Have you ever heard the song “People are Crazy” performed by Billy Currington? Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones are the mastermind writers behind this song, and ever since I heard it back in the summer of 2009 its chorus line has become my own personal ethos. If you want to check it out, here is a link to the music video. To summarize, Billy Currington and “this old man” meet at a bar, spend the night reminiscing about their good ol’ days, and repeatedly come to the conclusion that “God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy!” I personally am not a fan of beer, but I AM a fan of the sentiment. I like to express my own opinions using their format when I think people are being silly. It keeps me from getting annoyed and/or offended unnecessarily. For example, I hate that people still smoke today despite the copious amount of education we all grow up with about the dangers of using tobacco products. Instead of blowing up at someone I see smoking outside the medical center where I work (a place that is supposed to be SMOKE FREE), I usually calm myself by saying “God is great. Smoking is NOT good. And people are crazy!” See how it works?! This week’s people are crazy saying goes as follows: God is great. Protein is good. And people are CRAZY!
Why has protein been causing such a ruckus in my life lately? Well, it all started during the Olympics. I do not have cable so I enjoyed the Olympics via NBC’s primetime coverage. I had such a great time celebrating with all the athletes, but for some reason every time they showed the Subway commercial promoting adding avocado to your next sub in order to make it protein packed I perked up even more. Why did I get so excited about a Subway commercial? Because FINALLY someone was promoting something other than meat as a protein source!! I cannot tell you how annoyed I get when commercials show huge meat packed sandwiches or whatever they are selling and mention protein, ignoring all the saturated fat and cholesterol you are also taking in with absolutely no fiber. Consequently, this week I am going to share a secret with you. Only here is catch: you cannot keep this secret to yourself but rather you should go tell everyone you know so we can all share in the glorious news. Are you ready? Okay, here’s the secret: all whole foods have protein…all of them…even carrots. Adult men and women need 56g and 46g of protein a day respectively (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which is an easily achievable amount. Do you know anyone suffering from Kwashiorkor or Marasmus, the two most common protein deficiency diseases? The chances are pretty slim, unless the person you know is from a developing country, a burn victim, a trauma victim, or has a bacterial infection in his or her blood stream. One of my favorite food bloggers, Lindsay S. Nixon, puts it perfectly, “You could eat nothing but potatoes all day and still meet your minimum protein requirements.” In fact, Americans often have the opposite problem; we get too much protein and too little vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. To see why this is a real issue read this article. And do not take anything you read here for face value. Do your own research on any topic and learn for yourself. I do not want to mislead anyone; I simply love you all and think you deserve to know the truth so that you can critically assess nutritional advertising.
Now, I do not mean to harp on meat and make it sound like a horrible option. My goal here is simply to tell you it is not the ONLY option and that, depending on your dietary requirements, you may have much better options available to you that you can include in order to add a little variety to your dining. For example, a cheeseburger contains .05 grams of protein per calorie compared to spinach which has .12 grams of protein per calorie (thanks for the stats, Lindsay!). AND with spinach you are also getting fiber, cancer fighting antioxidants, and vitamins galore! Here is an article exploring some protein packed foods that you might have overlooked. Including some into your meal planning will help cut grocery costs AND help make you and your family healthier. Here is a list of various protein rich foods that I found on happycow.net. So many options!!
Protein in Legume: Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, soybeans, split peas
Protein in Grain: Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rye, wheat germ, wheat, wild rice
Vegetable Protein: Artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, green peas, green pepper, kale, lettuce, mushroom, mustard green, onions, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, turnip greens, watercress, yams, zucchini
Protein in Fruit: Apple, banana, cantaloupe, grape, grapefruit, honeydew melon, orange, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, strawberry, tangerine, watermelon
Protein in Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, filberts, hemp seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts (black)
Before I finally stop blabbering at you about how many diverse protein options there are and introduce this week’s recipe, I feel I should tell you WHY you should even care about protein. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but have you actually thought about why we all grew up bombarded with protein propaganda? Protein is very important because your whole body is essentially made of protein. Your hair, nails, and muscle are all protein. Now think about how different your muscle is from your hair…pretty different right (thank goodness!)? It makes sense then that different protein would make up your muscle than your hair, and that is very true. The reason protein types can be so diverse is that each protein is made up of a particular sequence of building blocks called amino acids that have names like valine, serine, and proline. When you are eating food to acquire protein, you are actually trying to take in all necessary amino acids. Out of the 20 amino acids, your body naturally makes 11 of them. You need to get the other 9 from your food; these are known as essential amino acids. In the post WWII 1950’s, meat became the most popular protein source because it is what is known as a complete protein. A complete protein provides your body with all 9 essential amino acids. However, it is not the ONLY complete protein out there AND it is not necessary to eat a “complete” protein to get all the essential amino acids. As Dr. T. Colin Campbell says, “You can’t be protein deficient unless you are calorie deficient.” Quinoa and soybeans are two examples of other complete proteins that are both cheaper (less than $1 per pound!) and more nutrient rich than meat without all the extra fat and cholesterol.
OKAY I will finally stop lecturing. I apologize for the lengthiness of this post, but I felt a bit deprived when I first learned about all of this and vowed that I would share the news so that people would no longer need to live in the dark. I guess that makes me a bit of a protein missionary! Have I converted you yet? If so, I will force you to wait no longer for a super easy protein-packed recipe that includes no meat or added oil whatsoever! This week has been a particularly stressful one for me at work, and when that happens my food preparation ambition has a tendency to wane. That is how I know this recipe is easy and foolproof, because I made it for lunch every day this week and it was delightful every time! I hope you enjoy it, and I thank you for staying with me through my protein rant. You are all amazing!
Lazy Protein Bowl by Catherine Waters (and probably anyone else who has ever randomly thrown these ingredients together)
1 cup uncooked BROWN rice (not white rice…just say no…and say YES to fiber!)
Lemon juice to taste (I buy those containers of it in the produce section that are shaped like lemons…but you could also just buy a lemon and squeeze it…the choice is yours)
Minced garlic to taste (Once again, I cheat with the jars of pre-minced garlic)
1 ripe avocado (if the outside is more brown than green and softish to the touch, it is good and ready)
1 can of black beans (usually 15oz) drained and rinsed
Salsa (as much or as little of your favorite kind as you want)
1. Cook brown rice in your usual rice cooking manner. If you have a rice cooker, congrats, your job is super easy; just combine 1 cup of rice with 2 cups water, plug in cooker, and flip switch to “cook.” If not, I am sorry, but have no fear! The store provides microwavable or boil-in-bag rice varieties for your purchase.
2. Cut the avocado in half and remove pit.
3. Slice the inside of the avocado halves into cubes. To do this, make the inside look like an elaborate checkers board with your knife and then scoop it out with a spoon into a mixing bowl. Here is a picture for example. Be careful not to slice through completely and hurt yourself.
4. Add in the rinsed black beans.
5. Add in as much lemon juice and garlic as you want and then stir to combine everything together.
6. Scoop the avocado and black bean mixture onto the rice and stir (if you want to combine everything together). Serve with salsa on top.
Helpful Hint: If you ever get tired of this combination, you can add many different things to a bowl of brown rice, garlic, and lemon juice to make a meal. Also, you can add fresh herbs, such as cilantro, if you are being super ambitious. Some variations include:
– Kidney beans + cherry tomatoes
– Avocado + cherry tomatoes
– Baked sweet potato + avocado
– Avocado + corn + black bean