|Protein Myth 4|
Myth 2. Humans need animal protein for energy.
Protein is not a major source of energy. Energy comes from calories. While animal products contain calories in the form of fat, this is not the most efficient source of energy for the body. And if excess protein is consumed, it is oxidized as energy.
Quick sources of energy come from fruits. Sugars from fruits are quickly absorbed by the body and are ready to provide the calories the body needs for a quick boost. In addition, fruits have vitamins and minerals that help with cellular metabolism providing more than just a quick energy fix.
Perhaps the most maligned sources of energy are complex carbohydrates. This is overall the best source of energy for several reasons. First it is very sustaining. One can go 4-6 hours on a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast while only about 2-3 hours on a bowl of fruit. Even though fruit goes to work faster, it is also used up faster. (Try this experiment and see how your body reacts to the difference of only eating fruit versus only eating complex carbohydrates.)
It is important to point out that the reference to complex carbohydrates does not mean eating traditional white bread and white pasta. These are empty carbohydrates and can cause more harm than good. These, along with sugar, are perhaps the greatest culprits in weight control and diabetes in our culture. Eating these products, for most people, sets up a spike in blood sugar and then a quick drop. This is perhaps the biggest reason people desire high density proteins. When protein is eaten with refined sugars and carbohydrates, it reduces the spiking effect. (Eating protein rich plants will provide this solution without the refined sugars.) Many vegetarians stop being vegetarian because of this sugar “blues” problem. But most of the time, tracing the dietary history of the recalcitrant vegetarian, one will likely find too many refined carbohydrates and a poor carbohydrate to protein ratio in the diet. Either the wayward vegetarian has not thought through the diet to get sufficient protein or they have eaten largely refined carbohydrates as the base of their diet.
There is perhaps one more thought that should be brought to the discussion here and that is the absence of the vitamin B12 in the plant based diet. B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and other symptoms that may be “low energy.”
B12 is normally produced in the healthy intestines of a person eating a plant based diet by bacteria. These bacteria come from dirt but is often lost or destroyed in the sanitizing of vegetables. So taking a supplement a couple times a week is a good precaution and very inexpensive.
Myth 3. I won’t get enough protein if I eat a plant based diet.
This is probably the most viral myth of the meat-eating world. This attitude perhaps comes from two synergistic trends.
The first is that in times of famine, animal products often become the scarcest foods. Eating animal products, then, is associated with affluence and abundance. In this scenario, plant based diets are coupled with those who are poor and less affluent.
The second is that the unplanned diets of those who transition from eating animal products to plant based diets often get sick. They, their friends and associates therefore point to its insufficiency and blame the problem on the lack of animal based protein. Perhaps the worst offenders are doctors who have generally had little to no nutritional training. They tell their vegetarian patient to eat meat to regain health. Of course the patient who has become the unwitting victim of this ignorance finds the conclusion to be true, that it was their vegetarian diet that caused the illness. And they join the ranks of the ex-vegetarians who discovered they have to eat meat to be healthy and feel better.
When we look at how much protein the average American consumes it works out to about four times the RDA (recommended daily allowance) published by the USDA. And when one looks back at the history of the RDA numbers, it is important to point out that they were doubled “just to be safe.” So in reality the average protein consumption is likely more than eight times what is required.
Vegetarians also tend to eat two to three times the amount of protein than they really need based on the hypothesis of USDA recommendations. No wonder why we are culture of such big people. A pure, plant-based diet that is well balanced will be closer to a proper amount of protein intake.
So getting enough protein is probably not the issue for most people. It is more about eating a balanced diet. Switching from a carnivorous diet by just taking the steak off the plate is not a good alternative. It takes some time to make the switch and change many years of habits. It also requires being conscious of what one eats and taking care not to consider junk food as one of the basic food groups to selected from at every meal.
The USDA and the American Dietetic Association. recommend that adults need between 30-60 grams of protein per day. To calculate your protein requirement in grams, multiply normal bodyweight by .36. (110 lb = 39.6 gms, 150 lb = 54 gms)
If you are not sure you are getting enough protein, do a food journal for a week. Record what and how much of every food is eaten. Then look up the protein values in the USDA Food and Nutrition handbook or on-line. There may be a pleasant surprise.
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