You are going Vegan? Where will you get your protein?
This is probably the first question that people ask when they hear that someone is eating only plant foods. And considering the conventional thinking of nutritional science, one would be very worried for a Vegan and protein.
According to WebMD, we need “about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men”. And we all ‘know’ that people cannot get adequate protein from plants, right?
On the flip-side, it has been said that we don’t need that much protein. Apparently our bodies recycle protein and thus we only need to replace what we loose in our normal bodily waste disposal system (You know what I mean!). Claims have been made that the athletes among us (including body builders) don’t need any more than 60 grams of protein a day, and closer to 40 grams for the rest of us… food for thought.
More on that some other time.
So Mr Vegan, where do you get your protein?
Well, I get my protein from Legumes, Vegetables, Grains, Fruits…
And if you have been paying attention, you would notice that the aforementioned is the entirety of a Vegan diet - in other words, everything I eat contains protein.
The question should then be, can those foods provide you with enough protein for your daily requirements?
Well, I would like to present the heribivores of nature. They get their protein from the same places that vegans do, and yet they are sometimes considerably bigger and stronger than any human.
Thus, it would stand to reason that a plant based diet can realistically provide a human with enough protein.
Now, to flip the script…
Where does the human omnivore get vitamins, and carbohydrates? From meat?
Both are essential for normal function of the body and available in plant sources, while meat is lacking in those areas.
As it stands, a plant diet can provide a human with ALL nutrients needed for normal survival, whereas a meat based diet needs to include plant sources for ‘healthy results’.
As you become more health conscious you may come across the Vegan diet - which is a ‘plant only’ diet. There are numerous reasons for making the switch if either optimal health, ethical, or religious reasons is important to you. Yet, with big changes come big challenges. Most people have trouble starting a Vegan diet for a number of reasons, but it doesn’t need to be too difficult if you can learn from other’s mistakes. Here are a few things you can do to make the switch over time.
- Change in increments - going ‘cold turkey’ can do more harm than good over the long term. Although some people have found sudden changes to work for them, research has shown that small measurable moves over time nurture the creation of new habits and retrain the mind to make reversion less likely.
- Learn about Veganism - There is so much information about other diets that nay-sayers often spout much negativity at you, and it can be overwhelming. Understand what is going to change in your life and body, and this will help to keep you grounded through the rough patches. After learning, you can implement those incremental changes in practice.
- Find a community - The support offered by a community will help you to progress more quickly and smoothly than trying it out all alone. We are social creatures :)
This is how I started I can tell you what worked for me. I made my decision to become vegan after much research and thinking. So I planned my next shopping date carefully, but wondered what to buy. Then I thought of another approach… I found a friend who loves to cook and asked her if she were cooking for someone who didn’t eat anything with any meat products, what would she cook? Of course she looked at me as if I were crazy, but she came up with very simple ideas, and easy ways to prepare interesting meals. I wrote those down and then worked out my shopping list. In the meantime, I look for all animal products that I have available and used them up over a few days, so as not to waste money that I had already spent. Additionally, I made my breakfast vegan before starting eating Vegan officially, to cushion the transition. Once I bought the new groceries and started preparing meals, I learnt that I needed variety and kept working to suit. Every meal has a few combinations, in an effort to make sure that I am well nourished and not bored with my food.
It’s not perfect, but it is a process.
- Why do I want to go vegan?
- Will this diet be permanent or for a period of time?
- Is it for ethical reasons or health reasons? Or are you just using it to lose weight?
2. Educate yourself
Once you have decided to be vegan, learn about meals, nutrition, and the benefits of being a vegan. This will help with your friends that say, “You will die starving and weak!” or the others that ask “So where do you get your protein and calcium?”
3. Make a plan
Work out your strategy for changing what you eat. Slow and gradual changes over time will make for the best long lasting effect. Changing one meal is a good way to start. e.g Whole grain breakfast with fruit every morning to substitute bacon your normal breakfast.
4. ‘Write’ it down
Find some way to start documenting what you will do and what you are doing.
- Write menus for 2-4 weeks, write the varieties of foods that you can eat, etc.
- Use a calorie tracker like www.myfitnesspal.com to help you track your daily caloric and nutritional intake.
- Use your phone’s camera to keep track of your meals
- Document the changes that are happening
5. Set a trial period
Give the diet at least 3 weeks to observe the changes in your body and determine whether you are willing to continue. It takes a little time for you to see the benefits in your body
6. Never let youself go hungry
Keep healthy snacks at hand. Although we are supposed to wait 4-5 hours between meals, it’s better to be snacking on something healthy than bingeing on junk food after the hunger has floored you. Water is also good at quenching hunger. (Snacks should be natural food. Avoid calorie dense/nutritionally deficient refined foods)
7. Don’t lose lose faith
If you expect changes in your health or physique to occur, then you need to give the food and your body dome time to work. Veganism is effective as a lifestyle change, which will bring on incremental changes. Remember Rome was not built in a day.
I often hear people say “I’m fat because of my genes” or “I have a slow metabolism and that’s why I’m big”.
Maybe a few of these people really have a medical condition that makes them gain weight more quickly than normal. However the only real problem that plagues most of us is…
We EAT to much and DO TOO LITTLE
It may seem harsh, but it’s the truth.
If we get physically active as we were designed be, we would ‘speed up’ our metabolism.
That’s the simple way :D
Carbohydrate is the fuel of the body and we need fuel to live, but there is much controversy about Carbohydrate rich food. And why? Simply put, Carbs that are not used in the body are stored as energy for later use, and this energy store is commonly called FAT!
So here we have a dilema. All Carbs are not equal… hmmm maybe I should say that all Carbs are equal, but some are more equal than others.
I have often heard people say “I don’t like pasta… it doesn’t satisfy me and I find that I need to eat soon after eating it, even after a big meal”. So what do they do? Eat a snack.
However, this poses a problem. They feed themselves more Carbs… but what happened to the carbs from the previous hefty serving of pasta?
Enter Glycemic Index
The Glycemic index of a food tells us how high that food makes our blood sugar levels rise - in other words, how much energy is released into the blood stream. The higher the food on the index, the more quickly it releases the energy to the body. Then, if our body is fed too much energy too quickly that it doesn’t utilise, it stores it as fat.
So here is the rule of thumb - Refined foods are high on the glycemic index and whole foods are low on the index
So it all comes together…
If you eat alot of refined food you will get fat… And there is a simple explaination.
Whole foods contain fiber, which is taken out in the refinment process. Now this fiber when left in the food allows for slower digestion and a slower release of the energy found in food - so instead of a quick burst of energy released into the blood stream, we have a gradual release over time. This fiber is called soluable fiber.
Now, I’d be willing to bet that the pasta based meal mentioned earlier was refined or white pasta.
Then, we can logically conclude that if we had 2 articles of food both with the same amount of carbs, one being unrefined (whole) and the other being refined, the unrefined food will continue to give us energy where the refined food would have released all of its energy. All carbs are equal interms of finite values (amount of energy contained), but because of the presence of soluable fiber (or the absence of it) they each will act differently in the body and thus some Carbs are more equal than others. Remember, the soluable fiber found in whole foods makes all the differnce.
Here is an analogy.
2 guys - Mr Refined and Mr. Whole - with comparable ability set out to run a 400m race. The gun goes “Bang!” and Mr. Refined shoots off of the starting line with top speed, while Mr. Whole moves off of the line with a moderate but steady pace. 100 meters into the race and Mr. Whole is moving forward at the same speed while Mr. Refined is far ahead. 200 meters, and Mr. Whole keeps steady, while Mr. Refined is fading. At 300 metres Mr. Whole is starting to speed up, by now he has passed Mr. Refined, who is panting and almost draging his feet. Mr Whole finishes strong and goes on to make a victory lap, while Mr. Refined is lying face down on the track at 350 metres - he didn’t even finish the race!
I think you get the point.
Whole carbs release energy more slowly allowing you to use more of the energy over time (leaving less to store=less fat), while refined carbs release more quickly creating a situation where there is too much available energy at a given point, leaving you drained more quickly (more to store=more fat).
So next time you look at that fluffy white bread, think about how Mr. Refined got burnt out and how Mr. Whole won the race. ;)
Carbohydrate in simple terms is sugar.
There are different types of sugars - and we don’t need to understand the technicalities to eat food. What we need to be aware of is that Carbohydrates otherwise known as Carbs, is the favorite fuel of the body. It’s the cleanest burning fuel - it’s by-products when burnt by the body are carbon dioxide and water.
So what’s so bad about Carbs? Well, when the body gets more carbs than it can use, it decides to keep the excess for a ‘rainy day’ by converting it into FAT! Yes, you can get fat if you consume more carbs than you need.
And so, there is a proliferation of Low Carb diets which seek to give you just enough Carbs to fuel your body. To the extreme end there is the ridiculously Low Carb diet which forces your body to turn to other sources for fuel, most famous of these being the Atkins Diet. However, these create other problems in themselves.
So diets limit your Carbs- no bread, no pasta, but you can eat small amounts of potatoes etc - while others tell you, cut out Carb rich foods altogether - they limit the amount of fruit you can eat or even eliminate it, and tell you eat all the meat you want!
So what is the real deal about Carbs?
We NEED Carbs for optimum health. Our Carbs should be from whole sources like Potatoes, Yams, Whole meal/grain breads, Whole grains etc.
The problem comes when you start eating lots of refined Carbs… sugar, white bread, white pasta, etc.
So, eat the whole foods, and Carbs will not be a problem
1. Buy whole foods
Whole foods are cheaper than processed foods. Additionally, they are normally more nutritious, being kept from machinery and ‘assembly line’ processors. Try to get them fresh, if possible.
2. Avoid meat susbstitutes
If you have chosen to be vegan, then eat natural foods as a matter of habit. In my humble opinion, when you drop the meat you shouldn’t lust after it all the time - and if you find yourself eating a meat substitutes daily your pocket and your tummy/hips will show it. Not only are they more expensive than whole foods, but refined foods tend to get you fat because of the removal of fiber.
3. Make your own tasty food
Preparing your own meals saves quite a but of money, and is not as difficult as some may think. Nut butters, nut cheeses, and tasty protein dishes can use simple techniques to spruce up your meals while leaving a little money in your pocket.
4. Eat whole foods that are in season
You don’t need to be exotic to be vegan. Sure, you can splurge sometimes, but you can use what is available to you from the region in which you live. In fact, some people believe that the food grown in a particular region is best suited for those living in that region, helping to condition their bodies for the challendes of that area.
5. Buy from markets or directly from farmers
This keeps the middle man out - the supermarket/retailer, and will save you some change.
6. Drink plenty water - from the tap
Water is the amazing liquid that we are full of - our body has been estimated to be made of 60% - 70% water. Drinking it and it can quench your thirst and even sometimes your hunger! We need lots of it, and if you are eating healthily, you shouldn’t limit your intake. Buy a filter and use the water from your tap at home, as bottled water can be expensive.
7. Grow your own food
You can work with whatever space you have to grow something, regardless of how small it may seem to you. Use your back garden to plant a short term crop. You only need a few square feet of space, and you can save a few dollars for yourself and a friend (sharing is caring). Even a little flowerpot in the kitchen with a few herbs in it makes for delicious and inexpensive eating.
- something that nourishes; food, nutriment, or sustenance.
- the act of nourishing.
- the state of being nourished.
- a process, system, method, etc., of providing or administering nourishment: a treatise on the nourishment of international trade.
Nourishment can be broken down like this:
- are the main source of fuel to the body!
- help maintain the outer layers of your skin, your hair and nails
- maintain muscle
- maintain bone
- maintains good blood
- help our bodies to absorb certain vitamins
- provide essential fatty acids and promotes healthy cell function
- helps maintain healthy skin and hair, body temperature
- protects body organs against shock
- stores energy
- buffer from disease
- Help to convert food to energy
- aid in red blood cell formation
- help fight illness
- facilitate growth
- help the nervous system
- help convert food to energy
- strengthen tissues and cells
- help with tissue repair
- build bone
- help in maintenance of the blood, muscles, and nervous system
- help with growth
- help in processing of other nutrient
- Eat whole foods
- Include real ‘fresh’ (not canned if you can avoid it) vegetables, a fruits, and a grains in your daily food. Try to get a wide variety.
- Drink lots of water
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