Hello beautiful people,
For the past few posts, I’ve shared with you my thoughts on compassion. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and I’d love to hear back from you so don’t be shy, scroll on down (after you’ve read this post of course!) and leave a comment… But now, it is time to go back to plant based food and address a very important topic: plant protein!
Now, I know that this topic has been discussed in great length on countless plant based blogs, websites, youtube videos and Instagram accounts yet somehow, the confusion persists, especially in the bodybuilding and fitness industry, although there is some improvement there. If you’ve read my story, you know that this is an industry I’m very found of. But this post is not only aimed at those muscle heads (and I mean that as a compliment as I consider myself one!) but also, and mainly, at those that want to take their fitness to the next level, at those that want to lead an active lifestyle and at those busy families who want to nourish their bodies and fuel their muscles, all the while doing something positive for their health, the environment and the animals. An all around winning situation if you ask me!
Now let’s get into the thick of things and debunk a few myths along the way…
Let’s start at the beginning. What is protein? According to the National Institutes of Health, protein is a macronutrient (like fat and carbohydrates). It is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass.
It was once believed, by the scientific community (actually, as far back as 1971), that plant protein was incomplete in and of itself. That all plant proteins lacked one or more amino acids and so someone eating only plant based foods, would have an incomplete intake of amino acids which could lead to a plethora of problems. And so “proper food combining” was recommended to those who wanted to adhere to a plant based lifestyle. And this complicated things for a lot of people. It made this lifestyle very labour intensive and unattractive. Those that might have been plant based-curious where easily turned off by the idea of properly combining foods at every meal.
Luckily, that concept has long been debunked! Unfortunately, it still persists… NutritionFacts.org actually made an amazing video on the topic and I would strongly encourage you to watch it here.
So now we know that most plant proteins contain at least the minimum amounts of all 8 amino acid and that our bodies can store amino acids for when we eat plants to that do not contain the magic 8. And so combining certain plant foods together at every meal is not required. Your magnificent body does the work for you. Incredible you are!
Now what? Well now, unto the next myth: protein requirements!
Since the craze of high-protein diets and the incredible lobbying of various meat industries, it is wildly believed that our bodies need an incredible amount of protein to function properly. We’re talking about diets that promote eating anywhere from 150 to 300 grams of protein (depending if you are active or not, man or woman), a day. That is insane! Some diets even go as far as suggesting a protein-fast where you only eat lean meat all day, for a period of time dependent on how much weight you want to loose. I won’t even get into the dangers of such a diet or the havoc it can wreak on your hormones and digestive tract let alone your sanity but it’s actually a very popular diet so this is scary! Diet such as these promote efficient, drastic and quick weight loss due to the power of protein.
Now let’s be real, protein doesn’t have magical powers and your body definitely doesn’t need that much to function, be active and recover from brutal workouts. So how much do you actually need? Of course, the answer is unique to each person but the general guidelines from the American Dietetic Association and Health Canada is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (1 kg = 2.2 pounds) of body weight per day. So a person who weighs 135 pounds needs 54 grams of protein in a day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more as do athletes. For myself, I weight 135 pounds and I know, through trial and error, that my body functions best and I recover faster from my workouts when I eat at least 80 grams of protein, some days even more. And yes, all my protein is plant based and delicious!
Now I know some of you are freaking out on me right now thinking this is way way to low. But think of this: a baby needs the most nutrients and protein as it has the greatest growth curve yet per 100 ml of breastmilk there is 1.3 gram of protein, 4.2 gram of fat and 7 grams of carbs. Food for thought!
Ok so now you know, you don’t need to combine different plant foods at every meal and you know roughly how much protein you need to eat. So what do you eat to hit those protein macros? Check out this chart below by Full Circle Healthcare.
It never ceases to amaze me how complete the plant kingdom is. So whether you choose to eat tofu or not, only unprocessed foods or not, it is very easy to get all the protein you need on a plant based diet.
If you are curious on how much protein you actually do eat, I encourage you to track one or two days in a log like My FitnessPal or Cron-O meter and see how much protein you consume. I’m sure you’ll be surprised!
And now, onto my recipe! I’ve made a kale caesar salad that is loaded with protein from the kale itself, but also from the hemp hearts and the tofu in the dressing.
I hope you enjoy it and let me know how much protein you consume!
- 1 full head of kale
- 1/4 Cup olive oil
- 6 oz firm silken tofu
- 1 garlic glove (I use 2 gloves because we like it really tangy!)
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 medium size dill pickles
- 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
- 1/4 Cup of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 Cup hemp hearts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the ribs from the kale leafs, wash and chop.
- Set aside in a mixing bowl.
- Add all your remaining ingredients, except the hemp hearts, into a blender or food processor and blend until you get a creamy texture.
- Pour the dressing over the kale and combine with a wooden spoon.
- Store covered in the fridge for at least 15 minutes so the kale softens.
- Top with hemp hearts and some gluten free croutons.