When I became a vegetarian, I made the #1 mistake that most of us make when we make a drastic dietary change. I dove right in and didn’t take the time to learn about nutrition basics and essential nutrients. It wasn’t until I became anemic, and started working towards a certification as a Natural Health Practitioner, learning about essential nutrients, that I became healthy and all my symptoms disappeared. Nutrition deficiency was something that my multiple visits to my family doctor were never even discussed, even though my doctor knew I was a vegetarian! Here is what I learned. The following nutrients are essential to having a balanced and healthy body: protein, carbohydrates, fibre, lipids, vitamins, healthy fats, micronutrients, macronutrients, and minerals. Our bodies do not produce these naturally, so we must get them through our food.
Today, I want to talk to you about protein. Ah yes, the mighty protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that is necessary for building and repairing tissues such as muscles, skin, teeth and bones. It transports oxygen and carbon dioxide into the blood and can also provide the body with energy. There is a lot of talk around protein, especially for vegetarians. I get this question all the time, “where do you get your protein?” It is a lot easier than you think. Let’s dive in.
Where do I get it if I don’t eat meat?
Getting protein from other non-animal sources is easy. However, what I learned was that I wasn’t combining my foods properly to get what is called a Complete Protein.
There are two kinds of protein, complete and incomplete proteins.
Incomplete protein comes from vegetable sources, whereas complete proteins generally come from animal sources. However, if an incomplete protein is combined properly with nuts, grains, seeds and legumes, you get a complete protein. This is great news for anyone who is thinking about becoming a vegetarian. It was definitely great news for me because I wasn’t getting barely enough complete protein in my diet.
As essential as protein is, it is important to only consume the recommended daily amount. The body doesn’t store additional protein, so the liver works overtime to break it down, and we don’t need a stressed out liver. It works hard enough. Consequently, your kidneys also have to do overtime to eliminate more urea. Urea is a chemical compound produced by your liver.
The recommended daily amount (RDA) is approximately 35 to 56 grams a day. However, this varies depending on your sex, age, weight, and physical activity. Infants, babies and children need less, so the above RDA’s don’t apply to them.
There are many common calculations used to get your RDA. If you are confused about what you need, I recommend discussing these RDA’s with a trainer, nutritionist, or your doctor. They will work with you based on the variables above to ensure you are getting your protein needs. Body-builders for example will need more because eating a lot of protein will increase their muscle mass after an intense workout.
The following combinations make a complete protein. Use the chart above to create your healthy combos.
Combo 1: Grains and Legumes
Combo 2: Legumes and Nuts/Seeds
Combo 3: Grains and Dairy Products
No Combining Necessary: Quinoa, hemp seeds, buckwheat, potatoes, and soy products, are a complete protein all by themselves.
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, eating more plant-based protein is a great way to enhance your health. Check out the chart below. Calorie to calorie, with the proper combining, plant-based is a mighty contender.
Sending you oodles of positivity, happiness & joy,
Laurie-ann Sheldrick, The Contagiously Positive Girl