The myths about eating a plant-based diet as opposed to a carnivore’s diet are aplenty. Some people firmly believe in eating meat, while others have found alternative, healthier ways of getting protein. The intensity between these two beliefs is like discussing politics or theology and, similarly, nothing ever gets resolved and the respective parties maintain their original opinions. Every vegan or vegetarian gets asked the same question, “Where do you get your protein?” Some people experience this question on a daily basis. As a vegan or vegetarian it can be hard not to negatively retort. Some people are just unaware that protein could come from other sources that don’t have a face. Let’s dispel the myths about protein and how keeping a whole-foods, plant-based diet can lead to a healthier way of life.
One of the most common illnesses in America is heart disease. Roughly 610,000 people die of heart disease in America every year, which means one of every four deaths is caused by heart disease. The high cholesterol levels and saturated fats in meat and dairy products build up a plaque-like substance that coats the inner walls of arteries. This leads to improper blood flow and normal bodily functions become impaired. Meat eaters wonder how they will get the recommended 42 grams of protein per day, even though average meat eaters eat up to 80 grams daily, via whole foods and plant-based proteins. Believe it or not, more protein is not always the best.
The body naturally produces 11 of the 20 different recommended amino acids. That means that we have to ingest the other nine essential amino acids, which are not exclusive to the animal kingdom. Most of these amino acids are originally found in plants, but end up in animals because they eat those plants. Eating the proper plant-based proteins supplies you with an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, most of which are absent in animal products. What people don’t realize about a plant-based diet is that it is not solely comprised of vegetables or fruit.
Dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, while important, are not the primary energy sources. You should definitely eat lots of leafy greens, but you aren’t limited to them. The foundation of a plant-based diet is comprised of starch based foods and fruit. We’re talking about beans, corn, peas, and grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, rye, or buckwheat. Don’t forget that chickpeas, kidney and lima beans, and potatoes (in limited quantities) are beneficial for your diet as well. That’s quite a mouthful, literally!
At some point in time, Americans got so caught up in consuming protein that they forgot about the importance of fiber. Lack of dietary fiber can lead to obesity, various cancers, higher risk of diabetes, and high cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. A whole-foods and plant-based diet ensures that one will get enough fiber. Eating beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like buckwheat is the best way to get the dietary fiber you need.
The fact is this: you don’t get a single nutrient from one specific source. Vegans and vegetarians, who abide by the whole-foods and plant-based diets, know that you can get omega-3 fatty acids from flax seeds or squash instead of fish. You can get a higher concentration of protein from Spirulina than a fat-saturated steak. By eating a whole-foods and plant-based diet, you can expand your thinking about the world of food. You can be a plant-based eater and still be a high class athlete. Eating a whole-foods and plant-based diet does not confine you to a certain way of life, it just helps keep you healthy.