All Protein is Not Created Equally! (Parents take note!)
It’s no secret that keto and high protein, high fat diets can help you lose weight. It’s all the rage, as I’m sure you are well aware. But what may surprise you is that these strategies are no more effective for weight loss than high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein diet strategies. In fact, the high-carb diets actually work even more effectively, because they are more sustainable. Carbohydrates are generally nutrient-dense and pre-packaged with fibre, helping with longer periods of satiety. Eating high protein, high fat takes long term commitment and discipline. These diets can be difficult to stick with, because we as humans are “obligate carbohydrate consumers”. We are designed to get our first line fuel source from carbohydrates. In fact, we produce “salivary amylase”, a carbohydrate digesting enzyme that is present in saliva, which begins the break down of carbohydrate for fuel as soon as we put carbs in our mouth (a trait we share with herbivores!) This is why athletes “carb up” in preparation for training and race days. By the way, I'm talking about whole food sources of carbs, as in complex carbohydrates, not refined, processed carbs…. We are designed to eat Carbohydrates, and that is why we love them!
I know that the most well-intentioned parents do all they can to feed their children nourishing meals. The concern is that promoting high protein strategies for children can come at a cost. High protein diets can be low in nutrient values; and ketosis can be hard on the kidneys and the liver as well.
Of course kids need protein. The point is, all protein is not created equally.
If we focus on our kids getting a lot of animal-based protein, sure, they get protein, but they also get saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones and toxins that are held up in fat cells... and animal protein increases circulating levels of IGF-1, insulin like growth factor. (IGF-1 receptors cover the surface of malignant tumours.) Animal sources of protein also increase overall inflammation in the body.
This is not a call to turn your kids into vegans, unless that's your goal. Rather it's a reminder of the importance to shift the focus from macronutrients to micronutrients when thinking about how to feed kids. We need to change the conversation from one that focuses on “getting enough protein” to one that focuses on “getting abundant nutrition”.
When preparing meals for your kids, you might ask yourself “is this nutrient-dense?” rather than “does this have a lot of protein?”
When kids eat an array of plant-based foods, including legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, they automatically get plenty of protein, with the added benefits of nutrient density and fibre. In turn, they are satiated for longer periods, making it easier for them to develop healthy habits. In a nutshell, more plants equals healthier, happier kids.
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