"We've had several inquiries since your presentation," the caller said, in reference to a talk that had covered today's food problems.
"They're concerned about protein deprivation on your diet; alarmed about eating only one or two servings of meat or chicken or fish a week."
The changes recommended involved a lowering of dietary fat and cholesterol and a raising of fiber. It's the kind of diet we're all heading for in the interest of less cancer and heart disease, but it's a sharp departure from the one to which we've grown accustomed over the past three decades. Inevitably it emphasizes vegetables and grains, in fact five to 10 servings of them a day, and less flesh. So those in attendance became concerned about protein. Where is it in such a diet with all its vegetables and grains?
Germany's Postwar Experience
Well, for starters, about 15% of whole grain calories is protein, and vegetables too are good sources, as nutritionists learned from the German experience. For several years after WWII, German children, as part of the population in general, suffered a food shortage aftermath. They ate a diet deficient by today's standards, about 80% of its calories coming from flour and the rest from vegetables. There was no milk and no meat, except for a tiny weekly serving of fatty sausage. Yet to the surprise of nutritionists who later studied the children, their diet left no sign of physical or mental problems. Indeed, in a selected subset of children given dried-milk supplements as a test, no benefits could be demonstrated from the extra protein.