Protein’s Last Stand

This is yet another of my blog posts about my struggles with my “mostly vegan” eating regimen. I have to put mostly vegan in quotes, because I have never given up eating egg whites and that’s not vegan.

Being on the road for work continues to be a challenge, but even in my daily life, I’m increasingly concerned about not eating enough protein.

Protein, protein, protein.

It’s become an obsession.

Here are some excellent, nutrient dense sources of protein that I consume regularly:

  • Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Egg Whites (although it is vegetarian, it ain’t vegan by a long shot)
  • Mushrooms (they are higher in protein content, for a vegetable)
  • Nuts & Seeds

Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Hmm, does that seem like a short list? Yeah, it does to me too. (Before you comment about soy and tofu, those are off my list of consumables. You can read previous posts about why, if you’re interested.)

Since I have been on this mostly vegan regimen for about 4-5 months, every once in a while I will fantasize about eating chicken. Possibly crispy fried chicken. Possibly.

No, no… I’m lying. Alright, sometimes I fantasize about eating bacon. I get cravings for a BLT, with mayo. 😦

And a few weeks ago, I was at a diner, looking over the menu, and I’d just sort of had it. I was grumpy about my eating, and hungry and I wanted meat.

So, I ordered a plate of white meat turkey, with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Nothing crazy, but still, it was a moment of feeling like I was crossing over to the dark side.

The plate arrived and I looked at it. It looked fine. It even smelled okay. I tentatively ate a bite of the turkey. It didn’t taste like much, which I figured was for the best. I ate some stuffing, which was good. Then I ate a few more bites of turkey.

And then…

My stomach was like, UH HELLO? WHAT IS THIS, AND WHY ARE YOU FEEDING IT TO ME??

And then it hurt. More than a little. Not a lot… but still, it hurt enough for me to realize I wasn’t going to be able to eat any more turkey. My stomach wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

Later, a friend told me, “Oh, didn’t you know? When you become vegetarian, your body loses the ability to digest meat.”

And I thought… What? That doesn’t seem possible.

Turns out that, NO, you do NOT lose the ability to digest meat, HOWEVER, the levels of digestive enzymes you normally use to digest meat become diminished in your stomach because, guess what, you don’t produce as much of them when you’re not eating meat.

And while I’m not suggesting that I want to jump back into eating meat and being a carnivore, in my travels I found an interesting blog post about re-introducing meat into your diet if you are a vegetarian. http://whole9life.com/2013/02/eating-meat-a-primer-for-the-meat-challenged-2/

The most interesting part of that post, for me, was this:

Consider taking a digestive enzyme. That idea that vegetarians permanently lose the ability to digest meat is bunk, but that’s not to say the first few days of meat eating won’t create some digestive distress. The levels of enzymes that digest protein and fat decrease when you stop eating meat – but they quickly rise again once you ‘get back on the wagon’. However, when your gut is damaged or compromised (like it often is with a diet containing grains, legumes and dairy), a digestive enzyme can help until the gut’s own enzymes come back.

That post also had a link to another, about why it may make sense to take digestive enzymes to support gut health: http://whole9life.com/2012/09/digestive-enzymes-101/

Frankly, this is all way more than I ever wanted to know about how my body functions. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to understand the human condition, but it’s just a lot to try and digest. Bleh.

But let’s get back to the issue at hand: protein.

Since I’m still trying to stick with a mostly vegan eating regimen, that means steak, fried chicken and BLTs are OUT.

But I need to increase my protein consumption, I’ve decided to give vegan sources of protein powder a try.

MLO Brown Rice Protein (powder) 24 oz

I started by purchasing a container of Hemp Protein Powder. What I found is that Hemp Protein Powder is akin to eating concrete. It’s extremely grainy, and not water soluable so it’s not something you want to put in a shake. Also, it takes many scoops of powder to achieve even a 14 gram protein consumption and that’s a lot of grainy, gritty stuff to mix in with oatmeal. Yes, I tried both the shake and the oatmeal.

Brown Rice Protein Powder, on the other hand, is mostly water soluable and two heaping tablespoons of the mixture give you 14 grams of protein. Considering the average adult woman needs 46 grams of protein a day, one shake can provide nearly a third of my daily protein requirement.

I’m not inclined to use the protein powder for more than a third of my daily requirement, so I’m not planning to drink two shakes a day, for instance. I feel I should be getting as many of my nutrients everyday from whole food sources, not supplements.

For right now I have decided not to use a digestive enzyme to bolster my digestive tract, although I have apparently already depleted the “normal” levels of digestive enzymes as evidenced by my tummy’s reaction to a few bites of turkey. THAT said, I have begun eating candied ginger after some of my meals because ginger is a natural food that assists with digestion. (Papaya and pineapple also help, in case you were wondering.) Another way to assist the gut is to take a probiotic supplement, which is a few million bacteria packed into a pill that helps ensure healthy bacteria colonies thrive in the gut.

However, ALL of these changes in my eating patterns have been – as far as I’m concerned – an experiment. IF I am unable to sustainably continue to be “mostly vegan,” I may, after continued experimentation, determine that I need to go back to eating meat.

Or not.

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14 Responses

  1. I completely hear you on this. I get cravings for animal protein, so I know my body is trying to tell me something. In response I may grab a chicken sandwich or chicken tenders, or tuna. It satisfies without making me feel as though I’ve ingested poison – on purpose. And about the crispy fried chicken…yep.

    • But are you trying to be vegan? Vegetarian?

      • Vegetarian. I know I could not attain vegan, nor would I want to because I love seafood too much.

        • It’s funny to read what you wrote. 🙂 I think you mean you are a pescatarian, someone that eats fish in addition to being vegetarian.

          I might have to become a Chegan (a chicken and egg white eating vegan) soon if this whole protein thing can’t be resolved.

          Labels are ridiculous, of course.

          I can say, “I don’t eat dairy, but I do eat egg whites, but I don’t eat tofu and soy, but I do eat………”

          We all make ourselves a little nuts over this, and I include myself front and center.

        • Yes, the labeling is a lesson in futility, for the most part. I’ll just say I’m trying to attain eating food that is really food and that will benefit my particular health and well being.

  2. Yes, exactly.

    I’m closing in on the timeframe when I should be going back to the doctor to get my cholesterol checked again. For me, eating this way has always been about my personal health.

    I’m not eliminating meat from my diet because I think everyone on the planet should stop eating meat. Whatever people eat, they eat. If they want to be healthy, there are still a lot of ways to achieve that.

  3. Some funny comments in here, CD. I wish you much luck in triumphing on your personal protein quest. Me, I will continue to eat like garbage and hate myself for it.

    • LOL, yeah, you get to eat fried chicken and barbeque. I get to eat, no drink, brown rice powder suspended in almond milk.

      Where is the justice in that I ask you?

      😛

      I may be having veg-fatigue, and yet, I persevere……….

  4. Or not. That`s the question.

    I have been a vegan for 15 years [ I started as a vegetarian ] and stopped after my friends gave me a puppy.

    • Are you really George. I honestly had NO idea. It’s funny, all the things we have in common.

      I take it that you don’t eat meat for ethical reasons. I want to ask… do you also not use leather? Some vegans who are doing it for ethical reasons refuse to wear leather shoes or belts and may not use other products for the same reason.

      Also, do you check to make sure you are getting enough protein? Has that ever been an issue for you?

  5. I use leather. But only the leather I already had before I desided to become a vegan. I don`t believe in trowing away good stuff. When I need something that is made of letter – like a sadle – then I buy a secondhand. The longer you use a product of an already dead animal, the better. I don`t need new things.

    And in the definition what a vegan is; there is something I do and a vegan not.

    My quote was; I don`t kill an animal for my food or cloting.

    I do eat eggs/chees, and drink milk. But it has to come from animal-friendly-farmers.

    I have a bodycheck every year and the only problem I had so far was short of vit. D. And maybe that`s the reason I don`t write so well in English.

    • I’m fascinated by everything you’ve said George, and I can totally understand your point of view (and your English, which is 100% readable.)

      I’m surprised you say you had a Vitamin D shortage, because Vitamin B is the vitamin that comes from eating animal products and usually milk has plenty of Vitamin D in it.

      So I guess you ride horses too? You are a man of many talents!

      • The vit. D shortage has to do with my dark skin and age. I need more. Letter must be leather. *uche* I thought all you American ride horses, don`t they? For me, it`s no talent; I don`t allow my horse to run.

        • I’ve never heard that people who have dark skin can suffer from Vitamin D shortages as they get older. I’ve just learned something new…

          I have ridden a horse at some point, many many years ago… but only as a “tourist” not because I know how to ride. But no, not all Americans know how to ride horses…lol.

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