As a Whole Food Based Nutrition Advocate, Counselor and Coach, I am often asked if anyone could get enough protein on a whole foods plant-based diet. My emphatic answer is YES!! The short answer, of yes, has never changed. But how expanded on that answer has changed over the years years.
When I was in my 30s and 40s I would tell people it was easy, but that the “tricky” part was making sure you got complete protein. The way to do that was to combine grains and nuts with legumes. I would assure them that if you just paid attention, you would be “fine”.
In my 50s I would tell people that you didn’t need to worry about combining, plants have plenty of protein and if you eat eggs and dairy products it was “no problem”. Really you only need to eat about 20% of your diet as protein, 20% as fat and the rest as carbs. And point out the most Americans got well over 30-40% of their nutrition from protein.
The history is a little embarrassing but it does show the evolution in my knowledge and in how I thought about protein. All of that brings me to the current day and my current response – which is has four points:
1. The human body doesn’t need a lot of protein; only between 40 and 60 grams per day. This works out to approximately 5-6% of your daily calorie intake. In fact the government sponsored RDA puts the percentage needed at a generous 8%.
2. In real world terms this means that a 150 pound person eating 2,000 calories a day only needs 22.5 grams of protein
3. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often a lot of protein. It won’t take long to reach what you need. Think about this:
a. 1/2 cup of beans averages 6 grams of protein
b. A slice of whole wheat bread average 5 grams
c. An average serving of veggies or fruit has 3
4. AND it is important to remember that all nutrients work as a symphony – the sum is much greater than the whole. This is particularly true of protein. If you eat a well-balanced whole food plant based diet the body will work with amino acids provided to provide balanced protein as it is needed.
Genene Cote is a former technology executive who has made the transition to certified nutrition and fitness counselor after curing herself of Rheumatoid Arthritis and fibromyalgia using a health-promoting diet and various lifestyle changes. As a life-long vegetarian, a proficient cook and amateur gardener she can guide you to optimum health using an organized, goal-oriented step-by-step approach. She received her certification through the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaching and has a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition form the T. Colin Campbell Foundation through eCornell. Check out her website at www.downtoearthfare.com
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