The Myth that Will Not Die
There is a common myth that diet vegetarian foods do not have enough protein for the average person and that they will be lacking the vital nutrients that they need. The myth also suggests that the average person gets a greatly reduced amount of protein when they go vegetarian or vegan. The typical vegan diet is 10-12% protein while the average meat eating diet is 14-18% protein.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, most plant foods do have adequate but not excessive amounts of protein. Protein, while beneficial and very important to the body, should not be consumed in amounts that are too high. The American Heart Association suggests that the upper limit for protein intake be 35% of the daily calories.
In addition, it is often suggested that vegetarian diets lack other vital nutrients, too. While some new or inexperienced vegetarians might be lacking some vitamins or other nutrients, this can be the case with other diets as well.
What We Actually Need
The diet vegetarian protein foods that we need can be a major part of an overall healthy diet. What we need of each nutrient varies based on our gender, height, weight, and activity level. There are some nutrients that women need more than men while some that men might need more than women. Calcium, for instance, is needed in higher levels by women than men.
Women also need more twice the level of iron as a man when they are younger than fifty. Protein, even vegetarian protein, is needed in bigger amounts by men than women because they are bigger and tend to be more active, although that is not always the case. Basic protein needs can be roughly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight; however, for those who are seriously active, that amount can increase to around 1 full gram per kilogram of body weight. A sedentary persons protein needs may be as low as 0.4 grams.
You can meet all of your dietary needs with diet vegetarian protein foods; however, there are some facts that you have to know about them. First, with the exception of soy protein, plant based proteins are incomplete, meaning that they do not have all of the essential amino acids that are needed by the body in them. Soy proteins are complete, however, and also have a number of serious benefits.
The Benefits of Soy Protein
Two daily servings of soy protein can lower blood cholesterol levels by as much as nine points and may also lower blood pressure as well. The two together may work to reduce the chance of heart attack. In addition, soy protein can also prevent a condition called hepatic steatosis or fatty liver. This condition is incurable and can possibly be fatal and may be an additional problem seen in diabetics. Soy protein may help to decrease the lipid accumulation in the liver and prevents a regulatory element from being over secreted. Soy also increases breakdown of fatty acids in the liver.
In addition, soy protein can help with the most serious symptoms of menopause, which affects 4000 women every year. Soy may help reduce hot flashes, decrease vaginal dryness, decrease bone loss, increase cholesterol profile, decrease cancer, decrease risk of diabetes, decrease kidney and gall stones, and better blood pressure control. Miso, a fermented soy bean paste may be one of the best diet vegetarian protein foods because it has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer in Japanese women as well as increasing bone density, another common problem of menopausal women. According to the Japanese National Cancer Center, eating three or more bowls of miso soup leads to a 40% decrease in breast cancer risk, and two bowls equaled a 26% decrease. Soy based phytoestrogens decreased hot flashes 45%.
The Right Diet Vegetarian Protein Foods
While the average steak has plenty of protein, it also has as much as 44 grams of fat, nearly all the fat you should have for the entire day in one meal. Most people do not only eat steak by itself, however, so a steak meal can be even worse. A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein with only one gram of fat. Beans, grains, and other vegetarian proteins are beneficial, not only because they are high in protein but because they have low calorie counts a number of serious health benefits.