“How do you get your protein?” It’s a question I often hear about in conversation circles. The point I often bring up when this topic arises is, it’s not about the protein, it’s about the amino acids. I get a lot of blank stares with that one. What do I mean, aren’t amino acids proteins? And if plants have protein, then why be concerned about the amino acids?
What is a protein? Proteins are large biomolecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more long chains of amino acid residues. Ok… what are amino acids? Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins and are vital in the synthesis (production from combining) of hormones and neurotransmitters… In other words, they are the building blocks of life. And what does that mean for us? They perform functions like helping our brain communicate effectively to the various parts of our body, stimulate and repair muscle, build collagen, metabolize fat, helping with immune function, regulating blood sugar, producing energy, helping in the absorption of calcium, and protecting your nerve cells from damage, AND more… Our body needs twenty of these magic building blocks, but only nine are considered essential because you don’t produce them yourself… You have to EAT THEM. *cue scary music*😱😱😱
In the world we live in, the planet we live on, all living things consume life energy from something else. It’s just a fact of life. The hang up for us intelligent (most of us), caring (most of the time) beings is where do we get this energy from, who or what do we consume?
But coming back around to the conversation starter, “how do you get your protein,” the simple answer is, you eat protein. Yes, plants DO have protein. 🌱 And some of the best sources – legumes, grains, nuts and seeds – have LOTS. But *not all plants* have the nine essential amino acids, nor *equal portions* of them. NIH: Soy is deficient in the amino acid, methionine. And while quinoa is also a complete protein, you have to *eat a lot more of it* to get the equivalent nutrients that you would find in a smaller amount of animal meat. 🥩🍖🍗 🥚 But if you are aware and mindful of what you eat, you CAN get all the essential aminos from eating a completely plant-based diet. 🙌🏻🥑🥦🥬🍎🍓🥥🍠🥕🍞🍚🌯🥙🍛🥗 And this is why having a varied diet will help you. One of my favorite plant combinations to get plenty of the necessary amino acids is beans and rice. Pasta and legumes and/or nuts/seeds are also great combos, as is hummus with seeds (chickpeas and tahini/sunflower seeds).
I actually found this out the hard way as I was starting to transition to a more strict, plant-based diet. What I was leaning on for my protein sources didn’t contain enough of the amino acid, tryptophan. I was also in a vicious cycle of stress triggering OCD symptoms, anxiety, and depression. 😣 What I noticed was that my hair started falling out, I wasn’t falling asleep, and I was becoming overwhelmed with paranoia. My doctor prescribed serotonin regulating antidepressants. BUT, I went home and looked up side-effects 👀, then started reading about how I could naturally get more serotonin and melatonin from food 📚, which lead me to analyze my diet🤔. There was a reason why I was craving chicken salad sandwiches like crazy 🥪. My body was familiar with that food source and it’s high amount of tryptophan and the carbs needed to increase insulin production, *which decreases plasma levels and allows tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier.* -NIH
I don’t crave chicken salad sandwiches anymore, but instead, chickpea sandwiches with pumpkin seeds or cashew butter. 😋 I make sure to drink a protein smoothie everyday that has cold-processed pumpkin seeds along with other great plant-based protein sources.
The point is, we might all be better off if we were mindful of what we eat. Our bodies would be healthier (most likely), and the planet would be healthier (most likely). 🌎🌍🌏💚 Do your own research. Advocate for your own health. Don’t 🚫 let anyone bully 💪 you for your food choices. We’ve come a long way in our evolution, and the way we’ve eaten that has produced our big thinking brains 🧠 should be considered. *Nature: When did we start eating meat?* *Science Daily* *Smithsonian: Cooking Food* There is so much conflicting information 🤯, you have to be open-minded 💆♀️💆🏻♂️ but also skeptical 🧐. Bias is a real conundrum in the scientific world of research, and everyone’s research is funded by someone (probably with an agenda).
When you start feeling better through your food choices and meeting *YOUR unique, individual needs*, you might consider treading carefully in your new-found information and the desire to share (or convert) others. In fact, let’s not TRY TO CONVERT others to our way of life. If it works for you and you feel good, and if it’s life transforming, your lifestyle will speak for itself. If someone asks you, “Hey, you look great and happy, what are you doing?” Then by all means, share. Or, hey hey, blog about it! 😃💛 I post lots of strictly plant-based recipes. But it’s not for me to convince anyone what IS good for their *individual* health needs. I share recipes with links to health articles that also show you CAN eat more plants AND less meat AND be healthy. There’s a reason why most people get defensive when they’re told “You shouldn’t eat this!” It’s hardwired into our biology. Food scarcity was, for a long time, a real issue. *And it’s still an issue for some.* And food addictions are sometimes a debilitating problem. So before we think it’s our job to convince someone what kind of special diet someone else should be on, pause and consider that “the someone” may have an underlying health condition, like Crohn’s or Celiac disease, which very much affects what they actually can and can’t eat. Or they may have an eating disorder they’re battling, like anorexia or binge eating and bulimia, which having someone in their face telling them what they should and shouldn’t do adds to an already full plate of their mind telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Why do we bully others in the first place?? Maybe, we are struggling with how we identify ourselves and dealing with our own deep-seated insecurities and projecting onto others. *Finding Light in the Dark*
When it comes to ethical choices, that is a real dilemma in our modern world of factory production food 🏭. There are some great documentaries that depict the issues we face with consuming cheap, mass produced food. Food, Inc, Food Choices, and Sustainable are some more balanced docs available. And most health organizations recognize that the Standard American Diet is too high in meat and cheap saturated fat consumption, as well as Omega 6 fats, fried food (trans fats), and added SUGAR. We should be careful to label any whole foods as bad. Healthline: Conflicting information about fat. *For an eye-opening doc, consider watching Sugar Coated.*
So, if you’re new to plant-based or curious about the health benefits, I encourage you to read the scientific journals on nutrition. Seek guidance from a nutritionist or certified health coach, especially if you have health issues. They can be an assistant on your journey to finding health.
If you’ve stuck around this long, Thank You! I am eternally grateful for my readers and hope there was a little useful information for you. I wish I could give you something extra special… maybe, two recipe links will have to do. 🙌🏻😊 These are two pasta dishes that are packed with protein. *Pasta with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cream Cheese* and *Creamy Panko Crusted Pasta* I stuck with simplicity, so maybe not as pretty as they could be, but tasty and easy to make will hopefully make up for it. 😃😘
Enjoy your art and may you live well!