Throwback Thursday: Going Vegetarian

In last week’s edition of What’s the Message? Podcast, Dr. Milton Mills gave us so much to think about concerning drastically improving our health and, in some cases, even taking steps toward curing some diseases through plant-based living. We will extend the conversation one more week by sharing one of our classic Q/A columns from the Message Vault. -Online Content Manager

I never thought about becoming a vegetarian until my husband suggested it. Well, we both are going to take the leap together as I learn to cook without meat products. My only fear is not getting enough protein in our diet because we are both active. How will we get enough protein?

Dear Kathy,

Congratulations on your decision to become a vegetarian. There are at least four different types of vegetarian diet groups:

  1. The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet avoids meat but includes dairy products and eggs.
  2. The lactovegetarian diet avoids eggs and meat but uses dairy products.
  3. The macrobiotic diet uses whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes and occasionally includes white meat and fish.
  4. The vegan diet excludes meat, fish, fowl, and all animal products, such as eggs and all milk products. It uses whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Judging from your question, I believe you have chosen to adopt the vegan diet.

The quality of protein in a diet depends on its type of essential elements (amino acids) and how easily it is digested. A complete protein has all nine essential amino acids. The common misconception is that meat is the only whole protein source with all of the nine essential amino acids. The conclusion is then reached that any other source of protein is inadequate to meet the requirement of an active or growing individual. This, of course, is far from the truth. Some plant-based foods, such as soybeans, have similar quality of protein as meat. They are also easily digestible. Other plant food may lack one essential amino acid, while other plants may, more specifically, lack a different essential amino acid. Combining two plant-based food sources (such as legumes and grains) will more than adequately supply one’s nutritional requirement in most situations.

Plant-based foods such as whole grains contain a high level of protein. Quinoa is well known to have all of the essential amino acids in this group. Brown rice is also in this group. Beans of all kinds (soy, black beans, peas, etc.) are also sources high in protein. Legumes and lentils are in this group. Soybeans are the most widely known for this purpose. Seeds and nuts, such as walnuts, peanuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds, have high protein and high-fat content.

Obviously, by combining the natural or plant-based products appropriately, one can get enough protein in a vegetarian diet required for healthy living and growth.

Originally published in Message Magazine’s July/August 2012 Edition by Muyiwa Adedokun, M.D.

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