eat. This is where the fish oil comes to play.

The oil derived from the tissues of oily fish like salmon, herring, tuna etc. contains the all powerful Omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha Lineolic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenic Acid (DHA)) in high concentrations and taking this as a supplement to our existing diet will reduce the Omega-6 Omega-3 ratio hence controlling inflammation.

Benefits of Fish Oil:

1. Several studies report cancer fighting properties of Omega-3s found in fish oil. Click here, here and here for publication.

2. Diets higher in fish and omega-3 LC-PUFA may reduce cardiovascular risk in diabetes by inhibiting platelet aggregation, improving lipid profiles, and reducing cardiovascular mortality. Click here for publication.

3. While the typical Western diet has a much greater ratio of n-6 PUFAs compared with n-3 PUFAs, research has shown that by increasing the ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in the diet, and consequently favoring the production of EPA in the body, or by increasing the dietary intake of EPA and DHA through consumption of fatty fish or fish-oil supplements, reductions may be achieved in the incidence of many chronic diseases that involve inflammatory processes; most notably, these include cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, but psychiatric and neurodegenerative illnesses are other examples. Click here for publication.

4. Omega-3 supplementation from fish oil represents a reasonable therapeutic strategy in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes to decrease the risk of complications. Click here for publication.

5. Experts believe that taking fish oil (in any form) can help regulate cholesterol in the body, because fish oil has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Click here.

6. The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of 1g of fish oil daily, preferably by eating fish, for patients with coronary heart disease.Note that optimal dosage relates to body weight. Click here for article.

7. According to a study from Louisiana State University in September 2005, fish oil may help protect the brain from cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Click here for publication.

8. Omega-3 rich diet could counteract atherogenic oxidative stress. Click here for publication.

I can list more benefits but seriously if you can get all these benefits by taking a few pills a day why wouldn’t you do it? All these statements have legit studies backing them up. I very strongly urge every single one of you… whatever age, sex, build, nationality you are… to start supplementing your diet with fish oil. The only reason you don’t need fish oil if you are including wild caught fatty fish 4-5 times a week in your diet.

Go here to find out how much you need. Robb Wolf came up with this calculation based on your bodyweight and health status. (Robb Wolf is dope by the way. Read as many of his posts as possible. You will be thankful!).

Peace.

Additional References:

  1. Lands, William E.M. (December 2005). “Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences(Blackwell) 1055: 179–192. doi:10.1196/annals.1323.028. PMID 16387724.
  2. Hibbeln, Joseph R.; N; B; R; L (June 1, 2006). “Healthy intakes of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 83 (6, supplement): 1483S–1493S. PMID 16841858.
  3. Okuyama, Hirohmi; Ichikawa, Yuko; Sun, Yueji; Hamazaki, Tomohito; Lands, William E.M. (2007). “ω3 fatty acids effectively prevent coronary heart disease and other late-onset diseases: the excessive linoleic acid syndrome”. World Review of Nutritional Dietetics (Karger) 96 (Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease): 83–103. doi:10.1159/000097809. ISBN 3805581793. PMID 17167282.
  4. Daley, C.A.; Abbott, A.; Doyle, P.; Nader, G.; and Larson, S. (2004). A literature review of the value-added nutrients found in grass-fed beef products. California State University, Chico (College of Agriculture). Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  5. Simopoulos, Artemis P. (October 2002). “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids”. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 56 (8): 365–379. doi:10.1016/S0753-3322(02)00253-6.PMID 12442909.
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