We have all heard that to lose weight and build muscle we should eat more protein. The Atkins diet had huge success with this concept for many years, until the founder died a few years ago. He reportedly had a heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension at the time of his death. Interesting. Typically, when we are told to eat more protein, we often turn to animal protein sources, like beef, chicken and eggs. In fact, most of our diets contain way too much animal and not enough plant based protein sources like vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes.
Protein is one of the three major nutrients the body needs. It helps keep our cells and tissues strong. However, diets high in only animal protein have been linked to cancer, heart disease, kidney problems and intestinal disorders. So how can you get enough protein for your body without getting it all from animal sources?
The reality is that only around 15 percent of daily calorie intake should come from protein. This means for most of us eating a 2000 a day diet, we only need around 300 calories worth of protein. If you are a heavy weight lifter and body builder, this number would increase, but only slightly.
Every vegetarian food contains some protein. There are many options that contain the same amino acids that you can find in animal protein. If you would like to cut down your animal protein and increase your consumption of plant-based proteins, try some of these options:
Contain a more complete set of amino acids than other plant-based food and they are high in iron, B vitamins and fiber. Try substituting beans in recipes that call for meat.
Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and the B-complex vitamins. Because the body absorbs grain slowly, they provide sustained and high quality energy. Try Quinoa, a complete protein source, and super easy to make.
Goji’s are a complete protein source. This delicious, low calorie snack strengthens your immune system, increases energy and helps to curb cravings. It has one of the highest antioxidant contents in all food.
Nutritionally, greens are very high in protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micro-nutrients and phyto-chemicals. Simply stir-fry up or steam some broccoli, kale, bok choy, or cabbage.
As this planet’s singularly most nutritious food, sea vegetables contain protein and all of the minerals needed for health. With 10 to 20 times the minerals of land plants, plus the added punch of a range of vitamins, the addition of sea vegetables to your diet will help meet your nutritional needs.
Soybeans contain all essential amino acids. Traditionally, people ate baby soybeans, known as edamame, or took time to ferment the soybeans and made tofu, tempeh, miso and tamari for easy digestibility.
Let’s not forget about nuts and seeds, which offer you protein and a good source of healthy fats, in moderation.
It is very easy to get enough protein by consuming some of the plant-based options above. You have the choice to substitute some of your animal protein sources for plant based ones and to start eating a little healthier today.
Photo Credit: fotoosvanrobin at Flickr.com for Creative Commons.