I will now continue from yesterday’s article, which was Part 1 of this two-part series. In that article I discussed what are our protein needs on a daily basis, and that we can meet all our needs with a diet of no or less meat.
I left off talking about foods from the vegetable world that are good sources of protein. Interestingly, I said that 100 calories of spinach contains more protein than 100 calories of steak.
Another powerhouse protein food is the grain quinoa. Quinoa is not only high in protein, but it is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Vegans and vegetarians concerned with protein intake should incorporate this healthy grain into their meals.
Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorous and is well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.
Cooked soybeans are another good food, and they rank 10th on the World’s Healthiest Foods Containing Protein List beating out eggs, all dairy and most meats. In the nutritional community, soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. One cup of soybean provides approximately 57.2% of the daily value for protein for less than 300 calories and with only 2.2 grams of saturated fats.
Studies have also shown that soy helps reduce cholesterol levels while consumption of animal proteins makes cholesterol levels rise. Soy is also rich in iron, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Soy can also be found in a variety of forms such as soy milk, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy ice cream, tempeh, meat substitutes, miso, soy protein powder and tofu.
Other foods that are excellent sources of dietary protein include mustard greens, artichokes, corn, lentils, nuts, seeds, hot cereals and other beans.
Now, let me switch gears a little and go back to a theme that I touched on two days ago with my article about the vegan bodybuilder Kenneth Williams. As I said in that article, a common misperception is that to be an athlete you have to eat a meat-based diet and that there’s no way you can be vegan/vegetarian.
Well, consider the following list of current vegan and vegetarian athletes: Prince Fielder (MLB), Tony Gonzalez (NFL), Mac Danzig (Martial Arts), Pat Neshek (MLB), Scott Jurek (Ultra marathoner), Brendan Brazier (Iron man), Kenneth Williams (Body Builder), Christine Vardaros (Cyclist). Other vegan and vegetarian athletes include: Peter Brock, Carl Lewis, Salim Stoudamire, Ricky Williams, Ed Templeton, Bill Pearl (former Mr. Universe), and many other Olympians, world record holders and top athletes.
Most athletes take protein powders, and vegan and vegetarian athletes can also supplement with soy, brown rice and hemp protein powders.
Finally, I want to say a word about protein consumption in general. As I mentioned in yesterday’s Part 1, Americans eat way too much protein.
According to U.S. RDA calculations, the average person in America consumes 100 to 120 grams of protein per day, with the majority of it coming from animal sources. As I reported in yesterday’s article, the U.S. RDA states that an individual on a 2,000 calorie diet only needs 75 grams of protein – that means that the average American is consuming an excess of 25 to 45 grams of protein per day.
An excess of protein, particularly animal protein, is exceptionally harmful to the body. This was the findings of The China Study, and I talked about the findings of this landmark study in an earlier article.
I’ll sum it up again: The China Study examined the relationship between the consumption of animal products and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, obesity and other degenerative diseases.
The authors of the study concluded that based on long-term scientific studies, diets high in animal proteins from both meat and dairy are strongly linked to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. The authors recommended a whole food, vegan diet as a means to minimize and/or reverse the development of chronic diseases.
Excess protein, especially coupled with America’s sedentary lifestyle, can also be taxing on the kidneys. Animal proteins are inherently stressful on the kidneys, but overages will cause the kidneys to underperfom. When the kidneys are not operating optimally, the risk for premature aging or developing kidney stones sharply increases.
Bone health is also effected by excessive protein consumption. Excess protein consumption causes calcium to be leeched from the bones, which may then cause osteoporosis, acid reflux, obesity, plaque build-up in the arteries, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis.
So there you have it. If you are eating vegan or vegetarian, or you are eating not much animal-based foods, the next time someone asks you how can you be getting enough protein, you’ll have plenty of ammunition to counter back.