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If you're a vegetarian or if you've dabbled in a meat-free lifestyle, there's no doubt you've heard the famous question:

"So where do you get your protein?"

Try to refrain from turning into The Hulk when you hear this. People (generally) mean well. Furthermore, if you chuck a can of beans at the perpetrator's head every time you hear this, you will lose friends. And that's sad.

What's all the hype about protein? Among other things, we need protein to perform basic bodily functions, to build muscle, and to have healthy nails, skin, and hair. People with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) often have increased needs for protein due to protein loss in the intestines. Play with your protein intake to discover what works for your body.

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There are plenty of reasons for eating less meat, and here are 5 great meat-free protein sources.

1. Lentils: Depending on the variety, lentils have about 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. Lentils are a legume and they come in many different varieties and colors. They are extremely healthy for you- high in folate, fiber, iron and antioxidants. You can buy them prepackaged or in bulk bins at your local co-op or grocery store. Add lentils to soups, salads, or any pasta dish to add texture- it won't take away from the taste, and it will give your dish a nutritional boost.

2. Beans: Beans have about 7 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. They are a powerhouse of nutrition due to their protein, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. Because beans are digested slowly, they can have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Add kidney beans to your soup, garbanzo beans to your salad, black beans to your burrito, or make some hummus!

3. Quinoa: Quinoa has about 4 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. Quinoa is the whiz kid in the family- packed with antioxidants and brimming with anti-inflammatory properties. Eat it in place of rice, try it for breakfast, or eat it as a snack.

4. Nuts and seeds: Probably the most convenient source of protein, nuts and seeds generally have 7 grams of protein per 1/4 cup (it varies greatly, depending on the nut or seed). Have a handful of almonds for a quick snack, throw cashews into your green smoothie to increase the creamy texture, add sunflower seeds to your salad, or spread nut butter on an apple. As with all food, eat in moderation!

5. Protein supplements: Some people like protein supplements, and others hate them. Personally, I'm crazy about vegan protein powder. I add it to my green smoothie in the morning, and it gives me a jump start on my day. High quality protein supplements are convenient and easy to digest, and they can help people with IBD get that extra boost of protein throughout the day.

Bonus: Vegetables like asparagus, cauliflower, cooked spinach (think Popeye), broccoli, and kale are also great sources of protein!

You may be wondering why I didn't mention tofu, meat substitutes, seitan, or tempeh. Simply, because I'm not a huge fan of these products, and I don't promote anything on my blog that I'm not in love with. Tofu and meat substitutes tend to be highly processed, seitan is not traditionally gluten-free, and I never have an interest in buying tempeh (sorry, tempeh lovers).

Overall, keep in mind that everyone is different, and everyone's body requires different amounts of animal protein. Experiment with what makes you feel best- and make it fun! What meatless dish will you eat this week?

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 03/17/2017


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