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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Marie Oser | Getting Enough Protein

Are You Getting Enough Protein?
by Marie Oser

There's no denying the deluge of health related stories in recent years, as the media and even corporate wellness programs, seek to satisfy consumers' increasing appetite for information on how to live better and longer. Americans are in deplorable shape, and sliding backward. Why? Because mainstream physicians feel that most people won¹t take the steps necessary to make a significant difference. Consequently, their dietary recommendations have been generally weak and ineffective.

Every day there seems to be a new study linking diet and disease. While we all know that food choices are the most obvious lifestyle factor under our control, many interested consumers don¹t quite know how to begin. Some of us feel that it would be a burdensome undertaking to change lifelong habits, or that they would miss the comfort of favorite foods. They have tried "low fat" and "healthy" alternatives concocted with chemically altered ingredients. It¹s easy to become discouraged because this artificial approach invariably leads to products that don¹t taste good and tend to leave an aftertaste, often trading one problem for another.

Over the last ten years, a new breed of physician has been making the news.. Medical professionals like Drs. Neal Barnard, and John McDougall, who speak to the HEART of the problem, offer programs that exclude virtually all animal products from the diet, with remarkable results: A plant based approach that is truly low fat, health supporting fare.


Replacing animal foods with plant foods can be the most important health choice that one can make. And with soyfoods in the mix, plant based diets can deliver variety, texture, and flavor along with many healthful benefits. However, many people still believe that it isn¹t safe to eliminate meat and dairy products from the diet. Tell a meat eater you are vegan (total vegetarian) and invariably the first response is "How do you get enough protein"? There is a dietary revolution in the air. Many well known medical and nutriton professionals link diets high in protein with bone mineral loss, or osteoporosis.

According to Dr. William Harris, author of the compellingly persuasive "The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism" the reply should be "How much do you think you need"? Dr. Harris indicates that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake is set too high and insures that over 97% of the population meeting the RDAs, will exceed its nutrient and calorie requirements.

In order to calculate your protein requirements, simply divide your ideal weight by 2.2, establishing your ideal weight in kilograms. Then, multiply that number by .8. The result will be your daily protein requirement. An adult male whose ideal weight is 154 pounds needs only 56 grams of protein a day. The average American consumes about 103 gm. of protein, 70 gm. of which comes from animal sources. Even pregnant women need only about 75 gm. of protein a day. Dr. Mark Messina, in The Simple Soybean and your Health says, "Most of us are getting more protein than the amount needed by a world class body builder."

High protein animal-based foods provide the framework of the western diet, and at the same time, contribute an extraordinary amount of cholesterol and fat. There has been an overemphasis on high protein animal foods in American culture. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, author, and president of Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, in Washington, D.C. "A high protein intake is detrimental to bone strength and overworks the kidneys."

Soybeans contain all three of the acro-nutrients required for good nutrition: complete protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folic acid and iron. The calcium in soy is thought to be better utilized by the body, guarding against osteoporosis. Furthermore, soybeans are the only vegetable that contains complete protein, providing all eight amino acids in the amounts needed for human health. The amino acid pattern of soy is virtually identical to that of meat, milk and egg products. Additionally, soy protein is the source of phytochemicals that have been credited with many health benefits.

Certainly soy has become the quintessential chameleon, and is the "superstar" among legumes. And I am a well known "Soy-Nut." However, a well balanced, plant based diet need not rely solely on soyfoods, for sufficient protein. According to Dr. McDougall , "All the protein needed to grow large muscles is present in vegetable foods. Vegetables provide two to four times the protein anyone would need during any activity." He points out that potatoes provide 11 percent protein, corn; 12 percent, oranges; 8 percent, cauliflower; 4 percent, and legumes like beans, peas, and lentils provide 28 percent protein.

Nathan Pritikin, the widely acclaimed nutrition expert: has said, "Vegetarians always ask about getting enough protein, but I don't know any nutrition expert who could plan a diet of natural foods resulting in protein deficiency, so long as you¹re not deficient in calories. You need only 5 or 6 % of total calories in protein...and it is practically impossible to get below 9% in ordinary diets."

Plant based menus have never been so easy..Manufacturers have really, "stepped up to the plate," producing high quality soy and wheat gluten based alternatives for those of us who desire traditional style fare. For others, if your daily menu includes a balance of foods from the four food groups, VEGETABLES, GRAINS, LEGUMES, & FRUIT, rest assured that your protein requirements will be met.

Marie Oser is a bestselling author, columnist, and VegSource Board Host of "Soy Talk" She is also the co-host of VegTv.com, with Jane Velez Mitchell- An all-video site that provides "A VIEW TO A HEALTHIER YOU." Marie's website is called VeggieChef.com

Soy of Cooking, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,1996
More Soy Cooking, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2000
The Enlightened Kitchen, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2002


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