“Where do you get your protein?”
If you follow a vegan diet, you have probably heard this question a thousand times.
I certainly have.
The good new is that more and more people are realizing that the vegan lifestyle provides
a number of significant health, lifestyle, and ethical benefits.
In fact, the number of vegans is growing substantially.
According to according to a report in Vegetarian Times, 3% American adults, 7.3 million
people, follow a vegetarian diet, and one million of them are vegans.
And that number is certainly higher today.
Fortunately, more people are coming to the realization that filling your plate with meat, dairy products,
and eggs could be a recipe for heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and even impotence.
Leading health experts agree that going vegan is the single best thing we can do for ourselves and
Growing numbers of doctors are recommending that people cut back on their meat consumption
and eat more fruits andvegetables.
According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
“Vegetarians and vegans enjoy a lower risk of death from
ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels,
lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension and
type 2 diabetes, and lower body mass indexes, as well as
lower overall cancer rates.”
That’s certainly good advice, and those who take significant steps to go meat free and embrace a vegan
diet are finding that not only is their health improving–and we’re talking about significantly reducing
their risks for the top four killers–they’re also finding surprising benefits.
“Healthy vegan diets support a lifetime of good health
and provides significant protection against numerous
diseases, including some of the biggest killers:
heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
Researchers have found that vegans have stronger
immune systems than their meat-eating friends which
means that vegans are less susceptible to
everyday illnesses such as the flu.”
Studies also confirm that vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.
I can live with that!
Plant Based Sources for 8 Essential Amino Acids:
With proper attention to your diet and meal planning, vegans can make sure we’re giving
our bodies sufficient protein and amino acids.
Basically, proteins are chains of large molecules that are made up of simpler units called
23 different amino acids are used to form proteins.
Our bodies use those 23 amino acids to make more than 50,000 proteins that our bodies
utilize to heal, build and rejuvenate.
Of the 23, there are 8 essential amino acids, which are not manufactured by the
human body and must be derived from outside food sources.
Here are a few easily-accessible, plant-based sources for those 8 essential amino acids:
Phenylalanine: Seeds, avocados and almonds
Threonine: Legumes, nuts and seeds
Trytophan: Bananas, dried dates and chocolate
Isoleucine: Almonds, seeds and almonds
Leucine: Sesame seeds, lentils and peanuts
Lysine: Green beans, lentils and spinach
Valine: Soy, mushrooms and peanuts
Methionine: Whole grains, hemp seeds
Be sure to include these foods in your diet on a regular basis.
But how much protein do we need to eat?
How do we calculate our protein requirements?
According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., and author of “Eat to Live” —
“An easy way to calculate your own daily protein requirement,
according to the U.S. RDA , is to multiply 0.36 (grams)
by your body weight.
That translates to about 44 grams for a 120-pound woman
and 54 grams for a 150-pound male.”
High Sources of Plant Based Protein
Whenever I am planning my meals for the week, I always try to include a few of these
high protein foods on the menus:
Seitan: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces
Tempeh: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces
Lentils: 17.9g Protein / Cup
Hemp Seeds: 16g Protein / 3 Tbsp
Beans (Black, Kidney, Mung, Pinto): 12-15g Protein / Cup
Quinoa: 11g Protein / Cup
Spirulina: 6g Protein / 10 grams
Eat Your Vegetables
Of course, you knew that beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are great sources for protein, but
the top produce sources for protein may surprise you.
Here are 20 powerful reasons to eat your vegetables–they’re packed with protein.
And this is just a sampling.
Soy bean sprouts – 4.5 grams protein per 1/2 cup
Okra – 3.83 grams per cup
Beet greens – 3.7 grams protein per serving
Spinach – 3 grams protein per 1/2 cup
Asparagus – 3+ grams of protein per serving
Cauliflower – 3 grams of protein per serving
Artichoke – 3 grams of protein per serving
Watercress – 3 grams of protein per 100g serving
Sweet corn – 3 grams of protein per 1/2 cup
Beets – 2.86 grams protein per serving
Kale – 2.5 grams protein per 1/2 cup
Dandelion greens – 2 grams protein per cup
Broccoli – 2 grams protein per 1/2 cup
Brussel sprouts – 2 grams protein per 1/2 cup
Dried tomatoes – 2 grams protein per 1/4 cup
Mushrooms – 2 grams protein per 1/2 cup, cooked
Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, collards, mustard greens – 2-3 grams protein per 1/2 cup
*Note that actual grams may vary slightly by source, but you get the picture.
So fill your diet with lots of vegetables, spouts, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits–
the grams will all add up.
3 Tasty, Protein Rich Recipes to Try
Kale Shitake Mushroom Salad with Quinoa
Curried Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf
Curry Lentil Mushroom Soup
Much Ado About Protein
How do you get enough protein without eating meat?
This is one of the questions that vegans are repeatedly asked.
But according to Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D., author of “Protein in the Vegan Diet”,
Vegetarian Resource Group, this overwhelming concern about protein is really not warrented:
“Some Americans are obsessed with protein.
Vegans are bombarded with questions
about where they get their protein.
Athletes used to eat thick steaks before competition
because they thought it would improve their performance.
Protein supplements are sold at health food stores.
This concern about protein is misplaced.
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.
In reality, we need small amounts of protein.
Only one calorie out of every ten we take in needs
to come from protein.”
Well-planned vegan diets provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus all the saturated fat,
cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy foods.
The good news is that virtually all vegan foods contain some protein.
See for yourself.
Take a look at this Vegan Plant Protein chart and you might be amazed.
Key Vegan Protein & Iron Sources
The infographic below illustrates some of the key sources for vegan protein as well as iron.
Note: This graphic only represents a small portion of vegetable protein sources.
Is it Really Necessary to Combine Proteins?
The biggest challenge is for vegan dieters to consume enough essential amino acids and
protein. it on its own.
Amino acids are necessary for the body to make enzymes and for cellular function
The question of how to obtain sufficient vegan protein and whether it is necessary
to combine foods to create complete proteins is quite controversial and subject to a variety
The Savvy Vegetarian addresses this topic extensively on their site and featured quotes
from the following respected, nutrition experts– compiled by nutrition writer John McCabe:
“You may have heard that vegetable sources of protein are incomplete and
become complete only when correctly combined.
Research has discredited that notion so you don’t have to worry
that you won’t get enough usable protein if you don’t put together
some magical combination of foods at each meal.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.
“Complementing proteins is not necessary with vegetable proteins.
The myth that vegetable source proteins need to be complemented is
similar to the myths that persist about sugar making one’s blood glucose
go up faster than starch does.
These myths have great staying power despite their being no evidence
to support them and plenty to refute them.”
Dennis Gordon, M.Ed, R.D.
“All proteins are made up of the same amino acids. All. No exceptions.
The difference between animal and vegetable proteins is in the content
of certain amino acids. If vegetable proteins are mixed, the differences
get made up. Even if they aren’t mixed, all you need to do to get the right
amount of low amino acids is to eat more of that food.
There is no ‘need’ for animal proteins at all.”
Dr. Marion Nestle, Professor, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies,
and Public Health, New York University
While most vegan foods contain some protein, soybeans deserve special mention.
Soybeans contain all the essential amino acids and surpass all other plant foods in the amount
of protein that they can deliver to humans.
The human body is able to digest 91 percent of the protein found in soybeans.
The availability of many different and delicious soy products (e.g., tempeh, tofu, and soy-based
varieties of hot dogs, burgers, and ice cream) in grocery and health-food stores suggests that
the soybean, in its many forms, can accommodate a wide range of tastes.
Other rich sources of non-animal protein include legumes, nuts, seeds, food yeasts, and
Although food yeasts, such as nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast, do not lend themselves to
being the center of one’s diet, they are extremely nutritious additions to many dishes, including
soups, gravies, breads, casseroles, and dips. Most yeasts are 50 percent protein.
Vegan-friendly menus are popping up everywhere—even Burger King offers veggie burgers—
and more and more eateries are focusing exclusively on vegetarian and vegan foods.
To the delight of many vegan shoppers, there are vegan alternatives to almost any animal
food, from soy sausages and “Fib Ribs” to Tofurky jerky and mock lobster–although I don’t
usually eat them.
As Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.; Vegetarian Resource Group, concludes:
“It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations
for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate.
Strict protein combining is not necessary;
it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout the day.”