I am often asked by many people who are on the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) "how do you get your protein if you don't eat meat?" or better yet I am bluntly told by ignorant carnivores, "you don't eat meat so you are deficient in protein." These banters irritate me to no end, however I have become so accustomed to them that I normally can smile and give a calm educated response, which they are never expecting. Yes, animal flesh is a source of protein, but what most Americans don't realize is that when you cook your meat over a period of time you lose around 50% of the digestible protein value. Also this type of protein is very harsh on the body to properly assimilate, absorb, and excrete. Red meat is a huge contributing factor to chronic problems such as heart disease and colon cancer. So where can we get a healthy animal-free source of protein? Plants!
All vegetables contain protein, however most are incomplete proteins, meaning they do not contain all the 9 essential amino acids or lack the necessary amount of one or more amino acids for our dietary needs. But the S.A.D. also overindulges as you can imagine. For example, although cereal (wheat, rye, oats, rice, millet, etc) protein is particularly low in lysine compared to animal protein, even the lysine in cereals is adequate for adult needs. It is best to consume whole (complete) proteins, which contain all 9 amino acids in adequate amounts. Soy, quinoa, amaranth, hempseed, and buckwheat are examples of complete proteins, with no animal flesh required! That is great news for anyone interested in keeping a healthy heart and colon (not to mention weight!).
My preferred complete plant proteins are soybeans and quinoa. They are the most convenient to prepare and eat in my opinion, and I can buy them at regular grocery stores. Most people now are familiar with a certain type of soy, edamame, which is served as an appetizer at many Japanese restaurants. You can also buy edamame frozen and either steam or boil at home, toss with some kosher salt, and serve!
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is not as commonly known to Westerners. It is an ancient grain, thought to be domesticated by the Andeans over 3000 years ago and held sacred by the Incas. So believe me skeptics, this grain is no American fad. Quinoa contains 12-18% protein, a good source of fiber and phosphorus, gluten-free and easy to digest, and is a high source of magnesium and iron. Quite the miracle food, don't you think? As I am sure my blog has inspired you to try such a wonderful superfood :) I leave you with a recipe. So go ahead, enjoy that protein, and don't worry about the missing beef!
Quinoa with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small pear, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, halved
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, stemmed and gills scraped out
1 cup red or white quinoa
3 cups tightly packed spinach, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Put vinegar, mustard, pear and garlic in a blender with 1/3 cup water and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Cut mushrooms into chunks and combine in a large mixing bowl with 1/4 cup of the pear balsamic dressing. Spread mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast mushrooms until tender, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
While mushrooms roast, prepare quinoa. In a medium pot, bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil. Stir in quinoa, cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, 10 minutes more. Uncover and fluff quinoa with a fork.
Combine mushrooms, quinoa, spinach, green onions, almonds, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup more pear balsamic dressing in a large, wide serving bowl. Stir to mix well. Serve with remaining dressing on the side.
Per serving: 280 calories (60 from fat), 7g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 120mg sodium, 43g total carbohydrate (7g dietary fiber, 9g sugar), 12g protein
I got this delicious recipe from the Whole Foods website. I first tried it when I visited their prepared foods bar and absolutely loved it. It is great served warm or cold, and keeps very nicely in the fridge for the week! Have a healthy day and enjoy!