What is a protein?
Many athletes and health professionals praise protein, with good reason. That’s because proteins keep our cells healthy. When you don’t get enough protein, your body’s molecules don’t get the support they need.
Proteins are composed of amino acids. Imagine a protein as a train – the amino acids are the wagons. Each group of proteins are in charge of specific tasks. For instance, some help defend the immune system, others are responsible for connecting tissues in the body (collagen, anyone?), etc.
What are the best sources of protein?
For a protein source to be considered complete, it needs to contain 9 essential amino acids. The term “essential” means that the body cannot produce these acids on its own. To maintain basic functions, the body needs a total of 20 amino acids. So what about the other 11? The body already produces these so you don’t have to worry as much about including them in your diet. Lots of studies have determined that animal products are the best source of complete proteins. However, there are plenty of vegetable protein sources that can also provide you with the 9 essential amino acids you need.
Quinoa is at the top of the list. It’s a perfect candidate to replace starches and is a great source for magnesium and manganese. You might also want to add some rice to your vegetarian or vegan meal because it’s an extraordinary source of lysine. Sprouts, beans, soy, tempeh and yellow corn are also good sources of essential amino acids.
Because it can be hard to keep track of the protein you’re eating, you can also opt for a protein drink that contains everything the body needs to stay healthy. It’s a quick, easy and inexpensive solution that can help you out when you’re short on time or when you’re having trouble eating balanced meals.
What are the 9 essential amino acids?
Vegetarian or vegan
By definition, a vegetarian does not eat any meat (red meat, fish, poultry) but still consumes animal products like eggs, dairy products, honey, etc.
A vegan does not eat any animal product at all. This includes eggs, dairy products and honey. They will also often eliminate any animal products from their lifestyle (silk, leather, wool, etc.).