Don’t have a cow! Contrary to popular belief, animal products are not the only source of protein. There are alternatives. And, with the current disruption in the meat supply chain, now is the perfect time to switch things up in your diet. You can get all the protein you need from a variety of plants and plant-based foods.
Go Right to the Source
Think about it. Elephants, hippos and rhinos are among the largest and strongest animals on Earth and they are all herbivores. They get their protein and all the nutrients they need directly from the source - plants! Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Hopkins and Alex Morgan are all vegan. If elite athletes can thrive eating a plant-based diet, you can too!
Why do I Need Protein?
Simply put, every cell in the human body contains protein made up of building blocks called amino acids. They are necessary to help our bodies grow and repair cells as well for the proper functioning of our hormone and immune systems. Protein contributes to healthy bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. In fact, your hair and nails are mostly made up of protein. In addition, protein is imperative for speeding recovery after exercise and/or injury, reducing muscle loss, building lean muscle, helping to maintain a healthy weight, and curbing hunger.
What are complete proteins?
Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids that our body can’t make by itself. Meat, eggs, and dairy are all sources of complete proteins. Many plant-based options such as beans, lentils, and rice are not considered complete proteins since they are usually lacking in one essential amino acid. This is totally fine as long as you are eating a variety of foods! Whole wheat bread with peanut butter, or quinoa with chickpeas are great combinations that provide all the essential aminos acids your body needs. If you’re looking for a great plant-based protein supplement, pea protein is a complete protein and can be used in shakes or found in health snacks like Protein Power Ball!
But, What Should I Eat?
Since our bodies cannot make some of the essential amino acids we need, we must get them from the foods we eat. With a little focus on conscious consumption, you can get all the protein you need from a plant-based diet while still enjoying an appealing variety of foods. Eating a combination of unrefined grains, legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day, ensures a healthy, well-balanced diet.
How about trying a colorful tofu stir-fry packed with lots of veggies and brown rice? For something lighter put together a raw vegetable plate with a variety of dips such as hummus and guacamole. And, for a hearty meal, try homemade lentil soup with a thick slice of whole-grain bread. ALl of these foods are also rich in fiber, which helps keep you full without feeling sluggish. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, there is an increasing number of products available on grocery store shelves for you to explore. Look for products containing seitan or tempeh for a tasty meat alternative. You may be surprised by how versatile these products are and how delicious they can be.