The moment I ‘Sprouted’ into a plant based individual (PBI) (somehow WFPB or Vegan didn’t fit my personal experience yet) I ran into strong opposition from friends and family who were uncomfortable with me making this change. If you are new to the plant world and have just ‘Sprouted’ yourself you have probably already run into this situation. But in the shockingly rare case that you may have not, let’s talk about how your food choices may start to affect those around you. Have faith in what you are doing and never apologize for wanting to learn more and do better for yourself and your family.
There are those who will feel threatened by your choice to pass on animal products. When you dive into this way of eating (WOE) the excitement and newness may make it hard to not shout the good news from the rooftops to everyone that may be in earshot, but as Sprouts that have gone before you let us embark a few words of advice.
Everyone's an expert on their own WOE. Talking about the way another person chooses to eat can be almost as potent as talking about politics or religion. What we choose to put in our bodies is intimate and powerful. When outside evidence comes up against a personal doctrine, the truth can be very hard to swallow. Because we have been feeding ourselves for such a long time we tend to give ourselves expert status in that area. Let’s consider this: our way of eating is just like tying our shoes, we know how to do it, we’ve been doing it forever. First we learned with two bunny loops, then the rabbit hole and perhaps a double knot. We have honed our technique over the years and though sometimes our shoelaces might get knots in them or come untied every now and then - we know what we are doing.
Now imagine someone comes along to tell us that tying our shoes is going to kill us and that we had better see the light and go back to wearing velcro. This may seem far fetched and ridiculous, but it goes even further than this example. When you start questioning the way you eat and the way your family eats and the way your children eat and how your parents fed you (it goes on and on) a bit of morality comes into play and feelings get sore. We try to avoid these controversies when we can and suggest keeping your whole food plant based (WFPB) journey to yourself when you can, always allowing others to come to you with their questions rather than parading your kale smoothie down the carpool line sidewalk.
When people do come to you with legitimate questions we recommend you share your passion for what you are doing and any positive results that you may have had so far. When you do get the question about protein you can confidently reassure your friends and family that you are getting enough of what you need.
The word protein has what industry likes to call a ‘halo’ effect - meaning it produces a reaction in the consumer that says ‘oh that’s good for me’. You can compare this tactic with other catchy marketing phrases such as ‘all natural’, ‘fat free’, ‘made with real fruit juice’ we could increase this list ad infinitum.
What you really need to know is that the human body doesn’t need protein per se, it needs amino acids, and plants contain all the amino acids that the body needs in order to function at its optimal level.
There are a total of 20 amino acids and each have a different chemical structure that dictates how they are used. These 20 amino acids are further divided into essential amino acids (meaning your body does not make them and needs to obtain them through food) and nonessential amino acids (referring to those that are manufactured in the body). Every plant has every amino acid present except for a select few that are lacking in one or two. By eating a varied plant based diet, the only way to be protein deficient is to be calorie deficient. Protein is incredibly important, yes, but it is so important that it is present in every single living thing. You can think of protein like air, if you are breathing comfortably then you can be assured that you are getting enough.
While some individuals may need slightly increased amounts of protein, like athletes for example, they just simply eat more food and thereby increase the amount of protein they take in. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of the population is not operating from a position of lack or deficiency when it comes to protein or food as a whole. We are existing in an unprecedented environment of over abundance and excess.
So perhaps the best way to explain it would be: where do cows get their protein? Or ox, or deer, or gorillas, or rhinoceros, or most of the dinosaurs!?! They get their protein from plants, not from meat, and humans can effectively achieve the same results.