Feelin' Chalky

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Protein Myth Buster

Probably the most commonly asked question I get since I have decided to cut out meat is, "but how do you get your protein?!? (said in an intense and concerned tone)"  Let's face it...we Americans love protein.  We love to talk about it, we love to eat it, and the cattle farmers rejoice!  ;-)  In all seriousness, though, this is a very important topic.  Most people go around their whole life thinking that meat is a superior form of protein and if you're not eating it you will eventually wind up looking something like this:

The truth?  You need a whole lot less protein than you think, however it IS still very important!  It is what keeps us ticking and it keeps you feeling satisfied longer which staves off hunger!  The most shocking part of the story is that you can get protein from just about ANY food!  Check this out (from www.vrg.org):

Table 2: Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods
Tempeh1 cup419.3
Seitan3 ounces3122.1
Soybeans, cooked1 cup299.6
Lentils, cooked1 cup187.8
Black beans, cooked1 cup156.7
Kidney beans, cooked1 cup136.4
Veggie burger1 patty1313.0
Chickpeas, cooked1 cup124.2
Veggie baked beans1 cup125.0
Pinto beans, cooked1 cup125.7
Black-eyed peas, cooked1 cup116.2
Tofu, firm4 ounces1111.7
Lima beans, cooked1 cup105.7
Quinoa, cooked1 cup93.5
Tofu, regular4 ounces910.6
Bagel1 med.
(3 oz)
Peas, cooked1 cup96.4
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked1/2 cup88.4
Peanut butter2 Tbsp84.3
Veggie dog1 link813.3
Spaghetti, cooked1 cup83.7
Almonds1/4 cup83.7
Soy milk, commercial, plain1 cup77.0
Soy yogurt, plain6 ounces64.0
Bulgur, cooked1 cup63.7
Sunflower seeds1/4 cup63.3
Whole wheat bread2 slices53.9
Cashews1/4 cup52.7
Almond butter2 Tbsp52.4
Brown rice, cooked1 cup52.1
Spinach, cooked1 cup513.0
Broccoli, cooked1 cup46.8
Potato1 med.
(6 oz)
Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18, 2005 and manufacturers' information.
The recommendation for protein for adult males vegans is around 56-70 grams per day; for adult female vegans it is around 46-58 grams per day (see text).
We need about 0.45 grams of protein per pound that we weigh.  To say it another way - only about 1 calorie for every 100 we eat needs to come from a protein source.  I don't want to downplay the role of protein in our diet because it is essential, but I do think it is important to realize that most of us eat way more than we need without even trying (forget the excess protein we get in supplements and shakes and bars).  As long as you are eating a varied diet - one that consists of veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, seeds and such you should be more than fine in the protein department.

So...what is this "complete protein" business?  What does that mean?  Don't you have to combine foods to get the magic protein potion?  To answer that question, let's take a short trip back to High School Biology...cue pimples...

Proteins are made of amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of life as we know it.  We make some amino acids on our own - others we obtain through the food that we ingest.  These "needed" amino acids are called "essential."  Some of the essential amino acids are: tyrosine, lysine, tryptophan, valine, and leucine (I picked the easiest ones to spell - haha).  A food is considered a "complete protein" when it contains all of the essential amino acids.  Meat is a complete protein (that's why most people consider it THE protein source).  This concludes your Biology lesson.

The old school thought was that in order for a vegetarian or vegan to get a complete protein they had to eat foods together in the same meal that when combined had the full set of essential amino acids.  One common and easy power-duo is beans and rice.  Today it is known that while beans and rice are delicious together it isn't necessary that they are eaten together to reap the nutritional benefits.  In fact, our bodies are so well-designed (imagine that...our Creator knew what He was doing!) that they can pull the things we need from different foods all day long and then fit them together like a giant jigsaw puzzle!  Pretty amazing, huh?

There is a lot more information out there on this topic.  Some of it is over my head.  The site I found some of my information on is The Vegetarian Resource Group.  There are many, many others.  Try searching: "vegetarian protein sources" or "vegan bodybuilders" - chances are you will learn something new!  If you do - please share!

If you remember last week I had a gain and I was determined to press on.  This week I lost 3.6 pounds!!  That brings my total to 92.4 pounds!  T-minus 7.6 pounds to 100! ;-)

This week at WW we talked about treating yourself to something you love.  I know too well that depriving myself causes overindulgence, so in honor of treating myself this week I bought my favorite treat...

Be on the look-out for a post coming soon all about soups entitled, "The Soup Nazi"...it will include some of my current favorite soup recipes from friends and family.  What could be better on a cold day???

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