In our last post on plants as a sole source of survival foods, the question of a minimum diet was brought up. If you were forced to survive on only one or two dietary staples, what would your health look like?
The video pointed to examples of the grain and legume diets used by impoverished people living all around the world. From corn tortillas and beans in Mexico to rice and soy in southeast Asia. the combination is widespread. Many preppers take it upon themselves to weight heavily on a single staple. It does seem a lot easier to just buy rice by the drum and seal it off in the garage.
A question of protein
By this point you should know that all proteins are not created equal. While it is possible (although difficult) to get the recommended dose of protein. For example, to get the recommended dose of 50g of protein would require almost
While this is inefficient and unrealistic for limited food stores, it gets even worse. The conversion rate on protein from these sources is much worse than others. The conversion rate for soy, one of the highest touted forms of vegetable protein is only 17%.
What does that mean? Even if you’re getting 50 grams on paper, after conversion you’re body is getting roughly 8.5g. The rest are converted into carbohydrates via the process of gluconeogenesis.
It could also be considered a question of amino acids. A diet consisting entirely of grain or legumes is lacking in animal foods. If you recall our series on amino acids, there are a number that are either impossible to get from plant sources, or so poorly converted that it is effectively impossible. These would include lysine, methionine and tryptophan
What about vitamins?
Grains have one of the lowest nutrient densities of any food. White rice, corn and wheat all lack the vitamins contained in vegetables, healthy animal fats and nuts. There is a reason bread is fortified in many parts of the developed world, because it’s useless otherwise!
What’s worse, legumes and many grains actually contain chemicals which bind to vitamins called phytates. Grains and legumes are seeds, for the most part. Their purpose is to germinate to produce a new plant. In order to prevent this from happening in the wrong conditions, phytates exist within the seed to prevent them from sprouting.
How do they work? By binding to the essential vitamins and minerals required from growth. When you’re eating grains and legumes, you are not only unable to access the vitamins and minerals which may show up on a calorimeter, but inhibiting your ability to absorb the other nutrients in your diet!
The ability of impoverished populations to survive on legumes and grains alone may be exaggerated. In order to get the amino acids needed to survive, some animal based protein must have been worked in.
There is also a difference between surviving and thriving. People in poverty conditions have a lower average height, likely because of insufficient nutrition caused by diets like this. We shouldn’t aim to provide only this for ourselves or our families.