We don’t need huge amounts – usually about 60 grams daily, but we do need good quality protein with the right complement of all 21 amino acids. We make some, but some (9) we MUST get from our food. These are called theessential amino acids (EAA’s). We easily derive these EAA’s from animal protein because they are most like us in make up. Yes, you are made of meat. Other complete sources are dairy, fish, and eggs. Vegetarians need to be a little more careful, because most of our food plants have lower amounts of the EAAs we need, so we need to come food combining if you don’t eat huge amounts of veggies. You can do this within a 24 hr period. So nuts or legumes must be combined with grain. Usually about in a 1:2 ratio. Many vegetarian cultures have done the work for you: Beans and rice, or lentils and rice/grain, nuts and grain. There are also a few complete vegetarian proteins: Soy and quinoa being the most well know and available. Amaranth, hemp, chia seeds and spiraling are others, but you’ shave to eat quite a bit to get 60 g of protein.
Another thing to think about regarding your food consumption ‘footprint’ – as if all this stuff wasn’t enough – is what are you really supporting with your eating habits? Are (holier than thou) vegetarians really making the planet better vs carnivores? I have issues with this. My thinking, and one that follows along with an interesting (though rather angry) book called The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth, is such that: if you are eating foods that caused destruction of an ecosystem – like soy mono crops in the American west – how is your vegetarianism helping the planet really? Wouldn’t it be better to eat food from local sources that include good stewardship of the earth, ethical treatment of meat animals and a way of farming that improves the soil rather than depletes it (as mono cropping does)? I feel strongly about ecology, so don’t get me started unless you’re in the mood for a tirade, but I buy most of my food at the farmers market. It goes without saying that I eat organically, and my food budget is actually quite modest and I have very little trash. These are choices that are relatively easy to make if you can give the Standard American Diet the old heave-ho. Plus I feel GREAT.