Written by guest blogger Coleen O'Hanlon, CNC
If you have given up animal products, chances are you have been asked the age old question, “Where do you get your protein?” Most people believe that consumption of animal products, such as meat, milk, and cheese is the only way to get adequate amounts of protein in a healthy diet. However, it is not only a myth that those eating a plant-based diet struggle to eat enough protein, but it has been shown that most Americans eat almost double the amount of protein they need. Even worse, studies have demonstrated that large consumption of animal protein may lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. According to web MD: The average protein requirement for men is 56 grams a day and the average protein requirement for women is 46 grams a day.
It is certainly not difficult to find protein-packed plant foods. All plants, be it legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, or fruits, have some protein, but if you are concerned with your protein intake, there are certainly plenty of powerhouse plant-based protein sources. Some great options include hemp seeds, spinach, broccoli, tofu and other soy products, asparagus, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, whole grains, beans, quinoa, avocados, peas, and sesame seeds. A word of caution - any soy products you eat should always be organic and non-GMO.
I logged a standard American diet and a plant based diet on cronometer.com and these are my results:
SAD diet consisted of: breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 slices bacon and 2 slices whole wheat toast with butter, lunch: white roll, 1 slice American cheese, 3 slices turkey, slice of tomato, lettuce and 1 tsp mayo, dinner: 6 oz steak, baked potato with sour cream and peas, snack: bag of Doritos single serve.
Plant based diet consisted of breakfast smoothie: Sunwarrior vanilla protein powder, spinach, banana and blueberry, lunch: tossed salad with romaine, tomato, cucumber, peppers, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, dinner: stir-fry with brown rice, frozen mixed veggie of corn, lima beans, peas, green beans and carrots cooked with vegetable broth and soy sauce and tofu, snack: 3 celery stalks with 2 tablespoon almond butter.
SAD diet - Protein 111 grams, Fat 87.8 grams, Calories: 1,788.2, Fiber 16.6
Plant based - Protein 92.4 grams, Fat 49.5, Calories: 1,677.9, Fiber 45.9
As you can see, these 2 menus easily met daily protein needs, actually more protein than you need in a day. More importantly, look at the fiber results 16.6 vs 45.9. The plant based diet wins every time.
Only plant foods contain fiber, meat and diary do not. On average, we only get about 15 grams of fiber per day. The minimum daily requirement is 31, so we get less than half of the minimum. Soluble fiber such as oatmeal, peas, nuts, chia and apples helps bile acids to get exceed in the stool which can lower cholesterol levels. It also helps excrete excess hormones such as estrogen. Insoluble fiber found largely in leafy greens and vegetables skins add bulk to the stool and ensure regular bowl movements. The benefits of fiber are: increases transit time, minimizes exposure to toxins, removes heavy metals, removes excess hormones from the body, slows absorption of glucose, controls rate of digestion, satiety - keeps you full, increases weight loss and lowers risk of colon cancer. Eating a plant based diet you can easily meet your daily fiber requirement.
Plants contain thousands of antioxidants that contribute to our good health by providing the vitamins and minerals we need to consume on a daily basis. One of these phytochemicals is the carotenoids, which include about forty different varieties that we consume. Most of us have heard of beta-carotene from carrots and sweet potatoes, but there are others such as alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, canthoxanthin and zeaxanthin. Diets poor in fruit and vegetables deprive us of these vital nutrients. Eating a plant based diet fortifies the body's antioxidant defenses against free radicals.
EAT THOSE FRUITS AND VEGGIES:
Your diet should consist of seven to ten servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day - as much in raw form as possible. 1 cup is considered a serving size. How am I going to eat this much you ask? Smoothies are my favorite way to get those fruits and veggies in. You can load up your blender with spinach, kale, pineapple, mango, strawberries, anything you like. Make enough for 2 servings so you can drink one when you make it and take the other one with you for a snack. You can add coconut water, plant milk or plain filtered water and enjoy. A large salad loaded with veggies, nuts, seeds, avocado and beans will keep you full all afternoon while a quick stir-fry with veggies and tofu with rice for dinner will keep you fully satisfied.
This is the one supplement everyone should take but especially when eating plant based. B12 is made from the soil plants are grown in and the bacteria in our gut. With today's processing and washing of our produce, we don't receive B12 in our diet. We are told we need to eat animal products to obtain B12 but in reality the animals are given B12 shots because they are not eating grass to obtain natural B12. A lot of food is fortified with B12 but it is just easier to take a B12 supplement. A typical dose is at lease 25 micrograms a day.
SAVINGS FOR YOUR WALLET
Eating plant based is less expensive than buying animal products. To show the difference in cost, I went on Wegmans website and this is what I found:
ground beef - $5.39 lb, chicken breast - $5.19 lb, whole chicken - $3.49 lb and bacon $7.29 lb compare that to plant based foods: tofu - $2.89 lb, dry lentils - $2.09 lb, dry black beans - $1.59 lb. A savings that adds up with every shopping trip.
Use lentils in place of chopped meat for a yummy bolognese, beans in place of chopped meat for veggie burgers, tofu in place of chicken in things like stir fry and sesame chicken. There are also good non-gmo meat alternatives on the market which make the transition easier. Change the way you look at meals, instead of meat being the center of the plate, veggies and starch like sweet potatoes and squash should be the main focus. Things like vegetable chili, soups and stews are so satisfying. Experiment in the kitchen, look up plant based recipes online and have fun with the process. Get your kids involved in preparation and cooking meals. Make it a family endeavor - your result will be good health and feeling good.
In the United States, more than 9 billion livestock are maintained to supply the animal protein consumed each year. This livestock population on average outweighs the US human population by about 5 times. Some livestock, such as poultry and hogs, consume only grains, whereas dairy cattle, beef cattle, and lambs consume both grains and forage. At present, the US livestock population consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. The amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet.
According to Thom Hartmann in The Prophet’s Way, it takes 16 pounds of grain/soy and 5,214 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of edible beef (the same amount of water one American uses on showers in a year, on average). Tomatoes, for comparison, only need 23 gallons of water per edible pound. You can produce 30,000 pounds of carrot on an acre of farmland, but only 250 pounds of beef. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef, while only 2 calories of fuel to produce a calorie from soybeans. Meat production strongly contributes to global warming.
TOP TIPS TO THRIVE
Eat only plant-based foods and opt for organic when you can. Include at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Aim for at least 35 grams of fiber per day. Minimize processed food, especially those containing refined carbohydrates. Rely on whole foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados for sufficient essential fatty acids. Include raw foods and sprouts daily. Flavor foods with spices and herbs and make water your beverage of choice and include green tea and fresh vegetable juice.
In conclusion, eating a plant based diet provides you with the necessary nutrients needed to thrive, is better on your wallet and better for the environment.