Quick! Say the most annoying question EVER asked of every plant-based eater on the face of the planet or their parents. Yes, you’re right!

When people ask, “Where do you get your protein?” they are not attempting to show their lack of nutrition knowledge. They are showing the lack of education in the current school system and skewed food system we maintain by those who run our United States Department of Agriculture. The reality is that proteins are everywhere.

Advertisement

Let’s clarify some terms with regards to protein and how you function on the planet.

What is an Amino Acid?

Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and the stuff that starts or stops reactions in your body. Your body makes most of the amino acids you need out of all kinds of different foods.

What is a Protein?

A protein is 100 amino acids stuck together; think of a pearl necklace with 100 pearls. The word “Protein” is the term for 100 amino acids, which is just as exotic as the word “Century,” the term for 100 years. Proteins are in enzymes. Enzymes are everywhere.

What is an Enzyme?

Enzymes, to keep the biochemistry simple, are the substances that build things up and break things down. Think three-year olds with building blocks and a hammer. Enzymes were discovered by German beer makers who were trying to figure out what made grains, hops, water and yeast turn into beer. They found that by adding each ingredient nothing happened until they added the yeast. “Enzyme” means “In leavened” in German and Greek or “in the yeast.” Enzymes tell the seed to crack open, the sprout to push through the dirt, the leave to pop out, the flower to pollinate and the fruit to grow. Plant foods do not happen without enzymes and enzymes are made up of proteins. Period. But, how do you know you are getting what you need?

Advertisement
Advertisement

Dr. John McDougall states that there is more protein per calorie in broccoli than there is in beef. Of course, I had to check it out.

 

Food

Calories

Advertisement

Grams of Protein

Broccoli

20

Advertisement

2

Steak

20

1.45

 

Advertisement

The challenge comes in eating enough calories to get all the protein. There are other foods that have concentrated quantities of protein such as legumes and grains. Meaning, you can get a lot of proteins from salad and fruit, but you can get more per gram of food from legumes and grains.

How Much Do You Need?

I will now impart the magic formula. This will not make you a dietitian, but does allow you to learn the secret handshake. When you meet with me as a dietitian, I get your height and determine what is your ideal body weight. Let’s use me as an example.

I am 5 feet 5 inches and 125 pounds. One of those things is true.

I actually need this information in metric. One pound equals 2.2 kilograms, so I convert to metric by dividing 125/2.2 = 57 grams. If I am under 49 years of age I need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram or 45 grams.

How Hard is it to Get?

Now here’s the REAL question, how hard is it to get? Here’s a chart of what I ate for a day.

 

Food

Grams of protein

Cereal

5

Rice Milk 1/2 Cup

1

Grapefruit

1

Romaine 5 Cups

3

Carrot, cuke, etc

3.25

Kidney Beans

7.5

Walnuts

4

Quinoa 3/4 Cup cooked

11

Black Beans 1/2 Cup

7.5

Romaine 4 Cups

2.3

Carrot, cuke, etc

3.25

Kale 3 Cups

6.75

Total

55.55

 

 

My total is 55.5 grams, more than I need. Additionally, I work out for half and hour most days a week and this amount covers that. Is this a lot of food? No. I’m sure I actually ate more. The calorie count is around 1100 and I need around 1800 daily. I do agree that if you are on the beer and potato chip diet you can get all the calories you need without garnering the necessary protein content. But that isn’t going to keep your girlish figure or have you looking FAB into your 90s.

Image source: Tulane Public Relations/Wikimedia