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Plant-Based Goes Mainstream October is Vegetarian Awareness Month

 Garner Healthy Living Everyday October 07, 2014

By Judith Garner, Garner Healthy Living Everyday

A plant-based diet is based on an assortment of vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, and fruits with modest amounts of fish, lean meats and low-fat dairy or no animal products including dairy. Data in a 2008 “Vegetarianism in America” study, published by Vegetarian Times, shows that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet; 22.8 million more say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet; and of the non-vegetarians surveyed, 11.9 million people are “definitely interested” in following a vegetarian-based diet in the future.

Improving health and environment are the two most common reasons why people are motivated to go vegetarian. Concern for animals is deeply seeded and also another reason. Animal rights supporters simply feel that it is morally indefensible to inhumanely house animals in factory farms or kill animals for food.

Various Types of Vegetarianism

  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: Eats eggs, milk, and dairy product in addition to plant-based foods.
  • Lacto Vegetarian: Consumes milk products, but no eggs.
  • Pescatarian: Consumes fish and other seafood, in addition to dairy and eggs.
  • Vegan: Eats only plant-based foods. No meat, fish, dairy, eggs, cheese, or honey.
  • Flexatarian: Semi-vegetarian. Eats meat occasionally in small amounts, but derives the bulk of calories from plants.
The Healthy Vegetarian Diet
The conservative American Dietetic Association issued a position paper in 2009 stating: “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Protein Problem Mythology

Our meat-centered society was raised to believe that beef, pork, and chicken are the only “good” sources of protein. Therefore, the resounding question vegetarians are repeatedly asked is: “Where do you get your protein?”

Protein is part of the structure of every cell in our body, but how does the mechanics of our body work with protein? It is important to first understand that amino acids are the basic building blocks to make the proteins our body needs, including specialized proteins called enzymes. The human body requires 22 amino acids to build thousands of different proteins that make up our organs, muscles, hair, nails, skin, ligaments, tendons, and other body structures.

Out of the 22 amino acids our body uses to make proteins, eight are called essential amino acids. Essential amino acids must be obtained from foods in a specific ratio to one another. The other 14 are called nonessential amino acids; they do not have to come from food because our body makes them from other compounds. When we eat food, our body can’t utilize those proteins as they are in animals and plants, our bodily system breaks down those proteins into their individual amino acids and then rebuilds them into the type of human protein we need.

Depending on the amino acids they provide, foods are either classified as complete proteins or incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all eight essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins lack sufficient amounts of one, or more, of the eight essential amino acids. Complementary proteins can be combined to meet the essential amino acids needs of the body as it rebuilds them into the human protein. Because the body deposits amino acids into a storage bank, called an amino-acid pool, where they remain for several hours, you don’t have to eat the different complementary protein foods all at the same meal.

Complete Proteins and Incomplete Protein Sources
Animal proteins supply all eight essential amino acids in the specific ratio to each other that the body needs. But for vegetarians, there are several seeds — cooked like grains containing all eight essential amino acids as well:
  • Quinoa: Contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids.
  • Amaranth: A cup of amaranth can supply 60 percent of an adult’s daily requirement of protein.
  • Buckwheat: A high quality source of all eight essential amino acids.
  • Hemp Seeds: Contains high amounts of all eight essential amino acids in exact amounts the human body requires.
Incomplete proteins are found in a variety of plant foods. Combining two, or more, incomplete protein foods will make complementary proteins forming all eight essential amino acids. For example, when beans and grains are eaten together, the deficiencies in either one are made up for resulting in a complete protein. Incomplete protein foods include:
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
The advent of an increasing array of processed vegetarian foods indicates the growth in market segment. Vegetarian food is becoming more mainstream as most mid-sized food markets now stock processed soymilk, almond milk, quinoa, tofu, veggie cheeses, veggie burgers, and vegetarian microwaveable meals. Strict vegetarians and vegans, however, choose “Clean Eating” — whole foods as close to their natural state as possible, over the processed-foods fare.

Judith Garner 
Garner Healthy Living Everyday helps people discover principles and practices of health by providing resources, education, and support in areas of weight-loss, habits of health, healthy eating, and processed-free lifestyle. Garner Healthy Living Everyday offers fee-based certified independent health coaching services. We have mentors and coaches in every important area of our life — school, work, sports, and skills. Why should maintaining our health be any different? For a complimentary initial consultation, contact Judith Garner at 480-560-7842, or email: Like us on Facebook:

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 Garner Healthy Living Everyday| October 07, 2014

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