Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Do Vegetarians Get Protein?

A friend recently asked how do I get my protein. It is a question that I receive often. It's a great question, and deserves a great answer. Protein first of all is essential to the body composition running and operating in a healthy way.

Protein is made up of a group of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are over 20 of them, and each is important. Think of it like amino acids are the bricks that make up a building. We need protein because it supports our muscular structure. The better sources of proteins we consume, the stronger and healthier our muscles will be.

I've been a vegetarian for about two years now. I went from just no dairy to vegan to raw vegan back to vegan to lacto-ovo vegetarian, which I am am now. I've gone through some trial and error to take in the proper amount of protein. I did keep count for a while, but now I just make sure I take some in each day.

For those uninformed about the jargon that I just used, vegetarian is kind of a blanket term. A vegan is someone who doesn't eat any animal products whatsoever, a raw vegan steps it up a notch and doesn't eat anything cooked about 115 degrees(best diet if you are ill with something like cancer, or even consider this while you have a cold or something), a lacto vegetarian does consume milk products, and ovo vegetarian does consume eggs, and maybe you can guess a lacto-ovo vegetarian consumes both milk products and eggs.

When you are just starting out it can be a challenge getting the hang of everything, but really it's not that difficult. Now that I include goat's milk products and eggs into my diet it makes attaining that daily intake of protein much easier.

That isn't to say that you can't be vegan and get the adequate amount of protein. Yes, you can be vegan or raw vegan and consume your daily protein requirements. Much to the myths that are circulated. It just takes a little leg work :) You just have to be a bit more creative. I do not depend completely on the goats milk products and eggs though. I also use plant products. This is what vegans do.

The key here is knowing your food combos. No, I do not mean Number 1 on the drive through board at Chick-Fil-A either. You can actually combine certain plants foods to make a complete protein. One common dish is rice and beans. This is a staple in my house, brown basmati rice and either pintos or black beans. I add fresh diced tomatoes, diced red onion, fresh parsley, and some diced avocado...yum!

There are also some plants foods that are actually complete proteins all on their own. One of these is quinoa. I can't say enough good things about quinoa. Quinoa is a grain from South America, specifically it is popular in Chilean cooking. Quinoa is gluten free, low glycemic, and a great source of calcium as well as protein. You can use it just like rice or couscous.You can even make a dairy free milk with it much like nut or rice milks. It can even be an oatmeal replacement if you so choose for another warm morning grain. For recipe examples just ask :)

Another way that I like to implement plant protein into my diet, which is another complete protein, are hemp seeds. Yes, people, I said, hemp. Yes, it is the marijuana plant. In Canada you can buy the whole seed and grow the plant. In the USA it is illegal. We can however purchase shelled hemp seeds, which are raw. You can also buy hemp oil or powder. Hemp powder is great for protein shakes, it is MUCH healthier than a soy protein powder, stay away from that stuff. I like to add 3 tbsp of the hemp seeds to my green smoothies.

Here is a video from Paul Nison about hemp seeds:


For some more information on protein and food combining here is a neat website:

How To Get Enough Protein In Your Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

If you have any great vegetarian recipes for protein consumption add them below in a post:)

1 comment:

  1. I was a vegetarian over 10 years (2 vegan) and did not have a problem getting protein. As long as a wide variety of foods are eaten (to ensure intake of essential amino acids) the body arranges them into complete proteins. Beans, grains, and nuts are rich sources of protein. If you don't like those, no need to worry. The body recycles it's own protein up to 300 grams per day and maintains amino acid pools throughout the body. Actually, NOT getting enough protein is harder than getting it, lol.