Where do you get your protein? This is the big question that vegans will hear many, many times, but also a question that those new to veganism sometimes worry about and aren't quite sure they know the answer to.
Well here it is.
Firstly let me put your fears aside - it is almost impossible not to get enough protein if you are eating sufficient calories. To be protein deficient you would need to be eating under 1000 calories a day. In such a case you would actually be starving, so protein would likely be the least of your worries.
Protein deficiency is almost unheard of in Australia. In fact most people are getting too much protein. And although protein is the nutrient du jour, with everyone looking to get more, the fact of the matter is that we don't need more than around 10% of our calories coming from protein. This works out at about 38 grams of protein for a man and 29 grams for a woman.
For most people the word protein is synonymous with meat. This leaves many people contemplating a vegan diet worried that they won't be able to meet their protein needs, or that plant protein is in some way inferior to the animal kind.
It is true that animal-based proteins are more efficiently utilised by our bodies than plant proteins as they contain an amino acid profile closer to our own. This is why animal proteins are sometimes referred to as 'high quality'. But it doesn't actually mean that they are any better for us than those proteins derived from plants. Plant proteins contain all the amino acids we need too, just not in the same proportions as our own proteins. But they still do the job just as well.
Once the food you eat hits your stomach and the amino acids in the protein are broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream, your body won't know if they came from a chicken or a potato. They all go into the amino acid pool from which our bodies create our own proteins.
So that's all well and good. Plant foods can provide us with all the protein that we need but which plant foods are the best to eat?
The short answer is all of them! Nature has a funny and clever way of working. As long as you eat a varied whole food diet, you will get all the protein that you need. You can't go wrong. So don't obsess about counting your grams of protein: Mother Nature has got you covered.
However, there are plant foods that are higher in protein than others. Beans and pulses, tofu and tempeh, nuts and whole grains are all fantastic sources of protein.
You should have no problem adding these foods to your daily diet in tasty and delicious ways. Try some of the following for an extra protein boost:
- Whole wheat or vegie sticks pita dipped in hummus
- Whole grain toast with peanut or other nut butter
- A handful of nuts and seeds tossed into a salad or just as a snack
- Add beans to your salads and pasta dishes
- Try quinoa as a side dish
If you would like to download a printable guide to plant based protein foods get it here.
So there you have it, a brief guide to plant based protein - I hope this answered your question.
About the author: Georgia Bamber is a plant-based lifestyle advocate and health educator, ultra marathon runner, ironman and mother. Through writing, speaking and online teaching she hopes to inspire people to harness the benefits of a healthy plant-centered lifestyle. A graduate of Cornell University and City University, London Business School, Georgia also holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Monash University as well as a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell. You can find her at www.georgiabamber.com and on twitter and instagram as @georgiabamber
Georgia is currently offering a course to help people get more plant foods onto their plate, for more info see www.eatingcleanandgreen.com.
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