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You Asked: Vegetarians and Protein

Hey Fit,
I once heard that vegetarians need to eat more (vegetable-based) protein than meat-eaters need to eat in a given day. For example, if a 120 lb. non-vegetarian would need to eat 43 grams of protein a day, a vegetarian of the same weight would need to eat more than 43 grams of veggie protein. Do you know if this is true?
- Pondering About Protein Pamela

This is a great question that I'm sure many other vegetarians have been wondering the same thing. First of all, it's good to know that proteins are made up of amino acids. Twelve are manufactured by the human body, and 9, called essential amino acids, we must get from our diet.

Can we get them all from plant sources? To find out

A complete protein is a food that contains all the essential amino acids. Animal protein like meat and dairy products are complete proteins, but it's also possible to get all your essential amino acids from plant sources. In order to get a vegetarian complete protein, you need to combine foods to make one. Beans and rice are a popular complete protein, but so is nut butter on whole grain bread, and hummus on pita. Recent research shows that you don't need to combine these foods all in one meal. You can combine them over a 2-day period.

So it doesn't really matter where you get these essential amino acids, as long as you get them. Your weight will determine just how much protein you need. A 120 lb woman needs to eat about 43g of protein a day. A 130 lb woman needs to eat about 47g of protein a day, and a 150 lb woman needs to eat about 50g of protein a day.

There are so many plant sources of protein and meat alternatives. As long as vegetarians eats a wide variety of foods they'll be able to get all the amino acids they need, and they don't need to eat extra plant protein to get them.


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