The Pope and the “Protein Myth”

Ignoring the elephant in the “Climate Change Situation Room”

Pope FrancisWho is going to tell the world that we don’t NEED to eat animal protein to be healthy? It could very well be Pope Francis–if only he were to become enlightened about the cold hard facts regarding the devastating consequences of our food choices.

On Monday, we heard about him taking a stand regarding the need for all nations to get serious about addressing climate change. And he’s dead serious when he says:

“We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.”

But no one has told him exactly what we must do to “care for the earth.” No one has told him that our toxic western diet (with meat, dairy, eggs and/or fish at almost every meal) is about the ONLY primary driver of climate change that we can reduce soon enough to make much of a difference. No one has told him that the “protein myth” is simply not true.

The Protein Myth. The mistaken belief throughout the world that we humans NEED to eat animal protein to be healthy.

It is that myth that is preventing the greatest Win-Win opportunity in the history of humanity–for our health, for our ecosystem, for our civilization and for the longterm sustainability of the human species. Once enough people understand the proven truths about animal protein, the sooner we can get about the business of taking the best possible steps to “caring for the earth.”

A brief summary of the “protein truth.”

Per calorie, spinach has more protein than sirloin.

Per calorie, spinach has more protein than sirloin.

  1. We do need protein, just like we need carbohydrates and fat in our diet.
  2. We need about ten percent of our calories from protein, but most westerners average closer to 20%–because of their love affair with animal-based foods.
  3. Plant-based foods have plenty of all three of the macronutrients, in just the right proportion for optimizing our health.
  4. Animal-based foods are associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and a host of other chronic diseases that need never exist in humans.
  5. Animal-based foods (on a per calorie basis) require over ten times as much land, water and energy as do plant-based foods.
  6. According to the FAO (U.N.), the raising of livestock causes more climate change than ALL of transportation combined. Some experts believe it causes more than THREE times as much GHG as all of transportation.

Think about that last fact and think about how long it would take to actually even BEGIN to reduce the GHG produced by transportation. With millions in the developing world just beginning to drive cars for the first time, just stopping growth in this sector would be a HUGE success. Actually reducing GHG in the transportation sector anytime soon is virtually impossible–regardless what the pope and all of the world’s governmental leaders have to say.

What can be done? ALL of our world leaders are completely missing the ONLY way to actually fight climate change quickly–simply by urging people everywhere to begin replacing as many of their meat-based calories as possible with plant-based foods. Anyone can change what they eat overnight and doing so will contribute to an immediate reduction in GHG.

Pope Francis NYTBusiness as usual. Until a widely respected global leader (like Pope Francis) steps forward and tells the world all of these truths, it will be business as usual throughout the world when it comes to climate change. The NY Times editorial board described that business as usual thusly:

Though there is broad scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising, in large part because of the emission of greenhouse gases, international efforts to do something about it have been secular, political and largely unsuccessful. Conservative skeptics have actively campaigned to depict climate change as a hoax, while governments, especially in emerging economies, have been loath to take steps that might hamper growth.

Calling All LEADERS! When is one powerful leader going to wake up and understand the third grade math about climate change, world hunger and water scarcity? When that happens, all three of these global issues (and many more) can be solved, but we must have LEADERSHIP. (See source articles below the elephant in the room.)

How much longer can we ignore this guy?

Elephant in the room

Source articles

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes. eCornell is now using our survey in their plant-based nutrition course. Check it out on your smartphone at

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf Program and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to The Pope and the “Protein Myth”

  1. Steve Grover says:

    I was intrigued with the claim that broccoli has more protein than sirloin per calorie. So I looked up calories and protein amounts for broccoli on and found that there are 0.0841 grams of protein per calorie of raw broccoli and 0.0684 grams of protein per calorie of cooked broccoli.

    I then found the comparable info for sirloin. Doesn’t seem to matter much whether it is cooked or raw, either way it’s about 0.12 grams of protein per calorie.

    So, according to an objective website, your claim is incorrect. Sirloin has anywhere from 50% to 84% more protein per calorie than broccoli, depending on whether the broccoli is cooked or raw.

    I like to check statements made by folks who have a personal bias for accuracy. This claim was NOT accurate.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Steve, Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. This was a “factoid” that I picked up from another author and failed to explore the raw data myself. But I have done that just now and see that you are correct. So, I just went to the manuscript for our new book and substituted spinach for broccoli. Fortunately, I was able to make this change before the book goes to press in a few weeks.

      Doing two different calculations, I find that spinach has either 13.3 or 14.3 grams of protein per 100 calories. That compares to 9.2 and 8.4 for sirloin and t-bone respectively.

      The primary point we’re trying to make is that plants have plenty of protein, some much more than others. But the fact is that our problem is that humans are eating way too much protein–especially animal-based protein. And that causes a host of problems when it comes to chronic disease. Now I will go back and change that image from broccoli to spinach. Thanks again.

  2. Sal Liggieri says:

    “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.”

    Jim, if God willed this, then why doesn’t God intervene with his power. Wouldn’t God with his infinite wisdom be the perfect leader?

    The Pope is not a Vegan (?)

    Glory be to you O Lord, for you are the Glory of Life. ( From a song I wrote, The Glory of Life.)

    Since writing that song, I wonder if there is any “Glory.”

    Keep blogging Jim, the animals are still being butchered.

    Sal Liggieri

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