Here, just after placing 2nd in her age group at the "Island 5K" on Anna Maria Island, FL, May 5, 2012...with Cindy Quinn, about 10 years younger. During this race, as Ellen passed others, someone yelled out, "There goes that vegan energy." No kidding! Plants fuel!
Where do you get your protein?
FEASTING ON FITNESS BY ELLEN JAFFE JONES
-From the Anna Maria Island Sun, May 9, 2012
The most common question vegetarians or vegans get about eating a plant-based diet is, "Where do you get your protein?" I got it long before I wrote my book, especially as an athlete. For reasons that have more to do with marketing more than science, some athletes believe that meat and dairy are the only good sources. This is not true.
Most of us are aware that protein has an important role in our bodies, but you may not know why. Made up of amino acids (oxygen, nitrogren, carbon, and hydrogen), protein is the nutrient responsible for growing new cells and building and repairing tissue. However, contrary to popular belief, we don't need to consume that much of it to be healthy.
According to T. Colin Campbell ("The China Study" and who endorsed my book on the cover) in addition to other well-known vegan doctors and dieticians, the average requirement of protein is only about 5 ounces a day, or about 5 percent of your daily caloric intake. Campbell and others write that too much protein can actually damage your bones and organs and that reducing the amount of protein in your diet can give you more energy, put your digestive system at ease and protect your immune system. I'm not alone in my observation of increased energy.
A common misconception is that meat is the best source of protein. Consider the following animals, some of the largest on the planet – gorillas, cows, elephants – all of them are vegans. That means they eat nothing that had a mother or a face.
As a runner, I don't want that body type, but these large animals are great examples of how big and strong a living creature can be on a plant based diet. While animal products contain large amounts of protein, they are also high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The plant-based diet is low in fat, free of cholesterol and full of fiber.
Almost every plant contains protein, though some have more than others. Luckily, we do not need to get all amino acids from one source, so eating a varied vegetarian diet will result in a complete balance of protein. Here are some excellent foods that you can depend on to keep your body fit:
• Beans contain more protein than any other vegetarian source, and they are high in fiber, so you'll feel full hours after eating them. There are countless varieties, the most popular being black, pinto, kidney, chickpea, lentil, split peas and soy.
• Whole grains are a great compliment to beans, and together they pack a protein punch into your diet. Rice is always a great choice, but quinoa is a powerhouse. While quinoa is technically a seed, it contains more protein than any other grain. Check out barly and millet, and keep in mind that even popcorn contains protein. Millet is a beautiful yellow whole grain and it almost deceives you into believing that it is coated with butter.
• Nuts are also very high in protein. One ounce of almonds has the same amount as one ounce of steak, 6 grams. Enjoy your favorite nuts raw, roasted, seasoned or in nutbutter form.
• Seeds are a great addition to any meal. Simply sprinkle them on top or mix them in to add an extra boost of protein to your dish. Flax, pumpkin, and hemp seeds are not only rich in essential amino acids, but contain other important nutrients like omega-3s, iron and fiber.
• There's a reason Popeye was obsessed with spinach - he wanted to maintain his big biceps! Other green veggies with high protein content are broccoli, kale, green beans, asparagus and watercress.
And speaking of biceps, whenever I give talks on a book tour and the protein question comes up as it always does, I say flexing my biceps, "Do I look like I have a protein problem? Do you know anyone with a protein deficiency? No? Bet you know a few people with heart and diabetes issues?" Amid the laughter, hands fly up answering that last question.
You can follow Island resident Ellen Jaffe Jones on her Facebook page and keep up with her book:,"Eat Vegan on $4 a Day," or her website: www.vegcoach.com. She is also a nationally certified personal trainer and running coach. For training in a gym or private hire, contact Ellen at email@example.com or 941-704-1025.