Why Protein Matters
Making sure your diet includes enough protein is essential for building, maintaining, and repairing the body.
The building blocks of protein are called amino acids. While our bodies can make quite a few of these on its own, there are nine amino acids that can only be obtained through our diet.
Failure to eat enough protein every day can result in symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, “brain fog,” getting sick frequently, or having hair, skin, or nails that have lost their healthy appearance. While this is a general list of conditions that could also pertain to other health issues, it’s worth keeping an eye on, especially if your diet isn’t well balanced or if you’ve recently adopted a plant-based or vegetarian/vegan diet.
Getting Enough Protein
When our daily diet contains ample amounts of vegetables, legumes, and grains, we’re providing all of the essential amino acids needed for our bodies. In the past, nutritionists thought that certain plant-based foods needed to be eaten together to create a full protein (such as eating beans with rice). However, modern day science has disproven that, and as long as the body receives a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day, intentional combining is no longer necessary unless you like how it tastes!
While the typical American eats almost double the amount of protein the body needs, the source of that protein is primarily animal products (meat, dairy), which can also be high in fat. With this in mind, you may be shocked to discover that the total amount of protein a body needs is much less than what you’re currently eating!
How to Determine How Much Protein You Need
To determine the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, a Harvard Medical School Health Publication says you can multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36. Or you can try using this online calculator from the USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center. As an example, for a body weight of 160lbs, your daily protein intake should be approximately 58 grams.
Keep in mind; this amount may be more or less depending on your level of activity – a person who runs or works out every day will need more protein than the person who has a sedentary lifestyle. The same applies for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In these cases, an extra serving of tofu, legumes or other high protein foods can help to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts.
Tracking Protein Consumption
If you’re not sure about how much protein you’re eating daily, keep a food diary including what you consumed and how much. You can easily see what nutritional areas you’re adequately covering and which ones need some improvement.
Tips for Increasing Protein Consumption on a Plant-Based Diet
Here are some general guidelines to consider:
Eat at least 5 Servings of Grains Daily
Try to consume 5+ servings of grains daily. Ways to include grains in your diet include having a 1⁄2 cup of hot cereal, 1 oz. of dry cereal, or one slice of whole grain bread. Each serving of grains contains roughly 3 grams of protein.
Eat at least 3 Servings of Vegetables Daily
Include a minimum of three (but hopefully more) servings of vegetables daily. Ways to get a full serving of vegetables include eating 1 cup of salad or raw vegetables, 1⁄2 cup of cooked vegetables, or drinking a 1⁄2 cup of vegetable juice. Each of these single servings contains about 2 grams of protein.
If you made 2 cups of salad for lunch, which also included a ½ cup of cooked vegetables mixed in (like sauteed root vegetables or roasted brussels sprouts) and you drink a small glass of veggie juice, you’ll be getting four servings of vegetables and 8 grams of protein. Add a slice of whole grain bread, and you’ll be at 11 grams in a single meal.
Eat 2-3 Servings of Legumes Daily
Include 2-3 servings of legumes in your daily diet. To attain this amount you can have a 1⁄2 cup of cooked beans, 4 oz of tempeh or tofu, 8 oz of soy milk, or 1 oz of nuts. With legumes, you can expect to consume between 4 and 10 grams of protein per serving. Protein amounts can vary when it comes to packaged products like almond, cashew or soy milk so be sure to read the label.
Tommy’s Superfoods is Part of a Healthy Diet
At Tommy’s Superfoods, we believe that a plant-based diet can help with weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle, and that’s why we make the freshest, Non-GMO Project Verified vegetable medleys. Learn more about our products here.
If you’re looking for more protein rich recipes and “must-eat” plant-based protein sources, check out our recent blog post “14 High Protein Foods for a Plant-based Diet.”