Vegetarians, Vegans and Protein

If you are already eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, or if you are moving in that direction, then by simply eating enough food from a variety of sources (consuming sufficient calories for your energy needs), you will automatically be getting enough protein. Why? Because each and every plant food contains complete protein in varying amounts. Some plant foods, including broccoli, asparagus, bamboo shoots, and Brussels sprouts, are very high in protein. They contain a higher percentage of protein (as a percentage of total calories) than beef, milk or eggs. Whole hempseed (not the broken seeds sold in stores) is also a good source, containing 10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein per ounce (28 grams). Although many people are under the misconception that they need lots of protein to be healthy, in fact, high-protein diets have been linked to several health problems. Excess protein is broken down by the liver and excreted by the kidneys as urea. Urea acts as a diuretic, causing water and minerals to be lost from the kidneys. One of the most important minerals lost in this way is calcium, because to counteract the protein onslaught, calcium is pulled out of the bones. Calcium loss is related to osteoporosis – brittle bones that can break very easily. Osteoporosis affects more than a million Australians. Other problems associated with high protein diets include kidney stones, reduced kidney function, gout, arthritis, and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas, colon, rectum and uterus.

A flesh-based diet contains too much protein. A vegetarian/vegan diet is usually lower in protein, provided you are not overdoing protein-rich dairy products (vegetarians) or eating too many legumes. More than one meal a day of high-protein legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, can lead to protein overload, even in a vegetarian diet.

Rather than worrying about not getting enough protein, we should be more concerned about our source of protein. If coming from animal sources, not only are you getting too much, but you are also getting no fibre and no carbohydrate.

Meat is a decent source of iron, but vegetables are much better. Great sources of iron are green leafy vegetables, apricots, prunes, peaches, raisins, dates, legumes, nuts and grains, alfalfa sprouts, peas and pumpkin seeds. (Dried fruits and nuts, grains, seeds and legumes must be soaked first.)

 


 

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