The most common question asked of those of us who eat a plant-based diet remains “Where do you get your protein?” Protein needs have been greatly overstated in the United States. Several years ago, the World Health Organization established protein needs as being 2.5% of daily calories, and set the daily recommendation at 5% just to be safe. Americans typically consume many times that amount daily.
Protein is most often associated with meat, eggs and dairy. However, protein is found not only in animal foods, but in grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and vegetables, meaning that it is unnecessary to consume animal foods to make sure that protein needs are met. In fact, protein deficiency is virtually unheard of except in places where people are starving and are not taking in enough calories daily.
When considering protein intake, it is important to remember that the body uses macronutrients in very specific ways. Protein is used for building, and is not an efficient source of fuel. Therefore, any protein that is not utilized by the body for building purposes must be excreted, and the organs of excretion for protein are the kidneys. Excess protein consumption places undue stress on the kidneys, and individuals do not generally know that they have induced kidney problems until there is serious loss of function.
So, if you are consuming the plant-based diet we are recommending, and eating a wide variety of plant foods, you do not need to worry about protein deficiency.
High Protein Diets are Not Safe
Although followers of the high-protein, low-carb diets continue to insist that these diets are safe, the scientific evidence is very clear – they are health-destroying diets.
Reported problems include colon polyps, colon cancer, heart attacks, severe stomach problems, constipation, IBS flare-ups, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating,
gallbladder problems, reduced kidney function, kidney stones, gout, elevated cholesterol, osteoporosis, aortic aneurysm, daily hives, elevated iron levels, rheumatoid arthritis, brain hemorrhage, diverticulitis, dizziness, nausea, headaches, cramps, diarrhea, and numbness in limbs.
Information about the detrimental effects of high protein diets is not surprising – there isn’t a healthy population on the planet living on a diet like this that is enjoying excellent health and longevity. And, the scientific evidence is clear that higher fat and animal protein intake results in increased risk of disease, including cancer. In spite of this information, believe it or not, many hospitals in the U.S. allow and cater to high-protein diets. The proper diet for humans is the high complex carbohydrate, low fat and low protein diet we recommend.
High Protein Diet Not Key to Muscle Development
The myth of high protein needs is even more prevalent among the physically active and those who aspire to develop a lean muscular body. In addition to promoting the consumption of high-protein foods, protein shakes, bars and supplements are recommended as well, pushing protein consumption to levels that would be impossible to achieve through normal eating patterns.
Muscle strength is not derived from eating protein. It comes from resistance training. Just try sitting on the couch and eating protein and see how fit you become. In fact, that is what most people in our country are doing – take a look around and you’ll see it is not working.
Researchers have been speaking out for over 100 years about the fact that athletes can build strong bodies on a lower-protein diet, and there are many top-tier professional athletes who eat a completely vegan diet who are strong and producing impressive results. Weight loss, increased muscle mass, and athletic performance can
be achieved without loading up on protein.
Protein causes several problems. Excess protein must be excreted and the organs of excretion are the kidneys for animal protein. Animal protein in particular causes an acid state in the body, which must be neutralized. This acid condition is resolved by extracting electrolyte stores from the soft tissues and calcium from the bones. And, excess protein intake often leads to water loss, causing dehydration, which can hamper athletic performance.
The body’s source of fuel is complex carbohydrate and athletes, particularly elite athletes, need to be very conscious of consuming enough of it. Elite athletes who need higher calorie intake daily consume the same plant-based diet in terms of macronutrients, but just increase calorie intake from healthy foods.
If your goal is for a lean, athletic body, consuming a low-fat, low-protein, high-carbohydrate plant-based diet, combined with appropriate amounts of exercise, is the way to achieve that goal.
(Source of articles: The Wellness Forum, Dr. Pam Popper, Health Briefs Section)
Many of us were raised being taught that we need milk for “strong bones and teeth” and that “we never outgrow our need for milk”. That advice came from Elsie the teaching cow. Although the dairy lobby does its best to convince the American public that milk is necessary in the diet, the medical literature is filled with information about the negative effects of milk on human health.
An abundant nutrient in dairy is calcium. But what exactly IS calcium?
Calcium is a mineral in the soils of the earth. Plants absorb this basic element, and animals eat it to obtain calcium and other essential minerals. Cows, as well as elephants, hippos, giraffes, horses and others, get their calcium from plants! Our bodies contain over 2 pounds of calcium – 99% of which is in our skeleton.
So why is it that the countries such as the U.S.that consume the most dairy and calcium supplements also have the highest rate of bone fractures? And why is it that countries that consume little to no dairy have low fracture rates? The answer lies in
the phosphoric acid content in dairy, which our body neutralizes by pulling calcium and other compounds directly from our bones. This is not new information, and was suggested in the 1880’s. Yes, we all need calcium, and the healthiest countries consume 400-500 mg from plant foods. Calcium from plants (dark greens, figs, beans, oranges, tofu) is highly absorbed – in fact, ½ to 2/3 of plant calcium is absorbed, while less than 1/3 of the calcium in dairy is absorbed into the blood stream.
But don’t the kids need dairy? The American Academy of Pediatrics is now warning about infants drinking cow’s milk (which leads to iron deficiency, colic and allergies). There is also the definite link between dairy and chronic constipation, asthma and ear infections; and a strong association between milk and juvenile diabetes, due to molecular mimicry of the pancreas. Even trusted Dr. Spock, in 1998, encouraged parents to feed their children more plants, not milk, once weaned from breast milk. The bottom line is that cow’s milk is meant for baby cows, and is not beneficial to human health.
So what can you do? Get your 400-500 mg. of calcium from plants (and fortified plant milk), which is easily absorbed and does not add acids to the blood. Reduce calcium loss from your bones by reducing intake of foods with high phosphoric acid (dairy, soft drinks, meat, processed foods). Try some dairy alternatives. And don’t forget the weight bearing exercise on a regular basis.