Seems like when my friends and I cut down on meat, the first question is “but where do we get our protein?” I wanted to do a little research to make sure my family and I were getting enough protein. We still do some fish, local chicken and some (very little) grassfed/grass-finished beef, but the majority of our diet is from plants. I worry that I am not getting enough protein, but after some of this research, I think you and I are doing pretty well!
In America, there’s been a trend since 1950′s where animal protein has increased. Back then, more than 40 percent of the protein in the American diet came from grains, bread, and cereal. Yet today, only 17 percent comes from these sources, along with another 15 percent from legumes, fruits, and vegetables, while two-thirds is from animal products. This trend, also happening in other industrialized Western countries, has been accompanied by a steady increase in heart-disease and cancer deaths.
Protein in the average diet has become excessive. The average American child’s diet contains excessive protein, far exceeding the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) established by the National Research Council.
A 4-year-old needs about 33 grams per day;
a 12-year-old, 45 grams;
and an adult, 50-65 grams.
Children actually consume 50-60 grams and adults up to 100 grams, mostly from meat and dairy products. The rural Chinese adult diet consists of an ideal 55-60 grams, mostly from plant sources.
Of course, if you’re doing intense workouts, you need to increase this by at least 20%.
There is much talk about “complete proteins”. Most animal proteins are considered “complete”. Basically, protein is made up of 22 amimo acids. Of the 22 standard amino acids, there are eight that the human body cannot synthesize from other compounds: we must get these directly from our diet, so they’re called essential. The infamous eight are: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
If you’re doing a plant based diet, don’t struggle with combinations to create the complete proteins. Just enjoy a variety of fruits, grains, and veggies each day…as raw as possible…and enjoy the glow of eating well!
I am not a full-fledged vegan (yet), but here’s a basic pyramid as a guide to plant-based eating:
Here are some plant based foods that contain lots of protein!
Soy Proteins and “Meats”:
Veggie Burger – 51.4 g in 6 oz.
Tempeh – 41 g per cup
Plain soymilk – 11 g per cup
Edamame – 20 g per cup
Seitan – 19 g per 3 ounces
Tofu – 20 g per 1/2 cup
Fruits and Vegetables:
Peas – 9 g per cup
Cooked broccoli – 4 g per cup
Cooked spinach – 5 g per cup
Avocado – 4 g per cup
Orange – 1.7 g in 1 large
Banana – 1.2 g in 1 medium
Green Beans – 1 g in 1/2 cup
Carrots – .8 gram in 1/2 cup
Asparagus – 3.08 per 8 spears
Cauliflower – 2.28 per cooked cup
Kale – 2.2 per chopped cup
Beans and Legumes:
Mung beans – 23 g per cup
Black beans – 15 g per cup
Lentils – 18 g per cup
Split Peas – 16 g per cup
Kidney Beans – 15 g per cup
Green Peas – 8 g per cup
Nuts and Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds – 9.35 per ounce
Hemp seeds – 7.5 per 1/4 cup
Sesame Seeds – 7.5 g per 1 oz
Sunflower seeds – 6 g per 1/4 cup
Cashews – 5 g per 1/4 cup
Chia seeds – 5 g per 2 tablespoons
Flax seeds – 4 g per 2 tablespoons
Peanut butter – 8 g per 2 tablespoons
Almond butter – 7 g per 2 tablespoons
Sunflower seed butter – 5.5 g per 2 tablespoons
Baked red potato – 3 g per cup
Barley – 3.5 g per cup
Bulgur – 5.5 g per cup
Quinoa – 9 g per cup (COMPLETE)
Amaranth – 9.35 per cup (COMPLETE)
Oats – 6 g per cooked cup
Brown rice – 5 g per cup
White rice – 4 g per cup
Cooked semolina pasta – 8 g per cup
Whole grain bread – 7 g in 2 slices
As you can see, there is protein present in so many of the foods we consume and we don’t even realize it!! If you’re trying a pant-based diet, just focus on some of the more nutrient dense foods. While writing this post, I enjoyed a hand-full of raw pumpkin seeds! Enjoy your journey!!!