No matter how many times we may share with our customers or workshop participants about where we get our protein from when we eat a live plant-based diet, they still ask after eating one of our meals, “But where am I going to get my protein?” We are a protein-obsessed society that has been sold on believing that only animal-based protein is the best or purest form of protein. And that for some reason if your protein comes from a plant it is incomplete which we tend to equate with inferior.
One of the best sources of protein are dark leafy greens and kale is the new ‘beef’ in the live plant-based world – it is high in protein as well as other nutrients. Two cups of kale has 4 grams while dandelion will have 3 grams. A head of leaf lettuce will provide about 5 grams. Basically, two large bunches of dark leafy greens each day will supply anywhere from 14-20 grams of protein.
The reality is that we don’t really need the amount of protein we have been led to believe is required. In fact, North Americans eat far too much protein – 30-60 percent daily! far exceeds what is required – which is 6-10 percent.
A baby gets 6% protein a day from mother’s milk. And on that 6% daily they gain significant weight in the first 6 months of life, they manage to learn how to smile, sit, crawl, perfect fine motor skills, and some even begin to pull to stand. Simply put – they thrive. If a baby can manage all that growth and development only on mother’s milk and 6% protein I know we as fully grown humans can exist on the same amount. And where we get that protein in a live plant-based diet is from plants.
There is more and more information being revealed that there is an adequate, if not abundant supply of protein even in a diet devoid of animal proteins. It is further suggested through this research that the body prefers that the protein actually come in an incomplete form (as individual amino acids) so that it can do it’s job of combining them in the best possible way for it’s various purposes. When the body receives complete or complex proteins (as in animal proteins) it has to rip the amino acids apart and reassemble them accordingly. Amino acids from plant sources allow the body to skip that process and go right to the end game.
Every food we eat has protein. This includes all fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. The effect of eating a variety of foods is the accumulation of all the essential amino acids. Nuts and seeds have a lot of protein compared to fruits and vegetables but a lot of raw food diet advocates tout green leafy vegetables as a good source of protein. By using a variety of greens (up to one pound per day!) the body receives all the essential amino acids that it needs while also getting many other minerals, plenty of chlorophyll, and lots of fiber.
Many fruits contain between 4-8% protein and as a significant part of your diet, they provide a significant amount of complete protein. That’s right, fruit is a complete protein with all 8 essential amino acids! On an average day, you can get anywhere from 18-22 grams of protein from fruit, which provides almost half of your daily protein requirements. Non-sweet fruit like tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers also have protein.
OK – so where’s the beef (aka protein) in a live plant-based diet? You got it – plants. And kale is one of many great sources of protein.
West Coast Kale Salad
One of my favourite non-cookbooks is Raw Food Made Easy for One or Two People by Jennifer Cornbleet. This recipe is from Jennifer and one that can be a meal on it’s own or as a side salad with your favourite dish as shown here with Rawsome Living Foods Cafe and Juice Bar’s famous falafels.
*Important Note: When kale is cut into thin strips (chiffonade) and gently massaged with your hands, it achieves a soft and juicy texture (an almost “cooked feel”) that makes it delightful in salads. This nutritious salad is aesthetically beautiful and is sure to be a hit.
- 2 bunches of kale (about 3-4 leaves per person, depending on size of kale), stems removed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed and organic)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1 diced red pepper
Stack two of the kale leaves with the stem end facing you. Fold in half lengthwise and roll tightly like a cigar. Slice crosswise into thin strips. Repeat with the remaining kale leaves. Chop the kale strips crosswise a few times, so they aren’t too long.
Place the kale in a mixing bowl along with the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Toss well with your hands, working the dressing into the greens. Add the pine nuts and olives and toss gently. Season to taste with black pepper. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, West Coast Kale Salad will keep for three days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Variation #1: Substitute ¼ cup raisins for olives, soaked 10 minutes, drained, and rinsed.
Variation #2: Add 1 tomato (seeded and diced), 1 avocado (diced), and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Variation #3: Add shredded carrots, romaine, red cabbage, celery or whatever pleases your palate.