It happened again at a conference that I attended recently. An acquaintance of many years, in a discussion about eating healthy, asked me about getting enough protein on a plant based diet. While it’s true that protein is an important component of any diet, we do seem, in this country, to think that the best way, if not the only way, to meet our protein requirements is to eat animals and/or the products they produce, such as milk, eggs, and cheese. Maybe it’s time to write a little about this subject.
First, protein is present in all food that grows. Good sources of non-meat-based protein include kale and other greens, cauliflower and other vegetables, garbanzo beans, sprouted, almonds and other nuts, sunflower seeds and other seeds, almond butter and other nut-butters, and peaches, bananas, and other fruits.
Second, the quality of the protein is also good to consider. Protein from animal sources takes lots of energy for the body to convert to usable protein. The best source of easily absorbed protein is from dark leafy greens. A green juice or green smoothie and a big salad and/or vegetable-based meal would be a good idea every day!
Third, consider this nugget of truth. Mother’s milk has the same protein content as fruit, approximately 3%. A breast fed baby doubles its weight in one year of drinking ONLY mother’s milk. It may therefore not be necessary to eat foods high in protein, but rather more of the foods that have a more ideal protein concentration for humans.
All of that said, for those of you who are comforted by numbers, the following list of some raw foods and their protein content is worth pondering.
Nuts, Legumes, Seeds
1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – 39 g; 1 cup almond butter – 36 g; 1 Tbs cashew butter – 3g; 1 cup almonds – 30 g; 1 cup filberts – 17 g; 1 cup sunflower seeds – 29 g; 1 cup pumpkin seeds – 24 g.
1 large head cauliflower – 2 g; 1 cup cauliflower – 2 g; 1 cup kale – 2 g; 1 cup spinach – 1 g; 1 cup vegetable juice – 2 g; 1 cup alfalfa sprouts – g; 100 gm seaweed – 2 g.
1 cup orange juice – 2 g; 1 cup oranges – 2 g; 1 cup bananas – 2 g; 1 peach – 2 g; 1 apple – 1 g; 1 cup grapes – 1 g; 1 cup fresh coconut water – 8 g.
These and other foods can be seen along with other nutrient values at http://nutritiondata.self.com/
In a day, then, if you were to eat a cup of soaked chickpeas, 2 cups of vegetables, and 3 fruits, you would have all the protein you need if you are a woman. Or, you could eat 1 large cauliflower, 7 cups additional vegetables, 2 cups orange juice, and 6 peaches. A man could add 5 bananas or a cup of almonds to that and have more than the required amount of protein.
So, rest easy on concerns about protein. Many authors say that in this country there just is no protein shortage. Keep eating lots of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and you’ll have plenty of protein, along with many, many other very valuable nutrients which are unavailable in animals and/or their products.
Garbanzo beans are as high in protein as nuts, but have much less fat. They are a great protein source for anyone incorporating more raw food into their diets, especially those who are avoiding fat or have trouble digesting nuts.Try this recipe on tomato slices, topped with olives. It’s is a lovely way to serve a protein-rich snack or lunch.
1 ½ cups garbanzo beans, soaked for 24 hours (Change water every 12 hours).
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Dash of paprika
Mix garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in food processor, until texture is smooth. Serve with paprika garnish. Use as dip for crudite`, as a stuffing for tomatoes, or a filling for wraps. Enjoy!
Let me know how you like it!