NYS Certified Nutritionist

The Value of Eating Like Your Great-Grandmother

Too many Americans are over-fed.  Contrary to the popular nutrition gospel preaching eating more protein, it is actually rare to see protein deficiency in this country, with a couple of exceptions.  The elderly, and those with eating disorders might not consume enough protein for optimal health.  In general, if one is eating enough calories, one is also eating enough protein.  The average woman requires about 50 grams per day, and the average man requires approximately 60 grams per day.

Protein is almost ubiquitous.  A half cup of vegetables contains 2 grams, as does a half cup of starches like potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, or one slice of bread.  Each cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, while each ounce of cheese, poultry, fish, or meat contains 7 grams.  A half cup of legumes contains about 3 grams of protein, while each ounce of baked tofu has at least 4 grams.  Two tablespoons of nut butter contain 8 grams of protein.  It is easy to get enough protein, and if one eats more than enough, one is getting too many calories too, adding to the risk of obesity, chronic inflammation, heart disease and certain cancers.

Our obesity epidemic is spreading, and coincides with the over-indulgence in high protein foods.   As China has become more industrialized, and affluent, the normally lean Chinese are becoming more like Americans.  Obesity is creeping into their population, even among their children.  Type II diabetes used to be unknown among the young, but now it is appearing in that population.  After thousands of years depending on rice, rice noodles, vegetables, tofu, little fat, animal protein as a condiment [if at all], the Chinese diet is becoming more like ours.  This situation is more than cosmetic.   With obesity come chronic health conditions, leading to poor quality of life.

Concerning changes in the epidemiology reports from China emerged when with their new-found wealth that country began importing our beef and dairy cattle.  Traditionally, the Chinese almost never consumed dairy after being weaned.  Suddenly, they began eating cheese, pizza, and ice cream.  They would be wise to return to their traditional style of eating.  And, we would be wise to follow the traditional Asian diet.

My advice to clients continues to be…If your great-grandmother would not recognize it as food, do not eat it.  Protein bars, shakes, supplements, powders, etc. are part of a very profitable empire of manufactured “foods.”  For the vast majority of humans, these products are unnecessary, a waste of money, and may contribute to ill health.  And…your great-grandmother would not recognize them as food.

Dateline:  Latham, Albany County, New York