Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's a "Complete" protein anyway?

As I continue to embark on this vegan lifestyle I continue to encounter more and more things that I have never really thought about before. This excites me to fill my brain with knowledge about the things our bodies need and what they are all about.

In this post I would like to continue talking about protein. Last post I talked about how much protein we need and examples of how to get it through a plant based diet. In this post I would like to talk about, why we need protein, what a protein actual is and can we get "complete" protein from a plant based diet.

With all the hype around the whole protein things I thought it might be nice to know why we need it. Protein is essential for many bodily processes these include building and repairing tissue. But protein is also used to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. It is also a very important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Plus, your hair and nails are mostly made up of protein.

So what is protein anyway? Proteins are made up of a long strip of a smaller components called amino acids. There are twenty different amino acids you need for good health. Of the twenty different amino acids only 12 are manufactured by the human body. The remaining 9 amino acids can not be made by the human body so it is "essential" for us to get them from our diet. That is how these 9 amino acids are also referred to as "essential amino acids".

When you hear the term complete protein being thrown around it is merely the fact that it also contains the essential amino acids. When we begin to label foods as being either complete or incomplete this begins to say that some protein are better for you than others.

All animal proteins are complete including red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy. But it also complete with saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics, and unsavory things like E. Coli. Unlike vegetarian protein, animal protein is high in saturated fat, are very acidic, and lack phytonutrients, water, antioxidants, enzymes and fiber. Vegans will be happy to know that complete proteins can also be obtained through certain plants such as soy, spirulina, hemp seeds, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. Other plant proteins are only slightly incomplete. But these foods can be combined to make complete proteins like pairing beans with rice or corn. Other combinations would include beans and seeds, beans and nuts and beans and grains. So when you eat hummus and pita bread, nut butter and whole grain bread, pasta with beans, veggie burger on bread, split pea soup with whole grain bread and tortillas with refried beans you are eating complete proteins.

The next time you eat nut butter on whole grain bread not only are you having a vegan meal you have also having a complete protein that you need for a healthy body. As long as you're eating a variety of plant based foods you are getting a complete proteins.

Also a recent study shows that beans and grains don't need to be eaten at the same meal, so if you eat beans for lunch and rice with dinner you've gotten yourself a complete protein.
You may even spread your food combinations over a two day period.

Next time you have concerns about getting "complete" protein rest assured that if your eating a well balanced diet with or without animal products you are on the right track.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Where's the Beef?

Who doesn't remember that slogan? Living in a worl that has a high emphasis on eating animal products it is no wonder a big question from people when I tell them I am a vegan is : What to you eat? Where do you get your protein?

As I began this journey as a vegan I have filled a lot of my time educating myself on this lifestyle and I have to admit I find it fascinating.

One major concern for me has always been protecting my heart. Many of you may not know that my older brother, Mike, died of a heart attack at the age of 40. His death began a spark in me to change my life around and that included a healthy heart. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. It is NOT breast cancer. Among other lifestyle habits eating meat is a major contributor. Meat contains lots of saturated fat. Saturated fat elevates your blood cholesterol, and causes clogged arteries. Clogged arteries leads to high blood pressure or even worse a stroke or a heart attack. No meat is truly a low-fat food. Because saturated fat is marbled throughout the muscle, and the cholesterol is found in the cell membranes of the meat itself, trimming the excess fat off does help some but don't feel that your not consuming any excess fat. It seems that only a plant-based diet protects the heart. Dr William Castelli, director of the Framington Heart study, says a low-fat plant based diet would lower an individuals risk of heart attack by 85 percent. 85 percent! Now you can see why this diet really woke me up. We can change our chances of a heart attack. I don't know about you but I plan to be around a long time to see my grandchildren and maybe even my great grandchildren.

So how much protein do we really need? By what I have been reading the USDA recommends a daily allowance of about 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. And even some doctors says this is eve on the high side. So for an average 130 pound women that equals to about 47 grams of protein. The average American adult consumes between 100-120 grams of protein every day. A majority of that comes from high-fat animal products.

You may be asking yourself like a lot of people do, What do you eat Kathi? This part excites me and I could talk all day about all the wonderful things I eat and I hope to begin to share those with you. If your my friend on facebook I have began to post pictures of some of the things I have been eating.

Here is a list of some of the plant foods high in protein.

almonds 1/4 cup 7.4
black beans 1 cup 15
broccoli 1 cup, ckd 5
black eyed peas 1 cup 13
brown rice 1 cup, ckd 9
chickpeas 1 cup 15
Kale 1 cup, ckd 2
Lentils 1 cup 18
Oatmeal 1 cup, ckd 6
Quinoa 1 cup, ckd 6
Tempeh 1 cup 30

This is just a small sample of all the wonderful plant based food you can get your protein from. If you are eating a well-balanced vegan diet, meaning you are consuming a wide variety of high quality food like vegetables, greens, sprouts, legumes, tempeh, beans, nuts, grains and so on then you will certainly meet your protein needs.

So the next time you ask yourself, "where is the beef?" Think twice that animal products aren't the only way to get the protein you need for a healthy body.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gone Vegan

Yes you have read that correctly. This meat eating girl has gone to the other side so to speak! I have been SO inspired by several vegan bloggers that I have decided to give it a try. I have struggled to find peace with myself and I had to look hard and deeper for what it is "I" want to do with my eating. Not what everyone thinks that I should do. I reflected back and when I was eating the vegetarian diet a while back I felt like I looked and felt my best so at that moment it was decided.
I went vegetarian again back in August and haven't eaten meat since. I have to admit I do not miss it one bit. The vegan part start in January. Before that it was usually egg and cheese that I had in my diet. They seemed to be the most difficult to give up. But I have found the vegan cheese to help satisfy that.
I also have done a lot of reading on factory farming and the horrible conditions they animals have to endure just so that I can eat them. It weighed heavy on my heart especially when I really didn't need to eat them to survive. So it was decided then and there that I did not want to pretend any more that it wasn't happening I was ready to act. I have to say it gives me some small sense of peace knowing that I am making a small impact on that.
I have so much wonderful things to share about my journey on this vegan lifestyle and I hope to be able to share that with you in the next few post. I often get asked what do you eat and how do you get protein. By what I have been reading these are typical question most vegans are asked.
I look forward to sharing this journey with you and maybe even convince some of you to give it a try! Ok I am wish right?