Protein makes up about half of the human body’s dry weight. Many of the foods we eat contain protein, particularly flesh foods like chicken, beef, lamb, etc., and legumes like beans and lentils.
Protein is found throughout our body, in muscle, bone, skin, and hair. Your body uses it to build and repair tissue. You need it to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
When people shift to a vegan diet, they tend to develop protein deficiency without even noticing. A severely restrictive diet, lack of knowledge about nutrition, and even poverty or lack of food can all contribute to protein deficiency.
Puffy cheeks: Puffy cheeks actually highlight a protein-carbohydrate imbalance. Puffy cheeks are actually a result of swollen salivary glands (parotid glands).
Swollen eyes: Protein deficiency can lower the amount of plasma protein in blood, and this leads to edema.
Swollen hands: Aside from the face, swelling can also extend to other areas in the body. If your body cannot find the protein that it needs from your diet, it sources out the protein from other areas in the body. Your hands can get swollen because the body utilizes the protein found in the tissues in the area.
Thinning hair: It is said that hair and nails are important points to note whether you are protein-deficient. When your hair starts to split or fall, it is time to check whether you are getting enough protein from your diet.
Brain fog/lethargy: Protein stabilizes the sugar levels that we have in our body. Protein deficiency decreases the mental alertness and its ability to respond actively to a stimulus.
Pale skin: Skin that loses pigment and burns more easily in the sun can be caused by a lack of iron, as well as protein. Frequently, foods that are rich in iron also contain protein, and protein is necessary for the body to utilize iron properly. Anemia or lack of iron may result in pale skin.
Difficulty sleeping: Difficulty in sleeping could be caused by a serotonin deficiency, which is caused by lack of certain amino acids. These amino acids are produced when protein is broken down, and a diet with insufficient protein could lead to difficulty in sleeping.
Foods to Cure Protein Deficiency
Red meat, such as beef, contains high amounts of dietary protein that can help correct protein deficiencies. Meat and other animal-based foods contain high-quality, or complete, proteins. Complete proteins provide our bodies with all nine essential amino acids.
Chicken is a complete protein that is typically low in fat, depending on how it is prepared. Consuming chicken can help prevent or reverse dietary protein deficiencies.
Fish is high in protein, low in fat and contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. However, pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid fishes contaminated with high levels of mercury.
Eggs contain high-quality protein that can help cure protein deficiencies. Thoroughly cook your eggs until they are not runny, to prevent salmonella food poisoning. One large egg provides about six grams of complete protein.
Although most plant-based foods contain incomplete proteins, soy is an exception and contains all essential amino acids. Soy is a versatile protein source that is used to make products such as soy milk, veggie burgers, tofu and tempeh.
Legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils and chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They can be combined with other foods such as rice to provide all essential amino acids.
Grains are an excellent source of protein. Grains are delicious in homemade breads, salads, casseroles, or cereals. The healthiest grain options are unrefined whole grains. Refined grain products often lose vital nutrients during processing and tend to have added sugars and preservatives. If you are a vegetarian, use the chart below to help determine which grains can help you meet your daily protein goal.
|Grain||Protein Content||Serving Size||Protein Per Serving|
|Amaranth||26 grams||1/4 cup||6.5 grams|
|Barley||20 grams||1/4 cup||5 grams|
|Brown Rice (long grain)||15 grams||1/4 cup||4 grams|
|Buckwheat||23 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Corn||16 grams||1/2 cup||4 grams|
|Millet||22 grams||1/4 cup||5.5 grams|
|Oats||10 grams||1/2 cup||5 grams|
|Quinoa (seed)||24 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Rye||25 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Sorghum||22 grams||1/4 cup||5.5 grams|
|Spelt||25 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Teff||25 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Triticale||25 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Wild Rice||24 grams||1/4 cup||6 grams|
|Wheat (flour)||16 grams||1/4 cup||4 grams|