Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Comment from the Peanut Gallery

The other morning I was having a conversation with a certain someone, who shall remain unnamed, about Veganism. The conversation did not go the way I had planned but there is one blurb that keeps repeating itself in my head...

"You need to eat meat because you need protein in you diet. There is no way you can get enough Protein on a Vegan diet."

I am sure many people have this belief and/or have heard this from someone who just can not grasp the concept of Veganism. 

Lets start with the basics: 

What is Protein? 
A protein is long train of amino acids linked together. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in our body. Every living organism is composed of Protein. Proteins have many different functions. They provide structure (ligaments, fingernails, hair), help in digestion (stomach enzymes), and aid in movement (muscles). Proteins are essential for growth, repair and healing of bones, tissues and cells. 
There are 22 amino acids that are important to human health and 13 are naturally produced by our bodies. 

Where do the remaining amino acids come from? 
We must get the other 8, called Essential amino acids, from our food. 

Animal Sources vs. Plant Sources
Of course, we all know that meat and other animal products can provide us with these Essential amino acids. The amino acids from animal products are even categorized as COMPLETE because they actually contain all of the missing amino acids. BUT these sources also contain A LOT of fat. And, I am talking the artery-clogging, saturated type! Animal fat also lacks fiber, which is needed to help empty the stomach and pass through the intestines. 
**Remember Proteins should be HELPING aid with digestions not causing indigestion!**

A 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak is a great source of protein—38 grams worth. But it also delivers 44 grams of fat, 16 of them saturated. That's almost three-fourths of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat. 

The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat, 4 of them saturated.

A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, but under 1 gram of fat.
New studies are also showing that animal proteins increase blood cholesterol levels, while plant proteins can actually decrease them!

If animal sources are COMPLETE, then that must mean that plan sources are INCOMPLETE? No worries! You can still get all of your essential amino acids from eating a wide variety of protein-rich vegetables, such as beans, nuts and whole grains. And these foods also provide you with healthy fiber, vitamins and minerals! 
**Bonus: These foods are also healthy for our pocketbooks! 

How much protein does my body actually need?
The recommend daily allowance suggest we take 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh. 
A diet consisting of too much protein has been associated with osteoporosis and aggravating poor or failing kidney function. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein

Grams of protein 
needed each day
Children ages 1 – 3
Children ages 4 – 8
Children ages 9 – 13
Girls ages 14 – 18
Boys ages 14 – 18
Women ages 19 – 70+
Men ages 19 – 70+

A sample menu FULL of Protein:
Breakfast: 1/4 cup steel cut oats, topped with 2 Tbsp. of Almond Butter 
Lunch: Spinach salad (2 cups) topped with Chickpeas (1 cup) and Broccoli (1/2 cup) 
Snack:  2 Whole grain flatbread chips with 4 Tbsp. of Hummus
Dinner: Quinoa Vegetable Paella 
Total Protein: Approximately 50 grams

Quinoa Vegetable Paella
Recipe and Photo From Fat Free Vegan
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash cayenne
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 14-ounce can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 3/4 – 3 cups vegetable broth
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and cut into quarters
Put the quinoa into a large bowl. Cover with water and stir well to wash the grain. Pour off the water and then repeat the washing process. Sauté onion and garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little water until soft. Add the quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, and cook covered for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, check to see if more broth is needed. If it looks dry, add the remaining vegetable broth. Place the zucchini on top of the quinoa and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until quinoa is done. Remove the cover, stir in the peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Arrange the artichoke hearts on the top and serve. Add salt at the table, if necessary.
Makes about 6 servings.

Information compiled from:

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