Plant-Based Diets

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It’s coming. The recommendation from Health Canada and our new Food Guide is going to recommend you eat more plant-based foods. What does that mean exactly?

For some, it means eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds. For others, it means only eating those foods and leaving behind the meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Either way, including more plants in your diet is only going to increase fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and – according to many studies – improve every single aspect of your health. If you’ve got high blood pressure or cholesterol, yes, plant-based will help. If you’ve got digestive issues, depression, sore knees or headaches, a plant-based diet could help you too. Anyone on medication for just about any situation can be helped by eating more plant-based meals and snacks and lessening processed foods and animal-based foods.

I had the pleasure of seeing the documentary The Game Changers in Toronto’s Hot Docs festival and it really had an impact. The doc is about elite athletes who are on a plant-based diet. Yes, you read that right. Athletes at the top of their game, not eating any animal-based protein.

I can bet the first question that popped into your head was “How do they get enough protein by just eating plant-based?” It’s a valid and common question. I regularly exercise and on my newest fitness journey, that includes weight training, I was guided to consume my body weight in grams of protein. Well, that’s a lot, even on an animal and plant-based diet. I had to have smoothies with protein powder, tins of tuna, eggs topped up with whites, Greek yogurt and chicken all day, every day just to almost reach my 130 g protein intake! I’m not sure that it agreed with me and my kidneys, as I blew up like a balloon. As I backed off, my body’s swelling reduced over time. It was an interesting and pricey experiment.

Since seeing The Game Changers with my 12-year-old daughter (who is super sporty), she decided that we would try “Meatless Mondays” all day long, not just dinner. This past Monday, she carefully chose her breakfast (oatmeal with almond milk), lunch and dinner and managed to get it all in around her Parkour class and Karate. My older daughter (the carnivore), isn’t on board. Yet.

What inspired me so much about The Game Changers?

I heard the words stamina, energy, strength, circulation and excellent health so many times. The science behind what was presented was mind-blowing and the experiences and experiments showed incredible results. Real people making real changes and seeing considerable health benefits. We were inspired.

I was reminded of one key fact: all whole plant foods contain protein.

Some more than others. By eating enough calories and a variety of foods every day, you’ll meet what you need. Our minimum requirement of all essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can easily be obtained from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and grains.

Your protein needs:

A sedentary adult needs about 0.8-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So for a 65 kg female who does little physical activity, this would equate to between 52-65 grams of protein per day.

An active adult who regularly exercises needs 1.2-2g per kilogram of body weight per day.

The body requires more protein during times of cell growth and repair such as: childhood and teenage years; pregnancy and lactation; and after illness or surgery.

Health Canada’s recommendation about eating a plant-based diet is explained as “a high proportion of plant-based foods without necessarily excluding animal foods altogether.” I came across the term “reducetarian”, which I thought was perfect. You can just start to reduce the animal-based foods that you regularly consume at the same time as increasing the plant-based ones.

For my interview with James Wilks of The Game Changers, read this. To listen to my radio segment with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk 1010, click here. Or to watch my talk on CP24, click here.

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