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Protein,  Nuts and Sprouts

How important is protein


Going by the popular view, it is very important. "Are you getting enough protein" is something everyone seems to be worried about. If I could get a dollar for every time somebody asked me "How do you get your protein if you don't eat any animal or dairy products?", I would be a very rich man. The truth is that - yes, proteins are important. But so are carbohydrates. So are fats. So are vitamins, minerals. Every part of the diet is important. And a deficiency (or excess) in any component will cause problems.

Human Protein requirements


How much protein do we need? There are conflicting views. But slowly, everyone is recognizing that we need a lot less than what we thought we did. The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein was over 100g per day per person not so long ago. It has been gradually reduced and currently stands are about 52g for an average male and 44g for an average female. There is a huge safety margin built into these numbers. They the actual requirements are ascertained and then doubled. The International standards (for the rest of the world's population) are 37g. for an average male and 29g for an average female. It is not logical that just because you are in the US you need more protein than the rest of the world.


Reportedly the original standard amino-acid profile (which are the building blocks for protein) was developed based on the protein requirements for laboratory rats. This could be one of the reasons for high protein standards.  Have you looked at a rat lately? Rats are covered in hair - HAIR IS PROTEIN. If you are completely covered in hair you're going to require more protein. The nutritional profile of rats and humans is also very different.


Since protein is primarily a building block for the body, our needs go down once we have reached adulthood and have stopped growing. At that time protein is only required for maintenance and repair, and the body anyway recycles 70% of its proteinaceous waste. Our requirements are much lower than we think.


The maximum period of growth in the human lifecycle is when we are infants. And at that time we are told, "The best food is mother's milk". And pray, how much protein does mother's milk contain? Less than 2%! If nature intended that 2% of protein in our diet is how much we need at the maximum period of growth in our life, then once we grow up we need a lot less. Here is a chart that will give you an idea.


Daily Protein Requirements

Age                           *RDA

0- 6 months               2.2

6 months-1 year        2.0

1-3 years                    1.8

4-6 years                    1.5

7- 10 years                 1.2

11- 14 years               1.0

15- 18 years               0.9

19 years and older    0.8


*(in grams per kilogram [2.2 pounds] of body weight)


The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein according to U.S. government standards is 0.8 gram per kilogram (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds) of IDEAL body weight for the adult. Ideal body weight is used in the calculation because amino acids are not needed by fat cells, only by the lean body mass. So an adult male who should weigh about 154 pounds, or 70 kilograms, requires 56 grams of protein daily. A female whose best weight is 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms, needs 40 grams a day.  But how many of us are of ideal weight? If we have too much fat on us, we need less protein than we think we do.


Note: Pregnant women, lactating women and growing children need more protein than others, so make allowance for this.


Dangers of excessive Protein consumption

Everyone knows of the dangers of excessive consumption of fats. So people ask for lean meat, fish instead of red meat etc. But very few know of the dangers of eating too much protein. Large amounts of animal protein contribute to osteoporosis, and kidney problems.


When people eat too much protein, they take in more nitrogen than they need. This places a strain on the liver and kidneys which must expel the extra nitrogen through urine.


Diets that are rich in protein, especially animal protein, cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their urine and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Countries with lower-protein diets have lower rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures


Even heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol and other debilitating diseases have been linked to excessive protein consumption. This applies particularly to animal protein which is accompanied by high levels of saturated fat.


Excessive amounts of saturated fat consumption in the diet cause clogged arteries, low tissue oxygenation, slow metabolism, and other degenerative diseases. Excess protein that is not used for building tissues or energy is converted by the liver and stored as fat in the body tissues. The links between animal protein and deteriorating health are numerous


The China Project, the world's largest study on the effects of nutrition and diet on health, carried out for over 15 years on thousands of Chinese families by Dr T Colin Campbell, from Cornell University, is an eye-opener. It shows that as the rural Chinese, who ate primarily a plant-based (vegetarian) diet with little protein had very low levels of degenerative diseases like BP, cholesterol, heart disease etc when compared to the West. However, when they urbanised themselves and started eating more as the West does, eating more animal products and hence more protein, they started getting the same diseases in the same percentages as their western counterparts.


The main nutritional conclusion from this study is that the greater the consumption of a variety of good quality plant-based foods, the lower the risk of those diseases which are commonly found in western countries (eg., cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes). Based on these and other data, they hypothesize that 80-90% of all such diseases could be prevented before about age 90 years simply by switching to a diet based predominantly on plant-based food.


Animal vs vegetable protein

People have been conditioned to think that they need large amounts of protein to function properly and can only get that protein from animal flesh. This is because animal protein is thought to be a "complete protein" since it has all the amino acids at high levels. Plant protein is "incomplete" since a single plant protein though it has all the essential amino acids, it may be low in 1 or 2 of them when compared with a protein from most animal sources.  So traditionally vegetable protein is considered inferior to animal protein.


This shows the dangers of so-called "scientific studies" that look at only part of the whole picture. It is true that a single vegetable protein does not contain all the amino acids you need but does any human being subsist on only ONE vegetable protein source say only one kind of nut eg walnuts? Of course not. The fact is that different vegetable sources have different amino acid profiles and if you eat a combination of vegetable foods, say different nuts, seeds, cereals, lentils, beans etc you would get everything you need from the combination. The problem is, scientists want to see each food individually to ascertain its so-called Quality so they can put a label on it. If seen in such a reductionist manner, it will naturally lead to misleading results. You cannot ignore the reality that man eats a variety of foods and gets all he needs from the combination of foods he eats and not just from one source.


Modern nutritionists observed populations of strict vegetarians who were healthier and lived longer than meat-eaters. They realized that all essential amino acids may be obtained from a variety of vegetables or grains - eaten over a one-to-two-day period.

Eggs -  a source of protein

Everyone is encouraged to eat more eggs because of the proteins they contain. However, remember that once eggs are cooked their proteins coagulate making them less readily available to the body. They are extremely high on cholesterol and create problems for the liver and kidneys.

Athletes, Body Builders and Protein

Seems like everyone at the gym is doing it: filling up on protein to bulk up those biceps. But it's a misconception. Eating extra protein doesn't do much toward boosting your muscle mass and strength.  Medical research shows that consuming too much protein -- more than 30% of your total daily caloric intake -- could harm your body, says protein expert Gail Butterfield, PhD, RD, director of Nutrition Studies at the Palo Alto Veterans' Administration Medical Center and nutrition lecturer at Stanford University. Adding more protein but not more calories or exercise to your diet won't help you build more muscle mass, but it may put your other bodily systems under stress.


So think twice when you consider sacrificing the carbohydrates for a protein-dominant diet, Butterfield says. Drastically cutting carbohydrates from your diet may force your body to fight back.  She says that's because a diet in which protein makes up more than 30% of your caloric intake causes a buildup of toxic ketones. So-called ketogenic diets can thrust your kidneys into overdrive to flush these ketones from your body. As your kidneys rid your body of these toxic ketones, you can lose a significant amount of water, which puts you at risk of dehydration, particularly if you exercise heavily.

That water loss often shows up on the scale as weight loss. But along with losing water, you lose muscle mass and bone calcium. The dehydration also strains your kidneys and puts stress on your heart.  And dehydration from a ketogenic diet can make you feel weak and dizzy, give you bad breath, or lead to other problems.

Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamin E, minerals, amino acids and carbohydrates

Cooked protein

When proteinaceous foods are cooked, their amino acids coagulate. This creates more work for the body to extract the amino acids. Therefore proteins, like other foods, are best consumed raw. And the problem with animal protein is, we rarely eat it raw. Except for Japanese who eat sushi (raw fish), the percentage of people who eat raw meat is very low. And almost all milk we get is pasteurised by heating it to high temperatures so that is also a problem.  The only raw protein we can get is from eating raw nuts and seeds, and sprouts.

More about nuts

The hard shells of nuts protect them from the elements and keep them fresh for a long time. Once shelled, due to oxidation, the oil in nuts and seeds can go rancid. It's best to buy your nuts and seeds unshelled. Eat them raw -not fried, roasted or salted. If possible, soak them in water for 10-24 hours, starting the sprouting process, which makes the fats and proteins more digestible.


Almonds should be soaked overnight and their skins removed since they have a slightly toxic compound in the skin to protect them from insects. You would have to eat a huge amount of almonds with their skins to have a problem from this, but its best to remove the skin. If you are in a hurry, blanch them by dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds. The skins will easily pop off then.


It's best to eat nuts in small quantities otherwise you'll overload your digestive system and cause gas and bloating and produce horrible smelling gases! 1-2 ounces (28 to 56 g) of nuts per day for normal adults (more for pregnant and lactating women) should suffice, in addition to the proteins we get from other sources such as cereals, lentils, vegetables etc.


Sprouts are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.  Medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history. It has been written that the Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago. Sprouts have continued to be the main staple in the diets of Americans of Oriental descent – especially soybean sprouts. It was found that sprouts retain the B-complex vitamins present in the original seed, and show a big jump in Vitamin A and an almost unbelievable amount of Vitamin C over that present in unsprouted seeds -  an average 300 per cent increase in Vitamin A and a 500 to 600 per cent increase in Vitamin C. Besides, in the sprouting process starches are converted to simple sugars, thus making sprouts easily digested compared to raw nuts and seeds

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