The gentlebirth.org website is provided courtesy of
Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA
An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.
Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy
These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.
Here is an article I read in the magazine "A Real Life" Vol 1 Number 1. It's entitled, "Boy, Did I Have Protein All Wrong". Because it's kind of long, I'll excerpt a tantalizing paragraph first for you skimmers, then reproduce the article in its entirety.
"African Bantu women take in only 350 mg of calcium per day. They bear nine children in a lifetime and breastfeed for two years. They never have calcium deficiency, seldom break a bone, rarely lose a tooth. Their children grow up nice and strong. How can they do that on 350mg calcium a day when the National Dairy Council recommendation is 1200mg? It's very simple. They're on a low-protein diet that doesn't kick the calcium out of the body." (One of the most important causes of osteoporosis is excess dietary protein, this article furthermore states.)
Now on to the article in its entirety.
BOY, DID I HAVE PROTEIN ALL WRONG. (A Real Life, Vol 1. No. 1)
No wonder, considering what I was taught in school: our bodies need lots of protein to grow big and strong, and the only sure way to get it is from animal products - so drink your milk and eat your meat and eggs. (There was some vague talk about rice and beans, but it seemed chance-y, second best.)
What I didn't know - and our teachers probably didn't either - is that much of this "nutrition education" was influenced by extensive political lobbying by the huge meat and dairy conglomerates. Of course we need protein - but the how's and why's of it all are better coming from a less biased source.
Protein means "to come first," and it does play a leading nutrient role: it forms the basic, structural unit of our bodies, with great responsibility for many critical functions as well. Protein is unique in that it supplies the amino acids and nitrogen needed for building and repairing living tissue.
How much protein is a very good question. The estimates of protein requirements have been dropping for decades, as we discover that the body is far more adaptable than was once thought. What has not changed is this: there is a direct relationship between protein and calories. If calorie intake is inadequate, the body turns to protein for fuel, thereby increasing the protein need. If calories are adequate, only a minimum of protein is needed. In a nutshell - if you're getting enough calories, you're getting enough protein. In fact, with enough calories, you would actually have to work very hard not to get enough protein, for example; eating a diet made up of only fruits and sugars. (Even human mother's milk - ideal for fast growing babies - provides only 5 percent of its calories from protein.)
Most of us (including vegetarians) eat more than twice the protein we need. Is this a problem? There are two things to consider: we all know by now that animal protein intake has been linked again and again to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer (animal products contain saturated fat and cholesterol, and no fiber), whereas vegetable protein continually shows up as possibly protecting us against these diseases (vegetable foods rarely contain saturated fat, have no cholesterol, and lots of fiber). The other consideration was a surprise to me - one of the most important causes of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) is excess dietary protein. All the research shows that the link is direct - the more protein eaten, the more calcium lost in the urine. Listen to these words from Nathan Pritiken, a respected nutrition specialist:
"African Bantu women take in only 350 mg of calcium per day. They bear nine children in a lifetime and breastfeed for two years. They never have calcium deficiency, seldom break a bone, rarely lose a tooth. Their children grow up nice and strong. How can they do that on 350mg calcium a day when the National Dairy Council recommendation is 1200mg? It's very simple. They're on a low-protein diet that doesn't kick the calcium out of the body."
Now let's talk about rice and beans. Is animal protein superior, or more "complete" than vegetable protein? Most of us have heard (over and over, in my case) that plant proteins (with the exception of spinach, soybeans and quinoa), do not supply all of the amino acids that our bodies need. But we don't hear this enough: when eaten as part of an adequate, varied diet, plant proteins naturally complement each other and provide all the high-quality protein we need. The idea of having to mix and match vegetables and grains precisely to get the protein right was given up years ago - thank goodness. Eat enough vegetables and grains, and you'll get all the protein you need with less risk of losing calcium.
The Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 1983 that vegetarians have denser bones than meat-eaters; women who are vegetarians have less bone loss (7%) than women who consume meat (35% bone loss). This has been attributed to many different factors; the calcium/phosphorous ration in vegetable foods that helps absorption of calcium, the estrogens in plant proteins that may slow down loss of bone tissue, and the simple fact that vegetarians eat less protein.
I understand protein a lot better. I don't need to worry about getting enough protein, and now when I think of superior protein, vegetables and grains are what come to mind - and not just a big bowl of rice and beans.
*John Robbins 1987, Diet for a New America (NH: Stillpoint Publishing),
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