Where do vegetarians get their protein?
If you don’t eat meat, chances are someone has asked you this question. This is the #1 question I get asked as a vegetarian. If you’re a meat eater, you’re probably guilty of asking one of your vegetarian or vegan friends already. Turns out finding protein might be easier than you think. Read on to get the real scoop on protein.
Do we all remember the old version of the four food groups? (Check out the update here, although it’s still inaccurate it’s going in a better direction). Protein had it’s own section, with things like a thick steak, a whole fish, or an entire chicken. We were told it was the best of all nutrients; it would make us strong, healthy, and energetic. Unfortunately, cancer rates skyrocketed along with our meat intake. Even so, old thoughts die hard, and most people cling to what they were taught as children.
Do we need protein?
Yes of course we do, protein has a lot of important roles in our body. But do we need meat to get protein? Definitely not. There is plenty of protein in plant sources. You don’t have to be a chemist to get the right combination of amino acids either, even the essential ones can be found in almost any mixture of natural foods. The problem comes in when someone who is vegetarian consumes a diet of mainly bread, pasta and other processed foods. These don’t contain much protein, and definitely don’t have a good balance of amino acids. Read about being a good vegetarian HERE.
How to get the right amount of protein in your diet?
Easy. Include vegetables, whole grains, beans or nuts in your diet. That’s it.
Actually they all have about the same. The difference? The tomato (and oatmeal) come with fiber and other important nutrients. The ham comes with cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat. It’s like dating that guy who is good looking, but a complete screw up in life. Or… that other guy, who has the whole package. Which to choose, which to choose?
Do I need to mix and match to get all the essential amino acids?
Absolutely not. Where do you think all the herbivores (gorilla, chimp, rhino, cow etc) get their amino acids? They don’t make them by magic; they consume them in the form of fresh produce.
Another quiz for you. Which has more protein 100 calories of broccoli or 100 calories of steak?
Actually it’s broccoli. Both spinach and broccoli have close to 50% of their calories coming from protein. What about steak? It has about ½ the protein as 100 calories of broccoli and the majority of its calories come from fat. Gross.
How much protein do we need?
This is actually highly controversial and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) changes all the time. Either way, the average North American consumes close to double the RDA of protein (and most of it in the form of meat, packaged with fat and cholesterol). If you get your protein from plant and whole food sources, you will be getting closer to the real RDA and you’ll be getting a lot more healthy nutrients with it. Not to mention the benefits of cutting out fat and cholesterol. (Forget about heart disease and obesity). Stop worrying about protein, and start eating vegetables.
Do you need more protein if you work out?
You actually need more of everything, not just protein. When you’re hungry after your workout, try a green smoothie with kale or spinach. You’ll be getting protein and a lot more. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you cut weird things like whey protein out of your diet. Check out THIS ARTICLE on raw food and stamina. The photo is of Sherif Kamal, a ripped raw foodist.