Let’s talk about protein. After all, it is protein that makes us big and strong, right? We need a lot of protein to gain muscle and be healthy? And the best sources of protein come from animals, right?
Wrong! Put the bacon down and read on, friends.
Spoiler: Protein is critical but getting it from a cow is not.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which build and repair tissues. There are 20 different amino acids we need; 9 of these amino acids are essential. This means we have to get these 9 essential amino acids from our food because our body either cannot make them or doesn’t make enough of them.
Protein can come from both animal sources and plant sources.
- Animal proteins are “complete” because they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids
- Plant proteins are “incomplete” because they don’t provide all of the amino acids
At first glance, animal proteins sound like the better deal, right? Who wants incomplete proteins providing only some of the essential amino acids we need? But let’s also take fiber, fat, and saturated fat into consideration.
Plant protein – despite it being incomplete – has more fiber and less fat and saturated fat. (While animal protein has less fiber and more fat and saturated fat.)
This makes plant protein the ding-ding-ding winner, folks!
It’s also relatively easy to pair plant proteins together to get all of the essential amino acids. For example: rice and beans or hummus and whole-grain pita bread. All of the fiber, less of the fat (particularly saturated fat).
In short, I think animal protein is overrated. (But my blog is titled The Veg Voyage not The Veal Voyage, so I’m sure you could’ve guessed that one…;) Protein is important. It’s essential to our growth and health but we can get it from other places besides chicken and eggs and steak.
Beans, nuts, seeds, hummus, quinoa, peas, spinach, and lentils are all great sources of plant protein that give you fiber without the fat. Plus, if you keep picking veg options over animals, you’ll be voting with your dollars and decreasing the amount of agriculture (AKA saving the planet). Bet that bacon doesn’t sound so good now, huh?
Don’t know where to start without meat being the main star of your meal? Come back next week for a five day vegetarian meal plan to kick off eating less meat and more plants.
Source: Stanford Introduction to Food and Health taught online by Maya Adam