green smoothie.jpgOne of the top 10 most-searched-for phrases on Google at this moment is “protein shakes.” It’s hard to believe that we still want to supplement protein when, in fact, Americans get too much protein. It’s hard to digest (especially for the over-40 crowd who produce less hydrochloric acid than we once did); it stresses the kidneys; and according The China Study, the largest epidemiological study on human nutrition ever conducted, excess animal protein may be even worse than excess animal fat in terms of risk for heart disease and certain cancers. 

If you want to worry about a nutrient, worry about vitamin D. If you live north of Atlanta, or if you have a dark complexion, or if you avoid the sun or religiously wear sunblock, you may well be deficient in this essential nutrient. But not protein. Look at the Great Apes, the buffalos, the elephants—where are these guys, who aren’t one bit on the puny side, getting their protein? Leaves and grasses! 
Here’s the deal with protein: get enough calories from a whole-foods diet without junk food and you’ll be fine. The only way you can be protein-deficient on a whole-foods diet is if you eat almost nothing but fruit. John McDougall, MD, had a long-standing offer of $10,000 to go to any dietician or nutritionist who could come up a whole-foods diet that was not all fruit, provided adequate calories, and was protein-deficient. Nobody ever claimed the prize.
I was at a cool dinner in LA with fancy vegetarians like Mariel Hemingway, Marilu Henner,  Emily Deschanel, and Chloe Jo Berman when somebody suggested going around the table and having everybody state their favorite source of concentrated protein. Here’s what we heard:
  • leafy greens
  • beans, especially in chili
  • hemp seeds
  • seitan
  • tempeh
  • hummus
  • quinoa
And food in general! — since there is some protein in everything worth eating. (Even those fruits that are very low in protein have some.)
As for protein shakes, well, shakes are cool, we all know that. Increase their nutritional oom-pah-pah by tossing in a handful of greens—romaine, spinach, kale. This won’t change the taste (just the color) and you’ll be getting lots of nutrients that weren’t there before, and the kind of protein your body likes best as well. If you like adding a super-nutrient powder, too, my fave these days is Raw Power. It’s made from hemp seed protein, Brazil nut protein, maca powder, mesquite powder, goji berry powder, and vanilla bean. It’s Certified Organic give you 10.5 grams of protein, 21% of what you need for the day. So, since you’ve put me the mood for a shake, here’s the one I’ll probably make for lunch:

green smoothie ready.jpg

Favorite Friday Shake
1 fresh, ripe banana
1 banana, frozen, cut into 1″ sections
1 pint raspberries (they were on sale — hurray!)
1 cup almond milk (I made some yesterday, or you can buy it, or use soy or rice milk)
3 soaked, pitted dates or 2 Tbls. date sugar
1/3 head romaine, washed and torn 
2 scoops Raw Power powder
Blend. (If you don’t have a super-duper blender, you may have to stop and scrape down the sides. You can also push the food down into the blades with a stalk of celery. More greenery. Good deal.)
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