90 % of the time I don’t eat meat or dairy. Sometimes I am sad and eat a grilled cheese. Sometimes I am at a wedding and have some cake. Sometimes I order fish for dinner. But 90 % of what I eat contains no meat or dairy. I feel and look better when I eat this way. More on that topic another day.
Today what I wanted to talk to you about is one of the most common questions I get from people who find out I don’t eat meat, “Where do you get your protein?”. I confess, I use to wonder this myself about vegans and vegetarians. We grow up with 0 % nutritional knowledge, and we are taught to live by Canada’s food guide which promotes both meat and dairy. I can totally understand your confusion.
My protein comes from a variety of different sources (beans, lentils, nuts, nut butters, chickpeas and chickpea products like falafal and hummous, sometimes a protein powder, sometimes tofu, as well as many other foods we often don’t consider to have any significant level of protein).
After making a delicious red lentil stew last night I thought I would share with you some findings about red lentils!
I found a lot of this information on my favourite nutrition website: nutritiondata.com
At first glance we see that one cup of red lentils is a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates and fibres. These are the type of carbs that provide us with sustained energy, as well as promote a healthy amount of fibre in the diet to maintain healthy digestive function (colon cancer prevention!!).
Also- one cup of red lentils also contains 18 grams of fibre and 37 % of my daily recommended level of iron.
I think that stat is worth repeating.
one cup of red lentils also contains 18 grams of fibre and 37 % of my daily recommended level of iron.
The average person should consume between .8-1.2 g/kg of protein, To make it simple let’s round that to 1g/kg. So for me, if I weigh 65 kg then I need 65 grams minimum. 18 grams in one cup of lentils is coming close to 1/3 of what I need in a day!
We can also see that red lentils are INCREDIBLY low in fat and sodium, for those who need to watch this in their diet.
This next graph shows us that red lentils have a low glycemic load. In simple terms this means that lentils will not have a huge effect on spiking your blood sugar. Instead red lentils are used and digested without giving you the sugar spike and crash and burn that would follow have a higher sugar, higher glycemic load lunch.
This graph shows us that red lentils rank 58/100 in terms of their ‘completeness’ meaning containing nutrients. As you can see red lentils are definitely high in some nutrients like potassium, phosphorus and zinc, and yet lacking other nutrients like vitamin A, and E. (This is why we need variety in our diet :)).
I found this graph quite interesting as it highlights whether a protein is a complete or incomplete protein. A complete protein means that it contains all of the amino acids, incomplete would mean it is missing some amino acids and needs to be combined with another food. Red lentils rank really well! 86/100- and are missing only methionine and cysteine. Nutritiondata.com also offers a handy chart that teaches you how to ‘complete’ a protein by combining your lentils with a food high in M+C.
So in the end, I feel pretty good about my nutrition choice to make a red lentil stew last night. And guess what? It was delicious!! To be honest I just made the recipe that was on the back of the lentil package, but I thought I would point you in the right direction by looking at another red lentil stew that looks interesting to me:
I’d like to explore more vegetarian protein options in the future- stay tuned!