Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How do you get enough protein if you're not eating meat or dairy?

One of the main questions I get from people is, "How do you get enough protein if you're not eating meat or dairy?" Maybe some of you have been thinking the same thing and didn't dare ask. Well, first of all, the typical American diet actually provides us with an overabundance of protein. So the amount of protein I was used to eating was actually more than I needed.

So how do you know how much protein your body needs? I found a health calculator created by the University of Maryland Medical System that asks your age, height, gender, and frame size, and how active you are. It looks like this:
My results show that I need 67 grams of protein a day. If you're body isn't as healthy as it should be, it's good to get a little bit more protein than average, so I aim for about 75 grams of protein a day. Click here to calculate your protein.

So are you wondering what I could possibly eat to get that much protein without eating one bit of animal protein? Well here are some of the protein-rich foods I incorporate into my diet and how many grams of protein they contain per serving:

almonds (raw), 30g
black beans, 15g
brown rice, 5g
garbonzo beans (aka: chickpeas), 16g
kidney beans, 13g
lentils, 18g
lima beans (raw), 11g
millet (raw), 22g
peanut butter, 8g
peas (raw), 8g
quinoa (raw), 24g
soy beans (aka: edamame), 29g
spinach, 5g
sunflower seeds, 6g
sweet potatoes, 4g
tempeh, 41g
tofu, 9g

The numbers I gave you above greatly depend on the amount of food and how you prepare your food. For example, one ounce raw ground almonds is 6g protein, but one cup raw whole almonds is 30g protein. It all depends what you set the amount to be. Because of this I say, click here and do your own calculating. This site allows you to plug in foods from Arby's to Coldstone to dear old Mother Earth, and asks for details about the way you prepare your food. The nutrients (including protein) depend greatly on the food's preparation—is it raw or cooked? It's amazing how much nutrients food lose when they're cooked. Check out the comparisons and decide how you should be eating your food for optimum nutrients.

And these other fruits and veggies also contain protein but in smaller amounts. Feel free to look up the exact amounts yourself (because I gotta get back to work!), but now you know how easy it is to get enough protein just from eating stuff that grows out of the ground.

Brussels sprouts


T.R. said...

I'm an omnivore, but my girlfriend is veggie. Sometimes she gets dizzy as a result of an iron deficiency. Protein is not her issue; its iron.

Many plants that contain iron also contain chemicals which block the absorption of iron. There is one type of iron which cannot be blocked by those compounds, but it is only found in red blood cells (i.e., meat).

If you get around to it, I would be interested to see a similar blog post about getting enough iron.

Kate said...

Good point, T.R. From what I understand about those iron-clocking veggies, you can combat them and increase iron absorption by eating them with foods rich in Vitamin C. But I'll definitely do some research on that because I don't know too much about that. Thanks for inspiring my next post!