As I talk with my patients and clients via 1:1 Coaching Sessions and Nutrition Foundations Group Coaching and Support Calls, and encourage them to eat more fruits, veggies, and leafy greens…..I invariably get asked “Where and how do I get enough protein?”
I think we need to start with some history.
- Adam & Eve were definitely not out slaying squirrel, deer, elk, or moose. They were eating in a garden. God created us, and He created our food supply. We are fully capable of eating a plant-based diet and surviving. In fact, not only surviving but thriving if we do it right (not subsisting on macaroni and fake cheese). Spinach is 30% protein. Beef is 50% protein. BUT, the plant protein in spinach is more absorb-able than the animal protein in beef. #True
- Somewhere along the way, man obviously started eating animals, drinking milk, and eating eggs. Let’s face it. They taste great and are calorie-dense so if you were working hard, or living in a colder climate, those foods kept you going. But let’s fast forward to the time of World War II. America was broke, and made some deals with the Beef Industry (and other industries as well) to promote beef consumption in schools & institutions. And today we have the Beef Counsel advertising “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner“. We are inundated with messages that unless we eat animal protein 2-3 x a day we’ll be protein deficient. Life spans were a lot shorter when Eskimo’s only had whales to eat, and Native Americans subsisted on buffalo. Their life span was shorter because they were lacking in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that animal foods do not provide.
There are millions of vegetarians and vegans in India, and they are not deficient in protein.
7th Day Adventists are plant-based and their communities are used in research trials because they are so healthy, and researchers want to know what they are doing!
Dan Buttner studied the longest living populations in the world in a collaboration with National Geographic. He identified the worlds healthiest populations and they are “The Blue Zones”. And now those populations have been studied and we know that plant-protein-eaters live longer! (Read more here.)
Common diet questions no-one ever asks…
- Where will I get my anti-oxidants?
- Where will I get my vitamins? My minerals? My phytochemicals? My micronutrients? My omega 3’s?
- What can I eat so my mitochondria will thrive?
- What foods promote brain health? And prevent dementia?
- How will I strengthen my immune system so I’m not vulnerable to an auto-immune disease or cancer?
- What foods counteract inflammation?
- What can I eat to stave off early aging?
- How can I prevent Parkinson’s? Diabetes? Heart disease?
- What foods do I need to have a healthy pregnancy?
THESE, my friend, are the REAL diet questions we should be asking when we want to learn more about diet, and how food is medicine.
Aging accelerates, and we can’t sustain normal metabolic functions without vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, co-enzymes, and phytochemicals.
Whether you call yourself Paleo, Vegetarian or Vegan….YOU need plant foods to sustain optimal health, or to heal if you have chronic health issues.
- IF you are going to insist on eating a paleo’ish diet, you must load it with fruits (berries at least), the rainbow of veggies, and leafy greens. Animal protein must be lean, and secondary to your plant foods. Bacon, or any processed fatty meat, isn’t part of a health-promoting diet. Check out Dr. Terry Wahls and how she has cured her M.S. (multiple sclerosis) with a plant-based diet.
- Maybe you are vegan and think that establishes that you are eating a healthy diet. Well, the truth is, it depends. If you are a vegan, but subsisting on beans, grains, and nuts & seeds, you too are missing out on critical nutrients provided by fruits, veggies, and greens.
- The same goes for you if you identify as a vegetarian. If fruits, veggies, and leafy greens take a back seat to fish, eggs, grains, nuts & seeds, you could do better.
The most healing, alkalizing foods are fruits, veggies, and leafy greens.
And it must contain some raw foods
as a 100% cooked food diet has lost valuable nutrients.
Gluten-free grains like quinoa, rice, or millet are okay, but the sicker you are, the more you need fruits, veggies, and leafy greens to heal.
The same is true of legumes, nuts & seeds.
If you focus on fruits, veggies, and greens, you will naturally crowd out some unhealthy or neutral foods.
Common Diet Question about Iron
About right now, you are making an argument for iron aren’t you? Where will you get your iron??? Greens!!! Foods like spinach (remember Popeye?). And mustard greens. Also: berries, lychees, cherries, pomegranates, asparagus, broccoli, parsley, raspberry leaf tea, Chaga mushroom tea, nutmeg…and the list goes on. If you are a real foodie, you might also consume spirulina, wheat grass, and barley grass juice powder which can pull you out of anemia in a New York minute.
Is plant-based iron as good as animal-based iron? It’s BETTER. Why? Because pathogens need iron too. Most often, anemia is the result of a pathogen like Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) dining on your iron stores. Cancers typically have a viral component too. In our bodies wisdom, you might see a rise in ferritin, but it only looks like you have too much iron because the body is trying to protect you. It’s literally hiding the iron from the pathogens. What you need to know is that God built in a safety mechanism and pathogens can’t use plant-based iron sources as well as iron from animals.
Bottom line? Plant based iron sources are easily used by us, and protect us from a pathogen storm.
Can I get enough protein on a plant-based diet?
Back to our protein conversation. It’s a resounding YES. You WILL get enough protein as long as you eat enough calories. And the protein is more absorb-able.
Through the digestive process, we have to break everything we eat or drink down. Including meat. It isn’t like a eating a steak automatically turns that steak into a bicep or 6-pack abs. That steak is first broken down in the digestive tract, then those amino acids go to the liver and chemical functions are performed. Then the amino acids go out into circulation and are offered to your body. It’s a cumbersome process, and it takes a lot of (digestive) energy to do this.
- Spinach is 30% protein
- Asparagus is 27% protein
- Leafy greens like lettuce are 22% protein
- Tomatoes, peaches, grapes, banana’s, watermelon, potatoes – ALL have protein.
Truth be told, we only need about 5-10% protein if everyone was honest about it. Perhaps one of the best experts on this is Dr. Douglas Graham, who wrote the book 80/10/10. 80% carbohydrates. 10% protein. 10% fat. And by carbohydrate I don’t mean cookies and cake. I mean apples, oranges, berries, potatoes, sweet potatoes and such.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
What would you eat if you had cancer? I know it’s not popular but most cancers are the perfect storm of diet, pathogens, toxins, and stress. What that means is that our choices have an impact.
You probably know that many people opt out of conventional cancer treatments, and instead start juicing and go vegan. It’s no coincidence that they lose weight, their skin clears, they start to glow and look healthier than they were before cancer.
Whatever diet you subscribe to, start incorporating more fruits, veggies, and leafy greens in your diet.
If you are officially sick or are on a path that includes symptoms, you need those phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, co-enzymes, micronutrients, and anti-oxidants. Eating animal foods three times a day takes room away from the true healing foods.
Animal foods will not help you recover your nervous system, your brain, your kidney or liver, nor kill virus’s, nor aid in detoxification. Meat doesn’t break down well so it ferments and feeds pathogens. And it sucks energy away from other, more important, metabolic processes.
Even if you are plant-based, be wary of using too many protein powders and focusing on nuts & seeds, grains, and legumes.
Let’s Say It Again:
The most healing foods are fruits, veggies, and leafy greens.
A mix of raw, and baked or steamed is best.
I know it might not be sexy to say you eat a plant-based diet, in today’s paleo world, but these foods ARE life changing.
When I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme, it may as well have been cancer. It meant that my whole system was under attack. My immunity of course, but also my liver was struggling as a result of the toxins and neurotoxins excreted by the pathogens….and my whole neurological system was inflamed. I changed our diet and the results a year later are profound. I gave up foods. And ate certain foods. You guessed it. Fruits, Veggies, and Leafy Greens.
Food is Medicine.
Fruits, veggies, and leafy greens are your life preserver