When people find out I follow a plant based diet, there are usually questions. I'm sure I get the same questions any plant based eater gets about protein and calcium among other ones! I thought I'd list some of the questions I've gotten to help dispel the myths!
Many of these topics are complex and I don't want to give you a nutrition class here on my blog so I encourage everyone to research and seek out the knowledge on any topic you'd like additional information on.
Q: How do you get your protein?
A: This is the most common question I get besides the calcium question. The meat and dairy industries have very successfully gotten people to believe that the only way to get protein is to eat animal products. The truth is that protein is actually in almost ALL whole food we have available. Things like oils, vinegars, and sugars do not have protein. Fruit has some but not a lot. Veggies, beans, nuts, grains and seeds all have protein and their protein is good protein. Animal protein has saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones and disease causing agents. You need to ask yourself - how do cows get their protein? From plants!
Also, as humans we don't need as much protein as you may think and meat eaters eat three times as much protein as they need and almost all of it it the bad protein from animal sources. If you are following a plant based diet and you are eating enough calories and have a varied diet, it's nearly impossible to not meet your protein requirements.
I need about 45 grams a day. Here are some ways I get mine:
3 oz of Seitan - 31 grams
1/2 cup Tempeh - 20 grams
Veggie burger - 13 grams
4 oz Tofu - 11 grams
1/2 cup of lentils 9 grams
1/2 cup black beans - 7.5 grams
1/2 cup pinto beans - 6 grams
2 slices Whole wheat bread - 5 grams
1/2 cup Brown rice - 5 grams
1 cup cooked spinach - 5 grams
2 TBSP almond butter - 5 grams
1 cup cooked broccoli - 4 grams
6 oz potato - 4 grams
Q: How do you get your calcium?
A: Again, the dairy industry has done a great job and making you think that you need dairy products in order to get calcium. Not true. In fact, eating animal protein actually increases your osteoporosis risk because animal protein causes calcium to leech from your bones. Studies show that countries with the highest consumption of dairy products also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. You need to ask yourself - how do cows get their calcium? From plants!
The average adult needs 1000 mg of calcium a day. Calcium is found in dark leafy veggies, beans, nuts & seeds. I also take a supplement because it can't hurt!
Here are some plant ways to get calcium in.. amounts are for one cup:
Dark Leafy Greens
Cooked turnip greens (450 mg)
Cooked bok choy (330 mg)
Cooked collards (300)
Cooked kale (200 mg)
Navy beans (140 mg)
Soybeans (130 mg)
Pinto beans (100 mg)
Garbanzo beans (95 mg)
Lima and black beans (60 mg)
Nori (1200 mg)
Kombu (2100 mg)
Wakame (3500 mg)
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds (750 mg)
Hazelnuts (450 mg)
Walnuts (280 mg)
Sesame seeds, whole, unhulled (2100 mg)
Sunflower seeds (260 mg)
Fortified Cereals (up to 1000 mg)
Tofu made with calicum sulfate (1721 mg)
Calcium-fortified soy milk (approx 200 mg)
Orange juice fortified with calcium citrate, which has been found to be a BETTER source of calcium than cow milk! (up to 500 mg)
Q: How can you eat that weird and gross vegan food like tofu?
A: First of all, nothing I eat is weird or gross. The food I eat is all whole and amazing. Many people who think my food is weird or gross haven't even tried it so I can't really take them seriously. I love food and I love to eat. The food I eat is delicious and nourishing. I am not deprived and I am not missing anything.
I also wonder how meat eaters can think my diet of veggies, fruit, grains, beans and nuts is gross when they are the ones that eat muscle, veins, blood, pus, hormones, secretions, sea creatures and stuff that comes out of a chicken's vent (which is an opening for both egg laying and waste elimination in case you didn't know). I think that is pretty gross.
Secondly, I'm not sure people realize that tofu is simply soybeans. It is not some strange substance from another planet. I don't eat a ton of tofu but I like it. I don't live on tofu. I eat a varied diet of wonderful goodness!
Q: How can you bake without butter, eggs and milk?
A: I use things in place of those animal products. I use oils, vegan margarine, and nut milks. For eggs, it depends on what the egg function is in a recipe. You can sub in applesauce, pumpkin, bananas or beans, oils, Ener-G egg replacement, flax seed mixed into water.. there are a ton of things to do!
Q: Don't you need to eat meat and dairy to be healthy?
A: Absolutely not! More propaganda from the government and the meat and dairy industries. There is no medical or health reason to eat animal proteins of any kind. You can get everything you need from plant sources except B12.
Q: What about this B 12 thing I've heard about?
A: Neither plants nor animals make vitamin B12. Bacteria are responsible for producing vitamin B12. Animals become a source of B12 from eating contaminated foods. Humans need a daily amount of 2.4 mcg.. that is micrograms.. not even grams. It's a very small requirement. You can get it from a multi vitamin, 1 tsp of spirulina has 4 times the amount you need or by eating fortified foods like nutritional yeast (just 2 tsp is all if takes), cereals or nut milks. No big thing.
Q: How can you live without cheese?
A: I'm not addicted to it like you are. It's very easy for me to not eat cheese now that I know how bad it is for my health and now that I know what is actually IN cheese. It's pretty gross. Plus, I still have cheese-like foods. There are vegan cheese products that are good. I prefer to not eat them very often since they are processed and I consider them junk food but they are great for those in transition. I make cashew cheese and delicious cheesy quesos for nachos and I make mac & cheese! Nutritional yeast is great for creating a cheesy flavor in recipes.
Q: How can you live without pizza and ice cream?
A: I don't live without pizza! I love pizza. I just have it without cheese. When we go out I will order it cheeseless with extra sauce and lots of veggies! I like to sprinkle my vegan parmesan on top too! That recipe is here on my blog. As far as ice cream, I was never a huge ice cream eater but when I do want something like that, I enjoy sorbet most often. I also like a few of the nut milk and coconut milk ice creams on the market from Almond Dream and So Delicious. I just don't eat them that often. I also make banana ice cream or fresh fruit sorbet in my Vita Mix here at home.
Q: Are there any foods you miss eating?
A: Nope! I've been able to find a vegan version of anything I've ever wanted to eat.
Q: Isn't it more expensive to eat a plant based diet?
A: No. In fact, I have an entire blog entry about this topic. Click here.
Q: Don't you ever crave meat and dairy?
A: No. The best way for me to answer this is to use some wisdom I heard in a lecture by vegan author, Colleen Patrick- Goudreau. She says that no one actually craves meat or dairy products.. you crave the fat or the salt or the sugar or the texture. You crave a feeling certain food gives you - like comfort. That is true of any craving or desire you have where food is involved. If you truly craved meat you'd salivate at the sight of a cow in a field or a dead raccoon in the road.
Q: Why don't you eat dairy products and eggs? Animals aren't killed for eggs and milk.
A: Actually, they are. In many ways, the animals used in the egg and dairy industries are treated even worse than animals bred for slaughter alone. Dairy cows are forcibly raped to remain constantly pregnant because a cow doesn't produce milk unless it's pregnant (just like a human) and then its baby is stolen away because it can't be allowed to have its mothers milk if you want to drink it instead. Females are placed into the dairy industry while the males are tossed into a tiny crate to become veal. Cows cry for their stolen babies much like you would if your baby was stolen from you. Dairy products are full of fat, cholesterol, hormones, pus and blood so why would you even want to eat that?
Egg producing 'battery' chickens are forced to live in tiny cages no bigger than a piece of paper and often have to share that cage with one of more other chickens. Chickens are debeaked (yes, their beaks are actually sliced off) so that can't peck other chickens under the stress they are in. They are pumped full of hormones to increase their egg laying. Male chicks are useless so they are thrown away at birth. Most are ground up alive into feed used in the pet industry and very often fed back to the chickens in their feed. Wild chickens have a life span of 12 years, battery hens live 2 years before they are 'spent' and sent to slaughter to be eaten by you. Nice retirement.
The so called 'free range' and 'cage free' chickens are not what you think they are. They are not housed outdoors with grass and sunshine. They aren't roosting in nests and pecking lazily all day. They have free range in a very large pole barn. Some have access to a small outside area that they must share with thousands of other chickens. 'Free range' is no less cruel.
Even if you were to raise chickens for their eggs or for slaughter and you took exceptional care of them, the truth of the matter is that eggs and chicken flesh is not healthy for you. They contain lots of cholesterol and saturated fat. Plus, think about what an egg actually is - it's basically a chicken menstrual cycle.
Tofu isn't sounding so gross now, huh?