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How To Get Enough Protein When Eating A Meatless Diet

Many bodybuilders stick to a high protein diet.  Many basic tissues of the human body are composed of protein including the skin, muscles, tendons and cartilage, even hair and nails. New protein is needed to form enzymes, hormones and antibodies, replace old cells, build new tissues, and transport nutrients in and out of cells.

The body can manufacture all but nine of the 22 amino acids that make up proteins. These nine amino acids are referred to as "essential" amino acids and must be derived from food. That is why getting sufficient, good quality protein is crucial.

The key word here is sufficient--this is not a case where more is better.  Excess protein can't be stored, and its elimination puts a strain on the kidneys and liver. Too-high protein consumption is linked to kidney disease, cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and pancreas, and even osteoporosis.


The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), established by the National Academy of Sciences, calculates that an adult in good health needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  To calculate how much protein you need, multiply your weight by 0.36 and the result is how many grams of protein your body requires.

Most foods, particularly grains, contain small amounts of protein that add up, so it is not too difficult to meet daily protein needs by eating a meatless diet.

The following are excellent sources of meatless protein:

FOOD

SERVING SIZE

PROTEIN
(IN GRAMS)

Tofu, firm

3 ounces

13

Soy milk

1 cup

11

Tempeh

2 ounces

11

Whole-wheat pasta, dry

2 ounces

9

Peanut butter

2 tablespoons

8

Black beans

1/2 cup

8

Chickpeas (garbanzos)

1/2 cup

8

Lentils, cooked

1/2 cup

8

Almonds

1 ounce

6

Oatmeal, cooked

1 cup

6

Shredded wheat

2 ounces

6

Tahini

1 ounce

6

Whole-wheat bread

2 slices

6

Baked potato

1 medium

5

Barley, quick

1/4 cup

5

Protein Bar there is a range so be sure to check the label

1

2 - 27

Those exploring plant-based diets inevitably hear the terms "complete protein" and "protein complementary." Foods with all the essential amino acids in precise proportions readily usable by the body are considered "complete proteins."

Animal proteins including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products provide complete proteins. Plant-based proteins are usually incomplete, that is, they're abundant in some amino acids and lack others. An exception to this is soy protein, which is complete--explaining why soy foods are so valued in meatless diets.

Foods that have incomplete proteins can be eaten with other foods whose amino acid structure complements, or completes, their own. For example, corn, which is low in the amino acids tryptophan and lysine but rich in methionine, can be eaten with beans, whose amino acid strengths and weaknesses are just the reverse.

Plant based proteins can be combined to create complete proteins.  Complementary foods need not necessarily be combined in the same meal. Amino acids that don't form a complete protein survive in the body for 12 hours. Eating a variety of foods throughout the day insures proteins from plant-based foods will be completed by those in other foods.

Read Protein Products Sorting Them Out to learn about protein supplements that will balance a meatless diet.

2003 by Femalemuscle.com