May 11

I got your protein right here

The other day, someone figured out that I was a vegetarian, and so of course asked me where I got my protein. I suppose, of the three responses everyone has to a vegetarian, asking where I get my protein is better than whimsically enthusing over how much they love meat and could not live without it. Or tell me about that one time they met a vegan who didn’t like their food choices and they’re still angry. That one is always awkward.

And after 19 years of vegetarianism, you’d think I would be able to just accept these questions, but no. They still annoy. I do consider the person: this might be his or her first brush with it and I try hard to make it a positive one. But inside my eyes are rolling hard.

More than anything, the protein question has made me believe that Americans are obsessed with protein. Like it’s not a macronutrient that’s found in almost all natural foods. Hell, calorie for calorie, lettuce has more protein than steak. People act like it’s a trace nutrient like B-12 or Vitamin D that often needs to be supplemented because otherwise they would be deficient. It’s why studies touting Atkins get so much more play in the media. Rather than studies that say we get way too much protein as it is and are pretty unhealthy for it.

I’ve seen protein deficiency, like the real thing, in malnourished children, and it’s no picnic. But no one has that here, even little, old, almost-vegan me. I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s mindset anytime soon about this, but you know, there are other kinds of macronutrients. Like carbohydrates, which fuel brains and muscles, and fats, which transport hormones, store vitamins, and protect nerves. But again, those things are in everything, even vegetables. And those are apparently everywhere while protein is a rarity, like platinum. Also, I know he memo says that carbs are evil, but how can the stuff that runs your brain be that bad?

Maybe I should print up cards to hand out when I get asked this? But nicer ones.


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