Monday, September 1, 2014

How Do You Achieve Health?

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

One of the challenges with achieving health now a days is that the focus has become on evaluating endless different factors such as - what diet is best, is salt good for you or is it bad, the benefits of dark chocolate, the importance of going gluten-free, the impact of GMOs and organic food and the list goes on.

If you truly want to achieve health you need to study yourself.  What are your unique susceptibilities?  What is your constitution and your age?  What is your family health history?  What factors are impacting your health? What incidents, accidents or events have impacted you throughout your life?  What underlying health concerns are you dealing with? What is your current lifestyle like?  Do you feel that you are on the right path in your life or are you struggling on a daily basis just to get by?

There are two main factors that are making achieving health much more difficult than it needs to be. I refer to them as "Headline Healthcare" and "Intellectual Health"

Headline Healthcare


Health is complex, very complex. Even the understanding of something as seemingly simple as salt has many different components. Yet media and most health magazines turn everything into a headline. They emphatically make a claim about anything and everything without even coming close to the whole story. Healthcare has become a series of marketing headlines instead of what it truly is - a detailed, complex networked system.  Examples of recent headlines include:
  • The Benefits of Coffee. The benefits of coffee has received a lot of attention lately. Some articles even recommend that up to 10 cups of coffee a day is good for you. Almost all of the article that spew the benefits of coffee miss the other half of the story. They don't mention that high doses of coffee deplete the body of minerals, the association between coffee consumption and insomnia or anxiety, the fact that some individuals are intolerant to coffee or that coffee can add to adrenal fatigue. Whether or not coffee is good for you and how much coffee is good for you can only be determined by how you personally respond to coffee, not by what the media or research claims to be the benefits of coffee.
  • The Salt Story.  I have written a lot about salt and sugar in past blogs. Salt is one of the most misunderstood nutrients. It has a number of essential functions, but there are also a number of considerations. Generally speaking, those with high blood pressure are best to avoid salt; whereas, those with low blood pressure or decreased thyroid function require moderate amounts of salt. In August a report came out claiming that low salt diets might actually be harmful. This report was in direct contradiction to previous studies that had been published. The commonality with both positions is that they made a claim about SALT without providing any logic or linking salt intake to specific individual characteristics or to the ratio of sodium to potassium. Whether or not salt is good or bad for you, how much you need and how it impacts health depends on you. It is not about whether salt, itself, is good or bad, it is about whether it is healthy for you. 
  • Organic Food Dilemma. The rationale for organic was driven by the recognition of the harmful impact of pesticides and herbicides on the grains, fruits and vegetables that we eat. Over time the headlines about organic food has focused more about the nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods, totally missing the main concern. 
Everything is a headline. It is important to stay informed, but I caution you about basing your health decisions on a headline. The motivation for me creating the website www.ndhealthfacts.org was to provide a balanced perspective on health-related conditions and topics.Moderation is key, but even more important is individual's basing their health decisions on whether or not something is good for them; not on whether or not a particular food or ingredient, itself, is good or bad.

There are very few things that are "good" or "bad" -- except maybe pop and sugary candies. Soda pop and sugary candies are the the only things (I dare not call them a food!) that I strongly recommend people stop consuming. 


Intellectual Health

The most common advice that I give patients is to pay attention to their body. To look for a cause and effect between symptoms and their life. Too often people make decisions about their health based on what they believe to be true on paper; putting more emphasis on what they read versus what they personally experience or what is relevant for them.

Health and disease are logical. They are, too a large degree, an accumulation of our life. Our body talks to us, gives us feedback, in the way of signs and symptoms. Your personal experiences and symptoms will typically be more relevant for you than anything you read. Whether you are suffering with headaches, sinus congestion, gas and bloating, joint pain, insomnia, anxiety, or chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or even cancer there will be a reason why. And that reason generally relates to your life starting with your unique constitution and health history and including what you ate (or didn't eat), how hydrated you are, your level of stress, your activity level, how you are sleeping, any accidents or injuries you have had, etc. The more you can see the link between your daily life and your symptoms, the more control you will have over your health.

Too often people seek answers in a book or on the internet for reasons why they have a symptom. Reading helps give a person a range of things to assess, but the real answers will come from you. Often I find that people have spent a lot of time and money chasing different treatments based on what they read, versus really understanding them self.

The most profound health changes generally occur when a person learns what to change in their daily routine or what they have to specifically address for them self, such as their lifestyle, how they handle stress, or the impact of heavy metals and environmental chemicals or food intolerances. For example when a person makes a connection between their chronic sinus infections and their dairy or yeast consumption, or between chronic neck pain and how they hold the phone while talking, or the realization that their constipation is due to chronic dehydration then real permanent change can occur. Listening primarily to your body, versus what you read, often means that you will be taking less supplements and will have a greater understanding and control of your own health.

In Summary

Even as write this blog I recognize that I am trying to simplify health as I am explaining that it is too complex to be broken down into a few simple guidelines. Naturopathic medicine is responsible medicine. It recognizes the complexity of health and the link between health and a person's life. Naturopathic doctors spend four-years full-time studying naturopathic medicine, after having achieved a University degree.  The accredited naturopathic programs in North America are about 4500 hours. Graduates are expected to continue to study as there is so much to know.

In order to achieve your highest level of health I encourage you to:
  • Learn to listen to your body. Welcome symptoms as a way of providing you feedback and helping you understand what is best for you.
  • Recognize that health is best achieved when all aspects of an individual are addressed - the spiritual, psychological, functional and structural
  • The more time you spend assessing and truly understanding the cause of a symptom or condition the easier it is to treat or manage.
  • Know your constitution and your personal strengths and weaknesses and ensure that your treatment approach is based on supporting your strengths and addressing your weaknesses.
  • Ensure that you work with naturopathic doctors or health professionals that you trust, that understand you and that are able to work with you as an individual.
  • Regular blood work and other labs are an important aspect of preventative medicine and healthcare management. Naturopathic doctors will often recommend labs or tests that are aimed at identifying the causes of disease, versus just the presence of disease. Food intolerance testing, heavy metal or chemical testing, mineral status, and many others can be very valuable in figuring out the true causes behind symptoms and conditions.
  • Most importantly, to achieve health really focus on understanding yourself and making decisions that are best for you.
No two individuals are the same. There is no ideal treatment for any one condition. The most important variable and consideration is you.

Naturopathic medicine is responsible medicine. It addresses all aspects of an individual and it puts a tremendous focus on individualized treatments and identifying the true causes of disease. To learn more talk to Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND or check out her books "Messages from the Body, a guide to the energetics of health" or "The Energetics of Health, a naturopathic perspective".



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Healthy Lunch Ideas

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

With a new school year upon us, packing school lunches is back on the daily 'To Do List'.  Having a nutritious lunch ensures your child is prepared for optimal learning.  Packing a healthy lunch can be a challenge, particularly when children have food sensitivities. Here's some tips for keeping your children well nourished during the school day.

How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

  • Ensure Proper Proportions - When packing your child's lunch, the focus should be on ensuring there is an adequate amount of protein and veggies. Generally speaking, 50% of lunch and dinner should be comprised of vegetables, 25-30% protein and 20-25% carbohydrates, including a serving of fruit.
    • Protein Options: meat (chicken, turkey, beef, etc), eggs, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, etc). Nuts and seeds have protein content, but it is best to use them sparingly, as a condiment, not as the main protein source. Some children that are intolerant to dairy are okay with sheep or goat cheese products or to lactose-free products. Check with your naturopathic doctor for more information.
    • Vegetable Options: vegetable sticks and dip are a great option. Try adding cucumbers, snap peas, green beans, broccoli, or zucchini sticks instead of the often typical carrots and celery. See below for some great tasty dips. Another great way of getting those vegetables into your children is through soups and stews.
    • Carbohydrate Options: When avoiding wheat, your other options include rice crackers and rice cakes, quinoa, coconut wraps, and gluten-free products. When choosing gluten-free products, avoid those high in starches. For more information on gluten-free check out our previous blog on Gluten-Free Have We Gone Too Far
  • Limit the Sugar - Lunches high in sugar can impair learning ability and lead to increased hyperactivity. Sugary foods often creep into lunches through juice boxes, dessert (cookies), granola bars and other foods. High sugar content foods have limited nutrient value and contribute to unwanted weight.
  • Choose Whole Foods - Whole foods are generally a better option than packaged foods. Packaged foods generally have a lot more food additives and hidden calories. 
  • Select a Variety of Foods - Providing your child with a variety of foods is important. A variety of foods helps them meet their daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, while also preventing the development of food sensitivities. While most of us are creatures of habit, daily exposures to the same foods increases the likelihood of developing a hyperactive immune response and can actually create a food sensitivity. This can aggravate existing conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, sinus congestionenvironmental allergies, and asthma. If your child doesn't like a 'new food', don't give up. Often children need to be exposed to a food multiple times before they become accustomed to it.
  • Eat According to the Season - It is important to minimize raw, cold foods and switch over to warmer, cooked foods during the fall and winter months. Investing in a thermos is a good idea. This way you can send your child to school with a Thermos full of nutrient rich soups or stews. Glass containers with lockable lids also make it easier to pack healthy lunches for kids.
Nutrient-rich food is an integral component to healthy childhood development. Multiple food sensitivities, underlying health conditions and undiagnosed food sensitivities can affect development, behaviour, and impair cognitive function. For more information on the difference between food sensitivities and food allergies visit NDHealthFacts. If you are interested in having yourself or your child tested for food sensitivities please contact our clinic or email me directly at jcoopernd@naturopathicfoundations.ca for more information.

Below are some quick ideas and recipes to help make packing a healthy school lunch easier. Another good reference for Healthy School Lunches is Eat Right Ontario.

Wheat Free Alternatives 

Coconut Wraps 

Wraps are healthy alternative to sandwiches. Increasingly more health food stores are carrying coconut wraps, but if you can't find any near you click here for online purchasing from Julian Bakery which carries a number of gluten free, yeast free, sugar free, soy free and dairy free bread. You can also make you own coconut wraps at home with this recipe (requires a dehydrator and food processor).     

Brown Rice Bread 
This recipe is from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook which has a ton of great recipes for those with various sensitivities.

1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 tsp whole cane sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
2 Tbsp. melted virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
3 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1. Combine water & sugar; add the yeas and whisk together until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5-10 minutes, then add the sea salt, honey, oil - stir well.
2. Next add the brown rice flour, tapioca flour and xanthan gum; mix well with a wooden spoon for a few minutes. Dough should be moist and sticky.
3. Place dough into an oiled 9 x 5 inch bread pan and cover with waxed paper. Place pan in a very warm spot (85-90 degrees F) and let rise for about 60-70 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove waxed paper and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Other Lunch Ideas

Baked Honey Lime Drumsticks
A great high protein lunch that can be combined with a variety of vegetable side dishes for a nutritionally complete mid-day meal. Click here for the recipe.
 
Turkey Kebabs 
You can substitute quinoa & coconut flour for wheat bread crumbs for those who have celiac disease or a wheat sensitivity. Click here for the recipe.

Cauliflower Rice 
Combining cauliflower with rice is a great way of sneaking some extra vegetables into your child's lunch.  Click here for the recipe.

California Rollwiches
A healthy low carb, high veggie lunch idea that is great for kids. Click here for the recipe.

Check our website for more healthy soup and winter salad recipes.

Healthy Dips and Snacks

Guacamole 

This is great for dipping carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Hummus is another great dipping snack to send kids to school with. 

Combine the ingredients below: 
2 avocados
1 tomato diced  
1 garlic clove
a pinch of salt
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp chili powder 
1/4 tsp of turmeric
a pinch of paprika
handful of cilantro loosely chopped 
green Tabasco sauce to taste

Vegetable Hummus 

Blending vegetables into a dip is a great way of increasing the vitamin and mineral content of your child's snack. If you are a making dips or hummus at home, roast the vegetables first with spices for added flavour. Once cooked, a blender, food processor or magic bullet will give you the consistency you need for dipping.

Here's a few recipes to try.

Zucchini Hummus - Recipe

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Recipe


Kale Chips  
Kale is one of the great super foods. Serving it in 'chip' form is a great way of increasing the vegetable content of you child's lunch. Click here for recipe.

Restructuring diet requires planning and a little experimentation. I encourage you to capitalize on the wealth of culinary sites online for guidance. Pinterest is a phenomenal source of recipes and tips for any type of meal, including school lunches. The time you invest will certainly be well rewarded in having a child who is well nourished and ready to learn. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Movement, a Key to Health

By Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Running.jpgWhen we think of vitality we think of movement. Infants are the perfect example of how consistent movement throughout the day is a vital part of development, staying healthy and happy.  As the summer season winds down and people get back into a routine, it is important to make room for movement on a daily basis.

Benefits of Movement
There are numerous benefits of being active.

  • Moving ensures proper joint function and range of motion by circulating blood and delivering a consistent oxygen and nutrient supply to repair tissues such as tendons, ligaments, muscles and cartilage.   
  • Movement is an integral component of weight management and weight loss. For some body types it is the most important component.
  • Movement improves mood and sleep.  As the body moves, endorphins are released creating the natural feel-good signals for the body that promote improved mental health.  
  • Long term benefits of movement include improved cardiovascular and respiratory health (Click here to read the past blog on hypertension), improved digestion, better blood sugar control, boosting immune function and more.
  • Ongoing movement is also important to ensure adequate bone density and to decrease the risk of falling that is often associated with aging.
  • Click this link to learn more about the benefits of movement.

Continuous vs Concentrated Activity
The idea of exercise as something that you do a couple times a week is actually fairly new. There really was no need for exercise when most people worked the land or had manual jobs. But, as technology has taken over people have become much more sedentary. The general consensus over the last twenty years or so is that you can stay healthy by engaging in a set time of activity with a set frequency per week. The Canadian physical activity guidelines for adults is 20 minutes of moderately intensive aerobic activity 2 times per week and strength training exercises for major muscle groups 2 times per week.

Current research, and common-sense, has shown that being sedentary most of the time and exercising only a few times a week is not the answer to health. Continuous movement throughout the day, that means moving around every hour or so, has been shown to be more important for overall health than concentrated exercise programs. The following are some guidelines for daily movement:

  • Avoid sitting for more than one hour without some form of movement. Get up and get a glass of water, do some gentle stretching, go for a quick walk or just walk around your room or house a couple of times. 
  • If you are working on a computer, take frequent breaks to do neck exercises, shoulder rolls, stretch your fingers and move your feet.
  • If you want to maintain the full range of motion of your joints as you age, it is important to work your joints through their full range of motion at least weekly. Check out this link for 10 daily stretches to assist with flexibility. 
  • On a weekly basis spend time practicing getting up and down from the floor as this is one of the first movement activities that people often loose. If you fall your ability to get back up is very important.
  • "Use it or lose it." This saying is relevant to many aspects of health, especially movement. The ability to move as you age is strongly associated with ongoing movement throughout life.
  • Within a week engage in all forms of movement -- either as part of your daily life or as exercise. The different forms of movement include stretching, toning (such as weights) and cardiovascular exercise (or brisk walking, stairs or jogging).
  • Avoid extreme exercises, unless you are really fit and you are very familiar with exercise. As people get older they are more prone to injuries if they try and stretch beyond their ability or if they engage in weight lifting that is too strenuous for them. For example, if you don't need to do the splits in your daily life, you don't need to practice them during an exercise routine. 
  • Walking is still one of the best exercises. It is low-impact, works the body as a unit and can be done by most people. Plan to do 10 minutes of brisk walking a couple of times a day. Regular, short walks are often better than long walks after an extended time of being sedentary.
  • Your exercise routine should balance your lifestyle.  If you are really active and lifting a lot during the day you would be better off to focus on stretching as part of your exercise.  If you are sedentary most of the time it would be better to focus your exercise on cardiovascular workouts, i.e., brisk walking.

The 5 Question Self Assessment
Flexibility and ability to move without pain or discomfort is something that you should stay with you throughout your life. This quick assessment will give you an idea if your range-of-motion or strength are affecting your quality of life.


Activity
Hard & painful
moderate &  mild pain
Easy &  
pain free
Touch your chin to each shoulder while keeping your shoulders relaxed
0
1
2
Touch your hands to your shoulders and reach above your head touching your hands while elbows are straight
0
1
2
Bend at the hip and to touch your toes
0
1
2
Walk up and down stairs
0
1
2
Carry grocery bags a short distance
0
1
2

For most adults, you want a score of 10 out of 10 on this short assessment!  If you score under 10, then your activities of daily living are most likely being affected. As people age they often feel as though pain and decreased range of movement are due to aging -- this is not the case!

Protect Your Ability to Move

Having your range of motion, flexibility and strength assessed on an annual basis is an important aspect of preventive health. A loss of movement is generally due to a lack of movement, old injuries that haven't been properly addressed, postural issues, underlying inflammation or disease conditions that affect the joints, surgeries or other concerns.

If your range of motion, flexibility or strength have been deteriorating or you are experience pain then speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to learn more and see what treatments are best indicated. Learning more about posture, acupuncture, LED and laser therapy, natural anti-inflammatories and other natural treatments can often be beneficial, even for very old injuries or problems.

Movement is strongly associated with quality of life. We encourage you to protect your ability to move at all ages. If you are actively involved in sports or intense exercise I encourage you to check out our blog on Health Concerns for Active People.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Protein Powder

By Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Protein powders have become very popular in the last few years. Initially they were associated with muscle building and athletes. They are now being used to assist with weight loss, to increase lean muscle, as a meal replacement, for recovery after illness or surgery and as a protein source for those that not consuming enough protein or nutrients.

Benefits of Protein Powders

The occasional use of protein powders can be very effective in maintaining or achieving health. Long-term use or using protein powders more than once a day generally should be avoided.

The benefits of protein powders include:
  • Easy to digest
  • Quick and convenient drink
  • Can assist with controlling hunger
  • Helps with weight loss (short-term)

Concern with Protein Powders

Protein powders can be very helpful, but there are a number of concerns including:
  • Protein powders lack the fiber that is found in whole foods.
  • There are a number of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in whole foods that are often not included in protein powders.
  • Protein powders take less digestive ability and can add to the reduction in digestive function over time as they can make the digestive system lazy and can contribute to hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid).
  • Because the protein from protein powders are easy to digest it is easy to end up with excessive protein intake which can adversely affect health, especially kidney function.

Types of Protein Powders

There are many different types of protein powders, each one with its own pros and cons.

Type of Protein
Information
Pros
Cons
Whey
Most popular form of protein.
Whey Protein Isolate – easily absorbed
Whey Protein Concentrate – contains more fat and lactose.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein – predigested, debate as to whether that is better than an isolate.
·  Quickly absorbed by the body
·  Commonly used to build lean muscle and to aid fat loss

·  Whey is the sugar found in milk and there is a high risk of intolerance to whey

Casein
Casein protein comes from udder. It is applied to liquid milk and can concentrate or isolate the milk protein from the carbs and fats.
·  Similar benefits as whey protein.
·  Digests slower than whey, hence makes you feel full longer
· Casein is a by-product of milk and there is a high risk of intolerance.
· Slowly digested so not great after a workout.
· Often contains a number of artificial ingredients.
Soy
Soy protein is one of the few plant-based proteins that offers all the essential amino acids.
·  Inexpensive
·  Associated with immune health and increased bone health.
·  May be associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk.
· Hormonal effects
· Food intolerances to soy protein are very common.
Rice
Vegetarian protein source.
·  Good source of complex carbohydrates, Vitamin B and fiber.
·  Low risk of allergies or intolerances.
·  Easily digested.
· Lower protein levels.
· Deficient in some amino acids.
Hemp
Derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant.
·  Complete protein source with added mix of essential fatty acids and fiber.
·  Associated with improved metabolism, brain function, and circulation.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
· Expensive protein source.
Pumpkin
Derived from pumpkin seeds. The high amount of tryptophan found in pumpkin protein converts to serotonin, which gets converted into melatonin promoting a restful sleep.
·  Good source of protein.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Great source of tryptophan and Vitamin K
· Should not be the only protein source in a diet.
Pea
Often derived from yellow split peas.
·  Popular choice for vegans and vegetarians.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Easily digested.
·  Associated with increased weight loss.
·  Should not be used as the primary source of dietary protein.

Choosing the Right Protein Powder

  • Ensure that you avoid protein powders where you are intolerant or allergic to the base protein. If you are not sure what proteins you are intolerant to, talk to your naturopathic doctor about getting a food intolerance test done.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, xantham gum, soybean and other oils, artificial sweeteners, sugar (anything that ends with "dextrose" on the end is a sugar), carrageenans and other artificial ingredients.
Work with your naturopathic doctor to determine what protein powder is best for you.








Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Comes With Your Protein?

by Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Protein is an extremely important macro-nutrient.  There is almost no conversion of this macro-nutrient to any type of body fat, so virtually any protein that isn't used is excreted.  When considering protein what you want to consider is what comes with your source of protein.  Considerations such as amino acid profile, minerals/vitamins/fiber, toxins and cooking methods are all part of determining what protein is best for you.

What are Proteins?

Protein is created using small amino acids that are then folded into complex shapes.  They can be found in the body as muscles, tendons, organs, as well as enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters. Amino acids are classified into essential - which the body can't produce and we need to get from our diet or supplementation; and non-essential - which our body can make from other amino acids.  Complete proteins are so important because they have an adequate balance of all 9 essential amino acids.

Protein Sources are Everywhere

Animal
Plant
  • Eggs, dairy
  • Chicken, turkey
  • Red meat (beef/lamb)
  • Fish, shellfish
  • Pork

  • Grains
  • Nuts, Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Soy


Protein is found in different food sources, but not all sources are complete.  All animal sources contain complete amino acids, but plant sources are not complete and require some planning to ensure a complete protein profile.  The recommendation of protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (.36 g/lb). For an average sedentary woman that's 46g per day, and for a man its even more at 56g.  Those are just the averages and people range significantly based on personal need, age, activity or exercise level, muscle mass, and other life factors, such as health status, if someone is pregnant or anemic, to name a few.

Increase protein intake
Decrease protein intake
  • Pregnant
  • Malnutrition/ketosis
  • B12 or iron deficiency (using animal protein)
  • Increased muscle breakdown or recovery
  • Weight loss
  • Elderly population
  • Kidney disease
  • High uric acid / gout

Minerals, Vitamins, Fiber and Fat

Protein is critical, but what comes with your protein is just as important.  For example, media has recently promoted decreased consumption of red meat. Yet the negative effects may be from the fat that comes with the meat as well as how it's cooked, and less from the red meat protein.  So trimming the fat off meat to make lean cuts might be healthier than cutting out the red meat all together.  Critics of vegetable protein state that vegetarians are protein deficient. Ensuring the full compliment of amino acids can be challenging, but when a person eats a balanced plant-based diet (and not just refined carbohydrates), vegetarians, on average, reach adequate levels of protein but often lack the required B12.  

"Protein is critical, but what comes with your protein is just as important"

Animal Protein
Plant Protein
  • high protein per gram
  • High heme iron
  • Main source of B12
  • No fiber
  • Variable fat - saturated
  • low protein per gram
  • Non-heme iron
  • No B12
  • High fiber
  • Low fat - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated

Toxins

The harmful toxins that you have to consider in animal-based protein includes antibiotics, hormones and pathogens. The majority (80%) of antibiotics produced are used for livestock and poultry.  This contributes to anti-bacterial resistance and puts everyone at risk. Hormones contribute to a host of hormonal-induced health effects. Lastly, on the side of animal toxins - pathogens are a real concern with animal protein, but this is an area where standards continue to improve, decreasing rates of infection.

Plant protein sources pose a set of different risks. Pesticide residues on plants cause damage to neurological, immune and reproductive systems.  Look at the main culprits with high pesticide residues. Soybeans are used as a meat substitute because of their amino acid composition. But it's one of the largest genetically modified (GMO) crops and, as a GMO, poses serious health risks. Lastly, many high protein plant sources have plant chemicals that help to protect the plant by causing harm to whatever eats it, including humans.  Typically, the harm is extremely mild because, with selective breeding, we have propagated only the plants with the best characteristics and that are least harmful.  See the chart below for some of the plant chemicals, including phytic acid which decreases availability of iron and zinc.

Animal Toxins
Plant Toxins
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones
  • Pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses)
  • Pesticides
  • GMO
  • Plant chemicals: saponins and lectins, phytic acid

Cooking Methods

When meat is cooked at high temperatures over open flame, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) chemicals can be formed.  The formation of these chemicals are associated with increased cancer risk.  The fat component in meat tends to be the largest contributor in the formation of these chemicals, so leaner trims of meat will decrease the potential risk.  Cooking plant-based protein is doubled sided because some nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, folate and thiamine are sensitive to cooking and heat will degrade them, but in other situations heating helps increase availability of nutrients such as vitamin A, calcium, iron and lycopene (found in tomatoes). 

Recommendations

No matter what protein source you use, knowing how to maximize the beneficial aspects and mitigate any negative components should always be considered. Below is a list of recommendations to consider when selecting your protein sources

Animal Recommendations
Plant Recommendations
  • Pair with fiber sources
  • Free range and organic
  • Trim fat, lean cuts
  • Avoid direct cooking flame
  • Pair with B12 sources
  • Non-GMO and organic
  • Add healthy fats (olive )
  • Wash, soak, ferment legumes

Testing for Protein Levels

Protein levels and specific amino acids can be tested using blood or urine. There are indirect measures of protein status by looking at a diet diary, B12 levels, or ketones in the urine which are a byproduct of protein breakdown and indicate a lack of carbohydrates.  More direct measures include urinary amino acid level that detects metabolic disorder and micronutrient deficiencies or toxic abnormalities that can interfere with amino acid utilization. Plasma levels of amino acids reveal long-term nutritional status providing amino acid information on tissue stores.

If you have been modifying protein intake are have any concern that you may be protein deficient, either due to inadequate protein intake or the inability to breakdown protein, your naturopathic doctor may recommend testing your amino acid levels.  Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor if protein status is a concern and to learn more about what treatments are best indicated for your health concern.