Protein is the second most abundant substance in the human body, behind water. As you may remember in biology or chemistry class, protein is the building block of life. Every cell in our body has and requires protein. We need protein to build muscles, repair muscles, and for overall growth and development.
Proteins are made of of chains of amino acids – most of which we need to get from the food that we eat. These are called “essential amino acids“. Combining these essential amino acids with the amino acids our body makes on its own, we then form what is called a “complete” protein – the protein that can be put to good use for a healthy and strong body.
The 9 essential amino acids are:
Protein can be obtained from animal AND plant sources. The common mistake people make is to seek protein only from animal sources, i.e. steaks, meat. The infamous Atkins Diet is the epitome of this thinking. What is wrong with eating just protein? Well, it is the source of protein that is important to consider. The Atkins Diet encouraged meat and eggs, which is too high in cholesterol for many.
Although your body can get rid of the excess protein you are ingesting, TOO much protein is causing your kidneys to work harder. Oftentimes, we are eating too much protein without even realizing.
You can get protein from lean meat, poultry, and fish, beans and nuts, eggs, and cheese. It is healthier to replace ground meat with turkey, for example. I used ground turkey to make a patty and it tasted just as good and satisfying as if it were beef.
You can also get protein from peanut butter, tofu, tempeh, other soy products, and low-fat dairy products, like milk and yogurt. Now you can see how we might be overdoing it with protein without knowing it!
You can also supplement your protein with wheat germ, which has about 33 grams of protein per cup! But nobody eats that much wheat germ. You can sprinkle wheat germ in your smoothies, cereals, and guys like to put some in their whey protein before a work-out for energy and muscle-building results.
So for those of you who are considering going gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan – know that you don’t need cow’s milk or meat in your diet as a protein or calcium source. There are plenty of other protein options to choose from.
I like black beans (frijoles negros) and kidney beans. Black beans are also known to be a great source of brain power! Here is a recipe for black bean soup.
If you don’t like black beans or kidney beans, here is a list of beans and their protein and calorie content per cup.
Here is also a list of the top 10 plant protein sources:
8. Sprouts of all kind! (Most are between 20-35% protein.)
6. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables (parsley, spinach, kale, cabbage etc.)
5. Hemp Seeds
4. Bee Pollen (not vegan)
3. Pumpkin Seeds
2. Sun Warrior Protein