Accepted as a nutrient class in 1838, protein, it was
discovered, was necessary for all forms of life. This started a fascination with protein and
its role in the health and strength of man.
Protein is the building block of every cell of the body and
is critical for cell growth and repair.
It is essential for energy and is also needed in the manufacture of
hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. In
addition, it helps maintain the proper acid-alkali balance in the body. Is it any wonder that we are encouraged to
eat the protein food source on our plate?
The questions, though, are: How much protein do we need? Are there times
our protein requirements increase? Is too much protein harmful? What is the
best source of protein?
Authorities differ on how much protein is needed for the
average adult. The United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that an individual needs 56 grams of
protein a day. The United States
National Research Council recommends a protein intake of one gram of protein
per kilogram of body weight. The World
Health Organization recommends 0.45 to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of
ideal body weight. Using these figures
and an ideal weight of 150 pounds, between 31 and 55 grams of protein per day
would be recommended. (It should be
noted that both agencies have been adjusting the requirements for protein
downward despite objections from the meat and dairy industries.) The average American is ingesting two to four
times as much protein as is recommended.
There are clearly times when the protein intake needs to be
increased, such as during times of growth in infancy, childhood, and pregnancy;
during times of injury when the body needs to repair cells; and during times of
extreme exercise when muscle cells are being built. However, many studies on health and disease
have linked too much protein, especially animal-based protein, to numerous
The standard American diet provides too much protein. One of the primary reasons for this is the
large consumption of meat and animal products.
Many diseases are greatly reduced when the protein source is plant
based. Plant-based proteins are better
for the body; most are a good source of fiber and protein, and plant-based
proteins are much more economical to produce.
Likewise, plant-based proteins do not contain the growth hormones that
are so typical in animals sold for consumption.
Plant-based proteins can provide all of the essential amino acids needed
by man. Even the person on a totally
vegetarian diet tends to get more protein than is needed for health.
If you have not already replaced animal proteins with the
more healthful plant proteins, you need to consider doing so now. The recipe below can be used alone or in
combination with brown rice as the main protein source for many dishes,
including tostados, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, Chimichangas,
tortilla casserole, chili, and many others.
5 cups pinto or black beans
15 cups water
2 large onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons chili powder substitute
2 Tablespoons salt or to taste
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Soak beans in water
for 24 hours, changing the water several times.
Place in a slow cooker with enough fresh water to cover the beans. Cook on low with all of the
ingredients except the salt for 24 hours or until very tender. Add salt in the last 2 to 3 hours of cooking.