Regardless of what you call yourself; a vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or a meatitarian, our bodies all require sufficient protein and a balance of macronutrients to ensure optimal performance. Although protein is a vital part of your daily diet, choosing a healthy source of protein is important for many reasons. According to the U.S department of Agriculture and Mayo Clinic, the average person consumes double the recommended amount of poor protein choices. Insufficient protein intake weakens the body's terrain by impeding it's ability to perform day-to-day functions.
Why do we need protein?
Proven by physicists, nearly 98% of our atoms get replaced every year. Every six months, the liver replaces its cells, our stomach lining is regenerated every fives days, our red blood cells have a lifespan of 120 days and so forth. This means that protein is essential to aid in the growth and repair of each and every type of cell. Proteins are made up of many amino acids. Although our body is able to produce non-essential amino acids, we depend on essential amino acids to come from our everyday diet. Below is a brief list of important roles protein plays in our body:
- Proteins are building blocks in our body. Our nerves, tissues and bones are all made up of proteins, making it vital for growth and repair (premature aging, organ function)
- Hormone function
- Antibodies (immunity)
- Enzyme function
- Stabilizing blood sugar (sugar cravings, hypoglycemia, diabetes)
- Intrinsic factor (absorption)
- How much protein do you need?
- An easy way to estimate your protein portion is simply by the size of the palm of your hand. To calculate your daily protein requirement, it is determined as one gram of protein per two pounds (or one kilogram) of body weight.
- Grams of protein per meal = (your weight in pounds divided by 2.2) divided by 3
Common sources of complete proteins
- Protein powders (whey protein or a vegetarian based powder with a natural sweetener such as stevia)
- Protein bars
- Cottage cheese
- Ricotta cheese
- Protein breakfast cereal
- Wraps, bread, or bagels made with protein flours
- Vegetarian sources when combined properly (see below)
- How much protein am I getting in eggs?
- 2 whole eggs or 4 egg whites – 15 grams
- 3 whole eggs or 6 egg whites – 20 grams
- 4 whole eggs or 8 egg whites – 25 grams
Common sources of incomplete proteins (vegetarian sources, high carbohydrate, low protein)
chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, green peas, split peas, pimento beans
barley, bulgur, cornmeal, oats, buckwheat, pasta, rye, wheat
walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, etc.
sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
To create a complete protein, combine in one of the following ways:
Combine a grain with a legume
Combine a grain with a nut or seed
Combine a legume with a nut or a seed