“Picture protein: it’s easy to bring up a mental image of a rare, juicy steak or a plate piled high with crispy bacon. More and more though, there might be tofu, beans or quinoa on that plate. This changing picture reflects an evolution in how we understand nutrition, but also the conflicting messaging of the last decade’s food mandates: We should be eating more protein, or we’re eating too much of it, or the way we’re getting it is wrong.
Protein, despite the hype surrounding it, doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s needed for our body to work the way it’s meant to. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to build muscle and bone, fight diseases with an immune system, or regulate the body with enzymes and hormones. Many food sources, including plants, offer protein that our body can use — and the key is getting a wide range of them.
“When folks are starting off with a new type of dietary plan or lifestyle, they get really focused on certain foods, and maybe don’t necessarily explore variety,” says Kristen Smith, a dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s really important that folks remember that variety is going to help with adequate intake and meeting those essential nutrients.”
And though meat packs a lot of protein into a small package, we’re certainly not limited to it. Other animal products and plants offer rich sources of protein, and they’re available to everyone. And you don’t have to go vegan to start swapping out some of that meat to benefit your health and the planet.”
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- What Makes Protein ‘Complete’?
- Plant Proteins for All-Around Health
- Plant-Based for the Planet