I’m not writing this post to tell you that you should be adding more protein to your diet or that protein is so important for vegans. I’m also not here to bash on those that claim vegans are in immanent danger due to their lack of protein. No, I’d like to talk about why protein has become such an important topic among all foodies. And it’s not because we’re born with a nagging concern for this nutrient.
Sure, protein is an essential part of the human body. Without it, we would not be able to grow, flourish, or … exist. But the level of controversy it has stirred up in recent years is unprecedented. We, as humans, have become strangely obsessed with these macromolecules. But why?
History of Protein
When food manufacturers began to market their products as protein-rich foods, our society latched on. Whether it was due to brand loyalty, or simply naivety, I’m unsure. But once we learned of protein (and its importance), we began looking for it in everything. And now our eyes beam when we see labels reading: “Full of Protein”, “20 grams of Protein”, or “More Protein than an Egg.” Just reading that last sentence is firing up neurotransmitters in some of you right now.
But don’t feel that the easiest way to sell their sodas is to alter the recipes altogether, making them highly addictive. They’re going to make sure that you’re back for more. And it’s working big time – especially among diet soda drinkers. Anyways…back to protein..
Isn’t More Protein Better?
Again, don’t get me wrong – protein is vital to the human body and we should be consuming between 40 and 60 grams per day (men on the higher end of the spectrum). But how hard is it to acquire these amounts? Do we really need a nutrition bar packed with 20+ grams of protein?
The simple answer is no, it isn’t hard to meet the daily recommended amount of protein; not even for vegans and vegetarians. And the average (sedentary) American won’t benefit from a 20 gram jolt of protein, either. However, endurance athletes (like runners) can consume upwards of 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight each day to aid in repairing muscles.
Where Do You Get Your Protein?
Ask anyone (at your own risk) where they get their protein and they’ll typically answer with one of the following foods: beef, chicken, or eggs. Why is that? Did they learn this from some outdated food pyramid? Maybe product advertisements? Have they actually been reading nutrition labels? Or are they just regurgitating the answers that our society has (unintentionally) agreed upon?
Sure, we all know that beef and chicken are extremely high in protein. In fact, a rib eye steak packs 69 grams of complete protein. But what’s more important is the whole package. What else is that juicy steak offering the body? How about 847 calories, 63 grams of fat (28g saturated), and 233 mg of cholesterol. Not such a great package, huh?
Plant-based foods on the other hand are nourishing; they contain adequate levels of protein without putting you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. What are some of these great sources of plant-based protein? Hemp hearts (10g per serving), Spriulina (60g per serving), and Lentils (18g per serving) are all great choices. Other protein-rich plant-foods are nuts, seeds, and beans. Not only do they contain the necessary amino chains, but they provide our bodies with other vitamins and nutrients to keep us healthy and strong.
Until these high-protein “fad diets” fade out, we’re sure to continue hearing about protein and its high priority in our meals. Most of these “diets” claim that protein plays an important role in helping us to stay fuller longer. This may be true, but keep in mind that protein contains calories, and whatever calories you’re not burning gets stored as fat. Therefore, too much protein can actually lead to weight gain. So be smart, and make sure that you’re not overdoing it.
Chances are, you’re getting adequate protein. If you are eating a varied diet, consuming your recommended daily allowance of calories, and don’t have extreme muscle and/or joint pain, you’re probably going to live. When in doubt, visit your nutritionist or medical doctor to get properly tested. So, do you still think that protein is so important for vegans?