No matter how active your lifestyle, a well-rounded whole food plant-based diet provides more than enough protein to satisfy the body’s needs without all the artery-clogging saturated fats that dominate the typical American diet. It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, otherwise known as ‘combining proteins’. We now know that intentional combining is not necessary to obtain all of the essential amino acids we need, and has been refuted by the very organization that introduced the concept. As long as your daily diet contains a variety of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables, our needs are easily met. In fact, there is growing evidence that too much protein contributes to certain health problems. It helps to keep in mind that the average western diet is heavy on white flour, sugar and processed foods - is it any wonder that after removing the meat, cheese and eggs, many feel weak? By choosing healthy, whole foods you can feel better and improve your health. Shrink your waistline and your carbon footprint by avoiding factory farms and choosing plant-based proteins instead.
High Protein vs. Plant Protein
High protein diets are all the rage these days. Meanwhile, the average North American consumes about double the protein they require (and not nearly enough vegetables or beneficial dietary fibre). Main protein sources tend to be animal products, which are often high in fat (particularly saturated fat) and do not contain any fibre. Advertisers have succeeded in convincing us that we need more and more protein, while ‘manly’ stereotypes continue to build profits. The question is: does this animal-heavy diet benefit humans, other the animals or the planet?
Typical high-protein diets are extremely high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. The effect of such diets on blood cholesterol levels is a matter of ongoing research, but evidence indicates that meals high in saturated fat adversely affect arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Be heart-smart for a longer life.
Cooking high protein foods like meats, especially grilling and frying, produces highly carcinogenic compounds called heteorcyclic amines. These substances have been linked to various cancers including those of the colon and breast. The heme in red meat has been linked, also, to these carcinogenic effects. Long-term high intake of meat, particularly red meat, is associated with significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, high-protein diets are typically low in beneficial dietary fiber.
High protein intake is known to encourage urinary calcium losses and has been shown to increase risk of fracture in research studies. Plant-based diets, which provide adequate protein (and calcium), can help protect against osteoporosis.
Weight Loss Sabotage
Many individuals see almost immediate (but not long term) weight loss as a result of following a high-protein diet, when in fact, the weight loss is simply the result of consuming fewer calories. The best strategy involves lifestyle changes including a low-fat, high-fibre diet combined with regular physical activity. F ad diets don’t work nearly as well as healthy whole food diets.
Impaired Kidney Function.
When people eat too much protein, it releases nitrogen compounds into the blood as it is digested and metabolized. This places a strain on the kidneys, which must expel the waste through the urine. High-protein diets, according to a recent study out of Harvard University, are associated with a significant risk of kidney problems. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that high protein intake is largely responsible for the high prevalence of kidney stones in developed countries.
Protein in Plant-based Foods
(protein in approx. grams)
Many plant foods contain some protein, while animal sources are quite high in protein, quickly adding up to too much!
Soybeans (1 cup, cooked)
Seitan (4 oz)
Tofu, firm (1/2 cup)
Lentils (1 cup)
Tempeh (1/2 cup)
Hemp Seeds (4 tbsp)
Beans - Black or Kidney (1 cup, cooked)
Chick peas (1 cup, cooked)
Quinoa (1 cup, cooked)
Peanut butter (2 tbsp)
Spinach (1 cup, cooked)
Oatmeal (1 cup, cooked)
Broccoli (1 cup)
Download our "How to get your Protein from a Plant-based Diet" brochure.
To find out your average individual need, simply perform the following calculation:
Body weight (in kilograms) X 0.8 = RDA (in grams)
Body weight (in pounds) X 0.013 = RDA (in ounces)
Body weight (in pounds) X 0.36 = RDA (in grams)
RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance