Posted on 20.09.2019 by Carol Anthony Plant-powered athlete and Nutritionist.
What does this mean, for you, your health and the planet? This Q&A will hopefully answer a few of the questions that are commonly asked when considering a Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) lifestyle. This is Part 1 in a series of articles that will help you to successfully and effortlessly transition to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Your journey to health and wellness starts here . . .
Q: What is a WFPB lifestyle?
A: A WFPB diet involves eating most plants and includes fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes, nuts and seeds which make up the bulk of your diet. It focusses on minimally processed, whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible. It limits, or completely eliminates, all animal protein. It is a lifestyle that is not only good for you and your body, but for the planet too.
Probably one of the most common concerns about a WFPB diet revolves around protein. In Part 1 of this series I will focus on this concern and hopefully put you mind at ease regarding the benefits of protein, how much protein we require daily and sources of plant protein.
Q: Why do we need protein in our diet?
A: Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients in our diet, along with carbohydrates and fats, and is an essential part of life. Protein is an important building block for muscles, cartilage, bones, skin and blood. It is an essential component of all cells and is required to build and repair tissue. The body uses protein to make enzymes and hormones. The body does not store protein, so we need a constant supply from our diet. Without protein, life as you know it would not be possible.
Q: How much protein do we need per day?
A: Despite a common belief, our bodies require relatively little protein in order to function optimally. However, the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight would only just be enough to prevent deficiency. Studies have shown that the optimal amount of daily protein intake is dependant on a number of factors including activity level, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.
An individual following a WFPB diet would need more in the region of 1g/kg body weight. The reason for this is that plant proteins are a little harder to digest than animal protein. For a 60kg women this would translate to 60g of protein per day. Athletes, however, require a little more. The harder you train, the higher your protein requirements are for effective recovery. A plant-based athlete or regular gym goer would require more in the region of 1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein/kg body weight, dependent on training intensity. Therefore, a 60kg athlete would require between 72g and 120g of protein per day.
Q: Where do I get my protein from, on a WFPB diet?
A: Protein can be consumed in countless ways, a shake, a bar, a solid meal, nut and seed milks. Some options are better for you, healthier and more efficient sources than others. Choose wisely, eat a varied diet and stick to unprocessed or minimally processed foods. A solid meal is always preferable, ensuring your protein intake, along with a balance of carbohydrates, good fats, fibre and micronutrients.
There are many complete plant proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids minus cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal protein. These plant foods include hemp, chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, soy and buckwheat. As the body cannot produce essential amino acids, a varied diet will ensure that you consume them in the desired quantities.
Protein is found in almost every plant but most abundantly in beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, rice and oats offer complementary amino acid profiles. These proteins offer massive health benefits as they are rich in protein and low-glycemic carbs which is essential for building lean muscle and burning excess body fat. Include a rainbow of vegetables and fruits and you will reach all your nutritional needs abundantly.
Q: What would a high protein plant-based meal look like?
A: A well balanced plant-based meal could be made up as follows, quantities would depend on the caloric needs of the individual.
A salad bowl would consist of the following well balanced ingredients:
Vegetables: eat the rainbow for taste, texture, colour and variety. Include radishes, red and yellow peppers, baby corn, asparagus, cucumber, carrots.
Leafy greens: add baby spinach, cos lettuce, rocket, basil, kale, romaine lettuce, coriander.
Beans or legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, peas.
Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, chia, hemp, sunflower.
Fruit: berries, avocado, tomatoes
Dressing: lemon and tahini dressing (See Recipes)
Topping: grilled tempeh, tofu.
To learn more about a Whole Food Plant-Based diet, book a consultation today. I will guide you as you transition to a plant-based diet, assist in planning your meals and support you in your journey to health and wellness. See options available in SERVICES.