One of the most common questions (or statements) I encounter is "But where do you get your protein from?"
Most of us have grown up knowing that:
1. Protein is important
2. Protein comes only or largely from animal products
3. Anyone that doesn't eat meat (or much meat) is probably a little loopy (please note that I have grown up in Regional Australia - sometimes the mindset is a little 'traditional')
So where does one whose daily diet consists of 15% (or less) animal sources get their protein from?
Before I make a list for you, let me quickly address these preconceived beliefs:
1. Yes, protein is very important. It is used by our bodies for a multitude of functions once it has been broken down into amino acids. The structure of our cells and their metabolic processes all require proteins, along with an abundance of nutrients and minerals for optimal functioning. This is why I am a huge fan of plant based eating - because from plants I am able to get a protein source ALONG with a highly dense nutrient source. Animal proteins do give us some nutrients, but not at as high a level nor without the side serving of their saturated fats. So when you think about choosing the best fuel for your cells, it naturally makes sense to source it from something that provides more nutrition than its counterpart. Nutrient dense plant based foods = higher nett gain per meal.
2. Protein is found in plants, in almost every plant. But it is true that it is more prolific in certain plants. Seeds, nuts, legumes are especially dense in protein, along with the respective vitamins and minerals I was just mentioning. The beauty of sourcing your protein from seeds and nuts, is that you are also getting a lovely whack of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) along with it. These little beauties work with your amino acids to ensure cell integrity, proper nerve functioning, brain health and aid in the reduction of inflammation within the body. The shell of each and every cell in our body is made of a layer of EFAs, so they're kind of a big deal.
3. This last one is more of a personal experience with being a predominantly 'non-meat-eater' in a regional Australian town. People are often shocked or surprised that I don't consume meat and I can completely understand that reaction! I used to eat meat! Hell, I even loved meat!
But since learning about and then firsthand experiencing the health benefits of a plant based lifestyle, I am not missing it at all. I take any comments or reactions in my stride and while I do very occasionally consume a little bit of meat or a couple of eggs (once or twice per month usually), I am so happy that I made the shift to this way of living.
OK. So top plant based protein sources:
1. Seeds & Nuts (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup)
Chia seeds- 12g protein
Hemp seeds - 10g protein
Flax seeds - 8g protein
Sunflower seeds - 8g protein
Almonds, Pumpkin seeds (pepitas), Sesame - 7g protein
Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts - 6g protein
2. Beans/Legumes (1 cup of cooked)
Lentils - 18g protein
Adzuki & Cannellini - 17g protein
Navy beans & Split peas - 16g protein
Black bean, Chickpea, Kidney bean, Lima bean - 15g protein
3. Grains (1 cup of cooked)
Triticale - 25g protein
Millet - 8.4g protein
Amaranth, Oat bran, Wild rice, Rye - 7g protein
Whole wheat Couscous, Bulgar Wheat, Buckwheat, Teff, Oat groats - 6g protein
Barley, Quinoa, Brown rice, Spelt - 5g protein
Vegetables all contain protein, however are usually 5g or below per cup of vegetables. However when you think of the amount of vegetables you would consume in a large salad, it us usually 2 or more cups, so you are gaining protein sources all the time, along with those wonderful nutrients.
So next time you're concerned about a plant based diet not being adequate in protein, know that as you SHOULD be adding seeds or nuts to every meal or snack, you are already covering that base quite well, not yet including lunches and dinners.