Imagine running into a friend at the gym who was just finishing her aerobic workout. Sweaty and flushed, she downs a bottle of water and remarks, “Got to get my hydrogen!” While we may instinctively sense that there is something odd about thatstatement, in Western countries, and particularly the U.S., people make very similar comments on a regular basis. “Just getting my protein in!” someone will cheerfully report as they dig into General Tso’s chicken or crack open a hard-boiled egg. “I just make sure to eat lots of legumes,” a vegan will say in response to the question of how they get enough protein without eating animal products.
Conveniently, eating a varied whole-food, plant-based diet will naturally provide approximately 10% of protein from total calories without any special effort.
Spirulina is fresh water blue-green algae, and compared to other sea vegetables spirulina is more easily digested and has greater bio-availability. Greater bio-availability means a greater amount absorption of the nutrients into the bloodstream. Spirulina is considered a superfoodbecause the abundance of various nutrients it is comprised of.
Spirulina And Protein
Sixty percent of spirulina is made up of protein. Amazingly it is a complete protein because it contains all theessential amino acids, amino acids that the body cannot synthesize and must get externally. Spirulina’s protein makeup is superior to other plant protein, and is on par with the protein from meat, eggs, and dairy, except for the reduced amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine (amino acids). Spirulina is mostly used as a supplement now, but it can be used as a food, and has been. The Aztecs and other indigenous people South America used spirulina as a food source before the Spanish colonized South America and changed the landscape for agricultural and urban development.
Spirulina also contains vitamin B12, but there are two sides to the argument as to whether it is a reliable source of vitamin B12. The accepted medical literature supports the B12 in spirulina as being an unreliable source of B12. There are unaccepted assays that support the B12 in spirulina being a reliable source of B12. The B12 in animal products are called active B12 and is the B12 used primarily in the body, and the B12 in spirulina are called analog or non-active B12. I have found that this is a very muddy subject.
There are people who testify that they eat no animal products or derivatives and that their B12 level is fine because they take spirulina as a supplement, but there is literature that clearly states that spirulina is not a reliable source of B12. During my vegan diet my B12 levels dropped but they were still in the middle of the accepted scale for B12 levels. I haven’t been taking as much spirulina as I used to because I take more chlorella now. So to be safe, I recently began to take a vegan B12 supplement here and there. I do like to stay away from man-made supplements because they are man-made and I like to get my nutrients from food. I am still not convinced that spirulina is not a reliable source of B12 and I plan on revisiting the issue in the future.
An interesting thing is that B12 does not come from animals, but is ingested by grazing animals from the plants they eat. The B12 is then passed on the other animal eaters. The B12 that is the active form we use comes from microorganisms in the soil that use the cobalt in the soil to make the active form of B12. This active form of B12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace element, cobalt.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
Spirulina also contains vitamins:
Rich In Life Sustaining Plant Pigments
It may sound funny to hear that plant pigments can sustain life, but yes it is true. Spirulina contains a combination of pigments, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and some of which the body can convert into vitamin A. These powerful antioxidantscan help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease, and they enhance the immune response to infections. These life supporting pigments include allophycocyanin, beta-carotene (orange color), beta-cryptoxanthin, canthaxanthin, chlorophyll (green color), diatoxanthin, echinenone, myxoxanthophyll, oscillaxanthin, phycocyanin (blue color), and xanthophyll, zeaxanthin.
Essential Fatty Acids
We need essential fatty acids(omega-3 and omega-6) to support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs the essential fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. Spirulina is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Spirulina also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), linoleic acid (LA), and stearidonic acid (SDA).
Could there be a greater controversy in the health realm than the vegan vs. omnivore debate over protein? If you’ve been living a plant based lifestyle for a while now, you probably chuckle when someone makes a comment like “there’s no way you can get enough protein from vegetables”, or the alternative, you might get a little bit annoyed after hearing it for the 100th time. But let’s face it, there’s a ton of confusion surrounding what we should eat in the world, and some of us have been downright convinced that vegetables are nothing more than water.
My intention is to show what’s possible if you’re choosing to go plant based and opt out of animal protein, for whatever reason. Maybe you’re hoping to heal a dis-ease or health condition, lower your blood pressure, lose weight or increase your energy. These are all common reasons for choosing plants over flesh. But before we get into it, let me be clear that this post is in no way pushing plant based living as the only way to live. In this world, we must live according to our individual paths, and for some of us that means consuming animal flesh and for others it means consuming plants.
My greatest concern when it comes to consuming animals, is the disregard we’ve developed for the animals life, the abuse and suffering that goes on in factory farms, and the inevitable consequences on our bodies when we consume the stress, hormones, anti-biotics and fear based energy of those animals. I could go deeper into why some animal products don’t contribute to healthful living, but this post isn’t about that. For a lot people living in modern urban areas, hunting for food or purchasing from a local organic farmer is not an option. This is a problem, and the solution is going plant based. It’s far safer for you to consume a plant based diet, than to consume factory farmed meat, eggs, milk or dairy.
So What Are Some Reliable Plant Based Protein Sources?
Sprouts of all kinds are nutritional powerhouses with a high protein content ranging from 20-35% protein. Not only that, but they’re also excellent sources of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Broccoli sprouts contain 35% protein
Pea Sprouts contain 25% protein
Bunch of Pea Sprouts
Dark Green Vegetables will serve your protein needs and provide your body with calcium, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids
Broccoli contains 45% protein
Spinach contains 30% protein
Kale contains 45% protein
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts & Seeds are also sources of good healthy fats like omega 3, 6 & 9′s. There is a concern however surrounding the overconsumption of omega 6′s and not getting enough 3′s. For this reason, eating nuts and seeds as part of a raw, vegan or vegetarian diet shouldn’t be considered the main protein source but used in addition to other foods with a lower fat content like sprouts & green vegetables.
Hemp Seeds are the only food known to have a perfect harmony of omegas 3,6 & 9. They’re also 22% protein.
Pumpkin seeds are 21% protein.
Almonds are 12% protein per ounce.
Spirulina is about 68% protein and also helps detoxify the body. It’s packed with vitamins and contains EFA’s (essential fatty acids).
Chlorella is about 60% protein and is known for it’s rapid tissue repair properties. It’s a great food if you’re very physically active or have higher protein requirements. Use it in your shakes to help speed up recovery times.
Gabriel Cousens discussed the use of spirulina and chlorella for protein supplementation in an interview with Dr. Mercola. He gave an example of someone who wanted to consume 45g of protein per day (which is almost twice as high as what the American Nutritional Journals and World Health Organization recommend). If you were to consume 2 tbsp. of spirulina or chlorella with each meal (let’s say in a juice or smoothie), you would easily hit this mark for protein.
I’m excited to share these examples of super fit, muscular looking vegans that Caleb and I have come across in our googling adventures. Since coming across these amazing examples, we’ve begun to connect with some of them as well so we can continue to give you insight into what their diets and lifestlyes really look like. Stick around to watch this protein discussion evolve in the very near future.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal choice. There are many different lifestyles you can follow, some will make you look really good and fail you when it comes to nutrition, and some will serve you not only through physical results, but through internal results.
A plant based lifestyle can provide a host of benefits, many of which I touched on already and in aprevious post on protein. Some people will be quick to judge and say this cannot be true, but those same people have likely never tried a vegetarian diet, let alone a raw vegan diet. When we open our mind up to possibilities, we gift ourselves the chance to experience optimal health, whatever that looks like for us. The key is to be open to experimentation. If your current lifestyle isn’t working for you, considering giving a plant based lifestyle an honest shot. Even a 7 day trial is a great place to start!
I’d love to hear some of your favourite protein sources in the comments below!
Learn how to integrate raw foods into your lifestyle in our 3 months course How to Go Raw, Not Crazy!We’re taking a few more student testers, if you’d like more details on how you can get a discount on registration you can email us with the subject line “how to go raw”.
AUTHOR:Sheleana Breakell -Young and Raw
Sheleana is the co-founder & chief blogger of YoungandRaw.com, a self taught raw vegan chef and big time animal lover. Like many, her path to a high raw and plant based lifestyle came through a series of challenges and discoveries. After healing her body and spirit of chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalance and shedding over 45lbs of weight through raw foods, Sheleana was inspired to help other people take their power back and re-build more sustainable relationships with the food they eat. As the author and co-creator of a 3 month raw food program for beginners called How to Go Raw, Not Crazy! She and her partner Caleb take students on a journey of self discovery, raw food preparation, meal planning, weight loss and conquering cravings. Rather than suggesting everyone be a raw vegan, she simply chooses to share the information that resonates with her at her core in hopes that it will reach the people who are meant to receive it. There is never any pressure to adopt a certain diet or lifestyle 100%. Sheleana is a free spirit and fully embraces all aspects of life’s’ challenges as lessons and opportunities for growth. She knows everyone is on their own journey and what works for her may not work for others. The Young and Raw philosophy is based on unconditional love, self awareness, compassion for all life and radical authenticity.