The Protein Myth – Food is Medicine

December 9, 2008 at 6:47 pm 2 comments

One of the great myths is that we cannot meet our bodies need for protein of a plant based diet. The fact is that there are numerous excellent plant based sources. Many first time vegetarians tend to heavily rely on tofu and tempeh to meet these protein needs. It’s recommended to have a wide array of veggie sources of protein in addition to the soy in tofu and tempeh. Try adding beans and legumes, grains such as quinoa, nuts, seeds and some dark leafy green vegetables.

Mark Reinfeld, Author, Vegan Fusion World Cuisine: Healing Recipes and Timeless Wisdom from our Hearts to Yours & The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw

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Entry filed under: Food is Medicine, Vegan Fusion, Vegan Lifestyles. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. heartofnature  |  December 23, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    How much protein do you REALLY need to be healthy? My husband and I are slowly transitioning to the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and I’m just curious about that. We eat lots of beans, spinach, quinoa, lentils, broccoli, and just about any fresh vegetable we can get our hands on. Either way, is it okay to have days go bye where our meals don’t include one of those things, and/or tofu or tempeh? Just curious. Thanks!!

  • 2. Mark Reinfeld  |  December 24, 2008 at 2:54 am

    This question is probably the most frequently asked regarding plant-based diet. Perhaps you’re wondering yourself. Protein is a large component of every cell in our bodies, is essential for structure and function of our muscle and organs, and is required for the production of enzymes and certain hormones. Life wouldn’t be life without it!
    Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Body proteins are comprised of 20 different amino acids in varying concentrations. These different combinations of amino acids form innumerable proteins in the body. Plant proteins completely meet our dietary needs.
    The body cannot make nine of the amino acids, so they need to come from food. Because it’s essential they come from food, they’re called essential (or indispensable) amino acids.
    In their dietary guidelines, the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health Services affirm that all the body’s nutritional needs, including protein, can be met through a plant-based diet. These organizations made this statement based on all stages of the life cycle, from infancy to adulthood, including childrearing years.
    With all that said, let’s get to work dispelling two protein myths. The first is that we need large amounts of protein, and the second is that eating raw makes it challenging to meet these needs. We’ve found from experience and research that human beings actually need far less protein than what we’re often led to believe. We also know that vegan foods easily meets these needs.
    How Much Is Enough?
    According to the World Health Organization, people need to consume 5 percent of their calories from protein. (Many experts recommend 10 percent of calories from protein to add a margin of safety.) This means that only 1 out of every 10 calories we eat needs to come from protein.
    Current recommendations are for 0.8 g dietary protein for every kilogram body weight (2.2 pounds of weight) for sedentary individuals. However, protein needs change under different circumstances (i.e. level of physical activity, pregnancy, etc.)
    For vegetarians getting protein from plant sources the recommended amounts are – 1.0-1.2 grams of dietary protein per day per kilogram body weight (1 kg = 1 pound) and potentially more if they are highly physically active.
    There is debate about whether the concern is not that we as a country are not getting enough protein, but that we might be consuming too much. Some researchers are concerned that high consumption of protein over time can be taxing on our system and could result in kidney disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.
    T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., is a world-renowned researcher and a nutritional biochemist at Cornell University. He wrote the groundbreaking best-seller The China Study, which examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and illness such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, and osteoporosis. The China Project, the study the book refers to, is one of the most comprehensive studies of the effects of diet on health ever conducted. The results showed a marked increase in the rates of disease in people who consume the higher protein found in animal products.
    A Bounty of Goodness
    Get your protein the vegan way by enjoying delicious nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. Eat a wide array and ample amounts of plant based foods to easily meet your protein needs.
    Check out this list for sample foods to include in your diet:
    • Nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, coconut, cashews, and walnuts
    • Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, flax, hemp and sunflower
    • Vegetables such as dark leafy greens including spinach and kale, peppers, shitake mushrooms, garlic, and sea vegetables
    • Fruits such as apricots, peaches, currants, prunes, raisins, figs, dates, and avocadoes
    • Grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and wheat berries
    • Legumes such as lentils, split peas, and your favorite beans.
    As an added benefit to eating veg, many believe that the protein in plant based foods is easier for the body to assimilate than the protein found in cooked foods.


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