A plea to keep our terms clear when we discuss nutrients and foods. Protein is a nutrient, and beef and pork aren't even the best sources of it.
Reading the New York Times dining section recently kicked up my annoyance at use of the term "protein" to refer to meat. A story about what to do with leftovers says "...repurposing top-quality proteins into dinner is easier than it seems."
Another on Simon Doonan's new book, Gay Men Don't Get Fat, quotes him as pointing out that "straight food ... tends to be leaden, full of protein, thick with fat." Now you know.
But protein is a nutrient. Foods are sources of nutrients.
Nutritionists like me consider protein a "macronutrient," meaning that foods contain many grams of protein and also that protein is a source of calories (four per gram, as opposed to nine for fat and four or so for carbohydrates).
Diets contain about 15 percent of calories from protein on average, an amount much greater than most people need -- about twice the minimum required for maintenance and growth.
"Protein" is most definitely not a synonym for meat or even tofu (see table). I've listed the plant sources of protein in Italics.
FOOD SOURCES OF PROTEIN IN U.S. DIETS
|PROTEIN SOURCE||% TOTAL PROTEIN|
|Nuts and seeds||2|
|Legumes (beans, peas)||1|
Grains, vegetables, and fruits are not the biggest sources, but they are important contributors. Vegans, who consume no animal products at all, do not lack for protein.