What is the question that comes up most often when someone hears that I follow a plant-based diet. Yes.... "where do you get your protein?" It seems to be a common misconception that the main source of protein is animal products, namely meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.
What exactly is protein and why is it so important to our bodies? Proteins are complex structures made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are about 20 different types of amino acids, 8-9 of which the body cannot produce itself, and therefore must be obtained from the diet. These are called the 'essential amino acids'. Proteins make up much of the structure of body cells and are related to many bodily functions. All of those little messengers running around the body, hormones, enzymes, and antibodies, are made up of proteins. These messengers are produced by the body by assembling the different amino acids into specific configurations. So if one building block is missing, the proteins cannot be put together properly and this interferes with the functioning of the body.
All living things contain proteins. Plants, animals, even bacteria. In fact all the amino acids in animal protein originally came from plant sources. Cows get their protein from eating the grass. Fish get their protein from eating smaller fish which ate the water plants. The 8-9 'essential' amino acids are produced by plants and bacteria.
You may have heard that animal protein contains 'complete' protein and plant proteins are 'incomplete'. The misconception that human's need to consume complete protein has been perpetuated by the misinformed. I encourage you to read Jeff Novick's clear and concise response to this concern here.
How much protein do we actually need? That depends on several factors. We need protein to maintain our tissues. Protein requirements may increase when tissue growth is required, like when we're growing, or pregnant, or lactating, or healing following surgery. But the average adult requires 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This is based on the US Recommended Dietary Allowance for adult protein intake. The average woman needs to consume 46 grams of protein per day.
As Dr. T. Colin Campbell states: "All natural foods-from lettuce to nuts-contain varying amounts of protein." Just to get an idea of how much protein is in different foods, I have listed some below.
Just because our bodies have a vital need for a substance does not mean that twice or three times our need is better. In the case of protein, more is not better. In fact, excess protein intake has been linked to many diseases including kidney disease, various forms of cancer, osteoporosis and a host of autoimmune and hypersensitivity disease processes.
When we consider meat to be our main source of dietary protein, it is easy to consume too much. The average skinless, boneless chicken breast is 6-8 ounces. If 2 ounces of chicken contains 15 g of protein, each chicken breast would contain approximately 45 - 60 grams. This one chicken breast achieves and can even exceed your entire daily protein requirement.
By including a variety of whole plant foods in our diet, it is virtually impossible not to get enough protein as long as we are consuming enough calories on a daily basis. And by getting our protein from plant sources instead of animal sources, we cut out much of the fat and ALL of the dietary cholesterol and add lots of healthy fibre to our diet!
A long, long time ago, in a land far away, there lived a fair maiden with a buhdda that lay sleeping quietly inside of her. One day she heard an amazing story from a woman named Kris Carr. Kris had been diagnosed with an evil disease called cancer. Cancer was lurking in her liver and her lungs, but instead of throwing in the towel when she discovered this evil foe, she started conjuring up a magic potion to heal herself. She read every book she could find. She took classes and talked to people. And gradually the magic potion began to reveal itself to her. Her magic potion turned out to be green juice! I heard how, armed with her new knowledge, she had banished her evil disease and wrote a mystical book called 'Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips'. And the buhdda began to stir.
I was fascinated by the magic that Kris had worked. How could she heal herself by changing what she ate and changing what she thought? So I read her book.... which led me to 'The China Study'.... which led me down the path to Dr. Esselstyn and his book 'How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease'..... and then I stumbled upon 'Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes'.... which led me to the movies 'Earthlings', 'Food Inc.', and 'Forks Over Knives'. The mystical all knowing universe guided me from one book to the next and the sleeping buhdda within me stretched and yawned, for it had been sleeping for a very long time. The buhdda opened it's eyes and through them I began to see the world in a new and more conscious way.
It no longer made sense to continue along the same path. So I started eating the enchanted plants infused with the powerful healing forces of nature. I looked for more plant foods and discovered something troubling. It wasn't as easy as it sounded! This was a new way of doing things. I had to prepare all my own enchanted plants. And some people weren't very happy about the buhdda within me. This made them uncomfortable. So I looked around for others with buhddas awakening inside of them, and I found many.... Alicia Silverstone, Colleen Patrick Goudreau, Isa Chandra Moskawitz, and the Happy Herbivore just to name a few. They bravely revealed their own buhddas to the world. They inspired me to do the same! And I learned to make my enchanted plants tasty and delicious.
And then one fine day, Zengarry was born. This is how I let my buhdda shine it's light out into the world. My wish is to help the world see the divine powers that dwell in us all, to help people hold their magic wands high and awaken their own slumbering buhddas. This magic has the power to mend broken hearts and heal ailing organs. We do not have to be slaves to the potions of the modern day medical system for all of these ailments. We have the power to seize control of our lives, to awaken to our inner wisdom, and to make the courageous choice to heal ourselves. Plants are the key.
And so Zengarry grew. One idea led to another. With time, some radiant angels joined me and took Zengarry under their wings and helped mould it into what it is today. Each one of them has made their own unique contribution and I am tremendously grateful for each of them; and to you, for taking the time to share in my journey.
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