How does a vegan raw foodist able to get all of their protein needs met? When living on raw plants alone, it is a wise question to ponder. As any vegetarian can attest to, the most frequently asked question about the diet is, "Where do you get your protein?" I'm the kind of vegetarian that likes to answer that question with a couple other questions, "Do you know what protein is?" and "Do you know what your body does with protein?" Because if someone is really looking to learn, I'm willing to educate and possibly help others not have to answer this question yet again. So when discussing protein on a raw food diet, let's start at the very beginning.
What is Protein?
Protein is a combination of amino acids, some of which need to be eaten in your food (essential amino acids) and some of which your body makes on its own (nonessential amino acids). The term complete protein refers to a protein that has all nine essential amino acids in good proportion to the bodies needs. Proteins from animals are complete since the animal already made the effort to combine the amino acids for it's own body. Animal protein is also referred to as complex protein and has traditionally been thought to be superior to plant protein (keep reading to find out what new research says) which generally comes from combining various plants to accumulate all the essential amino acids in proper measure. The body then uses the amino acids to form complete proteins itself.
What Does Your Body Do With Protein?
The list of projects on the body's daily to-do list is unfathomable and none of it is possible without protein. Proteins become hormones, enzymes, antibodies, muscles, even the lens of your eye is made of protein. Proteins transport oxygen and contract your muscles. But the most important of it's exhaustive list of tasks is the building, maintaining and replacing of bodily tissue.
Can I Get Enough Protein on a Raw Food Diet?
More research needs to be done but there are a few new prominent theories out there about this big question of protein consumption. More studies are published every year by the major medical research institutions in the United States that are changing the answer to this question. It is believed that the amount of protein that has been recommended in the past is higher, if not much higher, than is actually necessary. In fact, it is even being suggested that the mere act of eating animal proteins results in the body needing more protein! Oye vay!
Vegans who eat a variety of plants, including soy products, are sure to get plenty of protein, but what about vegan raw foodists? There is more and more information being revealed that there is an adequate, if not abundant, supply of protein even in a diet this devoid of animal proteins. It is further suggested through this research that the body prefers that the protein actually come in incomplete form (as individual amino acids) so that it can do it's job of combining them in the best possible way for it's various purposes. When the body receives complete or complex proteins it has to rip the amino acids apart and reassemble them accordingly. Amino acids from plant sources allow the body to skip that process and go right to the end game.
Good Sources of Plant Proteins for a Raw Food Diet
Everything has protein in it, so the effect of eating a variety of foods is the accumulation of all the essential amino acids. Nuts and seeds have a lot of protein compared to fruits and vegetables but a lot of raw food diet advocates tout green leafy vegetables as a good source of protein. By using a variety of greens (in great abundance I might add, up to one pound per day!) the body receives all the essential amino acids that it needs while also getting many other minerals, plenty of chlorophyll and lots of fiber.
Do You Have to be a Rocket Scientist to Figure it All Out?
It is impossible to know everything about nutrition and retaining the information is another challenge entirely. But some of the most basic facts are rather crucial to helping you make good nutrition choices on a daily basis. In the beginning of any major diet change you'll need to be more observant and calculating than usual. Over time, the formula for healthy living becomes routine and you won't need to do so much math. As your tastes change and embrace your new lifestyle, it will be easier and more fulfilling to eat in a way that ultimately pleases your body and all it's trillion cells.