I love having conversations with people about food, juicing and the incredible health benefits we can all gain from eating a well balanced diet. Athletes and body builders have such a fascinating relationship with food. Often focussing on it predominantly as a source of fuel for the body.
I was chatting to a couple of guys in the gym today about a high protein intake (I’m talking super high here – not just a couple of extra eggs at breakfast!) If a high protein diet is essential to your shape and fitness, here’s how to balance the potential side effects …
There are three commonly cited side effects which are potentially problematic when it comes to consuming a high protein diet;
The kidneys are involved in nitrogen excretion, and there are suggestions that a high nitrogen intake (protein) may cause stress to the kidneys.
When you eat protein, your body produces ammonia, a toxin that your liver makes harmless. Eating too much protein over a long period of time can cause your liver to become overworked.
It’s suggested that high protein diets cause increased calcium excretion. Theory states that over an extended time period, a high protein diet may contribute to the onset of osteoporosis.
Whilst it’s vital to maintain a balance and ensure you’re not causing your body any long term problems by consuming too much protein, these three factors have been called into question by fitness focused advocates of the high protein diet. Much of the scientific research on kidney and liver function for example, has been done on people with existing organ problems, not healthy body builders and athletes.
There’s also lots of evidence to suggest that high protein diets are incredibly beneficial for the prevention and treatment of major illness such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Those are three of the world’s leading killers, and a high protein diet may be the key to reducing all of them.
So what’s the solution? As always it comes down to balance. If consuming a high protein diet is key to maintaining your body shape and fitness, here are ten nutritional additions which will aid kidney and liver function and increase plant powered calcium intake to counterbalance potential problems.
Staying hydrated and keeping your urine diluted is important for keeping your kidneys healthy. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help your kidneys function properly. Staying hydrated is especially important if you exercise frequently or in a hot climate. You may need to drink more water than usual to make up for the fluid lost by sweating. I would recommend upping water intake to at least 2-3 litres a day.
2. Lemon or lime juice
Squeeze fresh lemon or lime in to your water or add a chunk to your juice. Lemon and lime juice is highly alkaline in the body and helps to reduce kidney stone formation. Drinking freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice in the morning will also help stimulate the liver.
An aromatic, flavourful herb commonly used as a diuretic, it’s helpful for reducing the build up of toxins in the kidneys and entire urinary tract.
4. Berries & Grapes
Rich in antioxidants and full of disease fighting nutrients, berries help to flush out uric acid from the kidneys to keep them healthy. Cranberries, blueberries and red grapes are the best choice as they contain a substance that washes away the urea and uric acid from the kidneys. Only ever juice fresh fruit or blend frozen fruit into smoothies. Don’t drink shop bought smoothies and juices as they’re full of sugar. Especially cranberry juice where the sugar content often outweighs the goodness of the cranberries.
High in antioxidants and fibre, apples have anti-inflammatory compounds which can improve kidney function. The pectin in apples helps the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract. This, in turn, makes it easier for the liver to handle the toxic load during the cleansing process.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Great for the kidneys as they are wonderfully rich in a number of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins including magnesium. Pumpkin seeds can promote healthy kidney function by reducing the risk of kidney stones.
Full of antioxidant compounds beneficial for kidney function. It also has cleansing properties and purifies the blood.
8. Beetroot and carrots
Both are extremely high in plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene; eating beets and carrots can help stimulate and improve overall liver function.
Consuming more broccoli will increase the amount of glucosinolate in your system, supporting enzyme production in the liver. These natural enzymes help flush carcinogens, and other toxins, out of the body.
10. Leafy green vegetables
One of our most powerful allies in cleansing the liver, leafy greens can be eaten raw, cooked, or juiced. Extremely high in plant chlorophylls, they suck up toxins from the blood stream. With their distinct ability to neutralise heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, these cleansing foods offer a powerful protective mechanism for the liver. Spinach and watercress are also really high in calcium, a perfect addition to your morning green juice if you’re concerned about excess calcium excretion.
Here are two super beneficial juices which will support the liver and kidneys and increase plant powered calcium intake.
Green and Ginger
Handful of spinach
1 inch chunk of broccoli stem
Sprigs of fresh parsley
Small chunk of ginger
Small chunk of lime
Wash everything well and juice the lot. Remember leafy herbs and veg juice better sandwiched between hard fruit and veg. Serve over ice.
Beet and Berries
Handful of blueberries
Small chunk of ginger
Small chunk of lemon
Wash everything well and juice the lot. Go easy on the ginger if you’re not used to it, it’s spicy and strong tasting when juiced. Serve over ice.