CAN I GET ENOUGH PROTEIN EATING A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Most people are getting an excess of protein. On any reasonably varied diet
centered around whole natural plants, you will you get all the protein you need,without consuming too much.
Renowned doctors including Caldwell Esselstyn, Dean Ornish, Joel Fuhrman, and
John McDougall all suggest that getting an adequate amount of protein should be the least of your worries. Look around you and try to recall the last time you heard of someone being hospitalized for a protein deficiency. Or look to nature, where the largest and strongest animals, such as elephants, gorillas, horses, cattle, hippos, and bison, all get plenty of protein, exclusively from plants.
DO PLANT FOODS GIVE ME “COMPLETE” PROTEINS?
Plant proteins are as complete as can be. Across the board, plant foods vary in their amino acid mix (higher in some, lower in others), but in eating a healthy variety of fresh, colorful plants, you will obtain adequate amounts of all of the essential amino acids.
Despite what you may have heard, there is absolutely no need to combine certain plant proteins at each meal, or even in any given day or week, in an effort to achieve optimal amino acid balance. Author Frances Moore Lappé popularized this theory of “protein complementing” in her 1971 book Diet for a Small Planet, cautioning vegetarians to combine their foods carefully to obtain “complete” proteins. Twenty years later, she recanted, acknowledging that she had unintentionally promulgated a myth.
Unfortunately, the protein-combination fallacy continues to be perpetuated by many respected organizations. But the American Dietetic Association gets it right. Its position statement reads, “Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of the essential and non-essential amino acids, assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied and that caloric intake is sufficient to meet energy needs. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts all contain essential and non-essential amino acids.”
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “WHOLE FOOD”?
A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on intact or minimally processed fruit,vegetables, whole grains, roots, tubers, and legumes. It excludes or minimizes foods (where any portion of the original plant has been removed by a machine), like bleached flour, table sugar, and extracted oil.
When you eat flour-based foods like pasta and bread, be sure to choose the least processed ones made from whole grains. (Visit the Whole Grains Council website for helpful information on how to identify whole grains.
DO CARBOHYDRATES REALLY MAKE US FAT?
Most trendy diets claim that all carbohydrates are bad guys, yet of the three
macronutrients that provide calories in our diet (carbs, protein, and fat),
carbohydrates are the body’s primary (and preferred) fuel source. They’re
responsible for managing your heart rate, digestion, breathing, exercising, walking,thinking, and everything else you do. In fact, your body must convert any protein or fat you eat into sugar (glucose) before using it for fuel … so avoiding carbs really doesn’t make sense.
The real issue is that most of the carbohydrate-rich foods that Americans consume are processed and refined, leaving them devoid of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, yet filled with empty calories. For health, you should eliminate or minimize highly refined and processed carb–rich foods, like table sugar, white bread, white pasta, white rice,sugary cereals, candy, and soda.
The majority of your daily calories should come from unrefined, unprocessed
carbohydrate-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, roots, tubers, and legumes. These foods are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and vital phytonutrients (plant nutrients)
The fiber in whole foods provides bulk that fills you up sooner, alleviates hunger pangs, and keeps you feeling satisfied longer. Only if you don’t get sufficient exercise, or if you eat more than you need, do you risk ending up with extra carbohydrates that can be converted to fat. So go eat your carb-rich foods—as long as they’re whole and unprocessed.
CAN I GET ENOUGH CALCIUM EATING A PLANT-BASED DIET?
A whole-food, plant-based diet contains adequate calcium, and there is no evidence that we require any more than what occurs naturally in whole plant foods. Indeed,bone disease is less prevalent in countries where people consume more plant-based food and have lower calcium intake.
The main reasons people in western countries suffer from higher rates of osteoporosis(brittle bones) are because of sedentary lifestyles and the consumption of excessively acid-producing diets, high in animal protein and processed food. In a highly acidic diet, calcium (an alkaline mineral) is drawn from the bones to neutralize the acidity, in effect weakening the bones.
CAN I GET ENOUGH FAT EATING A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Fat is present in all fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. By calories, strawberries contain 8% fat; bell peppers, 9%; broccoli, 10%; spinach, 15%; and soybeans, 41%. The fattiest plant foods, including nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and mature coconut meat, weigh in at 70 to 90% fat. By eating a delicious, plant-strong oil-free diet that goes light on the fattiest foods listed above, you will consume roughly 10 to 15 percent of your total calories from fat, which is ideal.Getting your fat from plant-based foods means you will be consuming healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, as opposed to dangerous saturated fats. Be sure to steer clear of ALL oils … your essential omega-3 and -6 fats can be easily obtained from whole plants.
Eating minimal amounts of whole plant fats (with no oil) will leave you feeling fabulous and able to eat more food than you ever dreamed of … without gaining weight!
HOW CAN I COOK WITHOUT OIL?
To sauté or stir-fry without oil, be sure to preheat your pan to medium and test the heat by splashing a few drops of water in the pan before adding the vegetables or liquid. The water drops will dance on the surface of the pan when it’s hot enough.
Keep the vegetables in continuous motion by stirring them or moving the pan. If they begin to brown, add a small amount of liquid, such as water, no-sodium-added vegetable broth, wine, vegetable juice, citrus juice, coconut water, low-sodium tomato juice, or vinegar.
Instead of baking with oil, use applesauce, bananas, or blended fruit for moisture. Finding a salad dressing you love can be a challenge at first, but so many possibilities exist that you will soon never miss the oily ones. Sliced fresh fruit or fruit blended with or without a small amount of raw nuts or seeds makes a glorious salad dressing that solves another common challenge for those new to healthy eating: you’ll find you
won’t miss the oil OR the salt when topping your salads this way.