We’ve been conditioned from an early age that we need to eat meat for protein, drink milk for calcium, eat fish for omega 3’s, in order to survive. When you look at the nutritional value of these foods, they don’t rate in comparison to what plant-based foods can offer our bodies from a whole perspective. The power of plants can fuel our bodies for exercise, strengthen our immune system to prevent chronic disease, and sustain the life of the planet for future generations to come.
Just about any animal food can be replaced with a plant-based version. If you find yourself confused by all the conflicting information about plant-based eating, let’s look at some of the most persistent myths around the nutrient power of plant-based foods.
Myth: Plants do not supply us with ‘complete’ proteins.
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, animals aren’t the only source of protein, and whole foods deliver all nine essential amino acids. This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. As long as you are taking in enough calories and eating a variety of whole foods, you are receiving all the essential amino acids. However, processed foods such as sugar, white flour, and white bread do not supply us with essential amino acids.
Myth: calcium can only be obtained from dairy and dairy products. It’s the best source of calcium.
Fact: Calcium is vital for bone health and it works together with other nutrients like protein, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Calcium is provided in many plant-based foods such as various beans, almonds, dark leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale), brown rice, sweet potato, oranges, whole grain wheat flour, and cooked broccoli. It’s important to ensure that you are getting a variety of whole foods every day so that you are obtaining enough calcium but also other vitamins and minerals that help with the absorption of calcium in our bodies.
Fact: We need fish oil to get omega 3’s.
Myth: It’s necessary to understand why we need omega 3’s. Saturated fats, such as lard or butter tend to be solid and our bodies have no need for this type of unhealthy fat. Essential fatty acids are unsaturated fats that our bodies cannot make and we must obtain them from food. They are necessary for our brain and nervous systems, blood-clotting and immune responses. There is controversy that plant-based diets don’t supply enough EPA or DHA and fish oil is essential, but research proves otherwise. ALA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that can be found in flaxseeds, rapeseeds, soy, and walnuts. This particular omega-3 (ALA) can be converted in the body into the longer chain omega-3 fats; EPA & DHA.
Myth: Too much confusion over healthy vs. unhealthy fats.
Fact: Healthy fats promote a healthy heart, regular digestion, and satiate our appetites. We need fat to survive and for our body to perform particular functions. Consuming the ‘right’ types of fat is not only important in regulating a healthy body weight but aid in prevention of disease. Animal fats contain cholesterol which can lead to inflammation, clogged arteries, and many diseases. Our bodies naturally product cholesterol and plant-based fats do not contain any cholesterol. Healthy plant-based fats such as avocados, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raw nuts, raw nut butters, and seeds, are great sources of plant-based fats.
Fresh Isn’t Always Better
Myths: It’s hard to get access to fresh produce throughout the year.
Myth: Sadly, frozen food gets a bad reputation. Next to fresh produce (picked the same day), frozen fruit and vegetables are the next best thing when it comes to nutrient value. Freezing product allows the nutrients to stay locked in until you are ready to use it. Many people keep their produce in the fridge for up to several days or even more. By this time, the nutrient value has depleted. Buying fresh produce especially in the ‘off season’ can be quite expensive. If you purchase frozen fruit or even freeze it yourself, you will save large amounts of money when that fruit or vegetable isn’t in season.
Energizing with Carbs
Myth: Plant-based eaters consume too many carbs.
Fact: It goes without saying that the ‘carbs are bad’ mantra from many fad diets has left people confused about carbohydrates and the role they play in our daily diet and long-term health. First of all, it’s important to know that not all carbohydrates are the same. Carbohydrates have always received a bad wrap but not all carbs are bad. The ‘bad carbs’ known otherwise as ‘simple carbohydrates are refined, low in nutrients if any, high in saturated fat, and provide no health benefit to our bodies. These carbs are quickly digested, releasing sugar rapidly into our bloodstream causing insulin spikes that lead to energy highs and eventually crashing lows. Foods such as white rice, white flour, table sugar, and sweets are all examples of simple carbs.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are a great source of fiber. They release glucose into the bloodstream gradually providing our bodies with a steady supply of energy. These foods also help us with weight management by keeping us sated so it’s important to consume foods such as whole grains, oats, quinoa, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. These foods are as wholesome as they get, unrefined, and a healthy way to stay full and provide us with lots of energy.
Always Feeling Hungry
Myth: Eating plants will make you hungry all the time.
Fact: When you eat plant-based foods, you are loading up on lots of fiber which makes you feel satiated. Consuming plant-based foods with fiber not only fills up your stomach but it stabilizes your blood sugar levels to help prevent cravings. Foods such as legumes are not only high in protein, but high in fiber. Even nuts such as walnuts serve as a multi-purpose food as they are a great blend of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. A small handful of nuts goes a long way for our bodies.
Boring & Restrictive
Myth: There is not enough variety of foods when eating plant-based.
Fact: Plant-based eating will open up your eyes to a whole new world of flavours, textures, and possibilities. You will actually discover more different varieties of grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Then you start to add in spices and herbs to enhance the flavor of the food in its natural state which brings a whole other layer of taste and possibilities. There are only so many types of meat to eat but hundreds of varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds to eat.
Eat Well – Move Well – Live Well
Your Compassionate Coach,