Someone kindly sent me a link earlier to a Mark Bittman piece from yesterday's New York Times. In Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" column in the health section of the paper, Bittman explains how while training for the New York City Marathon, he was informed that he's not eating enough "'complete' proteins". In fact, it seems that he just hasn't been getting enough protein at all. He lists the credentials of nutritionist and Today TV show regular Madelyn Fernstrom, and states:
We met, she heard me out, then immediately declared my diet to be on the “low end” protein-wise – which, she said, “would certainly cause fatigue,” especially since I eat mostly vegetables and don’t typically consume “complete” proteins (code-word for animal products).So what's an omni foodie trying to pass himself off as a supposed "part-time vegan" to do?
I started eating a “concentrated protein,” usually tofu, a can of sardines, an egg thrown onto whatever else I’m eating, or something equally simple, right after six-miles-or-longer runs.So here's the scoop: Bittman's obviously not an abolitionist or any sort of animal rights advocate. He's not a vegan. He's not even a vegetarian. He's a trendy food writer who's tried to cash in on the rising popularity of veganism, attempting to co-opt the term to sell his book. I certainly don't expect him to defend a plant-based diet any more than he already has for the limited reasons he has (e.g. personal health, the environment). However, the reference to needing "complete" proteins (or of the supposed need to combine proteins), whether or not for "athletes", has long-since been dismissed by even the most mainstream of non-vegan-friendly bodies as completely unnecessary. Plus, the whole idea (his token reference to tofu aside) of needing to consume "concentrated" sources of animal-based protein to not "often run out of energy halfway through even four-mile runs" had me rolling my eyes more than a little. Some of the comments were especially annoying, especially one where Tara Parker-Pope added a note describing Bittman as "mostly-vegan" and attributing his protein deficiency to that fact. Mostly vegan? Really?
I would certainly never try to encourage someone to go vegan for health-based reasons, since it's not about personal health: It's about our usage of animals for our own selfish and trivial purposes. On the other hand, it really ticks me off to see someone who's getting so much attention as a purported food expert now trying to spread the word that anyone exerting themselves physically needs to eat animal flesh to stay healthy. I really hope that someone takes him to task concerning this soon.