Living In A Protein Obsessed World

16 Feb

If you work out regularly or are friends with those that do you probably hear people talking about protein all of the time. Between Eating Clean, Paleo, and Atkins it’s a wonder anyone is eating anything other than meat.

And if you are vegan I’m sure all of the omnivores you know have expressed concerned over your protein (and calcium) intake.

Does he look protein deficient?

Vegan Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke

Now I know what you are thinking – he is getting his protein from powders and supplements.  Maybe, but if you are consuming an average number of calories a day you are likely consuming all of the protein you need from a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Take an elephant for example, they don’t eat meat, drink protein shakes, or take supplements. They only eat leaves, bark, fruits, and grasses and look at how large and muscular they are.

So how much protein do you need?

  • According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) only 10-15% of your total calories need to come from protein. 
  • The World Health Organization suggests that only 4.5% of your total calories need to be protein.
  • Many strength training/weight loss sources would recommend 35-40% of your calories come from protein.

Confused? Well why wouldn’t you be. All of these numbers are crazy! Not only that, but if you go back five or ten years you would never see a 40% protein recommendation for the average person, you’d see around 10%.

After doing research on the topic I believe that as long as you are consuming a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods you will get all of the protein you’ll need. 

One of my favorite bloggers & cookbook authors Lindsay Nixon recently posted about this topic. Rather than recreating the wheel I’d rather just reference her wonderful information 🙂

According to The Happy Herbivore  many plant foods have more protein than meat, per calorie. For example, a cheeseburger contains .05 grams of protein per calorie compared to spinach which has .12 grams of protein per calorie…soy beans are one of the best sources of protein, having more protein per calorie than all dairy products, eggs and most meats…Other protein-rich plant foods include quinoa, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, whole wheat foods, seitan,  bulgar, broccoli and potatoes.

If you are still skeptical check out Thrive by Brendan Brazier or this awesome table  that shows you just how easy it is to get all of the protein you need from a vegan diet.

Personally, I rely on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains to satisfy my protein needs. Occasionally I will eat seitan, tofu, and tempeh. And I do my best to stay away from processed foods (including fake meats), protein powders, artificial/ overly processed sweeteners, and supplements.  

The reality is that back in the day no one counted calories or worried about pairing foods, so maybe we all need to stop obsessing about the numbers and rely on eating  food as close to the source as possible.

My decision to rely on plant-based foods has given me wonderful results – while I am not always perfect (sometimes I have an egg or some cheese)  I would never consider adding meat back into my diet and I am working really hard to be done with eggs and cheese permanently.

Feel free to share your experience with protein consumption or ask any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction. 

~Happy & Healthy Eating

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