But Where Do You Get Your Protein?
I am trying to write more posts about nutrition topics, and since almost every time that I mention to someone I eat vegan, the first thing they ask is, “How do you get protein?” (with the second question usually being something like, “so do you eat a lot of salad?”), I thought I would start with a protein post.
For some reason, the American culture has an obsession with protein. And while protein is an essential nutrient that is needed for a healthy, functioning body, we don’t need the excessive amounts of it that many Americans consume. It is easy to get more than enough protein from a varied, plant-based diet—plus, vegetable sources of protein also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as much less fat and saturated fat than animal proteins.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get between 0.36 g and .45 g of protein per pound of body weight per day. This sounds like a lot, but it is very easy to get this much protein if you’re eating an adequate amount of calories from a variety of sources. One serving of oatmeal had 6 g protein, a cup of broccoli has 4 g, a cup of lentils has 18 g of protein, and so on. Pretty much any food aside from fruits and fats (such as olive oil) are going to have protein in them.
I keep stressing that you need to eat a varied diet because most vegetarian protein sources are what are called incomplete proteins, meaning they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that your body cannot make or modify on its own and must get from your diet. As long as you eat proteins from different sources throughout the day, however, you will be able to fulfill your body’s needs.
While animal proteins are complete protein sources, they have been linked to certain diseases such as heart disease (due mainly to the high fat–especially saturated fat–content of some meats). If you are a meat eater, try to stick to (sustainable!) poultry and fish, which tend to be leaner, and limit consumption of beef and pork, which coincidentally are more environmentally impacting. Avoid processed meats (things like lunch meat that have additives, such as nitrites/nitrates, and preservatives in them) like the plague. Dairy is scary, but we’ll save that for another post.
I know I already gave you all a challenge in this week’s yoga’s post, but maybe you could show a little Ahimsa to the animals too and try to cut out meats and other non-vegan proteins one day this week; put beans in your chili, tempeh in your stir fry, and eat an extra serving of veggies. The more you try it out, the more you might find you like switching up your diet a little!