Many people are gravitating towards a plant based diet for a number of reasons including weight loss, compassion for animals, and the environment. If you are thinking about trying a plant based diet, especially for health reasons, here are a few tips:
1. Limit Fat intake. Avoid oils when cooking or in foods. Oils add a considerable amount of fat. Read labels thoroughly to make sure there is little to no added oils. Limit consumption of avocados, nuts, and seeds. Use these foods sparingly because they do contain quite a bit of fat.
2. Keep Protein intake at 8-10% of total calories. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, humans are incapable of using protein for tissue building purposes above the level of approximately 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Excess protein greater than this amount is either burned as energy or stored as fat. Both of these options are undesirable because we do not want to gain fat and getting rid of nitrogenous waste from excess protein can cause dehydration.
3. Chose high fiber foods (ex. beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains). Foods high in fiber will provide satiety and help maintain a steady blood sugar.
4. Avoid processed foods and fake processed soy products (isolated soy protein). If you are considering soy products, choose tempeh, edamame, miso, and tofu.
5. Avoid foods with a high glycemic index (ex. white bread, bagels, and large baking potatoes). These foods will raise your blood sugar.
I have received several questions on the protein and carbohydrate content of plant foods recently. The truth is, you will get all the protein you need on a whole food plant based diet and you will not gain weight, even though it is a high carbohydrate diet.
Firstly, protein is an essential macronutrient that is a chain of amino acids which contain nitrogen. Protein quality is determined by the presence or absence of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids must be taken in as food, while non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the body. Although plant proteins are considered “incomplete” because they are deficient in certain amino acids, all the essential amino acids are present in a variety of plant foods. Therefore, all you need to do is vary the plant protein sources you consume each day. There is no need for specific food combining. You will easily meet the RDA requirement for protein of 8-10% of total calories per day.
As far as high carbohydrates and weight loss are concerned, according to the American College of Sports Medicine “fat burns in a carbohydrate flame.” There is nothing in the scientific literature that suggests that lowering carbohydrate intake improves exercise performance or weight loss. In fact, high animal protein diets have been associated with kidney problems and kidney stones.
For more on this topic read my paper: “The Nutrient Quality of Whole Plant Foods.”
For more information on Plant Protein read Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s recent article in Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine: http://nutritionstudies.org/protein-juggernaut-deep-roots/
Visit our Food Blog for Plant Power Pictures & Recipe Ideas.
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