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97% of People Are Deficient in This Nutrient

97% of People Are Deficient in This Nutrient

Protein is the most valued of all nutrients, making it a popular and controversial topic of conversation. Most everyone following a plant-based diet has been asked the question, "Where do you get your protein from?" This question comes from the misunderstanding that only animal products contain protein, and that it is the gold standard "complete protein." Inadequate training, popular opinion, government agendas and profit-driven industries have all played a role in contributing to these misguided beliefs. Dr. John McDougall's article, "When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?" addresses these concerns in greater detail.

So how does the protein profile compare between those who consume a plant-based diet and those eating an omnivorous one? Dr. Micheal Greger's video below answers that question. "The largest study in history of those eating plant-based diets recently compared the nutrient profiles of about 30,000 non-vegetarians to 20,000 vegetarians and about 5,000 vegans, flexitarians, and no meat except fish-eaters." So what did the study find...do vegetarians/vegans get enough protein? "The average requirement is 42 grams of protein a day." The study showed that both meat-eaters as well as the vegetarians got more than enough protein, with the vegetarians/vegans getting 70% more than what's actually needed. These results clearly show that a whole plant food meets and exceeds the amounts essential for optimal health.  

"Protein deficiency is really a food deficiency." Although Dr. McDougall has seen thousands of healthy individuals consuming a plant-based diet, he points out that he has never seen a single case of a genuine protein deficiency (called Kwashiorkor) when sufficient calories are being consumed. "The picture one often sees of 'protein deficient' children in famine areas of Asia or Africa is actually one of starvation and is more accurately described as calorie deficiency." More information regarding this can be seen in our blog, "Protein Deficiency = Calorie Deficiency." 

There is a nutrient however, which is often overlooked, of which 97% of Americans are deficient. "Less than 3% of Americans get even the recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber." Most Americans consuming the standard American diet eat a troubling 10-15 grams of fiber per day, whereas a plant-based diet can easily provide 60-80+ grams per day. "The minimum daily requirement is 31.5 so we get less than half the minimum. If you break it down by age and gender, after studying the diets of 12,761 Americans, the percent of men between ages 14 and 50 getting the minimum adequate intake? Zero." 

When asked, the majority of people have no idea what's in their food. "More than half of Americans think steak is a significant fiber source." However, fiber is the indigestible substance which is resistant to digestive enzymes and is found only in plant foods. Meat, dairy, and eggs, contain no fiber.  

Quite frankly, this is where the problem lies. Eighty-five percent of calories consumed by the typical American come from fiber deficient sources. Animal products contain none, while processed junk foods contain little to none. Dr. Greger's video responds to this tragedy by saying, "Americans should be eating more beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains—how are doing on that? 96% of Americans don't even eat the minimum recommended daily amount of beans, 96% don't eat the measly minimum for greens, 99% don't get enough whole grains. Nearly the entire U.S. population fails to eat enough whole plant foods. Those eating completely plant-based diets triple the average American intake."

As a result, most of the illnesses seen by medical professionals today originate from a fiber-deficient diet. Fiber's many benefits can be seen below:

  • Fiber removes toxic waste products and carcinogens in our intestinal tract, which helps protects against colon cancer.
  • Fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in our intestinal tract, which helps us maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Fiber removes unwanted components circulating in our blood stream such as excess estrogen, testosterone and pharmaceutical drugs. Fiber attaches itself to these components, and escorts them out of the body.
  • Hormone related conditions such a menopausal hot flashes, PMS, heavy periods, and breast and prostate cancer are less common in those consuming a plant-rich diet.
  • Fiber helps eliminate excess cholesterol which lowers our low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels.
  • Fiber slows the absorption of sugar and helps improve blood sugar levels which is crucial for diabetics.
  • Fiber facilitates in weight loss by filling our stomachs quickly. This results in fewer calories consumed as well as producing and maintaining satiety. High-fiber diets are also lower in calories.
  • A high-fiber diet also improves gastrointestinal function, which protects against constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis.

Dr. Greger adds, "Dietary fiber has been protectively associated in population studies with the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and various cancers as well high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars. Plant-derived diets tend to contribute significantly less fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and food-borne pathogens, while at the same time offering more fiber, folate, vitamin C, and phytochemicals, all essential factors for disease prevention, and optimal health and well-being."  

So actually, the next time we are asked "Where do you get your protein from?" our reply should be "Where do you get your fiber from?"  

For additional information, click on the following links: 

(1) Fiber's Many Unknown Benefits

(2) Protein Overload

(3) Current Protein Recommendations Flawed

(4) High Protein Diets Promote Illness

(5) The Myth of Complementary Protein

(6) Where Do You Get Your Protein?

(7) Animal Protein "Turns On" Cancer Genes

(8) Colin Campbell Explains Cancer Growth

(9) Unscrambling the Truth About Eggs

(10) Reduce Cancer Risk by Avoiding Dairy Protein

(11) Dairy Protein Promotes Prostate Cancer

(12) But I Must Have Animal Protein!

(13) Which has More Protein? Steak or Kale?

Michael Greger MD Links

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