Monday, September 13, 2010

Healthy Monday's: The Protein Myth

As a vegetarian, the question I get asked most often is "Where do you get your protein?"  Most people believe that the best sources of protein come from meat, dairy and eggs, and are baffled at what vegetarians, especially vegans do for protein.  There are actually many wonderful sources of protein, which I will layout for you here.  An important thing to notice also is if something is a COMPLETE source of protein.  What does this mean?  Essentially a complete source of protein contains adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids the human body needs to function properly. 

One thing to get in mind before I divulge vegan protein options is that while most sources of meat and dairy are complete proteins, it doesn't necessarily mean that those sources are good for us.  95% of our meat and dairy industry is controlled by large factory farms.  This means that most of the meat, cheese and egg products we consume are filled with hormones and come from extremely unhealthy animals.  Most of these animals never see the light of day, live in terrible conditions, are disease-ridden, and are fed unnatural, nutrient-less diets.  Even if you are not concerned with the humanity issue, who wants to eat something that is filled with chemicals, stripped of nutrients and diseased?  Ewww.  If you choose to eat these items, go local and organic.  You'll find that not only will it taste better, but you will get more out of the food and not be exposed to harmful hormones and potential diseases.  And for those of you that believe you are safe by eating fish, think again.  Most fish sold in stores and restaurants now actual come from farms.  These fish are also pumped with toxins, and many fish are dyed so that the flesh appears white and is therefore more attractive.  Companies have also experimented with feeding fish corn, which is unnatural and leading to health and nutrition issues with the fish.  Do some research before consuming these products, or all you'll be doing is consuming toxic, nutrient-less food.

For more information check out these blog entries by Chris Beat Cancer:
Mutant Milk
King Corn

So what sources of protein are healthy and great for vegans?

1. Grains.  There are several grains that are a complete source of protein.  These include Amaranth (pictured), Buckwheat, Hemp seed, and Quinoa.  All of these grains are great for making pasta, cereals, baked goods, and much more.  Hemp seed is the star of this category, with the highest source of protein.  Another way to consume it is by purchasing vegan protein powders that are hemp based.  Famous vegan athlete Brendan Brazier has a great product called Vega that I often use in my smoothies.

2. Greens.  Most greens are a great source of protein, but these particular greens are also a complete source of protein.  Spirulina (pictured) is the highest source of protein of any food item in the world.  It can be purchased in powder form and is a great addition to any smoothie.  Blue-Green Algae is another green that also counts as a complete protein.  Usually you can find this in the freezer section of your health food store.  I recommend thawing it, putting it into ice cube trays, and then popping a cube into your smoothie. 

3. Goji Berries.  This delightful berry has one of the highest sources of complete protein in the word.  Goji berries are known as the "Longevity Berry" and Chinese history has many stories relating to people who have lived 250-300 years by eating these berries daily.  This fruit is also an adaptogen, which means that it strengthens the systems, helps our body deal with stress by supporting the adrenal glands.  These berries are also very high in antioxidants, boost the immune system, improve vision, hydrate the body, are very alkalizing, promote neurological and cardiovascular health, balance blood sugar levels, and increase the product of the human growth hormone. 

4. Nutritional Yeast.  This amazing food is an incredible source of protein, higher than any meat product.  It is also a great source of B-12 vitamins and regulates blood sugar.  It can be used as a condiment, added to gravies and sauces, added to the flour in baked goods, used to make a vegan cheeze, etc. 

Finding protein sources is really not that difficult.  Other vegetarian sources of protein include Chlorella, Cacao, Incan Berries (also known as goldenberries), dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.  Most of these are not complete sources of protein, but when combined will give you all the protein you need. 

1 comment:

  1. People don't need nearly as much protein as they think they do anyway, too much protein is hard on the kidneys! Just as you said the source of the protein is the most important thing, shoe leather has a high amount of protein but is hardly healthy.


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