The funniest things happen when I eat lunch in my university's cafeteria. My plate is normally filled with potatoes, rice or pasta with an abundance vegetables on-top. This can be quite intriguing for some people... I'm not eating hot dogs, meatballs, cheesy pasta and washing it down with a glass of milk. Naturally, people ask me questions about my diet.
The most common question I get... yes, you guessed it… “where do I get my protein?” If you're eating a plant-based diet, where do you get your protein from? Well, plants!
What I'm about to say is very important and I never want you to forget it so please really 'listen.' "You do not need animal foods to get enough protein in your diet." I'm going to 'say it' again because it is that important... "you do not need to eat animal foods to get enough protein in your diet."
Before I give your examples of plant protein, we have to answer one very important question and that is… how much protein do we actually need?
According to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, we fulfill our protein needs with 10% of our total calories coming from protein (1). Just 10%!
Now that we know how much protein we need in our diet, lets see how much protein is in some common plant foods.
Percentage of calories coming from protein (2) Source
Kale: 35% (3)
Broccoli: 33% (4)
Black beans: 27% (5)
Wild rice: 16% (6)
Quinoa: 15% (7)
Potato: 11% (8)
Sweet potato: 9% (9)
It's important to understand that all plant foods have protein. All of them! Some, not as much as others, but when we eat a variety of different plant foods, the total amount of protein we consume balances itself out in the body. You will get an adequate amount of protein as long as you're eating enough food (not starving) and varied types.
So again, I want you to say this to yourself... “I do not need animal food to get enough protein. Plant foods fulfill all my protein needs” and exhale. Aww. Much better.
Know that there can be harmful consequences from eating too much protein, especially animal protein. If you want to learn more about the risks from eating too much protein, here is a well-referenced PDF from the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine titled 'The Protein Myth.'
And because Easter is coming up, here are two mouth-watering recipes for your holiday feast (if you're celebrating). Thank you Cathy Fisher for these great recipes!
I want to challenge you to think about this protein information more. To get you started, I want you to answer this Take Control Now question and post your answer in the comments section at the end of this article.
Take Control Now Question
Do you know anyone with a protein deficiency?
Are you concerned about getting enough protein in your diet? If so, why?
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Thanks for joining me. Get educated, get support and take control. You can get the healthy body of your dreams.
1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. 2002. Last updated online September, 2013. Accessed online, April 2014.
* How I calculated the percentage of calories from protein from the USDA nutrient management system (2-9)... #protein g per serving x 4 kcal/g / #kcals per serving x 100 = % of calories from protein