After a month of eating vegan about 75% of the time, I feel it is time to address the ever present question from anyone that I bother to share this change of lifestyle with: Where do you get your protein? I was raised on a steady diet of chicken, steak or pork for dinner, accompanied by a vegetable or two. But when my dad’s juicy steak took up more than 75% of the plate and the plate was bigger than my stomach, those vegetables never really found their way to my mouth. Point being that, while I was never a hungry child, I had no idea that it was even an option not to eat meat.
Therefore, I can’t really get mad about this question. I have read enough vegetarian and vegan blogs to know that the protein question is widely looked at as being a stupid one, and I completely agree that some people ask just to get a reaction. But it does deserve a serious answer since, until recently, I was not sure that I could go without a daily helping of animal based protein.
Besides beans and nuts I honestly had no clue that you could get a significant amount of protein from anything plant based up until a few years ago. The variety of plant based protein spans beyond the few main types of meat that Americans enjoy on a regular basis and can be prepared in a multitude of fashions. According to Gentle World, some of these include pumpkin seeds, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli and quinoa.
Most of these options contain somewhere in the range of 5 grams of protein per serving, not to mention tons of other great nutrients such as beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin K. Recent studies have shown that nutrients such as vitamin B12, carnosine, DHA and creatine can only be found in large enough quantities in animal products.
To this I say, so what? Lots of science has told us that without B12 in your system, you will get very sick and probably die. But people do no pick the vegan lifestyle just for health reasons. Many feel inclined to cut out animals because of the way they are raised and treated on farms. Others realize that feeding large quantities of livestock has led to 60% of corn product and 47% of soy product to be taken up by animals.
Whatever the reason, it is completely possible to live a healthy life without animal products. It is also possible to live a healthy life with little consumption of healthful plants. The wonders of supplementation and medicine have kept humans alive much longer and enabled them to live the lives they want to live. Though science has guided us on a path towards the best diet, it has yet to find the optimal diet.
That could very well be because there is no optimal one diet to fit the entire human race. Therefore, this week's recipe is one that can easily be enjoyed by meat eaters and tree huggers alike. It hosts a medley of different flavors and, my favorite source of plant-based protein. Beans and rice are a constant staple in my house, but this simple, cheap and savory recipe uses them in a new but easy way that can compliment almost any other dish.
1 red pepper
Half of an onion
One large clove of garlic
1 can of black beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
Crushed red pepper
1. Set water to boil for around two cups of orzo pasta.
2. Chop the onions and garlic and add to a pan over medium heat with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Chop up the red pepper and add to same pan after two minutes with more salt and pepper. Season with cumin, red pepper, turmeric and chili powder to taste.
4. After another few minutes, add the entire drained can of garbanzo beans and half of a drained can of black beans.
5. Add the cooked pasta and season the dish to taste.
Photos by Christie Merino/Gavel Media