Tuesday already? Today in our nutrition series we have blog post from Deb Gleason. Deb is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and vegan triathlete as well as co-founder of Wellness Warrior Coaching, a whole foods nutrition and multisport performance coaching company. Deb works with people to help them transition to a whole foods, plant-based diet to help them achieve their health, fitness, and performance goals.
Our culture is extremely caught up in the idea that if you are not eating meat you are not getting enough protein. I have a sneaking suspicion that the meat marketing people may have something to do with this. The truth is that North Americans get more than twice the protein they need everyday leading to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and all kinds of nasty diseases.
Protein is required for the building, maintenance, and repair of tissues in the body. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, can be synthesized by the body or ingested from food. So where do we get the amino acids that are not synthesized in the body? Let’s start by looking to the sun, all energy starts with the sun. The sun’s rays through photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into plant compounds especially sugars. These plants are full of all the amino acids humans and non-human animals need to make protein in their own bodies and thrive.
In our conventional food systems we organize animals like cows to eat those plants so they can create protein and grow. Then humans come along and eat the cow’s flesh and milk so they can get the energy back from the plants. For us to get that energy back we have to use a bunch of our own energy which could be used for training and recovery to break the meat, dairy and eggs back down to the original plant amino acids so we can convert that to build the protein we need for our bodies.
Is it just me or does it seem like we are doing a bit of extra work here. Why would we waste all that energy breaking down the protein from animals back into plant protein when we could simply eat the plants directly in the first place and get everything we need? The crazy part is that in order to get the cows to grow and make this protein we waste unfathomable amounts of water, and fossil fuels and create more global warming gases than any other industry on the planet. Not to mention that animal protein is heavy in saturated fat and cholesterol which have been shown to lead to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other horrible diseases.
Why not cut out the middle man and get the goods directly from the source – plants. Plants don’t just provide us with all the protein we need, they have some healthy baggage as well. They are a good sources of fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, folate, iron, magnesium and calcium, and they can lower blood cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of certain diseases. Research has shown that all plants have at least 14% protein and in fact broccoli has more protein per calorie than steak does. Of course, you’ll need to eat a lot more broccoli to get the same amount of calories that you do from the meat. This is where legumes come in. Legumes are packed with dense amounts of protein. Consuming a whole foods vegan diet with lots of plant variety will guarantee you clean, easily absorbed abundant protein.