Guest Post by Julie Pecarski
You’ve gone vegetarian, vegan or maybe you’re just reducing your meat intake and now you are worried about getting enough protein in your diet. This is perfectly understandable as protein is typically the centre of discussion as soon as you make the decision to reduce, or eliminate meat from your diet.
There are countless benefits to going vegetarian or vegan. Here are just a few of the reasons you may benefit from reducing the amount of meat in your diet:
• Vegetarians/vegans typically have a healthier weight and better cardiovascular health due to a diet low in saturated fats and high in fibre.
• Since this lifestyle generally incorporates a variety of fruits and vegetables loaded with antioxidants, it can provide amazing anti-aging results.
• A reduction in the risk of cancer and other diseases due to high fibre with low saturated fat intake.
• A diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs can vastly reduce your carbon footprint
What is protein and why do we need it?
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle and tissue and it is essential that we incorporate it in our meals. Proteins contain 20 amino acids and our bodies synthesize 11 of them magically and the remaining 9 our bodies require us to source through food. Protein sources are distinguished by how many essential amino acids they contain. There are two types of proteins:
1. Complete protein sources contain all amino acids and are sourced through meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
2. Incomplete protein sources contain low amounts of one or more of the essential amino acids. To make them complete, you have to combine two incomplete proteins. The best compliment would be rice and beans.
How much protein do I really need?
Only 10% – 35% of your daily calories will need to come from protein. Both the Canadian Center for Disease Control and the U.S Government agree that the average recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men is 59 grams of protein and for women 46 grams of protein (19 years and older). To calculate your RDA based on your weight, you can do so here.
You’d be shocked to learn that the average American consumes at least 100 grams of protein per day. Studies indicate that excess meat consumption promotes diseases such as obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Here is a question to ponder: When was the last time you heard about a protein deficiency epidemic in this country? The answer is probably never!
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to find plenty of protein in plants. With a little meal planning and a well-balanced, healthy diet, it is possible to get enough protein while eating a plant-based diet.
Let’s take a look at the 4 Best Sources of Plant Based Proteins you can take advantage of:
Did you know, protein can even be found in vegetables? Let’s take at look at how some common vegetables stack up against steak, which has 6.5-8 grams of protein for every 100 calories:
Broccoli – 11.1 grams of protein
Romain lettuce – 7.2 grams of protein
Kale – 6.8 grams of protein
The great thing about protein is that you don’t need to eat it at every meal to benefit from it. If you eat a protein-based breakfast in the morning, your body is smart as a whip and knows when you need it the most. If you don’t need it today, it will store it for tomorrow.
I aim to get my protein during breakfast and/or lunch with a complement of complex carbohydrates. It is sustenance and fuel for your body and your brain. Below is a recipe for the perfect smoothie to do just that.
This Protein Trail Mix Smoothie is vegan, gluten-free and provides a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
- 1 cup hemp milk (blend 1 cup water and 3 tbsp NCN Hemp Seeds)
- ½ cup frozen fruit of choice
- ¼ cup trail mix (try a homemade mixture of walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, goji berries and coconut flakes)
- 2-3 dashes cinnamon
- 1 tbsp maca powder (optional)
- In a blender, blend water and hemp seed on high for 30 seconds.
- Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Top with some extra trail mix and a few hemp seeds and enjoy!
The Protein Myth: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Protein: The Canadian Center for Disease Control, FAQ: Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Julie Pecarski is the founder of Eat Life Balance, a holistic health and lifestyle solutions site. Eat Life Balance provides clean living recipes, nutritional guidance and lifestyle advice in an approach to guide readers into making small, simple changes in their eating habits, attitudes and mental balance. Julie is currently studying nutrition in Vancouver, BC.