The typical adult requires 20-30g of protein at each meal. As children, we are taught to “eat the rainbow”—vegetables. We use multiple forms of carbohydrate such as cereal, potato, rice, pasta, bread, corn or grains. Yet somehow protein divides us. Vegetarians refuse animal proteins, and meat eaters have a primal response to the suggestion of a “meatless meal.”
There is no perfect protein. Every food – no matter the macronutrient – has a benefit and a risk. Red meat, while high in protein and iron, increases cardiovascular mortality when eaten in quantities greater than 3oz - 3 times per week. Fish contain omega-3 and healthy fats but there’s a risk of toxic levels of mercury when consumed too much. Chicken and poultry, great sources of protein, can lead to mineral deficiencies if they are the SOLE source of protein in one’s diet.
IMAGE: PLANT-BASED FOODS
Plant-based proteins like legumes (beans and peas), soy, seeds and nuts add protein and antioxidants, fiber and nutrient density to help control inflammation, blood sugar and blood pressure. Their inclusion on a daily basis helps to keep the digestive system happy and healthy, properly processing each nutrient to create a perfect symphony of nutrient utilization.
Adding foods like pistachios, lentils, sprouted breads, soy milk and even tofu can complete the circle of nutrients that are lacking in a strictly animal-based diet. The increased fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals help to decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and have been shown to decrease reliance on prescription drugs.
Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says, "For heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods, and it's possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet.”
No need for the all-or-nothing approach, just baby steps, one at a time. Small changes can have a large ripple effect to achieve longer and richer lives. Below is an example of a balanced menu for a day:
FACTOID: BEST COME TOGETHER GIF; MESSAGE: When the best come together – protein, B vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and healthy fats – real powerhouses are created.