My family history is even more remarkable. About 25 years ago, my father had chronic angina. His doctor diagnosed blockages in three arteries and wanted him to have immediate bypass surgery. But when my dad did his own research he discovered that surgery although effective at reducing angina, would not slow progression of his disease, would provide little benefit in terms of extending his life, and that he could do more to reduce his risk of a sudden cardiac event, by switching to a low-fat vegan diet. Furthermore, by opting for this simple dietary change, he avoided having his sternum busted open and being put on a heart-lung machine, which always causes at least some brain damage, and is a necessary part of every bypass surgery. So my father went to a program in California that taught him how to eat. In under a month, his blood pressure and cholesterol were back in the healthy range and his chest pain was entirely gone. His energy was dramatically improved. He did well like this for half a dozen years until he was derailed by those dangerous 5 words, "A little bit won't hurt." Several years after adding animal protein back to his diet, he had his first coronary event.
My mother will tell anyone who asks...the healthiest she ever felt in her whole life, was when she was a practicing macrobiotic. For several years, she ate an all-plant based diet, with the exception of fish once or twice a month, but no more. When her macrobiotic guru left town, she lost her bearings and drifted back to eating some chicken, eggs and dairy -- but always expressed regret over, "falling off the macrobiotic wagon" when she talked about this.
Both of my parents have now lived longer than any of their parents did, and so far longer than all of their siblings too.
Now you'd think that with all that family history, my sisters would not be trying to get our parents to eat more animal protein, and condemning me for my attempts to keep them largely plant-based. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Such are the challenges of family.
One of my sisters is a huge fan of Dr. Mercola and even claimed that according to him, our under 85 lb mother should be eating at least 6o gms of protein a day, and that some of that should come from animals. Now I don't agree with everything Mercola says, but it's worth noting that even with his obvious personal bias in favor of eating animals, he has pointed out that we are likely to live longer and better by NOT eating too much protein -- which for someone my mother's size he clearly states should be LESS THAN 40 grams of protein a day.
So I share all of this, so you will understand, why from time to time, when family anxiety gets the better of me, I continue to revisit the issue of how much protein we need and how to get enough of it on a plants-only diet. If you really want an entertaining and very thorough discussion of this issue, read the terrific book, Proteinaholic, by a top bariatric surgeon.
So what I wanted to share here was my recent discovery about just how much protein there is in mushrooms. Relative to the number of calories, it's really pretty astounding. Here in America, where most of us are eating too many calories, as long as we meet our energy needs, the less calories eaten, the better. Less calories tends to mean less cancer, less diabetes, and less degenerative disease in general. Since we don't need a lot of protein, the more important consideration is how do we get it, while minimizing calories and maximizing health-promoting nutrients? Consider the humble mushroom. A tiny little four ounce can of mushrooms provides 2 grams of protein. Now that may not seem like much...but consider this, an entire can has only 20 calories in it because there is a lot of water in mushrooms! For comparison, to get 2 grams of protein from beef, you'd have to eat 124 artery-clogging, cancer-promoting calories. Mushrooms: Real food for real people who'd like to live a long healthy life.