Where do you get your protein? That is the question I get asked the most when people learn that I'm plant based. I get it. I used to worry about getting enough protein too. For a short stint I even added eggs back into my diet because I was worried that I wasn't getting enough. It's no wonder we worry. For most of our lives we have been bombarded with messages about meat and dairy consumption. Remember "Where's the beef"? How about "milk, it does a body good", or more recently "Arby's, we've got the meats". Why don't we see advertisements and messages like "Spinach, it's not just for Popeye anymore". (I'm showing my age on that one, I know). Or, "Where's the kale"?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein necessary for tissue repair and maintenance. Did you know that all non-animal sources of protein contain all of the essential amino acids (the ones our bodies can't produce) we need? Yep. And we don't even need to worry about combining different plant based sources to be sure we have adequate amounts of them. Our bodies are amazing at taking what they need from the foods we eat. So, if you think about it, unless you have a special medical condition, it would be extremely hard to be protein deficient as long as you are consuming enough calories and consuming a wide variety of plants. What's more, by consuming plant based food, you will not only be getting adequate protein, but also healthy fiber and vitamins and minerals.
Now let's talk about how much protein we really need on a daily basis and plant based sources of protein. According to the Institute of Medicine, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Converting to pounds to make it easier, the formula is weight (in pounds) x .36 = recommended protein intake (in grams). It's important to remember that a large margin of safety is included in this number, so for most people, the actual protein requirement may be significantly lower. So for example, if you were 150 pounds, your daily requirement would be 54 grams of protein. Check out the following example of a breakfast and lunch that I eat regularly and you will see just how simple it is to get all the protein you need.
Breakfast: steel cut oats, fresh berries, walnuts and flax 1 cup steel cut oats - 4g, 1/4 cup fresh blueberries - 0g, 1/4 cup walnuts - 5g, 1 tbsp ground flaxseed - 1.5g. Total = 10.5g
Lunch: 1 cup cooked lentils - 18g, 1 cup cooked broccoli - 4g (add your favorite salsa or Sriracha for extra flavor) Total = 22g
So we haven't even gotten to dinner yet and we are already at 32.5g of protein; more than half of the daily requirement!!
Broccoli and lentils not your thing? Want to see more plant based sources of protein? Click on the following link for a list from Rouxbe.com
Keep in mind that each person's protein needs are different. That being said, it is possible and quite simple to get enough protein on a plant based diet. Try it!
Eat more plants!