Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where do you get your protein??

One common question you'll hear if you talk about becoming vegan (or being vegan already) is, "where do you get your protein if you don't eat meat or eggs?" Good question, and with just a little research we can clear that up and find good sources of plant based protein.
Not so keen on soy products? There are many products other than the soybean that can give you your daily dose of protein.
One website gives ingredients to keep stocked in your kitchen:
Lentils: Also high in iron and dietary fiber. They come in many types (Wikipedia names 13! Tho I've only tried 3 myself), and are easy to prepare. One cup of cooked lentils gives you 35% of your daily protein.
Chickpeas: Hummus anyone? One cup of chickpeas gives you 30% of your daily protein.
Tofu: Four ounces of the stuff gives you about 20% of your daily dose. Seitan and tempeh are used in faux meats, they are high protein.
Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts... the list goes on and on. You can get your fill by going raw, or using a nut milk or nut butters such as peanut butter or almond butter.

To name some more:
Nuts/Seeds: Almond, brazil nut, cashews, chestnuts, coconut (shredded), hazelnuts, flax seeds, macadamia, peanut, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts.
Beans: Adzuki, anasazi, black beans, black eyed peas (not the band), cannellini (white beans), fava beans, garbanzo, great northern beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas
Grains: Amaranth, barley (pearled or flakes), buckwheat, cornmeal, millet, oats, quinoa, rice (brown, white, wild), spelt, couscous, bulgar wheat
Cooked Fresh Veggies: Artichoke, asparagus, string beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chives, sweet corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, okra, onion, parsnip, peas, peppers, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, spinach, squash, sweet potato, tomato, turnip
Raw Fruit: Avocado, banana, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, cantaloupe, cherry, currant, date (pitted), gooseberry, grape, grapefruit, guava, honeydew, jujube (dried), kiwi, lemon, mango, melon, mulberry, nectarine, orange, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, pomegranate, prickly pear, quince, raspberry, sapote, starfruit, strawberry, tangerine, watermellon

What is protein? Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids. Our bodies can produce 10 of the 20. And only 8 of them are essential. The names are too large and text book that I won't get into it. But just know that we can get all the nutrients we need by eating various complementary foods (such as rice/beans, rice/lentils, basically any legume (beans/lentils) mixed with any grain), and getting enough fruits and veggies. You don't need to much on a cheeseburger to get your amino acid fill. :)

Let's back up a step or two, the question that never seems to get asked is, "how much protein do I actually need?"
Calculating our protein requirement is simple mathematics. Multiplying 0.45 by your body weight in pounds should give you an approximate protein need for your body. Obviously if you are pregnant, breast feed or have a medical condition you will want to make sure with your doctor what your plan of action is. But for the majority, we can go by this standard.

Did you know that there is such thing as too much protein? Too much protein, especially sourced from animal products, can cause kidney damage, can cause kidney stones, along with osteoporosis, acid reflux, obesity, plaque buildup in arteries, high blood pressure, pain from arthritis, high cholesterol, bad breath from sulfur- containing amino acids, and increased risk of cancer (especially colon cancer).

One thing to note about protein is that it needs to be replenished daily. Our bodies do not store protein as it does other nutrients, and we're aware that it needs to be replaced to aid in building and repairing new cells, hormones, antibodies, enzymes and muscle tissue.

Glad we got that settled. Now we can stop thinking about if we're getting enough or too much and just have fun with trying new foods and eating a balanced diet! :)

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