Its probably the most common question that is asked to anyone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet: “Where do you get your protein? ” Isn’t it interesting that all of a sudden people become concerned with protein intake at the mention of a plant based diet? Most people are probably not aware of the RDA of protein, and they probably have no clue how many grams they consume on a daily basis, yet they suddenly become interested in nutrition when we tell them we don’t consume meat.
The truth is, plant based proteins are much cleaner and healthier sources of protein when compared to animal based proteins. Plant proteins have high fiber, which is known to reduce bad cholesterol, while animal protein is devoid of fiber and is known to increase bad cholesterol. Artery clogging saturated fat, known as a leading contributor to many chronic diseases including the top world killer, heart disease, is rare in plant foods, yet abundant in animal products. Cholesterol is only produced in the liver of animals, therefore it is non-existent in plant foods, only occurring in animal based products. The World Health Organization has even made a statement that processed meats are carcinogenic while all red meats are probably carcinogenic, yet we still get asked if our diets are healthy.
There is no doubt that the average person is misinformed on the subject of nutrition, and that is no accident, folks. This is a result of the USDA subsidizing the animal agriculture industry. Ever wondered why the USDA is making the recommendations on our food labels? The United States Department of Agriculture has no business giving nutritional advice, their interest is in making more money, not in informing the public on how to eat healthy. Therefore, the USDA food pyramid, now known as MyPlate, are simply capitalistic tools that lead us to financially support their special interests.
That being said, balancing macronutrients can be an effective way to get in shape, and knowing where to get these healthy proteins is key. There are some minimally processed meat alternatives that can pack 20+ grams of protein in a single serving, however, I will be going over whole foods, completely unprocessed. This is my favorite way of eating although sometimes I do use the meat alternatives because they are convenient and oh, so delicious. Here are my 3 favorite whole food plant proteins.
Of course I list lentils first. They are so nutrient dense with protein, iron, and fiber. Not only do they taste delicious, they are easy to cook and they will keep you full for a while thanks to their slow-digesting fiber. They taste great on their own, or they can be made into soups, wrapped inside of tacos, or made into loaves, yes LENTIL LOAVES!
Looks and cooks like a grain, but actually what we eat are the seeds. The delicious, nutty, fluffy seeds. Quinoa has an earthier taste compared to rice, and it is has all 9 essential amino acids. Quinoa is so versatile, it can be eaten plain, made into a salad, baked into a loaf, friend like rice, or even eaten like oatmeal with dairy-free milk and topped with fruit.
Once you learn how dense in nutrition these seeds are, you’ll never want to trash them again, what a waste! With about 7-9 grams of protein per serving, lots of healthy fats and even zinc and other minerals, pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack. I like to use them raw and put them into a smoothie. If you have some seeds straight from the pumpkin, you can roast them and eat them with their shell. So tasty.
These are just my top 3 whole food protein sources. There are still so many other healthy plant proteins. When someone asks me where I get my protein, I like to list all my sources one at a time. Once I’ve been talking for several minutes, the other person usually realizes that there are so many ways to get protein as a vegan and they’ll wish they never asked. Usually the conversation goes like this:
Q: Where do you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?
A: Oh you know, beans, like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, seeds like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, nuts like cashews, pistachios, almonds…….. I like to watch the reactions I get as I list these whole foods 🙂
Next time someone asks “Where do vegans get their protein?”, you shall be ready with so much information, they’ll wish they did some research before asking such a silly question.