I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking about what I eat, and more specifically, the role protein plays in healing undermethylation. As a high copper, undermethylated individual, I thrive on a higher protein diet.
Protein and Undermethylation
Contrary to all those “studies” citing how bad animal protein is for us, the role protein plays in repair and healing is critical, especially when it comes to brain health and cognitive performance.
Unfortunately, it’s been hammered into our heads that higher-protein diets cause cancer and kidney disease and that the only way to achieve optimum health is through big bowls of kale.
So if you’ve bought into the acid-alkaline myth (foods don’t influence blood pH), or the belief that too much protein turns into glucose by spontaneous gluconeogenesis (there is no solid evidence to support the idea that excess protein is turned into glucose because gluconeogenesis is demand-driven, not supply-driven) then this article is for you.
It’s taken me years to figure out how to eat optimally for my biotype, but one thing’s for certain, I feel a heck of a lot better eating more animal protein than I ever did subsisting on avocados and green leafy salads.
And to be clear, I love vegetables (I eat about a pound of them per day) and at the time, I loved being vegan, but my health really declined on this lifestyle because I wasn’t honoring my true biochemistry.
Of course, there are valid reasons for limiting protein intake for certain folks, but to suggest that animal protein causes kidney disease/failure and cancer is really misguided.
Keep in mind that everyone’s protein requirements will vary based on activity and stress levels, methylation status (overmethylators do better with less protein and more plants), blood sugar levels, and metabolic issues. And as you know, my motto is “we are all biochemically unique, each requiring different nutrients to thrive.”
Why is animal protein important (especially for an undermethylator)?
- Unlike plant-based proteins, animal proteins are much more similar to human proteins, which makes them more readily available for our own protein synthesizing reactions. This includes supporting methylation cycle enzymes to ensure SAMe, homocysteine, and creatine synthesis.
- Plant proteins are compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids, aren’t so great at regulating blood sugar, and contain chemical defense systems that can be toxic to humans and animals (this is why cooking is important for many vegetables because heat neutralizes these toxins).
- Animal protein also contains the most abundant supply of bioavailable zinc, which is critical for proper brain function (not to mention the healthy functioning of over 300 enzymatic processes in the body).
Who might benefit from a high protein diet?
- Individuals with methylation imbalances. Undermethylators thrive on higher protein diets because protein is needed to create methyl; whereas carbohydrates and fats have no effect. Overmethylators thrive on folates (folate is a powerful demethylating agent) and thus do really well on a plant-based diet (but still need some protein). Keep in mind that a high folate, plant-based diet is a cancer-promoting diet for undermethylated individuals.
- Individuals with blood sugar and metabolic problems. High protein diets have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Excess copper reduces zinc levels, which interferes with glucose metabolism and therefore blood sugar regulation. Zinc is also needed to create/regulate insulin, so when these levels stabilize, inflammatory markers from insulin sensitivity to cholesterol and triglycerides also stabilize.
- Women who are estrogen intolerant. Copper affects men and women differently. It is especially damaging to women because we have higher levels of estrogen. Copper rises with estrogen when a woman is pregnant and should naturally lower after baby is born, but too often copper levels do not go back to normal. The baby is out of the womb, but copper is still feeding the blood vessels that were created to support the child in utero. Protein is an excellent stabilizing macronutrient and craving eliminator when copper and hormone production is imbalanced. Keep in mind copper also comes from exogenous sources such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, and water.
- Individuals that are under a lot of stress and suffer from depression, high anxiety, and panic disorders. As I mentioned above, protein has a calming, stabilizing effect on blood sugar. High stress levels frequently lead to hypoglycemia and other blood sugar imbalances. Starting your day with protein can boost energy levels, improve sleep, sharpen brain function, and reduce anxiety and mood swings.
Are you confused about all the conflicting information out there on protein? If so, try these:
- Have protein for breakfast to see if your energy increases.
- Have protein at regular intervals throughout the day to see if your mood improves.
- Create a food mood journal notating physical and emotional responses.
- Check out my Low Folate Cookbook for help with meal planning, food lists, and delicious recipes.
As always, I’d love to know how this works out for you in the comments below. It is through sharing your experiences that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.