If you're a vegetarian or vegan you're probably asked the age old question "where do you get your protein?" several times a day. It's the question I'm asked most and it's a reflection of just how many people don't understand exactly what protein is. It’s complicated science, so I’ve tried to break it down as best I can. Proteins are huge molecules made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids available to us. Eight of these amino acids are considered essential, meaning you have to get them in your diet (or from a supplement) because your body can’t manufacture them. In general, it is better to get your nutrients from your diet, than a pill.
Someone eating a vegan raw food diet can be eating less overall amino acids, yet have less deficiencies since the amino acids are all intact when they come from raw vegetarian protein sources. All plants contain amino acids. The only difference is that some have a lower percentage of amino acids in comparison to the rest of the parts of the plant. While raw vegans are getting the most out of vegetarian foods, you can also get protein from sources like seeds, grains, nuts, beans, quinoa, uncooked green foods like kale, and legumes. Some believe that since vegetarian foods provide incomplete proteins, it is important to combine them to make a complete protein.
However, according to the American Heart Association, ”A vegetarian diet based on any single one or combination of these unprocessed starches (eg, rice, corn, potatoes, beans), with the addition of vegetables and fruits, supplies all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals, and vitamins (with the exception of vitamin B12) necessary for excellent health. To wrongly suggest that people need to eat animal protein for nutrients will encourage them to add foods that are known to contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many forms of cancer, to name just a few common problems.”
The next time someone asks you, “Where do you get your protein?!” Ask them first to explain what protein is. “Oh it’s that stuff that builds muscles.” Okay, can you tell me what amino acids are? That my friends, is a Bazinga!
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