Vegetables Deliver Protein with Micronutrients

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child:

When you eat to maximize micronutrients, your body function will improve; chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, and high cholesterol will likely disappear; and your youthful vigor will last into old age. Heart disease and cancer, the major killers of modern societies, would fade away and be exceedingly rare occurrences if the population adopted a cancer-preventive diet style and lifestyle. And we would hardly ever see any overweight children.

Maintaining a population of normal-weight individuals can be efficiently accomplished only by eating more high-nutrient foods, foods with higher nutrient-per-calorie ratio. The foods with the most nutrients per calorie are vegetables and beans. Vegetables are also very rich in protein and calcium. Most vegetables have more protein per calorie than meat and more calcium per calorie than milk. Nobody can consume too little protein by eating less animal products and substituting vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.

The focus on the importance of protein in the diet is one of the major reasons we have been led down the wrong path to dietary suicide. We were taught to equate protein with good nutrition and have though animal products, not vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, are our best source of protein. We bought a false bill of goods, and the dairy-and-meat-heavy diet brought fourth a heart attack and cancer epidemic.

If we hear something over and over since we were young children, we just accept it as true. For example, it is myth repeated over and over that plant proteins are "incomplete" and need to be "complemented" for adequate protein. In fact, all vegetables and grains contain all eight of the essential amino acids (as well as the 12 other nonessential ones).1 While some vegetables have higher or lower proportions of certain amino acids than others, when eaten in amounts to satisfy one's caloric needs, a sufficient amount of all essential amino acids are provided. Because digestive secretions and sloughed-off mucosal cells are constantly recycled and reabsorbed, the amino acid composition in the bloodstream after meals is remarkably complete in spite of short-term irregularities in their dietary supply.

It is interesting to note that peas, green vegetables, and beans have more protein per calorie than meat. But what is not generally considered is that foods that are rich in plant protein are generally the foods that are richest in nutrients and phytochemicals. By eating more of these high-nutrient, low calorie foods we get plenty of protein, and our bodies get flooded with protective micronutrients simultaneously. Animal protein does not contain antioxidants and phtyochemicals, plant protein does. Plus, animal protein is married to saturated fat, the most dangerous type of fat.

Protein Content From Selected Plant Foods
FoodGrams of Protein
Almonds (3 oz)10
Banana1.2
Broccoli (2 cups)10
Brown Rice (1 cup)5
Chickpeas (1 cup)15
Corn (1 cup)4.2
Lentils (1 cup)18
Peas--frozen (1 cup)9
Spinach--frozen (1 cup)7
Tofu (4 ounces)11
Whole wheat bread (2 slices)5


Even a professional body builder who wants to build one-half pound of extra muscle per week only needs about an extra seven grams per day over a normal protein intake. No Complicated formulas or protein supplements are needed to get sufficient protein for growth, even in the serious athlete. Exercise increases hunger, and as the athlete consumes more calories to meet the demands of exercise, they will naturally get the extra protein they need. Many world-class athletes thrive at world-class competitions on vegetarian and vegan diets.

When you reduce or eliminate animal protein intake and increase vegetable protein intake, you lower cholesterol radically. Vegetables, beans, and nuts and seeds are all rich in protein, and they also have no saturated fat or cholesterol. But the clincher is that they are higher in nutrients than any other foods. We must structure our diets around the foods that supply the most micronutrients.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of vegetables and beans (high protein foods) are without question. When adult subjects are feed a vegetable-based diet, cholesterol levels drop radically, much more than with the most powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs.2 These foods also contain an assortment of heart disease-fighting nutrients independent of their ability to lower cholesterol, and they fight cancer, too.

1. Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59 (suppl 5): 1203S-1212S.

2. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich, et al. Effects of a very-high-fiber vegetable fruit and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism 2001:50(4);494-503.

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Comments (15) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
oh - June 26, 2006 5:50 PM

but isnt it true that a plant based diet leads to lower HDL and higher triglycerides? Isnt that considered more important than overall cholestoral?

Kyle Key - June 27, 2006 12:03 AM

A high-plant based diet does lead to lower HDL, but that's only because overall levels of cholesterol are lower (that is, LDL levels are much lower as well); relatively, the plant based diet fares just as well if not significantly better in the LDL:HDL ratio. I've never heard anything about higher triglyceride levels in a diet like this.

Michael - June 27, 2006 9:05 AM

Higher triglycerides are a potential problem if eating a starch-based diet like McDougall or Ornish. This program brought my triglycerides to their lowest point of 86. When I followed McDougall, they were 145. At my peak weight (310 lbs.) they were in the 700's.

art - June 28, 2006 10:43 AM

why after a few days of a very low fat diet do you excrete oil from your bowels ?

Joel Fuhrman, MD - June 28, 2006 11:04 AM

Scientific studies have shown my recommended diet-style is the most cardiac favorable diet ever tested. It is true that a grain-based or potato-based vegetarian diet may have unfavorable effects on triglycerides, but those are a far cry from my recommendations. My dietary recommendations are definitely plant-based, but all plant-based diets are not the same. For example, my diet-style allows a limited amount (a few servings) of animal products a week. I also advise high starch cooked grains, potatoes and flour products be limited as well.

This previous post explains in further detail: http://tinyurl.com/dkf47

Also check out my book, Cholesterol Protection For Life, you will gain a complete understanding of all these issues and in it you'll find the knowledge to protect you against heart disease. For example, higher HDL is only beneficial when your LDL is elevated, and that populations with no heart disease, have low HDL, because the body has no need to produce particles to remove lipids when there are no lipid plaque to remove

oh - June 28, 2006 5:38 PM

well, it seems to me that your diet improves blood profiles better than an Ornish style diet because it contains less sugar. Wouldnt it stand to reason that any diet that contains even less sugar than yours would be better still?

about the unimportance of HDL, have you any studies to support that interesting position?

oh - June 28, 2006 5:40 PM

you say:

"...that populations with no heart disease, have low HDL, because the body has no need to produce particles to remove lipids when there are no lipid plaque to remove"

but what about the Masai, the Inuit? to name just two.

Michael - June 28, 2006 11:18 PM

I know from reading a lot about the Ornish study, that lowering LDL is most indicative of heart disease reversal. His tests involved collecting not only cholesterol levels, but used angiograms to measure arterial blockage and PET scans to directly measure the blood flow to the heart. These tools allowed him to directly measure changes in the blood flow to the heart. It is from this data that Dr. Ornish found that lowering LDL was more indicative of heart disease reversal than HDL levels.
The Masai and the Inuit do not represent the healthiest populations of people.

oh - June 29, 2006 9:51 PM

well michael that post was interesting but I am really looking for some independent (as in not written by the folks who run this site) that explains how sat. fat leads directly to heart disease, except in the case of the Masai and the Inuit. Also, I'd like to know more about how the Masai and Innut, who, in spite of their complete lack of heart disease, cancer, etc. arent all that healthy.

otherwise you're just presenting a circular argument. As in, here's an arguable point, and I'll support it by refering to this other article I wrote about that arguable poing...

Michael - June 30, 2006 9:31 AM

You've been presented with references. The studies have been conducted in peer-reviewed scientific literature. If you choose not to read them, that's your prerogative.
The fact that the Masai and Inuit have much lower life expectancies than many other groups indicates that their diet is unhealthy, regardless of their affect on heart disease. Read up about the Okinawans if you want to see a population with long life expectancy and low rates of disease.

jane - July 19, 2006 11:19 AM

what types of fruit have the most protien?

Bryan Hughes - March 28, 2007 5:29 PM

As an aspiring bodybuilder, I've fallen for the myths, i.e. a high protein diet. I've switched to The Raw Food Detox Diet to go more natural and to get away from all the supplements. I've always consumed veggies so this regmen is easy. How do you feel about at least one supplement being the post workout protein/carb shake? 30-40g protein, 30g carbs after AM workout then natural the rest of the day. Your answer will be valued. Thank you.

Rose - July 29, 2008 4:33 PM

why do other sites say that a complete protein contains 9 amino acids when you say eight?

Jake Merchant - January 27, 2009 9:31 PM

My wife and I are engaged in a book called The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell,Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II,printed by Benbella Books of Dallas Texas.

"The China Study: the most comprehensive study of nutritin ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss, and long-term health"/By T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D..

This has proved to be a very intresting and helpful book. I suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, am over weight and take meds. for High Blood Pressure, and all are rapidly comming under better control. I highly recomend this read if you fit any of these categories.

Jake Merchant

James - May 7, 2010 2:05 PM

It may be true that the body can process the protein from vegetables more easily than meat, but that does not necessarily make them better.

The AVERAGE bodybuilder looking to gain muscle uses 2 grams/ lb of protein per day. Lets say the average body builder ways 200 pounds, thats 400 grams of protein per day OR approximately 27 cups of chick peas per day.

So, though vegetables may be more easily processed by our bodies, it is much easier to get that amount from meat and to supplement with vegetables.

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