Let’s Talk Protein

It’s the peak of cleansing season. I just finished my personal cleanse, given two workshops on Ayurveda home cleansing and I’m leading several folks through personalized seasonal cleanses. What is the question that comes up most when I ask people to embrace a plant-based diet for 10 days? You guessed it. What about protein? Will I be getting enough? Giving up animal based-protein such as meat, eggs and dairy can be tough. We are accustom to relating protein solely to animal products but trust me you are getting enough protein and you can get all you need from plants alone. Protein deficiency is almost non-existent in our culture. But I know protein can be a sensitive subject, so let’s talk protein.

What is protein?

Protein is the basic building block of cells and tissues that is needed to keep us strong. It is crucial for vital functions, regulation and maintenance of our bodies. Protein is a component of food made up of amino acids. Your body makes its own amino acids but also must get some from the food you eat.

How much do you need?

The amount of protein needed varies by individual but in general the USDA recommends a daily allowance of about 0.36 gram of protein for every pound of body weight (so, at 130 pounds, you’d need about 47 grams of protein daily). If you are an athlete, pregnant or nursing you require a little more than average. Here is an interesting fact for you. The average American adult consumes between 100 and 120 grams of protein every day. That’s nearly two to three times what we need and most likely it doesn’t come from plant-based sources but rather from high-fat animal sources.

What’s the problem with too much animal-based protein?

Many of the current American diet trends encourage an increase in animal-based protein consumption and a reduction in carbohydrates. The problem is eating too much animal-based protein, especially those raised using conventional methods as opposed to organically and humanly raised, lead to increased inflammation. And did you know that most modern day diseases are inflammatory in nature? Those of you who know me know I eat meat but I don’t consume it more than three times/week and my portions are small (less than 3 oz/serving). Also I do not eat conventionally raised animal products. If you are consuming animal-based protein limit it to a few times per week and do your best when buying meat, dairy, eggs and fish to choose organic or wild caught.

Why eat a plant-based diet?

Documentaries like “Forks over Knives” and books like In Defense of Food have awakened many people to the science behind eating a plant-based diet. It’s a fact that people who switch to eating more plants and reduce their consumption of meat and animals products lose weight, improve their heart health, stay healthy as they age, improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. There are loads of great resources on the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet. Check out my blog “5 Reasons to Eat a Plant-Based Diet” for more information.

Which plants are high in protein?

It’s important to note that plants provide many nutrients in addition to protein that are lacking from animal products including essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here are some of the top sources of plant-based protein.

  • Lentils – 1 cup cooked = 18 grams
  • Quinoa – 1 cup cooked = 11 grams
  • Chia seeds – 2 tablespoons = 6 grams
  • Almonds – 1/4 cup = 8 grams
  • Kale – 2 cups = 4.5 grams
  • Hemp seeds – 3 tablespoons = 9 grams
  • Whole grain toast such as Ezekiel brand = 9 grams
  • 1 avocado = 4.5 grams
  • Spinach – 1 cup = 5 grams

Check out Kris Carr’s awesome info-graphic on plant-based protein click here

Also here are two of my favorite plant-based high protein recipes.

Wishing you Vibrant Living