Based on their source, protein is generally classified as animal or vegetable. While animal protein such as meat was earlier considered important, today experts think otherwise. You dont require meat to be strong. You can be just as healthy and strong on a vegetarian diet, affirms nutritionist and fitness expert, Rujuta Diwekar.
The reason animal sources of protein were considered superior is because they contain all nine essential amino acids, in contrast to vegetable sources which lack at least one. But today experts accept that a balanced vegetarian diet is equally effective.
Vegetarians can easily satisfy their protein requirement from sources such as dals (lentils) or sprouts, says Diwekar. A typical Indian meal, comprising of vegetables or dal cooked with a tadka (tempering) of spices such as jeera (cumin) or rai (mustard), along with rice or roti, has a complete amino acid profile, she explains.
But there's more to it. Widely conducted research seems to link meat, especially red meat, with serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, cancers, bone loss, diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends limiting red meat consumption to three ounces a day or less.
Our digestive system is not designed for meat. It is a lot more efficient at digesting vegetarian food, explains Diwekar. People who eat a lot of meat with the idea of getting protein are missing the mark, she says.Muscles without meat? Yes, say even some bodybuilders such as Jazz guitarist, Kevin Eubanks. "You don't have to eat a lot of beef or chicken to keep your muscle mass up," says Eubanks who has featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness and Flex. "You do need adequate amounts of protein to build muscle, though. But I can easily get what I need from vegetarian sources.
Verdict: You don't need meat to make you strong. Vegetarian alternatives will do the job.
Tip: You can get animal protein from fish, eggs, or milk. You can also rely on vegetable sources of protein such as nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, soya products, and vegetables.