The Dangers of Common Protein Sources

The Dangers of Common Protein Sources

In This Article

Eating Meat

white and brown cow on green grass

We have been warned about the increased health risks from eating too much red meat. (1) Fish are loaded with mercury, milk and cheese are saturated with hormones and antibiotics, and chickens are hatched and then fried in less than 6 weeks, thanks to growth hormones. (2,3)

There are no doubts that the healthiest protein choices are to source grass-fed beef, organic dairy, eggs and poultry and to limit the amount of fish you eat. This all works great if you cook every meal at home and you can afford the organic surcharge, but what about when you eat out?

There are very few restaurants that source organic, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, not to mention the pesticides on the non-organic veggies that even the finest restaurants serve.

I have so many patients who are incredibly confused about where to get their protein. They don’t want to eat too much red meat, even if it is grass-fed. They realize the risks of eating too much fish, which, if it weren’t for the mercury content, fish would be ideal. Many either have issues with dairy, or don’t feel comfortable eating lots of cheese or eating nothing but chicken.

Many turn to soy, but soy may be the most controversial of all. It is extremely hard to digest and few, if any, traditional cultures ate it, unless it was fermented into tempeh, natto or miso. You can read the science on both sides of the soy debate in my article on soy, “Soy: Friend, or Foe?”

So, now we are down to nuts, seeds and beans – which could be enough protein for most people if they would just eat them regularly. Black beans have as much protein as red meat and are loaded with fiber. In the world’s centenarian cultures, where it is common for folks to live over 100, they found that beans are eaten at almost every meal. There is no debating the health benefits of a diet that revolves around beans.

Here is the problem: Beans take 2 hours to cook, but America doesn’t have an extra 2 hours to cook beans every day. Yes, you can get a crockpot and slow cook them all day while you are working, but for many busy Americans, it just doesn’t happen often enough.

We can add nuts and seeds to every meal, but many folks have a hard time digesting nuts and seeds, so they limit how many they eat. Beans, too, are notorious for being difficult to digest, which is one more deterrent to eating our daily beans.

Protein Powders 

Out of frustration, many of my patients have turned to protein powders to supplement their protein requirements. I have been asked, “What is the best protein powder?” for years and have always said to try and find the protein powder that is the least processed, with as few ingredients as possible. I am always a fan of ingesting foods that are as close to “human hands-off” as possible.

Many protein powder companies add every nutrient, enzyme, vitamin, mineral, grasses and protein they can think of that are thought to be healthy. Who needs food when we can drink our breakfast, lunch and dinner? Rarely are these products organic, and who knows how they are combined in your digestive system and whether or not your microbes thrive or die trying to ingest them.

I have always suggested protein powder concentrates, as they are less processed than isolates. Isolates are much more refined to make it easier to absorb the amino acids, rather than having to digest the entire protein. This process denatures the protein – a process that damages the proteins during processing.

Unfortunately, even most concentrates will denature proteins during processing. Processing proteins into soy burgers, protein powders or tofu pups (fake hot dogs) breaks down or denatures proteins into small amounts of MSG, free or D-glutamic acid. For some reason, when we eat and digest protein, we break down the protein in a healthy form of glutamic acid called bound or L-glutamic acid. As a powerful excitotoxin or nerve stimulant, free D-glutamic acid or MSG has been linked to many long-term mental and physical disorders in animal studies, particularly with neonatal exposure. (4-8) Thankfully, not everyone experiences symptoms when ingesting MSG, but my suggestion is to avoid denatured proteins whenever possible.

For years, I have been trying to source a protein powder that is not processed or denatured in this way. For obvious reasons, it takes some processing to extract the protein molecule out of a soybean, grain of rice, a pea or a hemp seed – all denature the protein.

I have always liked whey protein because:

  1. It is the primary protein in mother’s milk, so we know how to digest it.
  2. It is made naturally in nature – human hands off – no processing.

If you let milk sit, it starts to curdle, and the whey literary drips or drains out of the curd. Once the liquid whey dries, you have whey protein powder. Sadly, this simple process in most protein powders has been industrialized to include chemicals, heating, aggressive filtering and denaturing.

Recently, I have been able to source the purest form of whey protein. Literally, the milk is curdled, drained, dried and filtered for impurities and, voila, an undenatured whey protein powder. It is sourced from grass-fed New Zealand cows who are never fed hormones or antibiotics, and far from any environmental pollutants. If you have been searching for the purest undenatured protein powder with no additives, preservatives or extra anything, I suggest trying our Whey Pure. (9)

Note: Because this product is not mass-produced, we receive small shipments of Whey Pure, so supplies are limited.



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Dr. John

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