Plant-Based & oh.so.happy

29 Wed, 2010 § 9 Comments

Just know I hate using the term “vegan”.  I hate defining my habits with a label — I hate labels in general.  Yes, it is less complicated in certain instances, like ordering at a restaurant; I simply despise restricting myself to the confines drawn by a label.

How I eat is not who I am.  True, my principles & ethics influence choices I make regarding food, as it should be.  Who I am should drive my actions, habits, choices, etc.  Not the other way.  Labels should not pretend to define our “character”.

People are often thrown off by my response when they ask about my eating habits:

I eat a whole food, plant-based diet & avoid sugar.


Seems like a mouthful when I could just slap a label on it.  It usually works out that I don’t though; people seem less defensive & turned off by this explanation.  How can they argue or take offense?  Whole foods?!  Lots of vegetables & fruit?!  Madness! 😉

Regardless of how I choose to explain, I am often cautioned to “be careful”.  Now is my turn to get defensive & take offense, right?  Not at all.  People care — at least I hope their concerns are brought on through caring — & I have met a fair share of people eating a “vegetarian” or “vegan” diet that is in no way healthier than a non-veg one.  Their concerns are legitimate.

Where DO I get vital nutrients like

Protein

Iron

Calcium

?

I do not mind at all explaining — I actually love talking food…if you have not picked up on it ;).  To quell any fears, I want to describe some excellent points & sources that I rely on.

PROTEIN

A common rebuttal in the vege-world is that people do not need as much protein as they think they need or consume.  This is indeed true for the average person with a minimal activity level.  As athletes though, we do need to make sure we are getting an adequate amount.  I can tell when I am not consuming enough protein: I do not feel satisfied, I lose strength, & I crave sweets & bread like crazy.  Focus a bit on my protein intake, & I immediately feel satisfied, energized & my cravings vanish.

Even more important than stressing over getting a lot of protein is focusing on the source & how easily my body can utilize it.  Easily digested whole foods are best.

The body does not utilize protein directly; it first converts it into amino acids which it then uses to regenerate cells [i.e. tissue repair].  The idea that we will become deficient if we do not eat “complete” proteins foods [those containing all essential amino acids which our bodies do not produce] is a misnomer.  Our bodies are incredibly brilliant & efficient.  As long as I provide the blocks, it will piece them together better than I ever could.  Eating a variety of protein-dense foods assures that I get a variety of amino acids since different sources contain varying aminos.  We can even speed regeneration by eating foods rich in amino acids, so the body does not use as much energy converting protein to amino acids.  Greens have the highest percentage of amino acids per ounce; because of their low weight, they need to be eaten daily to reap the full benefits though.

Some of my Favorite Protein Choices:

Legumes [high in amino acids], per cup [cooked]

  • Lentils [French are probably my current favorite]  18g
  • Adzuki  16g
  • Chickpeas  14g
  • Black  14g
  • Black-Eyed Peas  14g
  • Split Peas  16g

Seeds [high in amino acids]

  • especially Hemp [“complete”] 11g [per 3T]

Nuts [high in amino acids]

Pseudograins, per cup [cooked]

  • Amaranth  10g
  • Buckwheat Groats  7g
  • Quinoa [“complete”]  12g
  • Wild Rice  7g

Whole Grains

  • Barley, whole  8g
  • Brown Rice  4g – 8g
  • Oats  4g
  • Spelt  8g

Soy [I do not eat a lot of soy & generally stick to sprouted Tofu or fermented varieties like Tempeh]

Chlorella & Spirulina

Even Vegetables have protein & some Fruits, per cup [cooked]

  • Broccoli  4g
  • Leafy Greens
  • Pumpkin  2.7g
  • Sweet Potatoes 4g
  • Mulberries  5g [per 48g serving]

IRON

The form of Iron found in non-animal sources is not as easily absorbed by the body.  To increase absorption, simply eat with foods containing Vitamin C.

Great Choices to Maintain Happy Iron Levels:

Dark, Leafy Greens

Split Peas

Pumpkin seeds

Artichoke

Black Strap Molasses

“Double-Bang” ~ Iron – & – VitaminC – Rich Foods:

Apricots, dried

Asparagus

Broccoli

Brown Rice

Brussels Sprouts

Collard Greens

Dates

Kale

Millet

Mulberries

Oats

Prunes

Raisins

CALCIUM

It is actually thought that most cases of poor bone health & osteoporosis are not brought on by a lack of dietary calcium, but by stress & over-consumption of acid-forming [refine, processed] foods.  I won’t go into that now though.  We all understand calcium’s role in the body strengthening & repairing bone, but it is also hugely responsible for muscle contraction & ensuring a rhythmic heart beat.  Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones [95%], but the 5% left in the blood stream can be a key indicator of a decline in levels as you experience an irregular heart beat or muscle cramps during activity.  Some non-animal foods can have a calcium-absorption rate of 50-64% — double the rate of dairy.

Calcium-Rich Go-Tos:

Dark, Leafy Greens

Almonds

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Dates

Mulberries

Legumes

Sesame seeds, Tahini

If you exit this post with room for only two points in your mind, make it these:

Obviously, 1. eating a lot of dark, leafy greens is key.  Generally, I eat greens every day.  Get them anyway you can: steamed, in salads, disguised in Green Monsters, roasted as tasty kale chips, hidden in casseroles [Ashley’s Quinoa-Millet Casserole looks awesome], VOO & thick soups, etc.

2. Variety.  Eat a lot of different foods each day.  You know the whole “eat the colors of the rainbow” thing?  It’s true…AND it can be loads of fun.  Try a new vegetable every time you shop.  Experiment.  Be creative.

Check back tomorrow for a delicious, simple meal that covers the nutrient gamete in a single, savory dish.

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