Updated: Sep 16, 2020
"Where do you get your protein?" said the lioness to the giraffe.
"From the leaves of the trees and the grass of the field," he replied.
Time after time, nature surprises and amazes us.
Protein sources are abundant in nature's bounty of vegetables and grains, but many people are not aware of it. Researchers have studied this concern, and their conclusion is that there is protein available from many non-meat sources. In fact, as long as you are eating an adequate amount of calories, it is nearly impossible to not get enough protein.
The myth of insufficient protein in a vegetarian diet has been widely disproven. However, there are a lot of people who still believe that meat is the only kind of protein that counts. This can be frustrating for the vegetarian who just wants to eat out and not be harassed. Fortunately, awareness if beginning to shift, and there are vegan options in many restaurants now. And many excellent vegetarian restaurants!
The human body is incredibly intelligent, and will use the amino acids from foods to build proteins, enzymes and tissues. Every person needs 20 different amino acids. Foods like meat, dairy and eggs have all 20 amino acids in them. Your body can make 11 of the 20 amino acids on its own, but requires food sources for the other 9. We call these 9 "essential" amino acids.
Soooo, when people ask "Where do you get your protein?"
-- what they are really asking is --
"Where do you get the 9 essential amino acids that your body cannot make on its own?"
The best way to make sure you are getting all the essential amino acids is to vary your diet. If you eat a wide variety of nuts, seeds, vegetables, beans and grains, you should easily meet the needs of your body. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, "Protein deficiency is almost unheard of in the United States. It’s easy to get all the protein you need without eating meat, dairy, or eggs." (Source https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/protein)
COMPLETE PROTEIN SOURCES FOR THE VEG IN YOUR FAMILY
There are several vegetarian foods that do hold all 20 amino acids. Nature once again comes to the rescue with an abundance of choices!
1. Quinoa (grain)
2. Buckwheat (grain)
3. Amaranth (gluten-free grain)
4. Soy products (aka: Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame)
5. Ezekiel Bread(sprouted whole grain bread found in the freezer section of your grocer)
6. Chia Seeds
7. Spirulina (a popular algae taken in supplement form)
8. Nutritional Yeast (Yellow flakes, often used as a cheese substitute in dishes)
As I continue with my 12 Diets in 12 Months challenge, I will continue to address the nutritional questions that you have. March 2020 is VEGETARIAN MONTH and I reassure you that a vegetarian diet can provide you will plenty of protein!
In my next post I will address specific nutritional concerns for vegetarians. These include B12, iron, calcium, zinc and DHA.