- Dr. David Alfaro
Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat.
My morning routine usually includes having a yummy espresso whilst catching up on my social media feeds. A favourite page of mine is The Peak 102.7, because they are totally the best. But earlier this week they posted something that I had to blink twice at:
A stuffed squash pretending to be Turducken. Whaatt?? No.
They posted a recipe for a stuffed gourd and people were actually comparing this squash to the culinary delicacy of three yummy creature carcassess wrapped in a tight embrace and roasted to perfection. The comment section was full of people gushing and gushing over it. "OMG looks so good. I am totally gonna make it." "Too bad it isn't vegan!".....YEA! Let's make this EVEN WORSE.
Ok, I am overreacting; that did look pretty damn yummy.....but...as a side dish. A meal needs to have protein, and vegetarians just don't get enough.
Let us talk about vegetarian protein sources.
Why is protein important?
When people think of the role of dietary protein in human metabolism, they usually think of muscle building. Dietary protein, however, is much more important than that. Proteins are comprised of smaller amino acids, some of which the body can make on its own, and some that must be obtained from food.
These amino acids are used not only to build muscle, but make up the enzymes that fuel important reactions involved in immunity, cognition, energy metabolism, catabolism and anabolism.....pretty much every process in your body.
A diet that includes complete proteins is extremely important.
How much protein should we consume?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein, per kilogram of body weight, per day, depending on the type and intensity of exercise you are doing. Yes, these values are for athletes, but if you want to be healthy, you need to exercise, so these values should apply to everyone.
Read: ACSM dietary guidelines
If you have not poked around their website, do it! It is full of awesome, research-based information for athletes. http://www.acsm.org/
What about vegetarian sources of protein?
Vegetarians and vegans are avoiding one of the easiest ways to get complete proteins in a nutritionally dense format: animal meat.
Yea, I get it. They are cute. They suffer. They have feelings. But talk about a first class problem; most people in the world are starving!
The internet is littered with articles that flaunt the latest vegetarian protein trends. This article even includes cocoa powder as a protein source:
Really?? Cocoa? Comon.
Let's use me as an example to see how these "power proteins" stand up.
Me: 85 kg. Chubby. Exercises moderately. Let's pick right in the middle of the range, so 1.5 g/kg/day.
85 kg x 1.5 g/kg/day= 127.5 g of protein a day.
I have no doubt that I can eat 127.5 grams of protein a day on a vegetarian diet. It is possible, but what I want to see is exactly how much food is that going to be? People always post pictures of vegetarian weightlifters and endurance athletes, and even gorillas, saying stuff like, "powered by vegetables". Yea, they can be, but they probably eat thousands and thousands of calories a day. A regular human would become obese on that diet.
To make things easy to read, I have put things in a table format, using information from one of my favourite websites, http://nutritiondata.self.com/. This table illustrates how much food and how many calories I would have to consume to meet my 127.5 g of protein daily goal.
Now please look at this data seriously. If I was a vegetarian, I would have to be consuming RIDICULOUS amounts of food to nourish myself. 16 cups of quinoa? 10 venti soy milks? Enough chia to send me to the toilet for a year.
That would only be ok if I was training hard, every day, burning thousands and thousands of calories, much like a professional endurance athlete or gorilla would be.
But I am not. I am a regular human.
Furthermore, most of these vegetarian proteins are great sources of dietary fibre, which is awesome in moderation. You guys would not want to be around me if I pounded almost 9 cups of beans per day.
But then look at chicken. That is reasonable. I can easily have a chicken breast at lunch, and another a dinner, then sprinkle in a couple of other protein sources throughout the day, and EASILY and COMFORTABLY, attain my goals.
It is simply not possible to have a balanced diet and meet your protein goals on a strictly vegetarian mealplan. If you try to, you will be sky high in fibre, carbohydrates and calories, and will be farting up a storm. Yea, go and take a hot yoga class when you have the trots from eating 6 times the daily requirement of fibre. Not recommended.
Thanks for reading!
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