Need protein? Meat isn't your only option

Those who eat a classic Western diet tend to get their protein from meat, but that's not the only way to go about it.

Need protein? Meat isn't your only option

Protein is responsible for building and repairing virtually every tissue in our bodies. From bones and muscles to fingernails, this energy source is an integral part of the human body. In order to maintain our various tissues, it's important that our diets contain a sufficient amount of protein each day — especially since our bodies do not store this valuable energy source. So where does protein come from? Those who eat a classic Western diet tend to get their protein from meat, but that's not the only way to go about it.

Alternative sources of protein

Since animals contain large amounts of protein, meat-eaters tend to get the majority of their daily dose from foods such as chicken and beef. Adults need between 40 and 50 grams of protein per day, and if you want to ditch the meat, there are plenty of other foods rich in this vital nutrient. The following alternatives are great sources of protein:

  • Beans
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Pulses
  • Broccoli
  • Grains

For vegetarians, vegans and those looking to incorporate a little more variety into their diets, beans and grains are wonderful sources of protein. Since doctors already recommend that we base our diet on a variety of grains, it's quite simple to simultaneously rack up the protein points with some rich breads and steamed pulses.

Meat vs. protein alternatives

There are some differences between the protein we find in meat and the protein we find in other food sources, the main one being that meat proteins are known as "whole proteins" — those which contain the full spectrum of amino acids.

Although meat contains whole proteins, you're not limited to a carnivorous lifestyle. All you have to do is eat a variety of protein-rich vegetables, grains and other foods. In other words, vegetarians and vegans shouldn't rely on a single source for their protein, and should focus on eating as many types of vegetables as possible.

Why not eat meat?

There are many reasons why people choose not to eat meat or reduce their consumption of it. Ethical reasons vary as to why vegetarians and vegans opt out of meat — some are worried about the risk of illness associated with eating red or processed meats, and some avoid eating creatures altogether. Regardless, it's unnecessary to pigeonhole yourself into either category if you're looking to take a vacation from meat. There's no question that protein is an essential part of your daily diet, but meat doesn't need to be.

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