The Truth about Protein

Doctors’ beef with beef

At those times in life when you're looking to shed a few pounds or to tone up a bit, often times it is suggested to "up" your protein intake. It's said, "protein keeps you fuller longer" and, in order to build lean muscle mass and slim down, we need to eat more of it. And, to a certain extent, this is true. But when we are told to eat more protein it is always suggested in the way of animal sources such as beef, chicken and eggs. The truth is the Standard American's Diet (SAD) contains too much protein from animal sources and not enough from plant-based sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables. 

Diets high in animal proteins have been linked to heart disease, cancer, intestinal disorders and kidney problems. At the same time, research has also shown that cultures that follow diets opposite to that of the SAD (meaning plant-based diets, high in fiber, low in fat and filled with complex carbohydrates) have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Not to mention the high price animal agriculture incurs upon the planet!

Many people think that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, or even just cutting down on animal products, won't allow you to meet the suggested Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein. This is simply a myth. The reality is: only 15 percent of your total daily caloric intake should come from protein sources. That means, for a 2,000 calorie a day diet, a little over 300 calories should come from protein. And yes, it is true that athletes and active people need more protein in their diet than the average person, but not that much more.

The American Dietetic Association believes that a person’s daily protein needs can easily be met by consuming a variety of non-animal protein sources.There are many alternatives to animal proteins that offer the same essential amino acids. To consume a diet that contains enough protein, while avoiding or cutting down on animal products, try:

  • Replacing meat dishes with beans and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas
  • Using grains such as Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), which have high protein content and almost all the eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development
  • Stir-frying vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, which are solid sources of plant-based protein
  • Sprinkling some hemp seeds on a salad - they contain all the essential amino acids. Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds also pack a protein punch
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts, which are all reliable sources of non-animal protein. Add them to any dish or eat them by themselves

And let's not forget about the soybean, which contains all the essential amino acids and offers more protein than any other vegetable. Shell edamame for stir fries and salads, grill some tofu or mix your morning cereal with soy milk.

Every vegetarian food contains protein. As long as we strive on a daily basis to eat a variety of vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and enough food to maintain our weight, then it is believed that the body gets more than enough protein from plant-based sources. This truth about protein leaves us with the choice to start cutting down or eliminating animal sources of protein, and in turn start eating better.

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