March 5, 2010

Nutrition Basics: Protein

Any time I tell people I eat a plant-based diet, they will predictably ask, "where do you get your protein?"  It is a refrain heard constantly by vegetarians.  Yet, when asked, how much protein does a person need?  Those same people have no idea what to answer.  So, here's the scoop without getting too technical:

Protein is used to repair damaged tissue, build cell walls, among its many functions.  The average person needs around 30 grams of protein per day.  One cup of brown rice and one cup of lentils equals about 23 grams of protein.  That's almost your entirely daily need if you ate nothing else all day!

It turns out that it is nearly impossible to be protein deficient when you are eating a diet that is full of unprocessed whole foods, starches and vegetables.  Even the needs of body builders are only 12% higher than your average person.  That would put their needs in the 35 - 40 grams per day range.

This is why my recipes are not packed with mock meats and other plant-based products like tofu, seitan and tempeh.  They have their place in plant-based cuisine but these sorts of refined protein foods are simply not necessary to meet one's daily protein needs.

So, where do I get my protein?  From an amazing array of vegetables, legumes, grains and starches that provide all the protein my body needs.   

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