In my community of Holistic Mamas, there are, nutritionally speaking, basically 2 groups of families:
1. Those that believe in and eat organic animal based foods and
2. Those that eat organic plant based foods.
The former tend to follow the WAP Diet (Weston Price Diet:http://www.westonaprice.org/). The latter are those who are eating, or lean towards, an all organic vegetarian or vegan diet – especially after watching Forks Over Knives. Now within this latter group, there two further subsets:
a. those who eat a lot of processed and refined foods and
b. those who make most (if not all) their food from scratch.
Among Mamas, there are many discussions as to why their own diets are best. In my view, as you all know, an unprocessed, whole organic plant based diet is best. Why?
FIRSTLY, BECAUSE ANIMAL BASED DIETS CAUSE DISEASE:
There have been so many studies done to raise awareness as to why (even organic) animal based foods are not health foods. Although animal products have the most similar nutrient composition to our bodies, consuming them promotes disease. I am currently taking Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Course and have learned (or rather relearned from his work in the China Study) that cancer can be turned on and off (from 20% to 5% of total calories) just be increasing and decreasing animal protein in the diet of rats. The same amounts of plant based protein (such as wheat and soy protein) had no such effect. Animal –based foods also contain saturated fats, which cause cholesterol and heart disease. Moreover, animal products cause an acid environment in our bodies, which causes calcium to leak from our bones in an effort for our bodies to neutralize the acids, causing osteoporosis.
SECONDLY, ONLY PLANT BASED FOODS CONTAIN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS THAT PREVENT DISEASE:
Plant based foods, on the other hand, contain essential nutrients not present in animal foods that we need in order to live healthily. Two of these are antioxidants and dietary fiber: antioxidants, like vitamin C, E and carotenoids, bind free radicals that promote cancer and speed up our body’s aging process, and dietary fiber binds to chemical carcinogens and helps the body excrete these potentially harmful products. They help maintain our health and prevent disease.
THIRDLY, NOT ALL PLANT BASED DIETS ARE EQUAL. ORGANIC WHOLE FOODS ARE DIFFERENT FROM PROCESSED VEGAN FOODS:
As I have said before, I understand why people are attracted to refined and processed vegan foods: they do not require much work or energy. We want to be healthy but we don’t want to put that much effort into actually preparing our meals directly from whole foods. We want things EASY. Consider this though: When a fruit or vegetable is 5 days old, it will contain only 40% of it’s original nutrients. How about refined plant foods?
Refined plant foods have been so drastically altered from their natural state and are not consumed, in Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s words, “in their totality” and therefore in decreased natural plant material quanitites. Other refined foods are processed foods. They include simple carbohydrates (like, white flours and sugars), hydrogenated oils, genetically modified organisms, anything with fillers, artificial food grade chemicals and additives. Most are ready to eat (like junk food or white bread) or require little cooking (like frozen dinners). They are also anything canned, boxed, bottled and packaged. There is a whole niche market dedicated to serving ready made foods to vegans and vegetarians.
THEREFORE, A PLANT-BASED WHOLE FOODS DIET IS BEST.
The thing is though, like most things, it requires work on our part to get something really worth anything. Nutrition is no exception. Plant-based whole-foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. They are in their natural state and are not overly processed or altered. Most of the time, you can eat them fresh or they may require some time and attention (like, cleaning, prepping, dressing/marinating, cooking). Dr. T. Colin Campbell states that when we consume foods that have decreased natural plant material, this poses problems for our bodies.
BUT, HOW MUCH PROTEIN IS ENOUGH?
For the average person, 8 – 10% of your total calorie intake is enough. Surprisingly, professional athletes only need slightly more protein than that. You can calculate what you need here.
HOW TO MEASURE HOW MUCH PROTEIN WE CONSUME?
According to my instructor at eCornell University, “As long as we’re eating whole, plant foods – no oils and minimal nuts/seeds. On average, plant foods are 5-10% fat and about 10% protein. And, if we’re eating whole foods, rather than processed, we’re getting plenty of complex carbohydrates [and enough protein].”