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Image by Caroline Attwood


What is Protein?

Protein is the macronutrient found in almost every organ or tissue in your body. It is an important building block of every bone, muscle, cartilage, and blood cell. Protein is a crucial component in your diet. Especially after workouts and exercise, protein is needed to build and repair tissues and cells in your body. Protein is made up of amino acids. Our bodies must produce amino acids to build protein. Nine of them, commonly known as the essential amino acids, come from food. 


Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. By putting thought into the types of foods you consume, you could single-handedly help out in our effort to reduce our carbon footprint. Studies show that it is not only less expensive to grow plant-based sources of protein like beans and grains, but it is also less harmful to the environment. Below is a scorecard sourced from the World Resources Institute (WRI), comparing different protein foods and their retail price, as well as their effect on our greenhouse gas emissions. Research by WRI indicates meat and dairy being predominantly more resource-intensive to produce than plant-based foods, increasing burdens on our planet’s land, water, and climate. By making small changes to your diet such as eating more pork and less beef, or eating more beans and less poultry, you could significantly reduce the farming industry’s exhaustion of resources and greenhouse gas emissions. 

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Protein in Plants vs. Meats: What's the Difference?

Proteins are often placed into two different categories: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins are any sources of protein that contain all twenty types of amino acids needed to produce protein in the human body, while incomplete proteins lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids. Animal-based foods are considered good sources of complete protein, whereas plant-based foods often lack a few essential amino acids, categorizing them as incomplete protein sources. Though they are much fewer than animal-based proteins, there are still a few plants that are complete proteins. They include quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and nutritional yeast. When eating a plant-based diet, figuring out ways for your body to easily absorb protein is crucial, and finding the right combinations of food to give you complete protein is very necessary. Combinations such as rice and beans, pita and hummus, or even peanut butter on toast are great examples of plant-based ways you can mix and match delicious foods to get in that complete protein. 

High protein foods:

  • Eggs

  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame)

  • Lentils

  • Chickpeas, kidney, black, and pinto beans (and most other varieties of beans)

  • Chicken breast

  • Salmon

  • Lean beef

  • Quinoa

  • Oats

  • Peanuts

  • Almonds

  • Pistachios

  • Cashews

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Mushrooms

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