It's fascinating to me that, upon hearing that I consume and promote a plant-based diet, people ask about protein and calcium - as though I and my clients might not be consuming enough. But no one living in an affluent population has ever suffered from protein deficiency. There are individuals with eating disorders who may suffer from food deficiency, but it's pretty impossible to suffer from protein deficiency specifically. In other words, anyone not consuming adequate protein is not eating enough food at all, and would therefore be suffering from multiple deficiencies.
Calcium can be a concern, but it's mainly due to issues surrounding absorption. Most people in affluent populations actually consume enough calcium, but their bodies are so acidic that the calcium is not properly absorbed (such as when a human consumes dairy - it generally leaves the body with a little less calcium than it had prior to consumption because of the inflammation that it causes).
But what never occurs to anyone, it seems, is to ask themselves:
Am I getting enough fiber?
The truth is, the average American adult is consuming only about 16 grams of fiber per day, when they should be getting at least 30 grams!! This is an epidemic!!
Almost every adult in America is deficient in fiber. Really.
And what can this lead to?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Diabetes (fiber helps regulate blood sugar)
Cardiovascular disease (Studies show that by increasing average daily fiber intake from 10 to 20 grams per day, the risk of dying from heart disease can be lowered by 19-27 percent)
Obesity (fiber slows fat absorption and promotes feelings of satiety)
General feelings of nausea and tiredness (which is a symptom of a high-protein, low-fiber diet)
Not fun stuff. And fiber is amazing!! Not only because it prevents the above, but it also helps you feel full without absorbing any calories. That's right: fiber is a calorie-free way to feel full and promote health. That's because the human body doesn't actually absorb fiber; fiber simply helps foods travel optimally through our intestines.
Guess what has no fiber at all, ever? Animal products.
And refined foods generally have very little, if any, fiber.
And THAT'S why we're deficient. Too many animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs), and not enough fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, legumes, and whole grain. Sprouted grain is even better. So, make the switch! Think you need obscene amounts of protein to feel full? Well, you don't - see here - and you may be damaging your health by consuming too much of that macro. Try high-fiber instead!! Just know that, at first, you may experience some discomfort as your digestive system adjusts. Give it two weeks to normalize, and consume plenty of fluids. And remember: it's optimal to pass stool at least once a day, twice is better. So, don't freak out if that starts happening for the first time:-)