While I wrote about the benefits of plant versus animal protein in “Resilient Health: How to Thrive in Our Toxic World,” I only recently watched the 2018 documentary “Game Changers” about successful elite athletes who made the switch to a completely plant-based diet. All I can say is “WOW!”
This film is a must-see and will open your eyes to one of the biggest food myths that we have been served – which is that plant-based proteins are somehow not enough to be able to fully sustain us. And yet most of the largest and strongest animals on the planet – think elephants, rhinos, horses, and gorillas – naturally consume only plants!
To cut to the chase – yes, you can get enough protein from eating a purely plant-based diet even if you are an extreme athlete and yes, you can get the full complement of essential amino acids from eating a plant-based diet. And most of us in the Western world are not at risk for protein deficiency. In fact, there are some health hazards of eating too much protein including:
- Alterations in calcium metabolism and reduction in bone health leading to increased fracture risk
- Increased risk of kidney stones and possible impact on kidney health
- Increased cancer risk particularly with consumption of red meat and processed meat
- Increase in inflammatory compounds that can contribute to cancer and heart disease
What’s in Your Protein “Package?”
When choosing your source of protein, one thing to consider is “What else is it coming with?”
Are you choosing animal proteins that can come along with:
- Aaturated fat?
- Inflammatory compounds?
- Toxins that have accumulated up the food chain?
Or are you choosing plant proteins that come along with:
- Healthy fiber?
- Anti-inflammatory compounds?
Other Hazards of Industrial Livestock Production
In addition to direct human health effects, consumption of animal-based foods also has detrimental impacts on the environment and our climate. Dairy and red meat especially contribute to higher green-house gas emissions. And industrial livestock operations produce massive amounts of waste–a toxic soup of feces, heavy metals, antibiotic and other drug residues, growth hormones, and harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella leading to pollution of our land and waterways. Yuck!
Getting Enough Protein From Plants
The average person needs about 7 grams of protein every day for every 20 pounds of body weight. So that’s about 50 grams for a person weighing 140 lbs and About 65 grams for someone weighing 180 lbs. So it is entirely possible to consume the protein that you need while eating a primarily plant-based diet.
Plant-based protein sources include:
- Legumes, beans, and lentils (For example you can get nearly 15 grams of protein per serving with this Navy bean soup)
- Nuts and seeds (Just under ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds can provide 5 grams of protein; 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provides 4 grams of protein)
- Whole grains (1 cup of brown rice provides 5 grams of protein; ¼ cup of oats provides more than 6.5 grams; amaranth and quinoa provide 8-9 grams of protein per cooked cup)
- Vegetables (1 cup of broccoli, spinach,asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts provides about 4–5 grams of protein per cooked cup)
- Even fruits such as guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines and bananas have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup
We are all at our own levels of being able to transition our way of eating, but I encourage you to do two things right now:
- Watch the Game Changers movie.
- Eat more plants!