One month ago, I made a decision that would affect not only my day-to-day dietary habits, but my overall well-being and agility in the long run.

I cut red meat out of my diet straight away. As my body adjusted, I began cutting out anything else with a face (animal products including all meat and dairy), sugar, sodium and anything processed.

To be clear, I am not an animal activist. I was raised by a hunter and a fisherman, and will stand by these outdoor activities as long as I live.

But after researching for weeks the effects of dietary habits, I knew that turning to a plant-based diet would give me a sufficient nutritional balance that would increase my endurance, energy, emotional and physical health.

Since sharing my diet (usually involuntarily when out to eat with friends), I don’t get by without answering the question, “Where do you get your protein?” I have friends and family who are genuinely concerned that I am not getting enough protein to complement the amount of exercise and activity I do. What they don’t understand is that we actually don’t need the amount of protein we’ve been led to believe we need in the first place.

Men and women over the age of 19 should get .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means a 130-pound adult should be getting at least 48 grams of protein daily. The Conversation and Health Line both generally agree with this amount of protein intake.

The American College of Sports Medicine says that athletes, or those looking to increase muscle mass through physical activity, should consume between .5 and .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That allows for the question: How many weights are you actually lifting?

What most people fail to realize is that meat is not, by any means, the only source of protein at our disposal. Close to all vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains contain some amount of protein, and often times much more than we would expect. In fact, there are foods that contain even more protein per calorie than beef.

For every 30 calories of beef, there are roughly 4.5 grams of protein. Spinach contains five grams of protein for only 30 calories. Almonds, as well as almond butter, contain seven grams of protein in just one ounce. Not to mention, most natural, unprocessed foods provide healthy fats, iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin E — what most people think is only available in a hearty steak.

I am not shaming meat-eaters or protesting against processed food. But rather, shedding light on the fact that there are numerous facets of meeting your need for daily protein intake.

I miss eating Reese’s. I find myself daydreaming about soggy, movie theater buttered popcorn. In fact, right in this very moment, I am thinking about Chick-fil-A. In the morning, I will crave eggs and bacon, and then I will begin to remind myself of the innumerable amount of reasons I eat a plant-based diet.

Eliminating meat and other processed foods out of my diet has given me energy I did not deem possible. When I finish eating, I don’t feel bloated or tired. I wake up each morning much earlier, and most days, without an alarm. I do not feel the need to nap during the day. And to top it off, I’ve stopped drinking coffee, too.

I chose a different source of protein.

Where do you get yours?

Story by Shelby Strickland, UP managing editor

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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