27 September 2018


What contains more protein - soy beans or beef? What about eggs compared to oats? And how much protein do we really need anyway? What happens if we do not get enough; and what about if we get too much?

The answers may surprise you, so this week, all you need to know about protein, plus 5 great tips for boosting your protein levels in a healthy manner if needed, but first

Thought for the day

Enlightenment is real; and each of us, whoever we are, 
Can in the right circumstances 
And with the right training 
Realize the nature of mind and so know in us 
What is deathless and eternally pure. 
This is the promise of all 
The great mystical traditions of the world, 
And it has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled 
In countless thousands of human lives.

The wonder of this promise 
Is that it is something not exotic, 
Not fantastic, not for an elite, but for all of humanity; 
And when we realize it, 
The masters tell us, it is unexpectedly ordinary.
Spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric, 
It is in fact profound common sense. 

When you realize the nature of mind, 
Layers of confusion peel away. 
You do not actually “become” a buddha, 
You simply cease, slowly, to be deluded. 
And being a buddha 
Is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman, 
But becoming at last a true human being.

Sogyal Rinpoche 

Protein levels
So here it is.

Soy beans have about 50% more protein than beef; oats have around 30% more protein than eggs!

Not what you expected? Well, yes - surprising to most, but here are the facts...

Figures from the USDA database in grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked product - with some processed foods as well

Banana 1.1
Brocolli 2.8
Brown rice 8.9
Wheat 10.7 …  Bread 9.0
Eggs 12.6
Oats 16.9  …  Porridge 2.4
Chickpeas 19.3
Almonds 21.2
Tuna 23.3
Peanuts 25.8
Lentils 26.0
Beef 27.0
Poultry 28.2
Lupins 36.2
Soy beans 39.6 …  Tofu 8.0, Tempeh 19.0

How much protein do we need?
This has been widely debated - and still is to a degree - but the common consensus is that we need less than most people imagine. Earlier recommendations - from the end of the last century - commonly recommended what are now regarded as dangerously high amounts, and for many, these high expectations have stuck.

So currently, the US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines recommend women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day.

Official Australian Government recommendations are women aged 19–70 : 46 grams of protein per day;  men aged 19–70 : 64 grams of protein per day.

Special circumstances, higher requirements
As we age we do need more protein, so the Australian protein intake recommendation for people over 70 is - woman 57 grams per day; men 81 grams per day.

Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase the need for protein. Requirements are also greater during childhood - for growth and development, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, or when the body needs to recover from malnutrition, from trauma or after an operation.

How much is eaten?
In the USA, a major study found average protein consumption was around 20% higher than that recommended - for women ages 20 and older consumption was 69.8 grams and for men 98.3 grams per day.

Protein excess has many problems
You may be confused by the high protein diets recommended for weight loss?

Well actually, high protein intake is linked to longer term weight gain, bad breath (which is linked to the metabolic state ketosis the body goes into with high protein intake and produces chemicals that give off an unpleasant fruity smell), constipation for some (due to low fibre), diarrhoea for others (particularly with high dairy or fried food intake), dehydration (the body flushes out excess nitrogen with fluids and water), kidney damage (due to damage from higher excretion levels of waste products and the excess nitrogen found in the amino acids that make up proteins), increased cancer risk (particularly related to hormones, carcinogenic compounds and fats found in meat), heart disease (red meat and full-fat dairy foods as part of a high-protein diet may lead to heart disease due to increases in saturated fat and cholesterol) and finally - and maybe - calcium loss.

What a list! Hence this article to recommend lowering the expectations of how much protein is enough, and encouragement to be content - and confident to eat less!

Protein deficiency
In Australia this is relatively uncommon; elsewhere it has devastating effects linked to malnutrition.

Clinical protein deficiency is usually linked with malnutrition and called Protein-Energy Malnutrition - PEM.

PEM is fairly common in disadvantaged countries in both children and adults and each year causes a staggering 6 million deaths.

In the industrialized world, PEM is far less common and is usually only seen in the ill or the elderly.

Symptoms of PEM are mental retardation and kwashiorkor - that manifests as apathy, diarrhoea, lethargy, failure to grow, flaky skin, fatty liver, and oedema of the belly and legs.

Symptoms of severe protein deficiency include oedema, fatty liver, hair thinning, faded hair color, hair loss (alopecia), brittle nails, redness and flaky skin and depigmentation.

Signs of moderate protein deficiency
Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Loss of muscle mass is one of the first signs of inadequate protein intake. Even moderate protein insufficiency may cause muscle wasting, especially in elderly people.
Not consuming enough protein may weaken your bones and increase the risk of fractures. 
There may also be a weakening and mild distortion of nails.
Protein not only helps maintain muscle and bone mass, but it’s also essential for body growth. 
Insufficient protein intake may delay or prevent growth in children.
Even marginally low protein intake may impair immune function,impairing your body’s ability to fight infections, such as the common cold.
Although poor appetite is one of the symptoms of severe protein deficiency, the opposite seems to be true for milder forms of deficiency. If you are feeling hungry all the time and have difficulties keeping your calorie intake in check, try adding some good quality protein to every meal.
Five tips for a healthy increase in protein levels - if needed
1. Use almonds - ground coarsely or as butter 
I have oats for breakfast most mornings. As well as containing soluble and insoluble fibre, raw oats are high in protein, but spread out in cooked oats the protein level is rather low — one serving of porridge has around 4 grams. A quarter of a cup of ground almonds contains around 8 grams of extra protein.

A tip - almond butter made by soaking almonds overnight makes almonds easier to digest (excellent for those unwell or anyone wanting the best from their food) and creamy! Two tablespoons of almond butter contains 7 grams of protein. You can use it instead of other spreads or mix it into just about anything.

Soaked and ground almonds go really well in soups; simply ground they can be added to many things.

2. Eat more high-protein green veggies.
A cup of green peas has about 9 grams of protein; a cup of cooked spinach 5 grams, a cup of Brussels sprouts 4 grams of protein.

3. Use more tempeh

Tempeh has over twice the protein content of tofu, is rich in B Vitamins including B12 and being fermented is possibly better all round than tofu.

In my view tempeh needs a little disguising - so be creative and add it to things with good flavours.

Nutritionally, it is a winner.

4. Eat more quinoa - a complete, high protein seed
Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup compared to 5gms per cup of brown rice.
Also, unlike many plant-derived foods, quinoa is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids.

5. Consider spirulina as a supplement
Spirulina is one of the wonderfoods. It contains a whopping 60% protein in dried form and many other nutrients. It is derived from healthy  blue-green algae and is often used as a survival food. Excellent for convalescing and when a protein boost is needed, but does not contain useable B12 as some think; does have good levels of iron and copper.

A tablespoon of spirulina powder contains 4 grams of protein.

Eat a lower quantity and a higher quality of protein and good health will abound!!!

You Can Conquer Cancer explains in more detail what to eat and why - for those wanting to be really well, prevent disease or recover from cancer.

How much carbohydrate is enough?

10 September 2018


Last post featuring the research investigating the health impacts of our carbohydrate/protein balance attracted a huge readership. So this time, something more practical - how do we know our carbohydrate intake is OK?

Ten steps you can take to ensure you are getting the right carbohydrates and know when the amount is too much, when might it be inadequate, and what are the consequences.

Also details of Ruth's next meditation retreat in the Yarra Valley - which she will co-facilitate with the wonderful Kimberly Poppe from the 3rd to the 9th of December. What a way to round off the year!, but first

Thought for the day
Consider how common illness is, 
How tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, 
How astonishing, when the lights of health go down, 
The undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, 
What wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, 
What precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers 
A little rise of temperature reveals, 
What ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, 
How we go down in the pit of death 
And feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads 
And wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence 
Of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out 
And come to the surface in the dentist's arm-chair 
And confuse his "Rinse the mouth-rinse the mouth" 
With the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us 
- when we think of this, 
As we are so frequently forced to think of it, 
It becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place 
With love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.
Virginia Woolf 

The consequences of a poor carbohydrate balance
In our last post, research highlighted the health benefits of a high carbohydrate, low protein diet for all aspects of health and wellbeing - the are massive. However, those who overdo carbohydrates even the good ones, often experience problems with mood, weight, energy, digestion, immunity and more.

At the other extreme, those who eat very few carbohydrates often suffer significant energy losses and many significant health issues. In reality, however, the main problem seems to be with over-consumption.

How to know what is best for you?

Where is your healthy middle ground?

As with all food questions, theory takes you so far, but the best answers are to be found when we learn how to listen to our own body and have it provide the answers directly.

How to proceed?

A good start is this carbohydrate quiz - record your number of “yes” answers…

1. Do you gain weight easily when your diet includes a lot of healthy carbohydrate such as whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit?
2. Do you feel tired or sleepy shortly after consuming carbohydrates?
3. Do you feel foggy-headed after meals?
4. Do you frequently crave sweets?
5. Do you frequently crave starchy foods?
6. Do you have a difficult time controlling how much sugar or carbohydrate you eat?
7. Does your weight fluctuate easily?
8. Do you have dramatic energy ups and downs throughout the day?
9. Do you feel light-headed or irritable when you are hungry?
10. Do you tend to gain weight in your face and around your abdomen, more so than on your hips and thighs?
11. Do you turn to sweets or carbs when you are feeling anxious, tired, or depressed?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be eating more carbohydrates than your system can handle or process efficiently.

What to do?

1. Reduce or preferably eliminate sweet and starchy “white” 
and refined foods

If you have not done this already - many who read this will have - do so, and notice the effects.

For many, simply eliminating the “bad” carbohydrates is enough, but if you suspect problems still exist - based on the questionnaire above - here is a suggestion as to how to proceed.

2. Reduce or eliminate all grains for 7 Days
This includes whole grains and legumes, as well as high-sugar fresh fruits. The idea is that over these few days the carbohydrates leave your system fully. And be warned, you may not feel great while doing this; some even get a real detox reaction.

3. Experiment
Now play with adding the carbohydrates back into your diet - slowly. Try one carbohydrate at a time - preferably just one new carbohydrate a day - and notice any effects. Adverse ones are usually easy to spot - you get some of the problems listed above. If so, eliminate that carbohydrate source for another week, then re-test.

5. Adopt a plant-based wholefood diet 
If you are not already on it, the evidence is clear that this is ideal for most, and that it includes a healthy balance of good carbohydrates - the exact balance of which you are fine tuning.

6. Exercise regularly
We know exercise is good for just about every aspect of life, and it is particularly good at supporting good digestion and metabolic function.

Many notice when the exercise regularly their digestion and metabolism flourishes, and in times of no exercise, food problems flourish.

7. Notice the effect of life events on your tolerances - and adjust
Carbohydrate effects, as with other foods people tend to be sensitive to, can be affected significantly by things like stress, sleep, exercise, work demands, relationship events, travel and so on.

Many of us - definitely including myself - notice we can eat some things when all is good in the world, but when under pressure, those same things can wreak havoc. This is something we need to be patient with, to experiment with, observe and respond to.

8. Be prepared to act on your responses! 
Once you experiment and start to notice the impacts of various carbohydrates on your system - and the amounts you eat of them - the trick of course is to follow through.

In my experience, most people need to fall off the wagon an few times, eat the stuff they suspect does not agree with them and suffer the consequences seriously enough before the impetus is finally generated to eat more wisely. Who knows, maybe it is easier for you???

9. Be patient 
It takes time to get all this right and we need to be kind to ourselves in the process. Experimenting means learning from our observations, not getting lost in self-recrimination. With some time and perseverance it is eminently possible to find the individual balance that leaves you feel energetic, calm and craving-free.

10. Enjoy! 

Food is one of life’s pleasures
- as well as a basic necessity.

So seek out enticing recipes; it really is possible to make healthy food delicious and satisfying on all levels!


And remember



and features co-facilitating with the wonderful Kimberly Poppe, a great meditation teacher from the USA currently living and teaching in Amsterdam.

Reconnecting to Ourselves

Yarra Valley Living Centre,  Victoria

This is an opportunity to take time out and deeply re-connect with yourself through a nourishing and rejuvenating week of meditation and self-compassion practice. 
Enjoy gentle movement, delicious vegetarian food made with love, and time and space to relax in a beautiful natural environment.
Very highly recommended - this will be a wonderful, wonderful week

Details here