Where do you get your protein from? This is something I get asked many times, by many people. So here goes, a catch all response that covers my most popular ways of responding to this question as well as some great resources that have helped inform my point of view and I often give to people when they want to know more.
I'm planning to update this from time to time to incorporate any questions/ queries/ comments I receive so feel free to leave them below.
First off there are so many sources of protein yet we are taught to think of animal based protein as the primary and somehow most superior form. However you can get protein from many sources including vegetables, lentils, beans, soy, nuts, seeds, non-dairy milk, the list is simply endless. A major advantage of plant-based proteins, from a health perspective, is that they don't come with the saturated fats, cholesterol and hormones commonly found in animal based proteins.
When thinking about eating meat as an answer to satisfying protein in ones diets I like to ask "Where did the cow get their protein from?". Cows of course only eat plants (or grain) so why not skip the middle-man (or middle cow in this case) and go straight to the plants and eat what the cow eats? Plants (1).
Colleen Patrick Goudreau has more to say on this here in her excellent video - check out her podcasts here too!
Cows are big, muscly creatures and have no problem building muscly flesh but I think we've confused things. We think that in order to be like them, have their strength, develop their muscle and ultimately build our body, we need to eat them, rather than eat what they eat.
An average person, according to the World Health Organisation, needs around 0.8g of protein per kilo that you weigh (2). For me weighing about 62kg I need around 50g per day. That’s in fact not that much – that’s one cup of soy beans (17g), one cup of lentils (18g) and a good handful of cashew nuts (7g), not to mention all the other food that I eat that also has protein so you can see how easy it is to get more than you actually need - here's a great link to show you protein amounts in various plant sources . Unless you’re in starvation mode then it’s very unlikely you're not getting enough protein and if you do take on less your body becomes very efficient at recycling amino acids which is the building blocks of protein.
The video and transcript extract below briefly looks into Harvard studies that examined the protein source versus the amount - "proteins are made of a string of amino acids, and the there are some amino acids more common in plants than in animals, particularly glutamic acid, which a study published in the journal of the American Heart Association was found, for example, to potentially “have independent blood pressure-lowering effects, which may contribute to the inverse relation of vegetable protein to blood pressure," meaning high plants, low pressure."
Further to the above this inspiring and brilliant podcast from my hero Rich Roll and his interview with Dr Garth Davies is an absolute treasure trove of information and goes into depth on protein, the sources, how much we need and more important it's effects on our bodies. This podcast entitled "Our Misplaced Obsession with Protein: Garth Davis, MD on High Fat, Low Carb Diets & How to Separate Nutritional Fact from Popular Fiction" coincides with the release of Dr Davis' new book 'Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It'
In an ideal world I’d like to see us shift the debate away from protein and towards “how do you get your fibre?”- the majority of the UK population are still not eating their “5-a-day” and this is a more pressing issue for society as this lowers the risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancer.
I hope you've found this helpful,
(1) There are clearly other advantages including environmental sustainability and not participating in animal slaughter.
(2) I say "average" and so that doesn't include athletes, bodybuilders and children - I'll cover those in future posts