5 Reasons You Can Stop Pursuing Protein and Start Focusing on Food

Protein panic portends to prevail amongst the vast majority of the population. During this persistent quest for “enough” of this magical macronutrient, priorities shift away from seeking wholesome foods and, simultaneously, a phobia of the other two macronutrients – carbohydrates and fats – ensues.

Here are 5 reasons you can stop pursuing protein and start focusing on food:

PBD Food Guide Pyramid1. Protein is not a food group. It is one of three macronutrients essential in our diet. All whole, intact foods contain some ratio of protein, carbs, and fats. If you eat a wide range of whole plant foods, including about three servings (1 to 1.5 cups) of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soy foods) a day, you can easily meet your protein needs.

2. We only need approximately 10 to 15 percent of our calories to come from protein. The average woman needs about 46 grams per day and the average man, 56 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. This can also be looked at in grams per kilogram bodyweight per day (g/kg/d), which looks like this by age*:

  • 1.5 g/kg/day for infants,
  • 1.1 g/kg/day for 1-3 y
  • 0.95 g/kg/day for 4-13 y
  • 0.85 g/kg/day for 14-18 y
  • 0.8 g /kg/day for adults >19 y
  • 1.1 g/kg/day for pregnant (using pre-pregnancy weight) and lactating women

*To find out how much you need, simply divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2 and multiply the result by the recommended number based on your age. For example, an 120 pound 22 year-old adult needs approximately 44 grams of protein per day (or 120/2.2 = 54.5 kg x 0.8 g/kg/d = 44 g).

Protein vs Fiber3. Just because something is good, doesn’t mean more is better. It is estimated that the average American consumes approximately twice the RDA for protein. High protein intake – especially from animal sources – may accelerate kidney disease progression and may promote chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

4. You can find plenty of protein in plants…and packaged better than in animal products. Here are just some of the plant-based protein superstars and the amount of protein they contain per cup:

  • excellentsourcesofveganprotein-VS—All beans (10-29 g)
  • —All seeds (24-58 g)
  • —Nuts/nut butters (20-64 g)
  • —Tofu (11 g/4 oz)
  • —Tempeh (41 g)
  • —Seitan (31 g/3 oz)
  • —Peas (9 g)
  • —Lentils (18 g)
  • —Soy milk (7 g)
  • —Spinach (5 g)
  • —Broccoli (4 g)
  • —Pasta (8 g)
  • —Brown rice (5 g)
  • —Quinoa (9 g)
  • —Veggie burger (13 g)


Vegan & Strong5. Athletes may need additional protein, but that is accomplished by increasing overall caloric intake, which is easily done due to the increased appetite that naturally comes along with added energy expenditure. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2-1.4 grams protein/kg bodyweight/day for endurance athletes and 1.6-1.7 g/kg/day for strength athletes. But we know there are plenty of vegan athletes who prove protein needs can be proffered by plants. For inspiration, here is my interview of Derek Tresize on What Would Julieanna Do? and you can visit VeganBodyBuilding.com, Vegan Muscle and Fitness, and this recent article by Huffington Post.

So, fret not. Eat plenty of legumes and ample calories to meet your needs and you can stop pursuing protein and start focusing on finding and enjoying wholesome, nutrient-dense, health-promoting plant foods…


Pick Proper Packaging: Why the Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

You are quite literally what you eat. And there are dramatic differences between the nourishment you receive from whole plant foods and that in which you receive from animal products…



Vegiterranean Diet CoverHere is an excerpt from my book, The Vegiterranean Diet:

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t eat isolated nutrients. We are not filling our plates with some protein, a side of carbohydrates, and a sprinkle of healthy fats. Instead, we are eating a vast biochemical symphony, built by nature, for nature, in order to function optimally. Nothing represents synergy as clearly as the consumption of whole plant foods. Nutritionism is the belief system that qualifies food based on its individual components. It disregards synergy and the additive effects of a combination of nutrients in one whole food. It ignores the exponentially enhanced value of the interactions between multiple parts and their exchanges within the human body’s intricacies. It is the reason people identify their diets as “low fat” or “low carb” or “high protein,” even though these diets have not been shown to be the end-all, be-all of ideal eating. It is also the reason that processed food items can be touted as healthy because they only have a certain number of calories or fat grams per serving and are sprayed with a synthetic vitamin to meet the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, for example, despite the fact that they may merely be composed of white flour, white sugar, salt, and multiple chemicals. It is one of the most pressing reasons why, with the thousands of diet fads out there, populations in general are gaining weight and infected by disease, as opposed to building a relationship with real food and connecting it to their lives. We are ostracized from real food when we are specifically seeking out certain nutrients and are dependent upon the nutrition facts label. Labels do not discern between two antithetical foods: an enriched product that was once an intact food, having had its original parts stripped away and then having other ingredients added to boost flavor, texture, and/or shelf-stability versus a real, complete food that had those nutrients in it originally. Although the label may not distinguish between real foods and lab-made foods, our bodies cannot be fooled.

So what’s in a package? One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to compare 500 calories of plant-based foods to 500 calories of animal-based foods. This chart is from The China Study, titled “Nutrient Composition of Plant and Animal-Based Foods (Per 500 Calories of Energy).” It uses the USDA Nutrient Database and an article on carotenoids since the database does not yet include phytochemicals. The plant-based foods are made up of equal parts of tomatoes, spinach, lima beans, peas, and potatoes, and the animal-based foods are made up of equal parts of beef, pork, chicken, and whole milk:

500 Kcals Plants vs. Animals

Plant foods also contain hundreds to thousands of different phytochemicals, which are not considered essential but are perhaps the most effective nutrients at fighting disease (see below). Truth is, our knowledge of phytochemicals is expanding rapidly, as new ones are discovered regularly and their functions and roles in the human body are expanding exponentially. Hence we need to look at the complete picture. A lot more is going on within those foods than meets the microscope. If you compare these two nutrient profiles in the preceding chart, it is clear that both what the plants have AND what they do not have in them are what make them so spectacular. Essentially, the large database of nutrition science consistently shows that the healthiest type of food pattern includes a high intake of fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, as well as a minimization or elimination of saturated fats and processed foods.

In other words, both what we eat as well as what we do not eat provide the basis for the quality of our overall diet. For the same 500 calories, a meal may be rich in health-promoting nutrients, as well as devoid of all the unwanted ones. So while choosing foods, the packaging must be considered. Both options contain about the same amount of protein, but the plants also contain fiber, significantly more beta-carotene and other phytochemicals, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, and iron. Plants have zero cholesterol and a better fatty acid profile. Being particular and picking plantastic packages pays off.


9 Tips for A Healthy and Safe Summer

Heat---dog-memeIt’s hot. Crazy hot. And high levels of heat can be wearing and tough on your body.

Here are 9 tips to stay healthy and safe this summer:

1. Hydrate with food. Fruits and veggies are filled with water and can contribute to your total water intake. This is why salads are more appealing during the summer. Enjoy fresh fruit whole, as fruit kebabs, green smoothies, and green juices. Vamp up veggies as crudite with hummus, artichoke or other dip, huge shock n’ awe salads, in green smoothies and juices, cold soups and gazpachos, and even on the grill (over a bed of cool, fresh greens, especially). Frozen whole fruit and veggies sorbets and popsicles can be a refreshing treat in the middle of a hot day.

Healthy Hydration2. Drink up. Drink approximately half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, drink at least 65 ounces of water daily. Add more for exercise and even more for time spent outdoors or in hot areas. If you exercise for over 90 minutes, use an electrolyte beverage. My top choice is coconut water or this delicious, refreshing DIY sports beverage recipe: http://bit.ly/1aC0aCb

3. Avoid dehydrators. Not the equipment, but compounds that act as diuretics, leaving you with less liquid than you take in. Caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications act as diuretics and push out more water from your body. Compensate with extra water or even coconut water to replenish those losses.

4. Mind the sun. We need some sun for vitamin D production, but excessive exposure, of course, can promote certain skin cancers and dehydration. Try to schedule outdoor activities early in the morning or late afternoon (before 10am and after 3pm) if you will be out for prolonged periods. Wear a hat to protect your scalp and sunglasses to keep your eyes safe. Clothes can protect your skin as can a safe sunscreen. Seek out shade and avoid getting burned. See this Environmental Working Group’s 2015 list of safe sunscreens: http://bit.ly/1Lfsv63

5. Stay cool with water. Baths, showers, and swimming bring down body temperatures. Of course, monitor kids to make sure they are always safe. Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and 3 children die every day as a result of drowning.

6. Wear light, breathable, cozy clothing that cover the skin without being too tight or restraining.

7. Emphasize cook-free meals instead of turning on ovens and stoves, which escalate the temps in your home (see recipe ideas below).

8. Do not leave kids or pets in the car. Even with the windows rolled down. Even for a few minutes. Heat rises quickly and dramatically and can be extremely dangerous and fatal after even just a brief stint.

travel food9. Traveling? Here are 3 healthy travel tips and foods that travel well.


Resources and Recipes
U.S. National Weather Service (NWS)’s Summer Weather Safety and Survival
CDC’s Make Summer Safe for Kids
Vitamin D
Nava Atlas’s VegKitchen.com’s No-Cook Meals for Hot Summer Days
4 More Reasons to Love Veggies and 8 Ways to Bring Them On!
U.S. News Health’s The 10 Best Ways to Hydrate That Don’t Involve Water
Oh My Veggies’ 20 No-Cook Vegetarian Meals for Hot Summer Days
Oh She Glows’ No Bake Recipes

Three Things to Know About Omega-3 Fats

Plants for the Win for Omega-3 Fats!

Somehow, the recommendation to “eat less meat” has translated into a message to “focus on fish.” Touted for their omega-3 fats, fish has become considered the “healthy” meat. Yet, fish are among our greatest source for environmental contaminants including the heavy metals mercury, lead, and cadmium; industrial pollutants such as dioxins, PCB’s and DDT; and even likely radioactive molecules. Further, we are overfishing our oceans so much that experts believe the world’s stocks of seafood will run out by the year 2050! Fortunately, you don’t need to eat fish to attain omega-3 fats. Instead you can get them directly from where the fish do…from plants!

VS 3 things to know about Omega 3

Here are 4 ways to optimize your intake of omega-3 fats:

1. Double the RDA of ALA. ALA stands for “alpha-linolenic acid,” the form of omega-3 fats that converts to the longer chain versions our bodies also need, EPA and DHA. To ensure proper conversion in the body, women should aim for at least 2.2 grams per day and men should strive for 3.2 grams per day of ALA.

2. Savor seeds, soy, and walnuts. Consume about 2 tablespoons per day of chia seeds, flaxseeds, or hempseeds by throwing them into a smoothie, oatmeal, or salad. Whip up a chia pudding or use chia or flax to make a healthy egg substitute in baking. Soy foods such as edamame and soy milk also contain some omega-3 fats. A quarter cup of walnuts is about a day’s worth for women (men need a bit more). Here are some great recipes to try.

3. Favoritize fats. Opt for whole food fats over oils and highly processed foods to make sure you are balancing your fatty acids.

4. Opt for microalgae over fish oil supps. Fish oil supplements do not work to keep you healthy, as per these recent studies (here and here). If you are concerned about taking in adequate omega-3’s, you can take a vegan microalgae formula two to three times per week.

Omega-3 Fats
Why I Recommend Avoiding Fish
The Telegraph’s All seafood will run out in 2050, say scientists
NutritionFacts.org on Omega-3s
Vegan Outreach’s Omega-3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians
Comfortably Unaware’s Fish Facade
One example of a microalgae formula                                                                         The Huffington Post’s Omega 3’s: 8 Veg Ways To Sneak More Into Your Diet      One Green Planet’s 10 Healthy Vegan Omega 3-Rich Recipes


Three Things to Know About Iron Absorption

Iron may be the most abundant mineral on the planet, but it is also the most common and widespread nutritional deficiency in the world.

Here are Three Things To Know about iron absorption….in collaboration with Vegan Street

VS 3 things-ironabsorption

Although you may take in plenty of iron, absorption may be impaired by the intake of phytates, tannic acid found in tea, calcium in dairy, fiber, polyphenols in coffee and tea, and even some spices.

Avoiding this is possible by:
*Aiming to consume 1.8 times the RDA (here is how much you need)
*Trying to consume iron-rich foods separately from these nutrients as much as possible
*Combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods

Excellent sources of iron include: leafy greens, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), soy foods (especially tempeh and tofu), quinoa, brown rice, tahini, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, and apricots.

Enjoy together with vitamin C-rich foods to improve absorption, such as papaya, pineapple, citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Some suggestions for super iron absorption combos:

Green smoothie with leafy greens and fruit, like my favorite Spicy Tropical Greens recipe 
Salad greens with tomatoes or bell peppers and a tahini dressing
Bean chili with tomato sauce

NutritionFacts.org​ on iron
The Vegetarian Resource Group​’s Iron in the Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Nutrition​’s Iron in Vegetarian Diets
5 Ways to Enhance Nutrient Absorption
MedlinePlus​ on Iron Deficiency
Care2​’s 12 Top Vegan Iron Sources
World’s Healthiest Foods on Vitamin C

*Graphic by Vegan Street​

Three Things to Know About Bone Health

Bone health…an issue that many of us take for granted until, perhaps, it is too late.

54 million U.S. adults age 50 and older (a large chunk of the population) are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass.

Here are Three Things To Know about bone health….in collaboration with Vegan Street

VS 3 things-bonehealth

5 Ways to Optimize Bone Health
National Osteoporosis Foundation’s 54 Million Americans Affected by Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mass
NutritionFacts.org on Bone Health
Why and How to Ditch Dairy
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s How to Get Calcium into Your Bones
The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Preventing Osteoporosis


4 Reasons Vegan is the Hottest, Most Important Food Trend Today

VS TrendsHere are 4 reasons why vegan is the hottest, most important trend in food today:

  1. Millennials – the generation born between 1981 and 1997 – are projected to surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation this year. Millennials are considered the “tastemakers in food,” and they happen to be socially conscious and concerned with choosing healthier, natural, eco-friendly, more compassionate food options. In fact, 12% of Millennials are “faithful vegetarians.” 
  2. Not only are vegans reaching for vegan food options, but there is a rise in Flexitarians. At least 36% of Americans are consuming meat and dairy alternatives, both for health and ethical reasons.
  3. Retail sales of vegan products rose 6.3% in the past year. Plant-based meats, cheeses, and other products are getting more and more delicious, accessible, and healthier, showing that the food industry is rising to consumer demand…and that the public is eating it up. Literally.
  4. The number one most effective action we can all take to reduce healthcare costs, slow the imminent depletion and destruction of the planet, and stop the horrific treatment of animals raised for food is simply to eat more plants and less – or no – animal products.


Dietary Cholesterol in the News

In the news is yet another powerful argument against reductionism or nutritionism…aka vilifying or glorifying one specific nutrient and ignoring the entire packaging of the food within which it is contained.

VS CholesterolAs the USDA ramps up to set the latest 2015 Dietary Guidelines, as they do every five years, a very interesting – and somewhat surprising – nuance emerged from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. They are considering withdrawing longstanding warnings about dietary cholesterol. Apparently, there is controversial evidence on whether dietary cholesterol directly impacts blood cholesterol levels. As of now, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day, which is just about the amount found in a single egg. Marion Nestle hypothesizes whether perhaps egg industry-funded research may play a role in this possible decision.

PCRM Fat and CholesterolDr. Neal Barnard clarifies the confusion of all of this in this blogpost, reminding us why “fat and cholesterol are the Bonnie and Clyde of the culinary world.” He reiterates that “bad” fat and cholesterol are as bad for you as ever. The products that harbor them—meat, dairy products, and eggs—are best left off your plate. People following plant-based diets have healthier body weight, better cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and much less risk of diabetes.

Dr. John McDougall wrote this excellent breakdown in his newsletter (and I quote):

Significant amounts of cholesterol are found only in animal foods. Plants (starches, vegetables, and fruits) are “cholesterol-free” foods.

The problem is “the animal foods” – blaming individual components (i.e. cholesterol) is a risky business:

500 Kcals Plants vs. AnimalsIn common, animal foods (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and seafood) are:
High in fat and/or high in protein
Contain no dietary fiber
Contain no energy giving carbohydrate (mammal milk is the exception)
High in environmental contaminants (POP)
Transmitters of microbes (zoonosis) – bacteria, viruses, parasites, prions
Expensive (money) sources of calories

Meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are:
Deficient in essential fats (omega 3 and omega 6)
Deficient in vitamin C
A (the) major source of global warming gasses and environmental damage (land and water)
Loaded with allergens that cause autoimmune diseases through molecular mimicry
Meat, poultry, and fish are deficient in calcium and dairy is deficient in iron

*Deficient means that they are unable to meet dietary needs of children and adults

SynergyIn my new book, The Vegiterranean Diet, one of the Veg 10 guidelines includes “Pick Proper Packaging.” To sum up what that means, nutrients come wrapped up with hundreds or thousands of other nutrients and they work synergistically together to nourish your body when consumed. This is why isolating a single nutrient into a supplement is either ineffective when compared to eating intact foods or can even be dangerous because it behaves differently than it does in its natural format.

Ultimately, it remains the case that we need to focus on the overall packaging of food and totality of the diet, and heed attention to the preponderance of scientific data (despite how certain facts seem to ebb and flow with new information) in order to really gauge health-promoting dietary choices.


—>Washington Post’s The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol 

—>Time’s Cholesterol Is Not a ‘Nutrient of Concern, Report Says’

—>Dietary Guidelines, Cholesterol, Something Old & Something New 

—>7 Reasons the USDA Should Go Meatless With Their New Dietary Recommendations 

—>Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson’s Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition

6 Ways To Strengthen Immunity

VS Caught a ColdA vegan diet has been shown to reduce your risk for many chronic illnesses and many people report a reduced incidence of viruses and other common bugs. However, it is not foolproof. Vegans are human. Vegans get sick, too.

Here are 6 ways to strengthen immunity:

1.Exercise. The lymphatic system is perpetuated and stimulated by movement. Contracting muscles via exercise and moving around helps circulate lymph fluid which removes toxins, provides nutrients, and encourage optimal immune function. (link)

simplereminders.com-everyday-detox-withtext-displayres2. Minimize toxin exposure. Toxins are everywhere…in our water, air, food, household and body care products…everywhere. The best we can do is avoid chemical exposures by doing our best to choose wholesome foods, drink purified water, and avoid chemicals in our household and body products whenever possible. Use healthy houseplants that absorb toxins, opt for essential oils for antimicrobial purposes, and get as close to nature with anything that you use. (link)

3. Hone in on hygiene. It’s no secret that germs cause warfare when given any opportunity. Give your immune system a break by washing your hands often – especially before eating and after using the restroom (yes, some people still forget that…as shocking as that is) – and avoid touching your face or any of its many orifices. (link)

Rainbow nutrients4. Load up on antioxidants and immune-enhancing phytochemicals. You are what you eat. Literally. So douse your body in a constant stream of immune-boosting nutrients naturally found in whole plant foods (there by nature to protect themselves, but generously able to protect you, too). (link)

5. Adequate rest and stress management. Nothing’s better than a good night’s sleep….as the saying goes. Truly, adequate rest and effectively managing stress is infinite in its immune-enhancing advantages. (link)

6. Keep your native bacteria happy. Your gut flora play a significant role in immunity. Feast on healthy fiber and probiotics to feed those good bacteria to help ward off the pathogenic (aka dangerous, illness-causing) microbes. (link)

—>MedlinePlus​’ Immune Response
—>Breast Cancer Can Strike a WFPB Diet Follower
—>FatFreeVegan.com​’s My Unexpected Diagnosis
—>Preventing and Reversing Disease with Plant-Based Diets
—>PerezHilton.com​’s Detox Your Skin
—>PubMed Health​ Immune Function and Exercise
—>NutritionFacts.org​ on Immunity
—>Joel Fuhrman, M.D.​ on What Would Julieanna Do?
—>Z Living​’s Immunity Boosting Corn Chowder
—>Holistic Health Naturally​’s 26 House Plants That Detox The Air In Your Home Naturally

*Graphic by Vegan Sidekick​

4 More Reasons to Love Veggies and 8 Ways to Bring Them On!

Steamed Vegetables via NBWhy:

1. Vegetables are the least calorically-dense foods on the planet. Typically, they range between 14 calories per 100 grams (as in iceberg lettuce) to 86 calories per 100 grams (as in a sweet potato). This is versus the most calorie-dense foods like nuts, which have about 500-600 calories per 100 grams, and oils, which have about 880 calories per 100 grams.

2. Vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups on the planet. Per calorie, vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fibers…many of which are not so readily available elsewhere….think folate, potassium, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyantes. And the list goes on and on…and on and on…

3. Vegetables contain disease-fighting power like no other food group….high vegetable intake has been shown to lower risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and to improve gastrointestinal health and vision.

4. Everyone agrees that we need to eat more vegetables….including – but not limited to – the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, American Institute for Cancer Research – AICR, World Health Organization (WHO), etc.

Rainbow nutrientsHow:

1. Start your day with fruit, a green smoothie, or a green juice.
2. Eat all of your meals on a bed of salad or cooked vegetables.
3. Begin most meals with soup or salad.
4. Add plenty of veggies to every dish you cook or prepare, on sandwiches, in wraps, stir-fries, casseroles, etc.
5. Eat your fruits and/or vegetables before anything else to fill up faster and ensure you get them in.
6. Pick fruits and veggies that you enjoy and prepare them how you love to eat them.
7. Visit a farmer’s market or join a CSA to promote regular accessibility to fresh, local, and seasonal produce.
8. Place veggies at the center of the plate and focus on a rainbow array of colors…use a leafy green or sea vegetable as bread or a bun, make a veggie burger out of different veggies (mushrooms, beets, cauliflower, etc.), or make a gorgeous stir-fry…

10 servings fruits & veggiesResources:

—>USDA Food & Nutrition Service Nutrient Database

—>How and why to eat at least 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

—>The Kitchn’s Here are Pictures of Your Daily Recommended Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

—>Eat a Rainbow

—>5 Ways To Enhance Nutrient Absorption

—>UC Davis Nutrition and Health Info Sheet on Phytochemicals

—>Harvard University’s School of Public Health on Vegetables and Fruits

PBD Food Plate—>USDA’s MyPlate Vegetables

—>Plant-Based Food Pyramid and Plate

—> NutritionFacts.org’s benefits of vegetables & fruits: here, here, here

—>AICR’s Food that Fight Cancer

—>CDC’s Strategies to Increase Consumption of Fruits & Vegetables

—>Juicing vs. Blending

—>How to Make Plant-Based Super Simple

—>One Green Planet’s 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With

—>For more information on my nutrition counseling services

*Steamed veggies cartoon via Neal Barnard, M.D.

*Picture from The Kitchn