Best Vegan Protein Sources: How To Get Protein On A Vegan Diet
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Vegan diets dont have to be low in protein. These 15 best vegan protein sources make it easy to get your protein fill if youre eating a plant-based diet.
So, youve come out to your family and friends: youre Vegan! And while nowadays everyone is very quick to assume a sympathetic gaze and make all the right noises when you assure them that youre still the same person, at least two things are certainly about to happen.
First, they are mentally crossing your name off of the list of people that they invite to dinner-parties and second, youre going to get the Its lovely that you feel that strongly about yadda yadda yadda, but how are you going to stay healthy?
Meat-eaters will never stop asking and vegans always get sick of hearing it:
How do you get your protein?
Heard that one before, didnt you? Me too, guys!
The image of a skinny hippie comes to mind when thinking of veganism. After all, theres no way we can be muscular as vegans, right?
I know, I dont need to tell you guys that this is wrong. You know it. Youve googled for vegan protein sources and found me. Hello stay with me! I want to tell you all about plant-based sources of protein.
Before we dive right into all the unexpected and delicious ways to expand your protein horizons, lets take a realistic look at how much protein we actually need in a day!
Certain People Should Avoid It
While seitan is a nutritious and versatile food, some people may need to avoid it.
For instance, seitan is a good option for people who follow a soy-free diet, but it still contains wheat gluten. Wheat is another major allergen, and many people have gluten-related disorders that require them to avoid it.
That includes people who have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition triggered by ingesting gluten .
Because the primary ingredient in seitan is gluten, eating it could cause a significant reaction if you have an allergy or intolerance to gluten.
Why Do We Need Protein
Protein is an essential part of our nutrition, making up about 17% of the bodys weight and it is the main component of our muscles, skin, internal organs, especially the heart and brain, as well as our eyes, hair and nails. Our immune system also requires protein to help make antibodies that are required to help fight infections, and protein also plays a role in blood sugar regulation, fat metabolism and energy function.
Protein foods actually break down into 22 naturally occurring amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of protein. Of these, nine are known as essential amino acids, which means we must get them from food, as the body cannot make them itself. Protein is also a good source of a range of vitamins and minerals such as zinc and B vitamins. As a vegan, its important that all these amino acids are included in the diet to provide optimum nutrition.
The key to getting the right amount of protein, and all the necessary amino acids, is to combine different grains with different vegetables and pulses such as beans and rice, or tofu with broccoli. Variety is key when it comes to being vegan, and not using substitute products such as vegan cheese to make up any deficiency as they are technically a processed food and offer little health benefit.
Severe Vs Moderate Protein Deficiency
When it comes to protein, a dire medical condition called kwashiorkor leads to a lot of confusion. This disease only appears in areas of famine, or among people with severe eating disorders. Relatively tiny amounts of protein are all it takes to avoid kwashiorkor, so for obvious reasons this deficiency disease is unheard of in the vegan community.
Some vegans believe an absence of kwashiorkor means their protein intake is sufficient. This is a dangerously misguided belief. Avoiding kwashiorkor does not indicate that your protein intake is even close to ideal.
Whats more, theres no clear-cut way to know for sure whether youre getting all the protein your body needs. Even blood tests cant reliably determine if your intake is sub-optimum. Instead, a variety of symptoms may indicate mild to moderate protein deficiency:
- chronic fatigue
- high blood sugar or triglyceride levels
- inability to maintain sufficient muscle mass
While there are countless terrible things about meat, milk, and eggs, its undeniable that these foods contain plenty of protein. If you replace the animal products in your diet with foods lacking protein, you could get into trouble. Fortunately, there are plenty of high-protein vegan foods. So its easy for vegans to ensure their protein needs are nicely met.
Are Plant Proteins Complete Proteins
Complete versus incomplete protein isnt discussed much in the vegan community other than to respond to omnivores in their attempt to make plant-based proteins seem inferior to animal-based protein. Most peopleomnivore or otherwisedont pay attention to how much complete versus incomplete protein they consume on the daily, but as soon as someone goes vegan, it becomes a major concern to the outside looking in. Esteemed physiciansincluding Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Michael Gregerhave stressed the fact that as long as one eats enough calories and varies their diet, they will meet their protein needs regardless of whether they consume complete or incomplete protein.
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How Much Protein Do We Need
According to the dietician and nutritional advisor Reed Mangels, American consumers are obsessed with protein somewhat unnecessarily. In actual fact, only around one calorie out of every 10 we consume needs to come from protein in order to meet the bodys needs. The nutritional expert notes that for a male vegan, roughly 63 grams of protein should be consumed daily, and for a female, its roughly 52. The exact amount can also vary by weight, muscle mass, and other factors.
This concern about protein is misplaced, she notes. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it.
Food addiction counseller Erin Wathen agrees. The average American eats more protein than they truly need and the sources they tend to get it from, being animal products, are terribly inefficient and expensive ounce for ounce compared to plant-based protein,she told LIVEKINDLY in an email.
The story is much the same in the UK, where the average daily intake of protein in the UK is 88 grams for men and 64 grams for women. This is more than sufficient, notes the BNF.
In fact, eating too much protein can actually have negative consequences, Mangels states.
With protein, more is not necessarily better, she explains. There do not appear to be health advantages to consuming a high protein diet. Diets that are high in protein may even increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Just How Can You Get The Proteins Into Your Diet
Now that you have a range of your foods that are full of proteins, its time to figure out ways to get them into your diet without too much hassle. The best way is to add them to your main meals. Try adding in lentils to your stews and soups, or throwing in your beans when you make vegan-friendly Bolognese sauces and pasta dishes.
Dont forget that you can throw in the nuts and seeds to your smoothies with your green vegetables. Smoothies are excellent ways to get your protein quickly because you can also add in some of the protein powders in with them. Youre able to drink on the go and replace your coffee with your smoothies.
Using the vegetables, nuts, and seeds for snacks is a great option to sneak more protein into your diet. Try creating a trail mix with your ingredients and add in some dried fruit for a little extra fibre and flavour. You can pop it in a sealable bag and carry that around with you in your purse. Its there as soon as you need it as a stock.
When you get stuck, look for the meat dishes that you used to have or that you would like to try. Opt for substituting the meat with your tofu or Quorn. These dishes are very quick and easy, and you can try out so many different dishes.
So, now its time to get more protein in your vegan diet. Its not that difficult, and there are high chances that youre already doing it. Focus on the veggies, legumes, beans, and nuts, and youre well on your way to a balanced and healthy vegan lifestyle.
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How Much Protein You Need
To plan your high-protein vegan diet, first determine how much protein you need each day. The recommended daily intake established by the National Academy of Medicine is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. Looking at the list of high-protein vegan foods, these targets are easy to reach.
Some people may need more protein than the RDA. Weightlifters, bodybuilders and very active people often need more protein to support muscle repair and growth. These people should aim for 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, according to Chris Mohr, Ph.D., RD. For a person who weighs 160 pounds, that would be 87 to 130 grams per day.
Individuals who are interested in weight loss also may want to boost their protein intake. A study published in Obesity Facts in 2017 found that people who ate more protein each day lost more weight at the end of a six-month period than those who ate less protein.
How To Add More Protein To Your Vegetarian Diet
3 Minute Read
There are many ways to get more protein into your vegetarian diet it just takes a little planning.
Protein provides energy and helps your body function properly. Its one of three macronutrients that the human body requires. The other two macronutrients are fats and carbohydrates.
You can get protein either through meat or plants, but studies show that eating protein from plants is often healthier. A 2016 Harvard University study of more than 131,000 people showed that those who got their protein from plants had a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes. This was especially true among people who had at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor, such as smoking, heavy drinking, being overweight or obese, or lack of exercise.
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Why You Need Protein
Getting enough dietary protein every day is important, because your body does not hold on to protein like fats and carbohydrates. That means you’ll need to eat the required amount each day. A person on the average American diet consumes enough protein, and people on vegan diets are no different.
The amino acids in proteins help your body build and repair muscle, and keep your energy levels up. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. That number increases to 1.2 to 2 grams for people who are more active.
A common misperception about vegan diets is that not enough protein is consumed in diets for people who are vegan, because they only get their protein from plant sources. However, vegan diets are just as rich in protein as animal-based diets. It would take consuming little to no protein for a protein deficiency to occur.
What Is A Complete Protein
Protein is the macronutrient in your body that builds and repairs muscle tissue. Its essential for digestion, metabolic function and creating infection-fighting antibodies. Your brain, heart, liver and muscles consist of protein. In short, a healthy body and mind really need it.
So, what makes a protein complete? It depends on whether it has all 22 amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein. Our bodies naturally produce 13 amino acids, but the nine others need to be sourced elsewhere.
A protein is considered complete when it has nine essential amino acids in somewhat equal amounts, says Meagan Ballard, a registered dietitian at INTEGRIS. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be eaten in our diet.
Animal proteins are the richest food source for complete proteins, but there are also options for vegetarians and vegans. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to consume complete proteinswhether youre a meat-lover or veganas long as you are eating enough complete proteins.
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What About Protein Supplements
Some protein powders are plant-based. Depending upon the plants used to make the powders, they may be complete or incomplete proteins.
The position of the American Dietetic Association is that while food supplements can help people meet their daily nutrition goals, eating a wide variety of nutrients rich in protein is usually a better strategy for meeting daily goals.
Some protein supplements may also be high in sugar or sodium to improve the taste, so it is important to read the nutrition labels.
Beans Beans Are Good For The Heart
Theres a reason for the little rhyme, which ends with telling you that the more you eat, the more you fight. Theres some truth to both parts of the rhyme. Beans are great for the heart, but they do tend to contain a lot of fibre. Its the fibre that makes them fart worthy.
But that shouldnt stop you from getting them into your diet. As said, theyre extremely good for the heart. Theyre also excellent for all your other muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fibres within the body. This is all due to the amount of protein youll get.
You can eat any type of beans to get the health benefits. Kidney, black, white, and lima beans tend to be the most favoured, but dont rule out hummus, winged, mungo, and garbanzo beans for your diet.
Beans are extremely easy to add into your diet. You can throw together a healthy bean salad with some tomato salsa, or you could add them to a stew or chili mix.
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Protein For Vegans: Basic Information
During the 1970s and 1980s, conventional wisdom warned that vegetarians and vegans ran severe risks of protein deficiency. Much of this concern arose from the first bestselling vegetarian advocacy book, Diet for a Small Planet, written by Frances Moore Lappé and published in 1971. In hindsight, the books protein recommendations were needlessly stringent.
Today, the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. Some vegans believe that protein doesnt deserve any consideration. In fact, you can even find vegans who mock the topic when its brought up.
But belittling the importance of protein is totally misguided. Although vegans can easily get plenty of protein, many come up short. If youre vegan or mostly plant-based, its therefore risky to disregard the topic.
The Easy Way For Vegans To Get Enough Protein Every Day
As it turns out, I weigh around 140 pounds, so the 83 grams of protein mentioned above is right about what I aim for.
So how do I get my 83 grams of protein per day?
My approach to getting enough protein is very simple:
Make sure you include a decent protein source, even if just a little bit, in every meal or snack.
Mainly, this just keeps you mindful and prevents you from slipping into junk-food-vegan, carbohydrate-only mode.
So what does this mean in terms of actual foods? Try these:
- Adding protein powder to your smoothie.
- Eating a whole-wheat bagel with peanut or almond butter for a snack.
- Including beans in your pasta dishes .
- Lots of lentils.
- Hummus on a whole wheat pita for a snack.
- Putting nuts on your salad or eating them alone as a snack.
- Eating quinoa as part of the main dish or a side.
- Occasionally eating soy products, like tempeh, but dont forget all the high-protein vegan alternatives to soy!
See? No huge numbers here, but mix in a few of them every day, and its no problem at all to get anywhere from 60-100 grams of protein, especially when you count all the other foods you eat that contain smaller amounts of protein. My point here isnt to get you to start counting protein grams throughout the day I certainly dont do that but you can see just how easy it is to get the protein you need.
A few other favorite, high-protein vegan recipes:
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A Comprehensive Chart Of Vegan Protein Sources
When I first adopted a plant-based diet, I wasnt sure how to best replace animal products with vegan ones.
Fortunately, it turned out to be easy to get enough protein without meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. Even better, I quickly discovered that vegan protein sources are delicious and incredibly easy to prepare.
The average person needs approximately 0.450.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, depending on your physical activity level. Thats about 70113 grams for a 155-pound individual .
Because there are so many protein-rich plant foods, you can easily get enough protein on a vegan diet. Plus, experts agree that a well-planned plant-based diet provides all of the nutrients you need, including protein (