It’s Plant Protein Season

Americans love protein; in fact, most Americans eat twice the amount of protein recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Institutes of Health. (It recommends about 50 gm of protein per day for the average adult. For reference, a cut of animal protein the size of a deck of cards contains about 21 gm of protein) While the media and food marketing companies suggest that these high levels of protein make us strong and healthy, a growing body of science disagrees, reminding us that when it comes to nutrition, more isn’t necessarily better. While protein is critical for good nutrition, too much can cause problems, such as an acid-base imbalance, which can undermine bone and overall health. The food we eat profoundly impacts this balance.

Our bodies operate best at an overall pH of 7.35. When we eat foods that create acids (typically those that are high in protein and low in minerals), the body needs to buffer the acid in order to maintain its pH. The buffering process taxes the respiratory system and other organs, works the kidneys harder, and can draw calcium out of the body. In addition, research has shown that cancer development and growth is much greater in even slightly acidic conditions.

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About Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT

Annie is an integrative dietitian, author, and certified professional-level Kripalu Yoga teacher. She is a former director of the osteoporosis awareness program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For more than 10 years, Annie has advocated science-based mind-body health in the national media, at conferences and workshops, and through her book, Every Bite Is Divine.
  • Elizabeth

    Is it too much protein in general or just animal protein that’s the problem? You can eat a very high-protein vegan diet with tofu, seitan and beans and brown rice. People need protein to build muscle, especially if you’re athletic. May be that people eat too much red meat, which is acidic because it contains protein but very little calcium and minerals that are not acidic. Both calcium-rich fish and calcium-set tofu are high-protein, high-calcium foods that regulate pH levels. I think you need to create a balance of protein and calcium in your diet. Farmers will often spread lime on late season fields, ploughing it under for over the winter. They do this to de-acidify the soil and replenish nutrients. Lime is calcium.