Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where do you get your protein?

When I tell people that I eat a mostly plant-based diet (I am not exactly vegan, nor vegetarian by definition.), the first thing they ask is "Where do you get your protein?" That's actually a really good question. Protein is a necessity for building and repairing new cells, hormones, antibodies, enzymes and muscle tissue. It is important to replenish our store of protein every day because the body doesn't store protein as it does other nutrients. It must be replaced each day as a source of nourishment . But many people think the only way to get protein in their diet is by eating meat and other animal products.

I grew up in Japan where people have the longest life expectancy. Looking back, I probably had beef once every other week or so and chicken or pork once a week. Though my mom told me to drink milk everyday for calcium, cheese was hardly ever a part of any meal. All the other meals were mostly vegetables and seafood. Things have changed nowadays with the influence of Western culture, but our family's diet has been typical of a traditional Japanese diet because of my grandparents' daily influence on what was on the table. We didn't have to go see the doctor for a 'protein-deficiency', so I've always known that meat is not the only source of protein somewhere back in my mind.

The diet prescribed for me by my doctor includes fish, which makes it a little easier for me to find a way to get more protein in my diet. Many vegans and vegetarians use a lot of soy products. Unfortunately, I can't have too much soy because of my history of breast cancer, and that created an extra challenge. A lot of substitute products vegans and vegetarians uses are soy based and after all, they are processed food.

I'm not a nutritional specialist and I don't want to bore you with too much information either. But basically, besides soybeans, legumes are high in protein. Grains and nuts have a good amount of protein, and even vegetables have small amount of protein. For a side-by-side comparison of protein content in different food items of the same category, check out a chart on Vegetarians in Paradise. Based on my weight and gender, I need about 40-50 grams of protein. Looking at this chart, it doesn't look that hard to get enough protein in my diet. When I know I don't take in enough protein on a certain day, I supplement it with my favorite protein powder.

The bottom line is that there are healthier ways to get enough protein in your diet. A 6-ounce steak is a great source of protein—38 grams worth. But it also delivers 44 grams of fat, 16 of them saturated. That's almost three-fourths of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat. The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat, 4 of them saturated. A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, but under 1 gram of fat.

Where do I get my protein? From everything I eat!

No comments:

Post a Comment