Friday, October 8, 2010

Four Lessons from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: The Protein Myth

Vegans get plenty of protein! Protein is found in everything we eat! The average American eats twice the recommended amount of protein, which is only 50 grams per day, or approximately 10% of your day’s calories. This recommendation itself is an overestimate to ensure there is absolutely no protein deficiency. Patrick-Goudreau made her point succinctly asking, “Have you ever heard of heart disease? Cancer? Diabetes? Osteoporosis? Kwashiorkor?” You are not alone if you had to Wikipedia that last one. Kwashiorkor is the official name for protein deficiency, and the reason most people don’t know that is because no one they have ever met suffers from it. Not even vegans. It is the result of severe acute malnutrition, and it is beyond rare in developed countries. Most people are aware of the common plant based proteins: tofu, tempeh, seitan, and legumes like beans and nuts and seeds. But, I was amazed at how many unexpected foods contain protein, like lima beans, quinoa, bagels, peas, spaghetti, bulgur, whole wheat bread, brown rice, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes to name a few! The most insightful thing Patrick-Goudreau pointed out to me was the absurdity of eating animal flesh in order to get protein, when even those animals get their protein from plants. Chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, lambs, and goats are ALL vegetarian. None of these animals that we consider so essential to our protein obtainment eat other animals. So where did we get this idea that we need to eat the flesh and products of other animals in order to get “enough protein”? The answer really boils down to, because we feel like it. Animal products taste good, so we like to eat them. But please don’t confuse that with the idea that we need to eat them.  

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