Proteins are complex molecules made up of thousands of smaller units called amino acids that play many critical roles in our bodies. They are a powerhouse when it comes to the work they do in cells and are required for the structure and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
Without protein we will not be able to function because protein is found throughout our bodies. At a minimum, there are 10,000 different proteins that make you what you are and keep you that way. Our bodies make amino acids in two different ways: either from scratch or through modification of others. A few essential amino acids must come from food.
In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of protein is 46 grams per day for females over 19 years of age, and 56 grams per day for males over 19 years of age.
Individuals who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products should eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new proteins.
Although there may be a lot of protein in meat, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist elsewhere. When asked where and how am I getting protein? I simply say,"I do what gorillas, elephants, deer, and cows do; I go to the source – plants." Beans, peanuts, peas, lentils, quinoa, seitan, grains, and nuts are some of the best sources for protein, and you can also find protein in green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, seaweed, peas, and spinach.
To make sure you are getting enough protein, be aware of what plant-based foods are protein rich and try to include some in all your meals. Here are a few meal ideas: peanut butter sandwich, veggie burger, hummus wrap, lentil soup, bean burrito, quinoa salad, green salad with beans.
Here’s to good health,
Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. National Academy Press. (Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies).