I’ve been struggling to figure out how to maintain my protein intake while continuing to reduce the amount of processed foods I eat. I recently realized that the most highly processed part of my diet is protein – from milk to ham. In fact, I rarely eat other processed foods. So how can I keep cutting them out?
Many plants are significant sources of protein, and can easily be bought fresh and whole. In particular, nuts and avocados contain protein. However, I already maximize my nut and avocado intake daily; I eat about 30 nuts and a whole avocado each day! These also serve as my main fat sources. Because I’m trying to cut down on processed foods, I’m not going to choose tofu, tempeh or plant-based milks. And I’ve found that my body functions best when I eat fewer grains. Another source of protein I’m already eating is dark greens like kale, collard greens and chards. I did want to mention, however, that those are also often high in protein content.
Legumes, which include beans, lentils and peas, seem to be the group of plants with the highest protein content that I don’t eat regularly. In particular, chickpeas  have more complete amino acid profiles than other legumes  so I will try to strengthen my body’s ability to break-down protein by including these particular legumes more often. I am going to buy raw legumes, then wash them thoroughly before cook them myself, thus avoiding potential chemicals from canning or other packaging processes.
Plant-based protein seems to be the solution to my conundrum because I can’t afford to buy fresh fish and seafood daily, and it would be unpractical for me to buy a whole cow or pig. Poultry is also fed with corn and hormones these days, so I would also like to reduce its presence in my diet. The milk, cheese and even egg whites I buy are pasteurized, yet I feel wasteful separating egg yolks if I’m consistently eating just the whites. Studies have demonstrated that protein from animal byproducts are actually inferior to plant-based protein.  Granted, a vegan or vegetarian diet has been shown to be at least adequate, if not beneficial, for athletic performance, but this dietary choice is still often questioned.  Although I’m not a professional athlete, I do want to be taking good care of my body to be happy and healthy. Hopefully shifting away from processed meats and animal byproducts will help boost my health and vitality.