With vegan consciousness growing, everyone is all the rage about plant-based diets. While adopting a plant-based diet can be wildly beneficial for many, a lot are left hanging with that magical question: Where do I get my protein?

Protein is extremely important. It helps boost our metabolism, support our immune system, facilitate our body in receiving oxygen, and help us build strong hair, teeth, nails, tendons, and ligaments, among other things. I recommend combining protein and fiber at every meal, to keep you regular (excreting weighty toxins), to help maintain or lose weight, and keep you energized and full. But sometimes it can get tricky for some people, especially when trying to adopt a more plant-based diet, knowing how to get that protein.

For starters I’ll say, if you’re not currently vegan, know that this is a change that doesn’t have to happen over night. Even cutting down your meat intake from 3 meals a day to 1 or 2 meat-meals a day, could be greatly beneficial to your health. Also we can recognize that veganism isn’t necessarily right for everyone! Some people thrive off of meat, and there are cultures that have thrived into ripe old age on a meat-filled diet. I personally like to eat meat once or twice a week. Is this the way to go? For me right now, this is how I thrive. This doesn’t mean it is right for your body. The most important thing here is learning to listen to your body and understanding what makes you feel light and energized, and what (and how much) makes you tired or inflamed.

Another important factor to consider is the source of the meat. When we eat meat, we are essentially taking in whatever the animal is ingesting. So if that animal is being fed hormones, feces, bits of their deceased kin, antibiotics, and other lovely things, guess who else is eating it? You! Also, if an animal that was meant to eat grass is being fed corn, you’re likely to end up with some sick animals on your plate.

From Michael Pollan:

“The problem with this system, or one of the problems with this system, is that cows are not evolved to digest corn. It creates all sorts of problems for them. The rumen is designed for grass. And corn is just too rich, too starchy. So as soon as you introduce corn, the animal is liable to get sick.
You start giving them antibiotics, because as soon as you give them corn, you’ve disturbed their digestion, and they’re apt to get sick, so you then have to give them drugs. That’s how you get in this whole cycle of drugs and meat. Once they start eating the [corn], they’re more vulnerable. They’re stressed, so they’re more vulnerable to all the different diseases cows get. But specifically they get bloat, which is just a horrible thing to happen. They stop ruminating.
Not all cows get bloat. They’re prone to bloat. It’s a serious problem on feedlots. They also get acidosis, which is an acidifying of the rumen. … And when the animals get acid stomach, it’s a really bad case of heartburn, and they go off their feed. Eventually, if you give them too much corn too quickly, it ulcerates the rumen; bacteria escape from the rumen into the blood stream, and end up in the liver, creating liver abscesses.
What do we do about that? Another antibiotic. … Most cows on feedlots eating this rich diet of corn are prone to having their livers damaged. So to prevent that, or limit the incidence of liver disease, we have to give them another antibiotic.”

Well where the heck do we get meat then? Your local farmer’s market! This is usually the BEST place to get meat. You can get to know your farmer’s, ask them about the animals, see how they’re raised, ask them what they are (and aren’t fed), and decide to buy from there.

Back to vegan protein! Here are some GREAT sources of vegan protein:

  1. Quinoa: COMPLETE protein with all 9 essential amino acids. Most nutrient dense grain and gluten-free
  2. Hemp seeds: Hemp hearts are delicious to add to salads and Trader Joe’s has a great Hemp Protein Powder that I like to add to my smoothies
  3. Chia seeds: Contain protein AND fiber to keep you satiated and energized. Add them to your smoothies and watch them bulk up throughout the day
  4. Flax seeds: Fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Hell yes.
  5. Nuts: Raw, unsalted is best. Try almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, and walnuts!
  6. Greens!: Green peas, collards, kale, swiss chard to name a few
  7. Oatmeal: Can buy gluten-free for optimal digestion and absorption
  8. Beans: They’re not just good for your heart. 😉 Lentils, mung beans, and chick peas are some of my favorite, and some of the most gentle on your digestion.
  9. Seeds: Sunflower, Sesame, and Pumpkin are great choices. Best to buy raw and unsalted.

NaughtyNutrition 003: Where do I begin?

This past week I made a special guest appearance on Healing House Publishing‘s Naughty Nutrition series. This week one of our listeners has a question on how to get started with a plant-based diet. Take a look and let me know your thoughts below!