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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters

Winter 2001-2002 Issue

TIPS ON PROTEINS AND OTHER FOOD INGREDIENTS
By Roberta Schiff

The new Millennium is moving ahead and the debate about whether the Millennium began on the first day of January 2000 or 2001 is almost as quaint as a September 10th newspaper.  But one old chestnut that will not go away is where do you get your protein?  This is the question vegetarians are asked constantly.

I will try to answer this question so the vegetarians among us will be armed with concise answers Ė and emerging vegetarians will see that they neednít be concerned about not getting enough protein from a vegetarian/vegan diet.

So where do we get our protein?  Letís first look at the three food elements - protein, carbohydrates, and fat and see which foods contain the most of these three elements.

We know that animal products contain protein and fat. They also donít have any carbohydrates, thus no fiber - which is important in helping us eliminate metabolic wastes from the body.  Donít be afraid of carbohydrates.  The human body is designed to get its energy from carbohydrates ó the kind that you find in whole foods (like beans, grains and fresh vegetables and fruit), not refined carbohydrates such as cookies, donuts, cereals with names like desserts, fruit "drinks," all products made from refined white flour.).  Most cuts of meat contain 40-50% fat, and sometimes even more.  Of course it is possible to cut off the fat from the edge of the meat; but even if you do this, fat remains on the inside, the bulk of the meat.  Cheeses have protein too, but along with it a fat content of 75% or higher.  2%-milk is 34% fat by calorie count; the 2% refers to weight added by all the water.

Many people donít know this, but vegetables also contain protein and very little fat (less than 10%, with most ranging from only 1- 4% of fat).  Moreover, the fat that vegetables do have is not the artery-clogging, saturated kind.  Of course it is possible to process vegetable food so that it contains large amounts of fat. Youíve seen bags of potato chips that proclaim, "No Cholesterol" in large letters.  This is a ploy to make consumers think they are buying a healthful product. In fact, very high amounts of vegetable fats (as in potato chips) are also unhealthful. Some of the vegetable oils sold in supermarkets, such as Wesson and Crisco, are processed with electricity and chemicals and should be avoided.  This form of processing changes the shape of the fat molecules into a form that our digestive system does not recognize.  Hence the fat molecules are less likely to be digested, ending up in the blood where they clog arteries.  The refining process also makes these fats chemically similar to ones that are rancid, thus promoting free radical damage.  Olive oil in small amounts is the preferred cooking oil.  Consider using cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil in moderate amounts.

Beans are extremely high in protein, low in fat, and high in fiber.  If you are not used to eating beans, start by eating only small amounts at a time to get your body acclimated to this food.  Our bodies need time to accommodate to new foods.  To avoid the flatulence that can accompany eating beans, soak them for several hours before cooking.  Then rinse and cook the beans with a piece of Kombu (a sea vegetable) that you can find in any health food store.  Kombu makes beans creamier, adds minerals, and reduces gas formation.

Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, millet, buckwheat (good in winter) and polenta are also excellent sources of protein as well as the healthy kind of unrefined carbohydrate that our bodies need for energy.  The grain quinoa, which you can usually find in most health food stores, aside from being fast-cooking and tasty, is very high in protein.

Hereís another fact to dispel the protein myths: too much protein is actually unhealthy.  Over consumption of protein is hard on the liver and kidneys, and leaches calcium out of the body.

So (another myth-breaker) ó milk mustaches are not a sign of good health.  In fact, milk ads are in some ways similar to tobacco ads ó designed to lure adults and children into continuing an unhealthy practice.

So where do we get our protein?  Plan your meals around the "New Four Food Groups" as advocated by Neal Barnard, M.D. of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine.  These foods are BEANS, GRAINS, FRUITS and VEGETABLES. 

You will get enough protein, and in addition get less fat and more fiber than people who consume the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Protein deficiencies are found only in starving people or those with severe eating disorders.  To make sure your vegetarian diet is a healthful one, reduce the junk food and increase the whole food.

Roberta Schiff
845.876.5598
VeggieRobbie@aol.com

Return to Winter 2001-2002 Newsletter

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