Eat Well and the Protein Will Follow

Because we’re still relatively “new” to this vegan thing, we are constantly reading nutritional advice from people / places we feel are credible. I was leafing through Andrew Weil’s new book, The Healthy Kitchen, and read this interesting tidbit:

More and more enlightened dietitians recommend that people move toward “plant-based” diets to reduce disease risks and improve well-being. That does not mean forgoing all animal foods and sticking to salad bars when you eat out. It does mean unlearning the habit of organizing meals around centerpieces of meat and poultry and becoming acquainted with the great variety of satisfying protein-rich dishes that can be made from vegetarian ingredients. Populations that eat plant-based diets live longer and enjoy better health than populations whose protein sources match those on the list above.

By the way, according to Dr. Weil we are far from not getting enough protein. Most Americans get too much, often taking in their whole day’s needs with a typical breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and milk. If you’re young and healthy, that’s not a problem, excess protein is excreted from the body in urine and fecal matter. But eating too much protein can be particularly taxing on the kidneys if you older or have certain health conditions.

Of course, being vegan, excess protein is not a problem we typically have to worry about. The conventional wisdom is that plant proteins are somehow deficient and vegans / vegetarians suffer for it. According to Dr. Weil, that is not the case. We can get adequate amounts of protein in our diet through plant foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and soy), and soy protein is equivalent to the protein we would get from animal products.

His dietary recommendations are that daily calories should be divided as follows (for everyone, vegan or not): 40 to 50 percent from carbohydrates (including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, starchy roots and tubers, and legumes), 30 percent from fat, and 20 to 30 percent from protein, which amounts to between 100 and 150 grams on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet.

Dr. Weil also recommends that we vegans pay particular attention to the following nutrients: vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Essential Fatty Acids, and Vitamin D. Click here for further reading on his specific recommendations for these nutrients.

Finally, Dr. Weil feels that a varied vegetarian diet is much healthier than the average American diet and will provide you with more than enough protein.

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