I am sure that you have received some very conflicting information about protein over the last few years. Do you need a lot or a little? Should it come from a plant or an animal? Will protein help you lose weight or will it make you fat? And the question that vegetarians just love to be asked: “Where do you get your protein from?”
What is protein and what does it do?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that your body must have to survive, the other two being fat and carbohydrate. It consists of 20 amino acids, some of which can be manufactured by the body and some that have to be obtained from the food we eat.
Protein’s role in the body is not hard to understand at all; it builds and repairs tissues. Cells die daily by the millions and must be replaced. Protein is literally the only source your body can draw upon to do this. It is essential to the body’s ability to repair and maintain itself. This is especially true if you are active.
Protein and the vegetarian
Vegetarian is a term that refers to someone who chooses not to eat meat. The lack of animal protein in the vegetarian diet have caused some to express concern that it isn’t possible to get enough protein from just eating plants. This is a very stubborn myth that continues to stick around.
The thing that you must understand is that protein is the basic building block of literally everything, plants and animals both. So getting enough isn’t a problem at all, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean eating a dead animal.
Just ensure that your diet has plenty of variety and you’ll never have to worry. That being said, there are some plant-based foods that are better sources of protein than others.
Plant-based protein sources
The entire legume family, which includes beans and lentils, is a great source of complete proteins. Also, including nuts and seeds in your diet is not only a good idea because of the trace minerals and healthy fats, but also because they are rich sources of protein. Think almonds and pumpkin seeds, for example.
Another source that may surprise you is green, leafy vegetables. For example, a hundred calories of ground beef have ten grams of protein, while a hundred calories of spinach have twelve. So from a caloric perspective, spinach has more protein than beef, a fact that probably shocked you.
So keep it simple and don’t let all the misinformation out there overwhelm you. Just remember what protein does and that every living thing in nature has it, and to eat a variety of plant sources, and you’ll be fine.