Protein is perhaps the one nutrient that most people are obsessed about. This protein-centric view of nutrition can perhaps be traced way back to the 1800s, when protein was first ‘discovered’. We’ve learned so much more since then, but the obsession with eating lots and lots of protein seems so ingrained that we’re so afraid of missing out on this one nutrient.
Getting enough protein in your diet is very important, don’t get me wrong. After all, hair is primarily made up of protein. But, most people’s idea of protein comes from animal sources: chicken, eggs, meat, and dairy. While in fact, there is plenty of protein in plant foods, especially vegetables.
Protein is synthesized (made) from a range of amino acids, the building blocks (raw materials, if you will) of protein itself. Our body can make many of these amino acids, but so far, we know of 9 amino acids that we must acquire from foods, because our body can’t make them.
We also know that many wholesome plant foods (vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains etc.) contain all 9 amino acids that we need in order to make protein.
Check out this chart to see how plant foods score in terms of amino acids/protein in comparison to animal sources, but without the fat, animal hormones, and inflammatory compounds that are inherently present in animal products.
The key is this. If you eat a VARIETY of WHOLESOME (real, not processed) plant foods, AND you meet your energy (calorie) needs, you should get enough protein. Best if you include plant foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids.
🌿 Who knew that spinach is one of the highest protein-containing vegetables around?