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Plant-Based Protein

 

The goal of this post is to address a question that I receive frequently when people find out that I don’t eat meat: “How do you get enough protein?”

While I am personally of the camp that believes Americans generally consume more protein than strictly necessary I will avoid lecturing on the topic and instead provide you with suggestions for some healthy, easily digestible, protein-rich foods that don’t center around animal products.

For comparison’s sake I’ve included a few common animal products below as well. All of these statistics are based on a 100 gram serving size:

Food  Protein (g) Cholesterol mg Total Fat (g) Iron (mg) Fiber (g) Energy kcal
             
Turkey: roasted  29.90 69.00 7.41 1.35 0.00 157.00
Ground beef: broiled (75% lean) 25.56 89.00 18.72 2.37 0.00 278.00
Tuna: in water, drained 25.51 30.00 0.82 1.53 0.00 116.00
Chicken: roasted w/out skin 23.97 76.00 13.39 1.26 0.00 223.00
Egg, hard-boiled 12.58 373.00 10.61 1.19 0.00 155.00
Food  Protein (g) Cholesterol mg Total Fat (g) Iron (mg) Fiber (g) Energy kcal
             
Kidney beans 23.58 0.00 0.83 8.20 24.90 333.00
Almonds: raw 21.22 0.00 49.42 3.72 12.20 575.00
Almond butter: w/ salt 20.96 0.00 55.50 3.49 10.30 614.00
Sunflower seeds: dry roasted w/out salt 19.33 0.00 49.80 3.80 11.10 582.00
Chickpeas 19.30 0.00 6.04 6.24 17.40 364.00
Flaxseed 18.29 0.00 42.16 5.73 27.30 534.00
Cashews: raw 18.22 0.00 43.85 6.68 3.30 553.00
Tempeh: cooked 18.19 0.00 11.38 2.13 10.00 196.00
Oats 16.89 0.00 6.90 4.72 10.60 389.00
Lentils: boiled w/out salt 9.02 0.00 0.38 3.33 7.90 116.00
Black beans: boiled w/out salt 8.86 0.00 0.54 2.10 8.70 132.00
Hummus: commercial 7.90 0.00 21.13 2.44 6.00 166.00
Tofu: Silken, firm 6.90 0.00 2.73 1.03 1.00 62.00
Quinoa: cooked 4.40 0.00 1.92 1.49 2.80 120.00
Kale: raw 3.30 0.00 0.70 1.70 2.00 50.00
Sweet potato: baked w/skin & no salt 2.01 0.00 0.15 0.69 3.30 90.00
Avocado: raw, California 1.96 0.00 15.41 0.61 6.80 167.00

I’d like to call your attention to a few noticeable discrepancies in the nutritional values of the first and second groups of foods.

First, you will see that plant-based foods contain no cholesterol while animal-based foods do. Cholesterol is necessary for a variety of bodily functions, including the production of hormones and cell membranes. Luckily for us, healthy livers produce enough cholesterol so that these functions can be carried out. It should be noted however that the high intake of dietary cholesterol (i.e. the cholesterol in the first group of foods) can lead to heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Second, the animal products listed above contain no dietary fiber, which keeps your GI Tract running smoothly and is necessary to maintain a healthy diet. This is a great post from Gena at Choosing Raw on intestinal distress, treating IBS and the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber. It is somewhat graphic but incredibly educational if you’re interested in how dietary fiber affects your body.

Third, notice the difference in the amounts of iron in these foods. Our bodies need iron to help with oxygen transportation and the regulation and differentiation of cell growth. If any of you have ever taken an iron supplement you know how incredibly hard it is on the body to digest iron in that format, so eating iron-rich foods is by far the superior way to get the required amounts in your diet.

The act of digesting food puts stress on your system, it takes effort for your body to break down the foods you consume so that the nutrients can be readily absorbed by the body. Simply put, plant-based foods require that you waste expend less energy to digest them, meaning the you (1) stress your body less and (2) have more energy after digestion. Even taking just a weekend off from the consumption of animal products can give your system a much-needed rest.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic I highly recommend that you pick up Brendan Braizer’s Thrive Diet. While the title of this book contains the word “diet” that is somewhat misleading. Mr. Braizer was a professional triathlete and spent 15 years studying how the foods he consumed affected his life and his athletic performance and determined that a plant-based, high raw diet resulted in the optimum results. This isn’t a diet that you go on to fit into your skinny jeans, this is a lifestyle change that you commit to so that you’ll never need a cup of coffee in the morning to wake up or a dose of sugar in the afternoon to keep your eyelids from drooping.

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional and that my comments, suggestions and thoughts are based on personal research and experience only. Prior to making any drastic changes to your diet you should consult a physician, especially if you suffer from illnesses or allergies which may be affected by nutrition.

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Links You’ll Love « Moi Contre La Vie

  2. Great post. I really appreciate this break down. We eat a lot of beans and almond products at our house.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:37 PM

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