For the longest time, I have always thought that protein and meat are synonymous; the idea that I can get protein from plants seemed really distant.
I've never thought that I can go meat-free because I just really love, eggs. I'm not a big fan of red meat but I do have them. More often, I would opt for white meat and my typical breakfast in the past will always be scrambled eggs and toast without fail.
On the other hand, I am also a huge veggie lover and I always enjoy a bowl of vegetables all the time. This leads me to be really curious of how people (especially athletes) can sustain being vegetarian/vegan/plant-based for their life? &.... seriously where do they get their protein? How do they recover from their workouts if they don't eat meat?
Out of curiosity, I tried going plant-based every Friday for a start. (Partly also because I would like to abstain from meat every Friday for religious reason.) Then, I started doing my own research online, reading educational books and going for courses to learn all I can about plant-based nutrition. I put all that I've learnt into practice. Personally, I found myself enjoying plant-based more and was actually looking forward to Fridays so that I can go meat-free. I fell in love of how my body felt whenever I go plant-based, it felt really refreshing, light and satisfying. Being well nourished with plants gives me a really uplifting feeling that keeps me grounded and positive. That was when I realised how we feel physically directly relates to how we feel emotionally.
The more I read, the more reasons I wanted to dive into Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet. It has never been so effortless to achieve such profound health benefits and below are some that I've gathered(1):
Benefits of WFPB:
Look and feel younger
Have more energy
Lower your blood cholesterol
Prevent and even reverse heart disease
Lower your risk of prostate, breast and other cancers
Preserve your eyesight in your later years
Prevent and treat diabetes
Avoid surgery in many instances
Vastly decrease the need for pharmaceutical drugs
Keep your bones strong
Prevent kidney stones
Keep your baby from getting type 1 diabetes
Lower your blood pressure
So, the most daunting question that I find myself explaining over and over again whenever I say I don't eat meat anymore...
"Where do you get your protein?"
This misunderstanding of how protein can only be obtain from meat is due to the lack of knowledge being exposed to the public of how our body digests protein. In fact, there are many compelling research that showed how plant protein, which allows for slow but steady synthesis of new protein, is the healthiest type of protein(2). Plants foods have dramatically more antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals than animal foods. Animal foods have much more cholesterol and fat, though they also have slightly more protein than plant foods, along with B12 and vitamin D - largely from milk (3)
Quoting Dr Dean Ornish who provided a really concise explanation:
"Protein is formed from building blocks called amino acids.. The amino acids that come from plant foods are exactly the same as the amino acids that come from animal foods. When you eat protein, whether from a T-bone steak or from a meal of rice and beans, that protein is digested into the individual amino acid building blocks.. In other words, the protein that comes from eating a T-bone steak is exactly the same quality as the protein that comes from a meal of rice and beans." (4)
Most of us don't realise that all fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds have protein in them. Some of them, such as beans, nuts, broccoli and spinach have more than others. When we eat a variety of whole, plant-based foods everyday, we don't have to worry about not getting enough of any three macronutrients - Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.
Food should be seen as a whole that comprises all different macronutrients, minerals and vitamins. Each individual nutrient found in different foods are specifically packaged together to create a certain reaction in your body that it deemed fit. This is nature at work. Listen to what your body needs. The beauty of this diet is that it is the natural diet for our species, and nature has packaged everything in these healthy foods in just the right quantities.
The next question I get really often...
"Are you sure you're getting enough protein from plants?"
By now you should realise protein is so overrated.
We believe that we need to eat far more protein that we really do need (Many thanks to the relentless marketing from the fitness industry). In general, the western diet is consuming excess protein - particularly animal protein. The fact is, as any qualified nutritionist can tell you, the type of food you eat is more important than the amount of protein you eat. If we can consume as much fruits and vegetables in ratio to how much we consume protein, would we still have as high obesity rates as we do now?
That being said, being WFPB diet is entirely my own choice that I make everyday because I love how good it makes me feel physically and emotionally. Generally, I don't restrict myself to any kind of food, I listen to what my gut tells me what it needs. Well, most the time my body just chooses plants over meat by itself and I adhere to it. At the end of the day, there is none other than our own body that knows best on what is needed in order to function at its highest form.
There are so much more information that I would love to share but I shall leave them to the next post then!
To end off, here are some fun facts about animal and plant proteins to quench your doubts :)
Photo Source Credit: @plantfueledstrength
All the love,
1. T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell. Eating Right: Eight Principles of Food and Health. The China Study, Revised and Expanded Edition. Dallas, BenBella Books, Inc, 2016; 217.
2. T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell, The China Study, 30-31
3. T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell. Eating Right: Eight Principles of Food and Health. The China Study, Revised and Expanded Edition. Dallas, BenBella Books, Inc, 2016; 223.
4. Ornish, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, 251