Oh where, oh where has the PROTEIN gone?

The question I get asked most by non-vegans is "If you don't eat meat, will you get enough protein?"... YES! In fact, many non-meat items carry more protein per serving than commonly consumed meat items (for example soybeans carry 35 grams of protein per serving, which is higher than turkey, chicken, or salmon and most cuts of beef). Bottom line, almost all living foods have protein, but it is in the combination of foods that a complete protein is made (more below). For those of you who are trying to integrate more plant based proteins into your diet, here is a list of a few (among many):

Food (per serving):                                                Protein Amount (grams):

Tempeh                                                                  41
Soybeans                                                               35
Seitan                                                                    31
Lentils                                                                   18
Black Beans                                                          15
Kidney Beans                                                        13
Veggie Burger                                                        13
Pinto Beans                                                           12
Chickpeas                                                             12 
Tofu                                                                      11
Quinoa                                                                   9
Bagel                                                                     9
Peas                                                                      9
Soy Milk                                                                 8
Textured Vegetable Protein                                       8 
Peanut Butter                                                          8
Spaghetti                                                                8
Bulger                                                                    6
Sunflower Seeds                                                     6
Potato                                                                    4
Collard Greens                                                        4
Watercress                                                             3
Asparagus                                                              3
Kale                                                                       3
Spinach                                                                  2

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body. They are made up of amino acids, and help build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. There are 20 amino acids required by the body, and all but eight can be produced in your body. These eight amino acids, called essential amino acids, must be supplied by food and/or supplements. The other twelve non-essential amino acids are made within the body, but both essential and non-essential amino acids are needed to synthesize proteins. What does all this mean? It means that if you don't supply your body with the essential amino acids it needs, your body may be limited in the amount of protein it can use to build muscle. So how much protein should you eat per day? This ranges from 40-70 grams per day. It is true that many meat sources of protein are 'complete proteins', meaning that they supply the alternate amino acids that the body cannot. However, this does not mean that a vegetarian/ vegan is protein deficient. In fact, many doctors recommend plant based proteins versus meat proteins because they are lower in fat, and can be used easily and quickly by the body when digesting. So, how does vegetarian/ vegan get all of the proteins (amino acids) necessary for a healthy lifestyle? All that it takes is a little creativity and some thought about what vegetables, beans, lentils and nuts are being combined. For example, the following chart are protein rich foods that when combined (2 or 3 from different columns), a complete protein is made:

Grains       Legumes        Seeds; Nuts Vegetables
Barley        Beans        Sesame Seeds Greens
Corn Meal        Lentils        Sunflower                                Broccoli
Oats        Peas        Walnuts
Rice        Peanuts        Cashews
Pasta        Soy Products                          Other Nuts
Whole Grain Breads

You'll find that more often than not, this is done without any effort at all, just simple mechanics of making a satisfying meal.

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