Nothing is quite like nails on a chalkboard as someone asking me where I get my protein from. I always feel I need to follow up with a “where do you get your protein from?” along with a slap on the forehead. The protein discussion is not a fun one, but it’s inevitable. Ironically, most Americans are actually consuming twice the recommended daily amount!
Now, this is not a drop-the-meat-because-meat-eaters-are-evil kind of post. Not at all. Instead, this is meant to be an informative post on the basics of protein. If you choose to eat meat then good for you! But please, be informed of your nutritional needs and the quality of meat you choose to eat.
The issue comes when protein is hailed as the primary source of nutrition at the exclusion of a lot of other nutritious foods. A lot of pro-protein eaters (well, pro-HIGH-protein eaters because who is against protein??) argue that a diet high in protein can promote weight loss. Lots of gyms across the country are now promoting this high protein obsession for that very reason, however, it is a very flawed trend to subscribe to. In fact, the AHA does not recommend a high-protein diet for weight loss, stating that those that focus on increased protein intake often miss a lot of other vitamins and minerals found in other foods. When you focus so much on eating so-many-grams-of-protein the focus often shifts to grams per ounce of food–which inevitably leads a lot of people to lots and lots of meat. This, consequently, turns people away from beneficial fruits and veggies in their whole and complete forms (and even worse, demonizes fruit … poor fruit!).
It also throws off the balance of carbohydrates to protein to fats, leading a lot of heavy meat eaters on questionable carbo-binges.
The government recommends that women get about 46 grams of protein a day, or 10% – 15% of your total calories. Now, I hardly take heed to anything the government recommends but we must start somewhere and this seems like a great place to start.
Truthfully, 10%-15% is not that much protein, at all. In fact, most fruits and vegetables–by themselves–are composed of, at minimum, 10% protein calories. Yes, you read that right. I’m ingesting protein whether I like it or not.
In reality, a lot of pro-protein eaters are the ones that are actually consuming dangerously high levels of protein. In fact, you likely don’t even need extra protein just because you lift weights (which is so contrary to the current trends). Not to mention, protein powders are absolutely unnecessary. There is plenty of healthy and real protein available right at your fingertips (meat included).
So where do I get my protein? There’s a lot of protein in plants, and here’s some of it:
Vegetables Protein in grams (g)
Asparagus (5) 2
Avocado (1) 4
Beets (1 c) 2
Broccoli (1 c) 4
Brussel Sprouts 4
Cabbage (1 c) 2
Collard Greens (1 c) 4
Corn (1 ear) 5
Kale (1 c) 2.5
Mushrooms (1 c) 3.5
Sweet Potato (1 c) 3
Nuts/Seeds (per 1/4 cup) Protein in grams (g)
Brazil Nuts 5
Chia Seeds 12
Flax Seeds 8
Hemp Seeds 10
Pine Nuts 4
Pumpkin Seeds 7
Sesame Seeds 7
Sunflower seeds 8
Just as a perfect example, today for lunch I had a salad:
steamed sweet potato (1.5 c; 4.5g)
sunflower seeds ( 1T; 2 g)
kale (1 c; 2.5g)
lettuce (3 c; 3g)
sesame seed dressing ( 1/4 c; 7g)
avocado (1/2 of; 2g)
total protein: 21g
This is one meal only, one salad only, and I’ve reached half my daily requirements! How incredible is that?? And it’s so clean, so easy, and so delicious. My breakfast and dinner look pretty similar and are loaded with TONS of greens and only small/reasonable servings of healthy fats (that are also, coincidentally, loaded with protein per ounce).
…and I think I’m living a pretty full, adventurous, and active life, don’t you think??