What does plant-based/vegan mean?
Plant-based and vegan both mean relatively the same thing, which is a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts (aka…plant foods!) and no animal foods. That means no meat, no eggs, and no dairy. A whole food, plant-based diet also means there is an emphasis on minimally processed foods. I truly believe a whole food, plant-based/plant-strong/vegan diet to be the healthiest way of eating. Not to mention it’s cruelty free and good for the environment!
But where do you get your protein?
There are so many misconceptions about protein. First off all, let me explain what protein does. Did you know that protein helps us to replenish nitrogen in our systems everyday and it provides us with the amino acids needed for many of our important bodily functions, such as the formation of body tissue, enzymes and hormones? We can’t make protein ourselves so that is why we must consume it. That said, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8g protein/kg of body weight per day. This is equivalent to 8-10% of total calories per day. Now most people don’t know that this number is based on the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), which outlines that on average people need 0.5-0.6g of protein/kg of body weight per day. So the RDA that many of us may have heard of before already includes the spectrum of 98% of the population’s protein needs. (If you are interested in the science behind these numbers, check out the World Health Organization’s Technical Report Series 935.) Many people think that the RDA is a minimum requirement and we should eat much more protein than the amount suggested by the RDA, but that simply isn’t true. A whole food, plant-based diet easily provides the 8-10% calories from protein needed each day. Therefore, I get my protein from everything I eat…all those veggies, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts have protein too!!
But isn’t meat a better source of protein?
No. You may have heard that the protein in meat is “higher quality” or has a “higher biological value” than plant protein. What those terms mean is that the amino-acid makeup of animal protein is more similar to the makeup up of our own protein. Therefore, it is easier for our bodies to synthesize. But just because it is easier to synthesize doesn’t mean it is a good thing. It also doesn’t mean that plants are “hard” to synthesize either. Easier synthesization means faster body growth rates. But faster growth rates include faster cancer growth rates, earlier menarche, more breast cancer, etc. And those certainly are not good for our health. Eating a meat-based diet provides way more than 8-10% of protein needed per day and that extra protein negatively affects our health by exacerbating growth rates and contributing to other negative side effects such as diabetes, high cholesterol, calcium bone loss, cataract formation, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more.
How do you know that information about protein and nutrition?
I have a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies offered through Cornell University. I was so honored to be able learn from some of the greats in nutrition. My lecturers included Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Doug Lisle and Dr. John A McDougall among other great leaders in health, nutrition and environmental studies. I highly recommend this certificate program to anyone interested in learning more about health and nutrition.
I’m thinking of trying a plant-based/vegan diet, where do I start?
To get started I recommend watching the documentary Forks Over Knives. Then pick up a copy of Whole by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, My Beef With Meat by Rip Esselstyn or The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone.
I see you foster dogs, I’m curious about that. Can you tell me more?
Absolutely! Check out my Fostering FAQ where I tried to answer all the common questions I get about fostering.
What’s your favorite blog post you’ve written?
Probably this one I wrote in memory of my sweet dog Cody, 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got A Dog.
If you have more questions that aren’t answered here feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for stopping by!