If you are already eating a vegetarian diet or if you are moving in that direction, then simply be eating enough food from a variety of sources (consuming sufficient calories for your energy needs), you will automatically be getting enough protein. Why?
Because each and every plant food contains complete protein in varying amounts. Some plant foods, including broccoli, asparagus, bamboo shoots, and Brussels sprouts, are very high in protein. They contain a higher percentage of protein (as a percentage of total calories) than beef, milk or eggs. And, believe it or not, quinoa, which is a seed and not a grain, is a complete protein, easily digested, not taxing to the system, and rich in B vitamins. As is buckwheat.
Although many people are under the misconception that they need lots of protein to be healthy, in fact, high-protein diets have been linked to several health related problems.
Excess protein is broken down by the liver and excreted by the kidneys as urea. Urea acts as a diuretic, causing water and minerals to be lost from the kidneys. One of the most important minerals lost in this way is calcium, because to counteract the protein onslaught, calcium is pulled out of the bones. Adding milk to get your calcium then becomes the mother of all nightmares. Remember, the dairy industry sells dairy for profit, not for health.
Calcium loss is related to osteoporosis – brittle bones that can break very easily. Osteoporosis is a health problem affecting 10 million Americans with another 18 million suffering with low bone mass. This accounts for approximately 10% of the population.
Osteoporosis, however, does not appear to be a problem in countries where protein needs are met from the more traditional plant based meals, such as the rice and vegetables of China; the beans, rice and tortillas of Mexico; and the vegetable curries and pea dahls of India. Because this changes as these cultures “westernize” their diets, many doctors, scientists, and researchers conclude that the animal based, high protein diet of the western countries may be responsible for the high rates of osteoporosis.
Other problems associated with high protein diets include kidney stones, reduced kidney function, gout, arthritis, and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas, colon, rectum and uterus.
A flesh-based diet contains too much protein, which is not good for our health. A vegetarian diet is usually lower in protein, provided you are not overdoing protein rich dairy products or eating too many legumes. More than one meal a day of high protein legumes such as beans, peas and lentils, can lead to protein overload, even in a vegetarian diet.
Rather than worrying about not getting enough protein, we should be more concerned about our source of protein. If coming from animal sources, not only are you getting too much, but you are getting cholesterol, saturated fat, no fiber and no carbohydrate. Each of these “extras” can cause major health problems in their own right.
Despite meat being a decent source of iron, vegetables are way better. This is because their Vitamin C content, which is absent in flesh, dairy, eggs, fats and sugar, assist the absorption of iron.
Great sources of iron are green leafy vegies, dried apricots, prunes, peaches, raisins, dates, legumes, nuts, whole grains, blackstrap molasses, tofu, alfalfa sprouts, peas, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, bran and non GMO soy milk. Also, excellent plant based sources of B12 include fresh bee pollen, tempeh, miso, fortified non-GMO soymilk, seaweed, mushrooms, sourdough bread, parsley and Brewer’s yeast.
The main point here is to be relaxed enough about nutrition to enjoy vegetarianism. Take a walk on the wild side and go “through the looking glass”. It’s a ride you will come to love!