CELEBRATE THE ABUNDANCE OF SUMMER VEGETABLES… EAT MORE PLANTS!
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF WAYS TO EAT MORE PLANTS.
Vegan diets are one hundred percent plant-based. They do not include any animal products, such as dairy, meat, or eggs. People choose a vegan lifestyle for the health benefits but also for ethical and environmental reasons.
Vegetarian diets all exclude meat but differ as to whether or not they include other animal products. For example:
-Lacto-vegetarians exclude meat and eggs but include dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter.
-Ovo-vegetarians don’t eat meat or dairy but include eggs.
-The Pescatarian diet includes fish but no other meat.
-The Flexitarian diet is a relatively new trend. It is mainly a vegetarian diet but includes meat or fish occasionally. This diet is a good way to gradually move toward plant-based eating.
HOW CAN I GET ENOUGH PROTEIN ON A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Protein is one of the most important components of our diets. It is essential for keeping muscles and bones strong and maintaining our immune system. Proteins that contain all 9 of the essential amino acids, or protein building blocks, are considered complete proteins and are of the highest quality.
COMBINING INCOMPLETE PLANT PROTEINS
Often when we think of protein, we think of meat. While meat and animal products do contain complete proteins, plant proteins also provide quality protein when chosen wisely or combined, or complemented with other foods. For example, when you combine rice which is low in the amino acid lysine, together with legumes containing large amounts of lysine, you create a complete or complementary protein.
Other examples of complete protein combinations include:
-Peanut butter and whole wheat bread
-Hummus and pita bread
-Soups or stews with grains and beans
-Salads with chickpeas and sunflower seeds
The average adult needs about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. In other words, a 150- pound male needs 60 grams per day (150 x .4). Of course, protein needs are influenced by activity level and certain medical conditions. For example, athletes and adults who exercise regularly may need about .5 grams per pound of body weight or 75 grams per day for a 150-pound male, and those with kidney disease may need to restrict or limit their protein intake.
There are about 21 grams of protein in a 3-ounce portion of meat, chicken, or fish. One egg contains 8 grams. Compare this to the protein content of these plant-based foods.
-10g in 1/2 cup hummus
-15g in 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
-17g in 1 cup cooked lentils
-16g in 1 cup cooked chickpeas
-12g in 1 cup cooked black beans
-4.3g in 1 cup cooked rice
-8g in 2 Tbsp peanut butter
-3.6g in 1 slice whole wheat bread
-5g in 1 pita pocket
DISCOVER THESE STAND-ALONE COMPLETE PLANT PROTEINS!
It’s true, most plant proteins are incomplete on their own, however, there are a few exceptions. A small number of plant foods contain all 9 essential amino acids. The most common one is soy.
Soybeans in any form such as edamame beans, tofu, or fermented tempeh fit the bill. In a 3 ounce serving, you can find about 9 grams of complete protein, as well as calcium, iron, fiber, and potassium.
Quinoa is another commonly eaten complete plant protein. It is similar to rice and often used as a substitute in recipes. A 1 cup serving, contains about 8 grams of protein.
Other complete plant proteins include amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and nutritional yeast. Amaranth and buckwheat are pseudo-cereals. These are non-grasses that can be ground into flour and eaten as cereals or boiled into a rice-like food. Chia seeds can be eaten raw and used as toppings on salads or in smoothies. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of yeast that is available as a yellow powder, often used as a cheese substitute in vegan diets.
EAT MORE PLANTS TO REAP THE HEALTH BENEFITS
Research shows that plant-based diets lead to reduced obesity, improved blood pressure, a reduction in insulin resistance, and lower cholesterol levels. It’s likely because plants are lower in saturated fats which raise cholesterol, contribute to obesity, and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating more plants may also decrease the need for medications in managing these and other chronic illnesses.
In one case study, a 68-year-old male who visited his physician with complaints of fatigue was found to have elevated A1C and glucose levels, as well as high cholesterol. He had not previously been diagnosed with diabetes but had a history of high blood pressure and cholesterol and was taking medication for both. After 16 weeks on a low sodium and plant-based diet he no longer required medication for his blood pressure and both A1C and cholesterol levels improved significantly. He had also added 30 minutes of exercise per day and reduced his intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white rice and bread.
EAT MORE PLANTS, BUT FULFILL YOUR IRON, VITAMIN B12, CALCIUM, AND VITAMIN D NEEDS
There are some nutrients that are just not as readily available from plants as they are from animal sources, so it is important to choose wisely.
The iron in plants, for example, is not used by the body as well as that found in animal products, and iron stores may be lower in those that consume only plants. Plant-based foods that are rich in iron include kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage, and tomato juice. A daily multivitamin with iron may be helpful to meet an individual’s needs.
Vitamin B12 is another nutrient found mainly in animal products. It is an important compound for many processes in our body including red blood cell development and brain function. Choosing foods wisely, however, can ensure this nutrient is not lost. For example, cereals and plant-based milk, such as soy or almond milk, are often fortified with B12. Also, nutritional yeast and some plant-based meats have added B12.
For those who consume dairy products, obtaining adequate calcium is not usually a problem as it is abundant in milk, yogurt, and cheese. For those consuming only plants, significant sources of calcium include tofu, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and kale.
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, however, obtaining sufficient amounts is challenging, and most of the Vitamin D in our diets is from fortified foods. Plant milk and cereals are often fortified with Vitamin D and of course, we get some Vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and for maintaining bone health.
If you would like more information on the benefits of plant-based eating or help with making the transition, our experienced, registered dietitians can assess your individual and medical needs, and help establish a healthy eating plan specifically for you.
Call us today to make an appointment at 240-449-3094