Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegetarian Protein...

Ok, I know we're supposed to be eating better than my last few posts, so... here's some information you may or may not have known from "The Veggie Table".

There is a popular misconception that meat is the only real source of protein, and thus that a vegetarian diet is inherently unhealthy due to a lack of protein. It is impossible to overstress how untrue this is.

First of all, the Recommended Daily Allowance of protein is not as high as one might think, and many people - vegetarian or not - eat more protein than their bodies actually need. The approximate RDA of protein is only 47 grams for women and 54 grams for men.

Secondly, there are many sources of vegetarian protein. The only problem is that most* vegetable sources of protein are incomplete, so you need to eat a combination of foods to get the complete protein.

Vegan sources of protein

  • Amaranth*
  • Cereals and grains - buckwheat*, rye, corn, rice, pasta...
  • Leafy green vegetables, including spinach
  • Legumes - beans, lentils, peas, peanuts
  • Nutritional yeast*
  • Nuts - almonds, walnuts, cashews...
  • Quinoa*
  • Seaweed - spirulina*, kelp ...
  • Seeds - hemp*, sesame, sunflower...
  • Soy* products - tofu, tempeh, soy milk...
  • Vegetables - Brussel sprouts, potatoes, yuca

Ovo-lacto sources of protein

* indicates a complete protein

As long as vegetarians (and everyone else, for that matter) eat a wide variety of foods, they will easily manage to eat enough protein - not to mention other nutrients.

If you want to be absolutely certain that you are getting enough protein, you should eat food combinations which form a complete protein, such as:

  • Legumes + seeds
  • Legumes + nuts
  • Legumes + grains

Chances are you already eat complete proteins without even trying. Here are some tasty and healthy complete protein combinations:

Note that these combinations don't necessarily have to be eaten at the same time; you can eat one several hours after the other and still benefit from the complete protein.

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