Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on dietary guidelines and heart disease. If you're worried about the gassiness of beans, check out my blogpost Clearing the Air. And as always, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

For some more context, please check out my associated blog posts: Dietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power Plate, Do Eden Beans Have Too Much Iodine?, How to Enhance Mineral Absorption, Preventing and Treating Kidney Failure With DietCholesterol Lowering in a Nut ShellWhat Is the Healthiest Meat?, and 98% of American Diets Potassium Deficient

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on dietary guidelines and heart disease. If you’re worried about the gassiness of beans, check out my blogpost Clearing the Air. And as always, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • Cocowillie

    So doc, can you direct me to any of your videos that rate the top protein rich veggies? You are changing lives – mine and my kids, especially! Thank you.

    • Toxins

      Hello Cocowillie,

      When I tell people I don’t eat animal products the first thing i hear is “where do you get your protein?”. It is in fact, a myth, that plant foods are not complete proteins and in reality, all fruits and vegetables contain complete proteins so there is no need to compliment 2 foods for a full amino acid profile. If you eat when your hungry, energy expenditures satisfy protein intake. The American Dietetic Association acknowledges this fact as well “Plant protein can meet protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needs are met. Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate
      nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed
      at the same meal” http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2009_ADA_position_paper.pdf
      Plant foods such as spinach contain more of a percentage of protein than beef. For example, spinach is 51% protein and mushrooms are 35% while beef is 36% protein.

      Furthermore, Regarding our actual requirements for protein. For the average human being, male or female, the minimum has been set to 20 grams per day. This is according to Dr. William Rose of the University of Illinois back in 1942. Dr. John McDougall states that our body only uses about 10 grams of protein per day since we don’t actually store protein but use it as our body needs http://www.nealhendrickson.com/mcdougall/031200puprotein.htm The World Health Organization states “adequate levels of protein intake are recommended to be 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight per day”. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_935_eng.pdf For me weighing at 150 pounds, that comes out to about 30 grams of protein per day. Note that the World Health Organization states this as a “safe” level, meaning it is not a minimum. Bottom line is, our body doesn’t need a large amount of protein, and since all plant foods contain more than adequate protein quality and levels, to focus on eating a “protein” is not necessary. If you eat when your hungry and till your full on a plant based diet, you are getting MORE than enough protein. If anything, in today’s society we should be worried about getting too much protein since too much protein gets broken down to uric acid and strains our kidneys.
      Let me know if you have any other questions, such as omega 3 requirements or any other question of the sorts.

      On another topic, check out this video on cancer prevention using whole plant foods! http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/plant-based-prevention/

      • Rami

        This whole “complete protein” business is confusing. Yes, all plant foods contain all essential amino acids. But most are not in the perfect proportion necessary for us to build our own human protein. In my experience, the two amino acids to watch are lysine and methionine. They are usually the limiting amino acids. Whole grains are usually low in lysine, legumes are usually low in methionine. Plus, there are a few nonessential amino acids that are not present in plant foods, so in that sense plant protein is indeed incomplete. In my experience 2000 calories of plant foods supplies 63-73 g of protein. Not bad.

        • Jim

          Grains and legumes together supply a complete protein. It used to be believed that you had to eat them at the same time in order to get the complete benefit, but that has been proven false. As long as you eat a diet of grains and legumes, your body will get all of the proteins that it needs. Non essential proteins are not needed in the diet, hence being called “non essential.”

        • zapp7

          When eating a plant-based diet, it’s difficult to become protein deficient unless you’re consuming nothing but fruits and junk food. I did a detailed breakdown of all the essential amino acids in some plant foods using the WHO’s recommended daily intakes. Find the results on my blog, here:
          http://debunkingnutrition.blogspot.ca/2013/09/are-plant-proteins-complete-proteins.html

      • Jim

        “Plant foods such as spinach contain more of a percentage of protein than beef. For example, spinach is 51% protein and mushrooms are 35% while beef is 36% protein.”

        OK, help me with this one. My understanding is that 51% of calories in spinach come from protein, but spinach is actually less than 10% protein. Is this accurate? If so, then isn’t it misleading to present spinach as being 51% protein? It just sets us up to be exposed as frauds.

        • mrs. B

          Perhaps the measurements in your quote are by dry weight.

        • Melissa

          One is percent of calories, the other is percent by weight.

          • Melissa

            if not a percentage of weight, it could be percentage of volume…like 1 cup of spinach contains…etc. So you have percent of calories, percent of weight, or percent of volume–it all depends what is being measured.

        • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

          Since there are alot of ways to measure you might look at the actual data. A website I find useful is Cronometer.com.

  • Cocowillie

    Thanks Doc. There is a daily argument in our house about the amount of almond and soy milk I drink. I do not drink cow’s milk unless I run out of the other stuff. Any concerns about the amount of almond or soy?

    Keep up the good fight!

    • Toxins

      Hello again Cocowillie,

      I am actually not a doctor, just someone who researches nutrition obsessively and tries to stay informed!

      To answer your question, almond milk is fine, but be weary of soy milk if you plan on drinking it with fruits or veggies. Check out this video for details.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/soymilk-suppression/

      Also, soymilk, specifically for young girls is another thing to be cautious of. check out this video for details.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/the-effect-of-soy-on-precocious-puberty/

      All in all, I would say almond milk is the safest choice of the 2.

      • Ana

        So you’re saying drinking soy milk with fruits, blocks the absorption of phytonutrients from fruits? I’ve been loading my oatmeal (with soy milk) with fruits, in the hope that I could absorb the most of the powerful nutrients. Should I eat fruits separately?

      • Ana

        The second video also suggests that soy milk may promote health and reduce the risk for future breast cancer by delaying pubertal breast development.

        • Susan

          I often wonder, with so much soy being genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant and sell more health damaging chemicals in the world, if the studies are really promoting better health, or the earning potential to Monsanto, Dow, and other biotech-pesticide companies?
          I ingest soy products sparingly, especially after consuming 1/2 cup of organic soy milk, and having my first severe case of either indigestion or acid reflux. Don’t know what it was, but I really felt ill. And it happened just days apart on two different “milks”, one made from organic soy (by a company that regularly samples and tests its product for GMO’s), and the other from a non organic quinoa milk producer.
          Other containers bought earlier from both companies showed no adverse side effects but I’m now looking for another calcium-magnesium source to add to my oatmeal in the morning.
          Life would be so much easier if we had mandatory labeling and the right to know in North America if the foods we buy or ingest are made from GMO’s. (Both products claimed they were free of GMO’s), but they still could be contaminated from pollen or drift from Roundup, one of the most prolific pesticides in the air, soils, and waters, including rainwater in the USA. And side effects of ingesting glyphosate also appear a lot like GERD.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613285734 Heidi Woodruff

    The national Sunday paper here has run a three week series on the benefits of the Dukan diet. http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/collections/all+about+the+dukan+diet,207 (eeek!) Do you have any studies that show just how harmful this type of diet can be?

    • Toxins

      This is sickening to me
      “The Dukan Diet starts with a short, sharp Attack phase where you eat nothing but protein – just meat, fish, eggs and (unlike Atkins) no-fat or low-fat dairy products. This is the kick-start that gives you the initial, rapid weight loss (up to three kilograms in just five days), and sets the tone for the other stages of the plan. Stay on the Attack phase for one to 10 days depending on how much weight you have to lose.

      The problem here is that they are not shedding fat weight but water weight.
      This is from Dr. McDougall, a plant based advocate
      “The initial weight loss is rapid, and therefore very rewarding, for the desperate dieter. Most of this loss, however, is water loss, rather than fat loss. With little carbohydrate in the diet the body resorts to using its glycogen stores of glucose. Glycogen, stored in the liver and muscles, can meet the average person’s glucose needs for about 12 to 18 hours. With each gram of glycogen is stored 2.7 grams of water. The average body stores 300 grams of glycogen. Depletion of the body’s glycogen would result in an almost overnight weight loss of 1110 grams (37 ounces or over 3 pounds). The ketones also cause a strong diuretic effect on the kidneys, resulting in losses of large amounts of fluid. The carbohydrate ceiling for weight loss may be as low as 15 grams, depending on the individual. This is only 60 calories of carbohydrate, which means 1/3 of a baked potato, 1/3 cup of rice, or one orange daily could be your limit of carbohydrate intake in order to remain in sufficient ketosis to suppress your appetite.”
      Read the article Dr. McDougall posted and you will see it elaborates on why the high protein diet is so harmful. Link below
      http://www.drmcdougall.com/res_high_protein_diets.html

      • wickedchicken

        I feel sorry for people’s bodies if they are on the dukan diet.

        Logic is clearly out the window when it comes to weight loss diet desperation.

      • LynnCS

        I did the high protein diet we called Atkins in the 70s. Lost weight really fast, but knew nothing of Ketosis then. I was young and failed to stay on it. Because most people can’t maintain it, they/we don’t cause ourselves irreparable harm. Many of the ‘sudden onset kidney failures later in life, I read, can be traced to a high protein diet over a life time. There is often no warning. I really don’t want to take that chance….It’s a no for me!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      The Dukan Diet appears to be like the European version of the Atkins Diet. The UK National Health Service just highlighted that the Dukan Diet is the fad diet to avoid this holiday season, citing the British Dietetic Association’s conclusion that it is “ineffective and without scientific basis.” I wrote a whole book about these these types of diets, Carbophobia: The Scary Truth Behind America’s Low Carb Craze, available free, full-text at AtkinsExposed.org.

      • Toxins

        Thanks Dr. Greger for the link!

  • wickedchicken

    Always great to have references like this, thank you.

  • vwg

    I’ve been hearing more and more about the fact that legumes and grains have lectins and saponins in them, and that they are anti-nutritive or harmful (mostly hearing this from the paleo diet crowd).

    I was wondering if you could shed some light on what the current understanding is on that topic, or if you could point me in the direction of where I could learn more. Thanks!

  • Michael Greger M.D.
  • Sanamau

    Dr G

    If you were forced against the wall with an assailant armed with a chicken drumstick and he demanded an answer to the following question, what would you say? The (difficult) question is “About how many chemicals / chemical compounds does the average person consume in his diet daily?”
    I’m trying to gain information to strengthen my suggestions to friends to investigate plant-based diets as an alternative remedy to healing ills.
    Thanks for all I’ve learned from your articles in the past.

  • Joel

    In a first aid class we were told high fever is deadly mostly because of protein in the blood becoming denatured. Is there any research indicating different temperatures for animal or plant protein for this to happen?
    Maybe this is irrelevant, just wondering :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stoaty-Marmot/1425873790 Stoaty Marmot

    > The World Health Organization states “adequate levels of protein intake
    are recommended to be 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body
    weight per day”.

    Actually, the recommendation of the WHO is:

    “0.83 g/kg per day of protein with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid
    score value of 1.0.”

    referenced in the document you pointed to, but didn’t actually read:

    http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_935_eng.pdf

    This recommendation gives and adequate intake for 97.5% of the population (median 0.66 plus 2 standard deviations of about 0.09 each).

  • not telling

    doc can i hve some facts abt plant proteins

  • Melba

    Plant base is the way to go. I have saved so much money n lost weight.

  • lovestobevegan

    Celebrate your Independence from the Standard American Diet (SAD) by enjoying this health-filled chili.

    Make Your Own Fireworks Red, White, and Blue Chili

    – 1 cup dried kidney beans
    – 1 cup dried navy beans
    – 1 cup dried black beans
    – 6 cups water
    – 1 white onion, chopped
    – 1 green bell pepper
    – 1 cup white stuffing mushrooms, sliced
    – 1 apple, chopped
    – ½ jar strained tomatoes
    – ½ jar salsa
    – 1 cup water
    – 2 tbsp chili powder
    – 1 tbsp cilantro
    – 1 tsp marjoram
    – 1 tsp oregano
    – 1 tsp basil
    – ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
    – 3 cloves garlic, minced
    – 3 garlic scapes, chopped
    – 3 green onions, chopped
    – Black pepper and sea salt

    In a large pot, cook dried beans in 6 cups water until tender, about 1 ½ hours. Strain excess water. Mince garlic and set aside. In a dry, uncovered skillet, cook white onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and apple until tender. Add to beans with remainder of ingredients. Stir to combine, heat thoroughly and let sit for 10 minutes.

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes. https://www.facebook.com/PlantBasedEmporium?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      You are so awesome for posting recipes–thank you!

      • lovestobevegan

        Thank you so much for the kind words Dr. Greger and sincere gratitude for all you do.

  • Caroline

    Hello Dr. Greger
    First of all I recently became vegan because of you. My youtube recommended one of your lecture video over a month go and I’ve been learning and researching non-stop ever since.
    So I was wondering about Legumes and inflammation in the body. There was a post I read about how legumes cause inflammation in the body (it was a paleo blog..I figured I should educate myself on all sides) Have you in come across any findings or research that would indicate anything at all like this?
    Thank you,
    Caroline

  • Olga

    I wonder, what plant sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2 (for bone health) could you recommend? Some people are not able to convert plant-based beta-carotene to real vitamin A.

  • val

    Dear Doc…you are the BEST of all the rest…that is all! Great stuff here…love my lentils…and black beans too!

  • HCaron

    Thank you Dr.Greger – can you please talk about FODMAP and veganism? My GI suggested I go with this “diet” to see if it will reduce my symptoms of IBS. But on the list of things to avoid are beans. As a vegan who is also allergic to nuts, I’m a bit at a loss. Help! http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06149.x/full

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      You might find another approach to more acceptable. The McDougall Diet for the Desperate see his website for the article he wrote in his December 2002 newsletter. If going on a whole food based processed oil free diet with adequate B12 intake doesn’t result in improvement it is a good alternative. He explains a somewhat less restrictive approach as well. You have to be very careful of any processed foods and I would definitely avoid GMO products especially corn and soy. Depending on your symptoms he has also written articles relating to diarrheal disorders(November 2002) and constipation(September 2002). Keep working with your physician(s) and hopefully you will be able to find relief even if you never identify the underlying disorder.

  • Peter Langelaar

    But be carefull … most brown rice proteins contain hetals you don’t want in your system so choose for organic non hexan extracted sprouded brown rice protein. I use a nutrient dense superfood vegan protein meal powder that contains all 9 amino accids and chlorella spirulina maca mangosteen acai and 15 more in one blend only to stay healthy and fit .

  • Sebastian Tristan

    This is mainly my dietary guideline: I count plant protein. It’s simple and easy. You don’t have to think about other factors seeing as plant protein comes with vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and are not associated with cholesterol, saturated fat, etc.