What do elephants, gorillas and Popeye the Sailorman all have in common? They are all 100% powered by plants!
If I had a penny for every time someone asked me where I got my protein over the 20 years that I’ve been a vegetarian, I’d be a rich woman. It’s as if I might shrivel up and die if I don’t get “enough protein,” implying that you can only get protein from eating meat.
In all my years of studying nutrition, I’ve only heard of 1 person being protein deficient. In fact, as a culture we’re actually over-consuming protein, which can cause a slew of medical conditions. And this is especially concerning given the latest fad suggests that if you want to build muscle or lose weight you should consume a high protein diet.
Elephants, gorillas, horses and even rhinoceros are all herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. And they certainly do not lack any strength or muscle. So I figure if these powerhouses of strength can live on plants, well then, so can I. But personal preferences and protein grams aside, let’s take a closer look at this macronutrient.
Protein is made up of amino acids, also known as the building blocks of protein – but more on these guys in a second. Our body needs proteins to build new cells and to maintain healthy tissues. We also need proteins for healthy hair, strong nails and most of our body’s basic functions.
So what then are the best sources of protein?
Well, the answer to that depends on the person. When Jo and I created the Conscious Cleanse we had very different nutritional profiles. I was on a 100% raw food kick and Jo was eating animal protein 3 times a day.
Today, we both take a much more moderate approach, tuning into our bodies and our needs on any given day.
But one thing we know for sure is that eating animal protein requires your body to work harder. Remember, those building blocks of protein? Well, when you eat protein from an animal source, your body has to break it down into a string of amino acid parts, and then reorganize it into amino acids before the body can actually utilize it.
When we eat plant-based sources of protein – things like nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and even dark leafy greens – we ingest the amino acids directly, skipping the step where your body has to work harder.
The results? Extra energy and easier digestion!
So back to the original question, “where do you get your protein?” Below are my top favorite plant-based sources of protein.
My Top Favorite Sources of Plant-Based Protein
- Dark Leafy Greens and Other Vegetables – Spinach, watercress, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower and cabbage provide some of the highest available proteins.
- Nuts and seeds – Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds. I also love nut butters like almond butter, cashew butter, sunbutter.
- Spirulina and Chlorella – Providing up to 65% protein, these forms of green algaes are a must if you are minimizing, or trying to lessen the amount of animal protein in your diet. High in chlorophyll, containing all the essential amino acids, these superfoods are great for active athletes and those of us who are on the go a lot. They are helpful for fending off energy slumps and can help satisfy your hunger.
- Beans and Legumes – High in dietary fiber and protein, beans and legumes are generally inexpensive and provide long-lasting energy. They are a great source of calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
- Quinoa – Quinoa is technically a seed but it masquerades as a grain. It’s also a superfood! Hailing from South America, this Pervuian seed/grain is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 8 essential amino acids. It’s earthy and nutty and goes great with steamed veggies.
What are your thoughts on proteins? Do you thrive on plants or are you a die-hard meat eater? What would happen if you reduced your animal protein consumption by 50%? How might you feel better? Leave me a comment below!