While walking the aisles of the Publix grocery store while on vacation it is clear how obsessed the American culture is with ‘fortification’ and ‘more or less’ fat or carbs. They even have Hershey Chocolate Syrup, “now enriched with Calcium!” Canadian culture is no different (hey, we’ve got Smarties that say “no artificial colours!” because hot pink candy-coated chocolate is natural?!?), but most packaged goods’ innovations come from the US so you tend to see a greater assortment of these types of products here. One thing that really ‘erks’ me is when you see all the claims on nuts and beans that they are “a good source of protein!” Do they have protein? Yes. Should you rely on nuts and beans to get your adequate protein for a day? NO. This is where the claims fall short and I believe some people are likely led to believe that they can eat nuts and beans as their main source of protein and be nutritionally balanced.
Let’s look at an example:
- Take me: on an average day I eat around 70g-80g of Protein, 50-60g Carbs (from veggies/fruit) and 65-75g Fat. For Protein, this equates to about 10 ounces of chicken = 554 calories, 22g fat, 0g carb, 82g Protein.
- To get the same amount of protein in almonds, I would need to eat 2 + 3/4 Cups = 2,241 calories, 196g fat, 76g carb.
- To get the same amount of protein in beans, I would need to eat 7 Cups of Garbanzo (chick peas) beans = 1,999 calories, 19g fat, 380g carbs
One thing is for certain, both the bean and almond option would probably send me on a one-way visit to fart-town. But seriously, the amount of almonds that I would need to eat would almost double my caloric and fat content for the day – and that doesn’t include eating anything else! With the beans, my carb content would be enormous and send my insulin shooting up – because the carb load is so excessive, most of it would be converted to fat (gah!). If you follow the Paleo diet, you also understand beans are not an acceptable food due to their high lectin load which acts similar to gluten and can irritate your gut (for more on that read Robb Wolf’s FAQ page).
The lesson here is that almonds/nuts are great in small doses for adding fat into your diet and will top up your protein, but should not be used as your primary protein source. Include some lean meat each time you eat to keep your metabolism running and promote the usage of body fat for energy. If you are a vegetarian you need to rely on Tempeh or Tofu (Only Organic!) to get your protein. Mark’s Daily Apple did a great post ranking the best protein sources and which one’s to avoid and why. This site also has recommendations for Vegetarians, so it’s a great reference.