I hadn’t planned on reporting about my experience following Dr. Mark Hyman’s Eat Fat Get Thin (EFGT) program until mid-year. But I’ve come across an issue which vegans should know about when following the EFGT plan. I wanted to share how I’ve solved the issue.
PEGAN versus VEGAN
For a bit of background for those unfamiliar with my blog, I have followed Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live (ETL) program for about 3 years. The 6-week weight loss portion of his program is essentially vegan and advocates limiting healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, etc.) and eliminating all oils, while encouraging eating unlimited quantities of healthy carbs (beans, legumes and fruit).
Dr. Hyman’s 3-week EFGT weight loss plan, on the other hand, stresses consuming 5 servings per day of healthy fats and oils, while eliminating all grains and beans, and limiting fruit intake (only low-glycemic ones such as berries) to 4 servings per week. In addition, Dr. Hyman does not favor strictly vegan diets, opting for what he refers to as a “Pegan” diet which combines the best of Paleo and vegan plans. This includes 4 – 6 ounces per meal of organic and sustainable animal products such as wild fish, grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, poultry and eggs, as well as bone broth.
How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?
The answer depends on who you ask. The US RDA for protein is a minimum of 44 grams per day for a 120-pound woman or 55 grams for a 150-pound man. Dr. Fuhrman’s ETL plan provides about 40 – 70 grams based on a 1,200 – 1,800 calorie per day diet. Dr. Hyman’s EFGT plan recommends .68 grams per pound of body weight per day, or about 100 – 120 grams for the average person. (I’ll note here that Dr. Fuhrman believes anything over 100 grams of protein a day is too much.)
Vegan Sources Of Protein On The EFGT Plan
The EFGT plan provides a list of protein sources but most are animal based. Vegan sources allowed are limited to organic/non-GMO tofu and tempeh, 2 – 3 handfuls per day of seeds like hemp, chia, flax, sesame (or tahini) or pumpkin seeds, and 2 – 3 handfuls of nuts such as Brazil, almonds, macadamia, walnuts, or pecans.
All of those vegan protein sources, except tofu and tempeh, fall in the “healthy” fats category of the EFGT plan, which are limited to 4 – 5 servings per day. And Dr. Hyman stresses that at least 1 of those healthy fat servings should be MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, such as coconut oil. But that doesn’t contain any protein (or fiber), and neither do the other healthy oils allowed on the plan, such as avocado, hemp and olive oil.
If one of my daily doses of healthy fats is reserved for MCT oil, then I have to extract as much protein as possible out of the remaining 4 servings. Dr. Hyman also recommends getting a variety of healthy fats each day such as ½ an avocado or 1 tablespoon walnut/sesame/hemp/extra-virgin olive oil, leaving me with 3 more healthy fats per day. On a per serving/one-ounce basis, here’s a list of the protein content for some of the allowed healthy fats:
3 grams – raw pecans
3 grams – almond butter (1 Tbsp.)
4 grams – tahini (1 Tbsp.)
4 grams – whole chia seed
5 grams – raw walnuts
6 grams – whole flax seed
7 grams – raw sunflower seed
9 grams – raw pumpkin seed
10 grams – hemp seed hearts
So Let’s Do The Daily Vegan Protein Math on EFGT
I realized that if I want to make a serving of salad dressing out of some extra-virgin olive oil, it would sacrifice some protein, so I need use tahini or a nut butter instead – and that’s just for 1 salad per day. My other salads are plain old vinegar or lemon juice for dressing. I occasionally make a salad dressing by grinding up sunflower or other seeds/nuts in the blender with lemon juice or vinegar plus some seasonings, but I actually prefer to put the nuts and seeds directly in the salad to provide some crunch.
With that in mind, let’s see if I can get to Dr. Hyman’s recommended minimum 100 grams of protein per day on EFGT as a vegan:
0 grams – 1 tablespoon MCT/coconut oil (fat serving #1)
2 grams – ½ of an avocado (fat serving #2)
10 grams – 1 ounce hemp seed hearts (fat serving #3)
9 grams – 1 ounce raw pumpkin seeds (fat serving #4)
4 grams – 1 tablespoon tahini (fat serving #5)
4 grams – ½ cup cooked quinoa
8 grams – 4 ounces of tofu (breakfast)
20 grams – 4 ounces of tempeh (lunch)
20 grams – 4 ounces of tempeh (dinner)
Total protein = 77 grams.
So I need to get another 23 grams of protein from my vegetables. Given that veggies have about 1 gram of protein per ounce on average, I will need to consume 23 ounces – or about 1½ pounds – of vegetables per day.
Protein from Raw Veggies
Now I eat a LOT of veggies every day. For instance, my salads (I have one at lunch and one at dinner) usually consist of about 4 cups well packed of chopped greens, onions, celery, red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. That’s a pretty big salad. Each cup of veggies is 2 ounces, which provides 2 grams of protein, so multiplying that times 4 cups, I get about 8 grams of protein for each salad – or a total of 16 protein grams from 2 salads each day.
Protein from Cooked Veggies
That means I need to eat another ½ pound of vegetables, which are usually cooked. My “go to” cooked veggies are broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. One cup of each of these contains 2 grams of protein. So I need to eat 4 cups of cooked veggies each day to meet the protein requirement. That’s a lot even for me – and I’m a vegaholic. However, I still think that eating large quantities of vegetables puts you on the path to ideal health, and helps avoid developing chronic conditions and cancer. So I’m not complaining!
So Yes, I Can Get Enough Protein on EFGT, but…
While I can get enough protein on EFGT, I think it’s a lot easier to get it on the Eat To Live program due to the unlimited quantities of beans and legumes allowed which have much higher protein content. Plus, beans offer lots of fiber – unlike the animal-based foods recommended by Dr. Hyman on EFGT.
So there’s my first report on my experience with the EFGT program. Stay tuned for more updates. And please drop me a line if you have any questions.
In the meantime – eat well, be happy!