Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Where Do I Get My Protein?

Since protein is commonly associated with animal products and as a vegan I don't eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, it is perfectly natural to wonder where my protein comes from.

I am happy to report that getting enough high quality protein from plants is surprisingly easy.

We don't need as much protein as we have been led to believe. Everyone's needs are different based on their weight and activity level. The recommended dose for me is under 50 grams of protein per day which is simple to get from a Whole Food Plant Based Diet.

In my What I Eat in a Day post I entered my food into Cronometer.com. On that day of eating my usual diet I consumed about 88 grams of protein, far more than the recommended requirement. Beans, potatoes, grains, broccoli and zucchini were the biggest contributors of protein.

All of the essential amino acids can be found in plant based foods, and they do not need to be combined in the same meal to make a "complete protein." A popular book from 1971 called Diet for a Small Planet encouraged a strategy of combining plant proteins, a myth that is still going on today. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live "...plant foods have plenty of protein and you do not have to be a nutritional scientist or dietitian to figure out what to eat and you don’t need to mix and match foods to achieve protein completeness. Any combination of natural foods will supply you with adequate protein."

Andrew Taylor ate only potatoes for a whole year. When asked where he got his protein, he said,
"From potatoes! The World Health Organisation recommends we get at least 5% of our total calories from protein. Potatoes contain 6-8% of calories from protein, so as long as I eat enough calories then I'll be getting enough protein...I am fitter and healthier than I've ever been in my adult life."

I keep cooked potatoes and sweet potatoes in my fridge.
They make the most satisfying snacks. 
Most people have probably not heard of kwashiorkor, the name for malnutrition due to a lack of protein. It is extremely rare for someone eating sufficient calories to be deficient in protein. Dr. John McDougall points out that protein deficiency is really food deficiency.

People are more likely to suffer from an excess of protein rather than a lack. Too much animal protein can burden the liver and kidneys, lead to kidney stones, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer and dementia.

Jeff Novick, RD says "To wrongly suggest that people need to eat animal protein for proper nutrition encourages consumption of foods known to contribute to the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, many forms of cancer, and other common health problems."

Garth Davis, author of Proteinaholic said, "I reviewed thousands of original studies, and hundreds of meta analyses and reviews. And all of my research kept pointing to the same conclusion: Consuming animal protein is linked to chronic disorders and premature death. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes is associated with staying healthy."

The American Dietetic Association states that a vegan diet is healthful for people of all stages of life including athletes. Ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll, says his athletic accomplishments are because of shifting to a plant based diet. Protein powders are unnecessary and could raise IGF-1 levels which are linked to cancer and other diseases. For athletes and everyone else, whole plant foods are best.

Meat, dairy, eggs and fish are not healthy choices for protein because they also have cholesterol. Our bodies make enough cholesterol, we don't need to eat any. Consuming too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke. And, animal protein lacks fiber. Fiber reduces heart attack and cancer risk, it feeds "friendly" gut bacteria and helps to remove toxins and waste from the body. Plants are the best source of protein because they have plenty of fiber and zero cholesterol.    

I'm glad I switched to a Whole Food Plant Based Diet and I wish I had done it sooner. Since changing my diet, I lost 50 pounds, my health improved and I feel stronger than ever. I've grown to love preparing and eating vegetables. Food and medical costs are lower. Plant-based fare minimizes harm to animals and to our planet.

The meat and dairy industries suggest that we need more protein than we actually do. Research shows that consuming too much animal protein is hazardous to health. Rather than being a health risk, a whole food plant based diet can prevent or reverse diseases. I get my protein from all the delicious plants I eat: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.


Denise inVA said...

I enjoyed reading this Diane, a very interesting post, and those meals look delicious.

Diane AZ said...

Thank you for visiting my food blog, Denise. I'm glad you found it to be interesting!

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