Just ask any vegetarian what they hear the most after telling somebody that they don’t eat meat. I am not a betting gal, but I’d put money on this: “How do you get enough protein?”
All joking aside, you do not have to eat meat in order for your body to get enough protein. I thought it might be helpful to share the basics of how proteins are built and what they are used for in your body.
- Some basic biology vocabulary:
Mono = one; Poly = many
Monomers are single units (like train cars) that can be combined into Polymers (combinations of units like a whole train).
- A simple example that we can all relate to:
Letters (monomers) can be combined into words (polymers)
We have 26 letters in the English alphabet, and they can be combined in any number of possible ways to spell the words that make up our language.
- Amino acids (monomers) can be combined into Proteins (polymers)
There are 21 different amino acids that can be combined in any number of possible ways to build proteins. There are short proteins and long proteins – and like our “words,” they are built by using different combinations of amino acid building blocks.
- Essential Amino Acids must be consumed in the foods that you eat.
Nonessential amino acids can be made by the human body.
The combination of these two types of amino acids give your body a complete set of building blocks to build the proteins it needs for proper biological functioning (such as the growth, repair and maintenance of your muscles.)
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) position statement on plant-based protein is:
Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of the essential and non-essential amino acids, assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied and that caloric intake is sufficient to meet energy needs. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts all contain essential and non-essential amino acids.
So, where do you get your protein?
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