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Protein comes in many forms.  Meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, dairy, protien powders and even vegetables.

Protein comes from many different sources...explore the variety!

It’s surprising how many people are confused about what protein does for the human body, why we need it and how much we should eat on a daily basis. Protein is a part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies and its main function is muscle and tissue repair. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The majority of our energy comes from carbohydrates and fats, however protein does offer some energy in the event those two sources are depleted.

As you may know, the meat industry is constantly bombarding us with advertisements and misinformation which could be partially to blame for the confusion surrounding protein and its role in our diet. Because of this, most people in North America consume too much protein and not necessarily the best kind, in turn consuming too much fat and cholesterol. This is very detrimental to our bodies- not to mention the health care system.

A hallmark of healthy living is moderation and variety, and just like exercise we also need variety in our diets including the choice of proteins we consume. If we divided our diet into three segments; carbohydrates, fats and protein, protein should only be 10-15% of your daily intake. To make this even easier to understand, take your body weight in kg (1 lb = 2.2 kg) and multiply it by 0.8 and 1.2 respectively. This will give you a healthy range of exactly how much protein you need for your size and caloric needs.

For example, I weigh 135lbs / 2.2 = (61.4kg).

61.4 X 0.8=49.12 and 61.4X1.2=73.68. These values indicate that I should aim to eat 49-73 grams of protein each day.

Each gram of protein we consume provides our bodies with 4 calories or kcals as they are often referred to. Calories are basically the units of energy we obtain from food in order for our bodies to carry out the demands of life. Did you know that on average, we require at least 1200 kcals each day just to sustain our bodies needs for things like digestion, breathing, heart function, detoxification and many other reactions that happen internally without you even knowing it.

When we think of protein, most of us think of foods like meat, poultry, eggs and fish. These sources are called complete proteins meaning they contain all essential amino acids in the amounts we need them. Although these are great sources of protein there are many others that can also make up a healthy diet and provide our bodies valuable health benefits. Have you ever considered adding nuts, seeds, beans, legumes or tofu to a meal instead of meat? This is one way to reduce unwanted cholesterol and fat and add essential vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meal. Breads, whole grains and dairy products also contain small amounts of protein as do vegetables and some fruits. These particular proteins are called incomplete proteins because they are low in one or more of the amino acids required by the body. By eating complimentary proteins like nut butter and bread, pita and hummus or macaroni and cheese you can obtain all the necessary amino acids in the ratio we require them.

As you now know, protein doesn’t come just from meat, it is present in many foods. One of the best sources of vegetarian protein I enjoy at least once a week is quinoa. Quinoa is native to Peru, Chile and Bolivia and although often referred to as a grain, it is in actuality a seed. When cooked, Quinoa has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture with a naturally nutty flavour. It is high in magnesium, manganese and copper, easy to cook, tastes great and has one of the highest amino acid counts.

Give this yummy protein-rich salad a try…

Santa Fe Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

You will need:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

Combine in a bowl:
2 cups of black beans (1 lrg can)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
1 sm can of corn
1 small finely chopped zucchini
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 green pepper, sliced thin

Dressing:
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp fresh cumin powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 tsp salt
pinch cayenne
fresh ground pepper
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced olives

Instructions:
To cook quinoa, bring water to boil, add rinsed quinoa, turn down heat to minimum for 15-20 minutes. Scoop into a bowl, do not stir, and allow to cool. Mix the dressing well, add to veggies and quinoa. Stir well and serve.

*This recipe is courtesy of the Kootenay Country Store Cooperative in Nelson, BC*


 

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