If you've paid any attention to the media in recent years you may now be completely bamboozled by which of the macronutrients - fat, carbohydrate, protein is our best friend and which is its evil sibling. The current trend seems to favour high protein (and high fat) ..bear in mind that this is also very favourable for the meat and dairy industries. It's less favourable, or at least more difficult, if you're trying to give veganism a go. But do plantbased eaters subscribe to this trend anyway? Many do not.
Population studies of healthy long-lived people all point to successful diets being those that emphasise carbohydrates with much lower percentages of protein and fat than we're used to seeing in our modern diets. But what are these carbohydrates? They're certainly not the industrialised and refined carbs that are so prevalent right now, they're vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Beans are indeed a very good source of protein, around 30% of their calories are protein, but they're also about 65% carbohydrate, the body and brain's first choice of fuel. It doesn't come as a surprise to us that a wholefoods, plant-dominant, or fully plantbased diet makes a difference, sometimes a life-changing difference, to those who make the switch.
The best known region for healthy longevity is most probably the Japanese
Island of Okinawa. The pie chart here shows the macronutrient breakdown of a traditional Okinawan diet. Their typical diet and traditional way of life has sparked a huge amount of interest in the scientific and lay community and has been adopted by many as a blueprint for healthy living and longevity, and yet many Western dietary recommendations still advocate macronutrient ratios that are very different from this and other such regions. We wonder about the long-term effects of placing such an emphasis on fats and protein, rather than healthy carbohydrates.
This pie chart shows an approximation of the macronutrients that are typically consumed in Western nations. Not only are fat and protein much higher here, but we also know that a good proportion of the fat of it is saturated fat, and when animal protein is the protein of choice, the diet will inevitably include dietary cholesterol. This is not the case with plant protein which contains no cholesterol at all and typically, less saturated fat.