The protein question.
One of the most popular questions I’ve been getting from friends and family inquiring about my veggie diet is: How are you getting enough PROTEIN?
Of course, I am concerned about this aspect myself! But not that worried. Protein is used to create amino acids in the body, all aspects of being alive require them, from blood to skin, cartilage and muscles, even hormones and enzymes.
So if I was not getting enough of that, I think I would notice rather quickly. The experts say men need between 50 to 80 grams of protein a day. Depending on your height and weight and millions of other factors. But with this general intake requirement in mind, it is not that hard to get up to 50 in a day.
You see the biggest myth I think that is out there is that plants don’t have protein! Of course, they do, just less than animals, and in different types. When we eat an animal we are getting a protein that is ready to go. It is built in the perfect way already, and the body can just start using it. When we eat plants we need to take a few bits and pieces and built that perfect protein up, then we can use it. As it turns out though the human body is pretty good at creating those proteins all on our own if we have the right building blocks.
Sure there are some plants that come with the perfect protein already, soy, and quinoa to name a few. The rest of the plants we eat may only have one part of the puzzle. Legumes will have methionine and tryptophan, while all those grains we’re eating will have lysine. So when you eat that bean & barley vegetable soup, you are really mixing the two types of building blocks together, to fuel the body with the stuff to create the perfect amino acid.
Most Americans are familiar with one of the human bodies' greatest capabilities, storing nutrients for consumption later, a.k.a. fat. Of course the body stores fat, along with these other building blocks. You may eat that granola bar for breakfast, and get a triple dose of lysine or histidine. Our body then takes that and saves some for later. At lunch you eat a few more of the necessary building blocks, we pull a few out of storage, and boom the perfect protein gets built, so we can ride our bike home from work.
With that all being explained, the key to a healthy vegetarian or vegan is variety. We need to diversify our food and ensure we get an ample dosage of all those good building blocks regularly. It is easy to do since the vegetables are constantly changing at the store with the season. You just have to be open to all of them.
Bottom line: I believe I am getting plenty of protein. Thanks for being concerned.
Keep in mind I am a new vegetarian, only a few weeks in. I am not a doctor, nor claiming to be one. This is just an attempt at explaining my understanding of the protein process, and I’m sure I’ve messed up a few details. Read more by searching the numerous nutrition websites on the internet. Any recommendations on your favorite nutrition website?
And remember to eat your spinach!