I don’t know about you, but the number #1 question I get asked when people find out that I am a vegan is, “where do you get your protein from?” It seems there is absolute protein madness with sales skyrocketing and even the most random products being marketed as ‘high in protein’.
Other gems we have heard, "Vegans can’t build muscle.” , “Meat is the only REAL protein”, and other similar myths. But none of these statements are true, as scientists and professional athletes have proved countless times.
The hard fact: many newbie vegans do lack protein in their diets.
Most people who have transitioned to a full plant based diet do tend to lack in protein, along with other nutrients like Iron and B12. But that is not necessarily due to a vegan diet, but due to an unbalanced diet.
Moreover the thing is, recent studies have shown that vegan protein performs just as well as it’s animal product counterpart while also being better for our health in the long run.
Back to basics: How much protein do you really need?
- The average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day.
- Non-vegetarians eat way more than that (almost 80 grams),
- While, vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day (over 70 grams).
The rule of thumb recommendation for protein in UK is 0.6g/kg body weight. So, if you weigh around 65 kg, which is a very healthy weight for a woman that’s 5.8”, then your total protein requirement is around 39 grams.
According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, in UK women eat on average 70g and men eat more than 90g a day. So, the bottom line is: WE EAT TOO MUCH PROTEIN!! It can be a bit of a different story if you are a newbie vegan and still trying to figure out how to have a healthy and balanced diet while living a vegan lifestyle. So let’s cover that next….
Where do vegans get their protein?
Contrary to common belief, vegans can choose among a wide array of protein-rich foods.
- Seeds and Nuts: International Journal of Epidemiology recently discovered that vegan protein from nuts and seeds is far better for our cardiovascular health than its meat alternative. By including nuts and seeds in your diet you will also get your daily dose of unsaturated healthy fats, as well as minerals.
- Legumes: Beans and legumes are another healthy and affordable option, that offer around 30% of your recommended daily dose of protein in only one cup. They are also packed with fibre, potassium and iron. A recent analysis from PURE has shown that countries that eat more legumes, rather than carb-packed foods, have a longer lifespan and are less likely to have heart diseases.
- Whole grains: We all know that whole grains are a great source of fibre, but they also have around 6 grams of protein per cup and offer a daily dose of calcium, amino acids and vitamins. There are many uncommon whole grains that are worth your research, including buckwheat and amaranth.
- Brown rice: Commonly known only as a great carb source, rice also offers 5 grams of protein per cup. The protein from rice is so potent that it also became a base of protein supplements, that have shown to improve muscle tone and exercise performance in professional athletes.
- Spinach: It’s no wonder that this powerful vegetable is known as super-food that everyone should include in their diet. It’s packed with protein, iron, calcium and magnesium, and all that while being extremely low in calories.
Nothing beats whole foods when it comes to a healthy and balanced diet, but it sometimes doesn’t fit our busy schedule. Thus, you always have the options to include whole food based protein supplements to complement your diet and to stay on top of the protein, but use this sparingly and only on days you absolutely need it.
The bottom line is you don’t have to sacrifice anything when going vegan. As long as you ensure you have all your macronutrients in check, you can enjoy your vegan diet effortlessly and worry-free.
We hope this short guide (or rant !!) gave you some new ideas that’ll help you stay healthy (and well Protein”ed”) on a plant-based diet!