The Experiment- week two

A good variety of legumes, vegetables, fruit and nuts are key to achieving a healthful, balanced diet.

So begins the second week of my experiment. So far, I feel pretty good – my energy levels are about normal for me and not much else has changed.

In general, I eat a lot of fruit and veg, raw and cooked as part of a healthy balanced diet. Breakfast is often a smoothie or fridge oats with fruit, lunch is usually homemade soup or salad, maybe leftovers from the night before. My toughest challenge is always what to do for dinner – especially as the rest of the family are not really making this journey with me.

I’m a ‘planner’ – always have been, always will be – especially now, as we are making fewer trips to the shops and having to plan food consumption a bit better.  As I’ve been planning my meals, I’m looking particularly at how I can get enough protein into my diet. Although I’ve gone mostly plant-based, I have kept dairy and eggs in my diet just to cram in some more protein and calcium (very important for us ladies as we mature). 

Just in case you’re wondering why protein is such an important aspect of your diet, I’ll give a brief overview:

The amino acids in protein are necessary for the growth and functioning of our body’s cells and tissues, as well as the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters, and the regulation of our immune system. So, super important stuff!

Eating enough protein is especially important when you are exercising as it promotes muscle growth and repair.  Essentially, when you train you are putting your body into a state of stress and the amino acids in protein provide vital nutrients for repairing the damage done by placing your body under this stress.

The body requires 20 different amino acids to properly function, nine of these are essential amino acids that are not produced by the body but need to be obtained through your diet. These are: histadine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and veline. 

Animal products are considered complete proteins because they intrinsically contain all the essential amino acids. 

However, many plant protein sources are low in or missing one or more of the essential amino acids and considered incomplete proteins – so it is a bit trickier to manage to get in all these hugely significant amino acids. 

There ARE some plant-based complete protein sources such as soya, quinoa and buckwheat. However, if you are eating a plant-based diet it is important to understand how to combine foods to get a complete source of amino acids into your body on a daily basis. You may have heard the term ‘eating the rainbow’ – by which is meant that you should consume a broad selection of colourful fruits and veggies to get a more comprehensive variety of vitamins and minerals essential to the well-being of your body.

I have created a quick cheat sheet of foods that form complete essential amino acid combos from various online sources to help me on my way:

  • Beans and rice
  • Lentils with rice or quinoa
  • Nuts with grains such as peanut butter on whole grain bread
  • Grains and veggies with dairy or soy, such a pasta with cheese
  • Legumes and nuts combos such as hummus (chickpeas and tahini)
  • Jacket potato and baked beans
  • Pretty much any legume with whole grains like rice or quinoa

Another interesting tip that I came across was that adding a bit of lemon juice – or any food high in vitamin C – to your legumes aids in their digestion. Bell peppers, kale, sweet potato are all good pairing with your legumes to make your gut happier!!

Next week I’ll be looking into nutrients that are commonly lacking in the plant-based diet and how to get more of them. 

Until then, happy eating all!

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