It might have started with Atkins, but the high protein, low carb mentality has conquered dieting for weight loss strategies across the developed world. Staying “low carb” is now regular talk even amongst non dieters, so much so that it will probably make it into Webster’s next dictionary edition as a legitimate English phrase. Losing and keeping weight off is great, especially with the modern obesity epidemic, but do you really need all of that protein? Furthermore, what effect does it have on the environment? No and bad are the answers to these questions.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
You need .32 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, that is 48 grams. If you are weight training or super active, you might need a bit more. Super active means you are at the gym for two hours or are long distance training, not walking around your office and jogging for a half hour a day. Try WeBeFit’s protein calculator if your cell phone calculator is out or reach.
How Much Protein Do You Eat?
Be very conscientious and write down every food you ate yesterday. Then go to any online service to calculate how many grams of protein were in each food.
King is good for instance; they will tell you one egg has 6.3 grams of protein. You will be amazed at how much protein is in vegetables, flours, and all those pesky “carbs” you scorn.
Too Much of a Good Thing…
Besides not needing the extra protein for energy, proteins, especially meat proteins, also come with baggage. A few carry-ons are cholesterol, toxins stored in flesh (depending on where you get your meat but present in all of them), and fiber deficiency. The human body might have been used to only digesting meat when we were cave people with an average lifespan of 32, but you probably expect to live a bit longer and hence need to think about your heart and digestive health as well as cancer risks.
The Ecological Impact
Almost all meat and animal proteins (save land or sea animals that were sustainably hunted) come with an ecological impact much greater than the health benefit to you. If you are not stifling biodiversity by eating from depleted fish stocks, you are eating farmed fish that ate a high soy diet that hurt the rainforests via soy imports from South America or other corporate farms that are polluting waterways and contributing gross amounts of extra nitrogen that results in further global warming. That analysis does not even factor the extra energy inputs that went into all of the farming for that soy. Fish are the bottom of the animal protein food chain as well, so if you are eating anything meatier you are hurting the environment even more. Generally, the higher the thing on your plate was on the food chain, the more resources and impacts it had on our fragile earth ecosystem to produce.
So it is always best practice to eat lower on the chain, as often as you can, from an ecological standpoint! And if you take a few minutes to calculate how much you are consuming and how much you really need to consume, you might discover that you are living in excess. If you are not thinking about the earth, think about the terrible effects that extra consumption has on your body, and you might opt for a locally harvested vegetable pasta medley over a steak at dinner tonight, diet be damned.