I cannot tell you why, but people these days are incredibly obsessed with protein. You can find “added protein” in just about every granola bar, shake, smoothie, cookie, and salad on any menu and in any package. Is it because we want to become stronger and more fit? Is more protein the only way to gain muscle? These may be partly true, but do we need to eat protein for every meal in order to obtain that? Isn’t meat the most efficient way to obtain protein? And isn’t meat the only food with complete protein (whatever that means)? I’m here to debunk some of your myths and arguments with a quick run-down on plant proteins!
Why Plant-Based Protein?
OK, so if you’re not a veggie like me, why the heck should you care about plant proteins? Well, it turns out that just like fruits and vegetables, we need a variety of protein sources as well! You can’t get all of your vitamins from eating only apples, can you? I didn’t think so. Variety is essential to a healthy and balanced body, so switching up your protein sources can be very beneficial. And since plants are nutrient dense, meaning they contain more nutrients per calorie, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
Another reason to eat more plant proteins is because you get all of the good stuff without the nasty ingredients that you get with meat. If you didn’t already know, plants contain 0 cholesterol, and I mean ZERO, ZIP, NADA, NONE. Our bodies make enough cholesterol, so we don’t need to eat any more of it. Excess cholesterol can accumulate in your arteries and make it difficult for blood to pass through, causing chest pains and even heart attacks. In a society that loves their meat, it is no wonder that the #1 killer in America is heart disease!
You may not think about it, but remember all of those hormones and chemicals given to the chickens to make it grow faster and fatter? Yeah, all of that can’t be “cooked out” of your dinner. It is sad to say that with factory farms being such a huge industry, you really can’t know what you are getting when you eat meat. Did you also know that you can actually get stressed out from eating too much meat? Right before being slaughtered, their bodies, just like ours, create excess adrenaline due to the immense amount of fear. This adrenaline stays in their bodies and goes right on your plate. So don’t get mad at me when I tell you you’ve had too many burgers. It’s the meat talking.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
The national Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), or how much protein you need to be healthy, is approximately .8g for every kilogram you weigh. So lets do the math:
- Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms
- Multiply your weight in kilograms by .8
- Your final number is how many grams of protein you need daily
For a female between the ages of 19-30, 46g of protein is recommended. According to my calculations, I need about 44g of protein daily. Sounds about right. If I ate 1c soy milk with breakfast, 1/2c pinto beans and quinoa for lunch, and a handful of nuts for a snack, I would already reach my RDA for the day before dinner, not including all of the other foods I ate!
Protein Packed Foods and Complete Proteins
So where can you find plant proteins? Here’s a list of just a few foods that are high in protein content:
- Pinto Beans: 1/2c = 11g
- Lentils: 1/2c = 9g
- Soy Nuts: 1oz = 12g
- Peanuts/Peanut Butter: 1tbs = 7g
- Almonds: 1oz = 6g
- Soy Milk: 1c = 8g
- Edamame: 1/2c = 9g
- Pistachios: 1oz = 6g
Although not as high in protein as the list above, many vegetables and grains, such as spinach and quinoa, also contain protein.
Wait a second! Isn’t meat and dairy the only place to get COMPLETE PROTEINS? And what is a complete protein? As you may already know, there are 9 essential amino acids. They are essential because our bodies do not make them, therefore we must eat them in order to produce all of the proteins needed to keep our bodies functioning properly. A complete protein is when all 9 essential amino acids are present. All dairy and meat products are complete proteins, so that is why there is a misconception about people needing meat to be healthy. However, you can get all of your amino acids from plants by combining foods. For example, beans contain most of the 9 essential amino acids, but the ones it lacks are found in brown rice. That may be the reason why they are commonly eaten (and taste great) together! But if you are not about combining your foods, soy and quinoa are two of the few plant foods that are in fact COMPLETE PROTEINS (* high-fives self *). Now you should have no excuse to eat your veggies!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is as simple as this: eating meat causes unnecessary cruelty. An animal’s life may not be worth the 30 seconds of pleasure that the taste of steak will give you. Remember, you cast your vote between cruelty and kindness every time you sit down to eat, so choose compassion.