It is a common myth that dietary protein is only obtained through animal sources like chicken, beef, salmon and cheese. Surprisingly, to most Americans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are considerable sources of dietary protein, especially dark green leafy vegetables. It is obvious in the animal kingdom that plants pack a powerful protein punch when some of the biggest animals on Earth (elephants, gorillas, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and giraffes) eat predominantly plant based diets. Protein plays an important role in numerous functions in the body and is an important part of a balanced diet. Luckily for non-meat eaters, people trying to reduce their consumption of animal products or those trying to reduce their carbon footprint, protein is present from the top of the food chain to the bottom!
In Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch, CNC, protein is described as one of the four basic nutrients. When protein is consumed it is broken down in the body into essential amino acids which must be obtained through the diet because the body cannot manufacture them on its own. The benefits of consuming plant based protein are illustrated by Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his book, Eat to Live. Dr. Fuhrman explains that when compared calorie-to-calorie, plant sources provide the same amount of protein as animal sources, and in many cases even more! For example, Dr. Fuhrman shows that 100 calories of broccoli contains 11 grams of protein while 100 calories of steak contains only 6 grams of protein. Not only does broccoli contain protein, but it is also providing significant amounts of fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Steak provides none of those nutrients and contains cholesterol and saturated fat.
Not only does our body thank us for supplying it with more plant based sources of protein, the environment does too! Producing billions of pounds of meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. Meat production also generates greenhouse gases, toxic manure and other pollutants that contaminate the air and water. The Environmental Working Group partnered with ClimateMetrics, an environmental analysis firm, to create the Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health. This guide helps Americans better understand the health, environmental and climate impacts of their food choices. Among many other findings, The Environmental Working Group found that if everyone in the U.S ate no conventionally produced meat or cheese one day a week for one year it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road!
One way to add more plant-based protein to the diet is through protein powder supplements. Plant-based protein powders are most commonly derived from pea, hemp, rice and soy. At The Mustard Seed Natural and Organic Food Store we sell a large variety of plant-based protein powders which include top brands Sun Warrior, Plant Fusion and Vega. All three of these brands feature a complete amino acid profile, branch chain amino acids and are gluten free, dairy free and soy free. Protein powders are easily mixed with water, non-dairy milk or put into a smoothie. They can be consumed throughout the day, with meals or post-workout. Click here for a coupon redeemable on the purchase of one of these plant-based protein powders at The Mustard Seed Natural and Organic Food Store located at 969 Arsenal Street in Watertown.
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD
*Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended as, or should be construed as, medical advice. This article is for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration. The products mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.