Where do you get your protein is a question all vegetarian and vegans face when having a discussion about food and diet. It comes up immediately when you tell people you are training for a marathon or triathlon or any endurance event. It’s as if this has never been done before or that it can’t be done. When I first decided to alter my diet it was not a big deal to have this discussion as I wanted to help educate people on what a vegetarian diet was about and how you could get your protein.
As time has gone on this conversation has become such a pain in the ass to have I can hardly stand it. I understand that not everybody knows that most Americans get more than what is necessary in terms of protein on a daily basis. I also understand that not everybody knows that plants and grains and legumes and nuts all have protein in them. I understand, but it gets frustrating to continually have this discussion. My body does not look emaciated. My body and my mind operate just as well as it ever has, and I would argue better. So why do people feel the need to have to impose their opinion and their feelings on my diet is beyond me.
I have not told anybody that they need to drop the bacon or hamburgers or chicken kabob or turkey sandwiches from their diet so why do they feel the need to tell me that I need more and more protein? Case in point, if you remember from my run race report of Ironman Texas, the woman handing out burritos told me I needed burritos with meat because I needed protein. Really? Is protein more important at that point than carbohydrates lady? Please stop telling me that I need protein because I get plenty and one of my favorite sites (FoodMatters.com) just posted a link to the Top 6 Plant Based Proteins and here is that list:
1. Vegetables – the proper foundation for all diets.
• 1 avocado – 10 grams <– this also has healthy fats in it
• 1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
• 1 cup spinach – 5 grams
• 2 cups cooked kale – 5 grams
• 1 cup boiled peas – 9 grams
• 1 cup cooked sweet potato – 5 grams
2. Legumes, also vegetables, get their own mention. Specifically lentils and beans, the foundation of many diets for centuries.
• 1 cup soybeans – 28 grams (1 cup tempeh – 30 grams)
• 1 cup lentils – 18 grams
• 1 cup refried beans – 15.5 grams
• 1 cup garbanzo beans (and hummus) – 14.5 grams
• 1 cup pinto, kidney, black beans – 13-15 grams
• 1 oz peanuts – 6.5 grams
3. Nuts and seeds – a staple in most vegetarian and vegan diets.
• 1 oz. cashews – 4.4 grams
• 1 oz. sesame seeds 6.5 grams, 3 tablespoons of tahini – 8 grams
• 1/4 cup (2 oz.) walnuts – 5 grams
• 1 oz. pistachios – 5.8 grams
• 2 tbsp almonds – 4 grams
• Nut butters – peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter – 2 tablespoons has about 8 grams of protein
4. Non-dairy milk
*Soy, almond, ancient grain. 1 cup gets you 7-9 grams of protein.
5. Grains – Ancient grains, sprouted grains, multi-grains – a major part of the diet.
• Quinoa is versatile and delicious. 1 cup – 9 grams.
• Amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, wheat germ, oat bran are other grains with a high protein content.
• Oatmeal – 1 cup = 6 grams.
• Sprouted grain bread products – buns, tortillas, bread. Pack a sandwich or a wrap and you’ll get 7-10 grams from the bread alone.
*spirulina and chlorella are used often by vegetarians and vegans for their rich nutrient content, and protein content.
*Hemp – 30 grams of hemp powder in your smoothie gives you 11 grams of protein.
For a comparison here is what is in meat:
Beef: Six ounces of lean, chuck beef, braised contains 49.2 grams of protein, 505 calories and 32.59 grams of fat.
Chicken: 100 grams of chicken breast, roasted with skin contains 29.80 grams of protein, 197 calories and 7.78 grams of fat.
Fish-Salmon: 100 grams of wild, Atlantic salmon cooked with dry heat, contains 25.44 grams of protein, 182 calories and 8.13 grams of fat.
Pork: 100 grams of lean roast pork, center loin, contains 27.55 grams of protein, 199 calories and 9.01 grams of fat.
Turkey Breast: 100 grams of roast turkey breast contains 28.71 grams of protein, 189 calories and 7.41 grams of fat.
As you can see there is plenty of protein in both meat and non-meat food options so there is no more need to ask the question: Where Do You Get Your Protein? to any No Meat Athlete.