Newsflash: There is protein in virtually all plant food, in varying degrees. Some of the higher sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, whole grains, nuts and seeds. A better question is, "How much protein do I need?" The answer: Not nearly as much as you think, and yes, I know you lift the big weights. Whether you are sedentary or a professional athlete, you need at most 10% of your calories to come from protein. If you are an athlete, you eat more calories than a sedentary person, so your 10% is higher than theirs. In weight, the formula is for average folks is .8 grams protein per kilogram body weight. that is equal to .8 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight. For competitive athletes, use 1.2-1.7 grams per 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of body weight. If you do the math, you'll find it comes out to about 10% of your daily caloric need, but don't bother! I'd much prefer you count your fiber than protein.
We used to teach people that because individual plant proteins don't contain all the amino acids required by the body, so you have to combine vegetables, such as rice and beans, to get a complete protein, and that animal sources have all the amino acids, so the body utilizes that protein more efficiently. Now we know that faster is not better. Plant protein is utilized more slowly, but that's not a bad thing. On the other hand, animal proteins speed the growth of bad tissues- like cancer cells- along with muscle cells, and also increase the risk of liver and kidney disease.
Certainly it helps to make some effort than none at all, so if you aren't ready to go all in, at least change the ratio of animal and plant food on your plate. Make meat your side item. And try to increase the number of totally plant-based meals you eat each week. If you are interested in a transition program, contact me. Nutrition is a personal journey. Only you can decide what is right for your lifestyle. It may motivate you to also consider the environmental and ethical issues associated with the animal agriculture industry.
Whole Food, Plant-Based is a mouthful, but it's the most descriptive phrase we've got. Maybe as it becomes more mainstream we'll get a cool, short moniker! For now, we abbreviate WFPB. The "whole food" part is the main difference between vegans and WFPB people where diet is concerned. Vegan's don't eat any animal products at all- even honey- but they may eat a lot of junk food. There are many highly processed foods full of salt, sugar, and oil, that are technically vegan. Vegan labeled meat, cheese and dairy substitutes are are loaded with oil. Vegetarians do not eat the animal itself, but they consume milk and products made from milk, as well as eggs and honey. Pescatarians eat fish, but not other animals.
Oil is a processed food, which is why it doesn't qualify for a "whole food" diet. Oil is pure fat; there are 1,900 calories in 1 cup of oil. Oil has been shown to weaken the cells that line arterial walls, increasing the risk that plaque deposits could break away and clog an artery, so the simple truth is, there is no "heart healthy" oil...not even olive oil. No, not avocado either. Coconut? It's saturated fat, that's the worst!
The idea that we should consume certain oils for our health is a perfect example of how the food industry uses a sliver of truth to fuel marketing campaigns to sell their products. We need certain fatty acids in our diet. Ideally, we want a ratio of about 1:1 of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Processed foods tend to be very high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which are more inflammatory. Corn and soybean oil are two of the most highly used oils in processed foods, and are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. The Standard American Diet, very high in processed foods, is typically much higher in Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3's. So naturally, the food industry's solution to bring the ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 consumption to that 1:1 ratio is to market products to increase your Omega 3 consumption: fish oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil.
The better solution? Reduce your consumption of ALL oils. Stop eating processed foods that are soaked with inflammatory, calorie-dense oils (FAT,) and consume plant-based oils in the form of anti-inflammatory, fiber-rich foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, beans, and seaweed.
Ok, nobody really asks this one, but it IS so important, so please read on.
Fiber is the part of complex carbohydrates that the body cannot digest. Fiber helps control sugar levels, keeping blood sugar stable and keeping you full. Fiber is important in keeping your gut healthy. It regulates the good bacteria in your intestines and helps you have normal, regular bowel movements. A high fiber diet reduces your risk of several diseases. Fiber content is listed on nutritional labels. When buying processed foods, look for at least 3 grams per serving. Plant based foods with less than 3 grams per serving have been highly processed and thus stripped of nutritional value. When eating a high fiber diet, it's important to drink plenty of water to help with digestion.
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