I always have a little chuckle when someone asks me, with a worried look on their face, “Where do you get your protein”? They are always so concerned. I politely smile and tell them from various plant sources, and I begin listing them off, one by one, and people always seem surprised that you can get protein from something other than meat.
When I first became vegan, I didn’t really know where I was going to get my protein from either, so I try to be patient when I am asked this question. We all (for the most part) grew up being told to eat lots of meat because it’s filled with protein, and it will make us big and strong. My parents didn’t know any better, they were just passing this nutritional information down to me because that is what they were told by their parents.
We need to get rid of the image in our heads that protein is the piece of meat that becomes the centrepiece of your meal. It’s so easy to incorporate healthy proteins into your diet throughout the day, bit by bit, in every meal. If a cow or gorilla needs nothing more then plants to grow so big and strong, why do we think as humans that we need anything different?
Unfortunately, society and the government has made us believe that we need more protein then actually necessary. We are being “recommended” to eat copious amounts of protein per day and it’s actually making us sick. Consuming to much protein, especially that from animals and dairy, is very acidic and has an aging effect on the body. To much protein can also lead to kidney and liver problems. If you eat more protein than necessary, your body will convert most of those calories to sugar and then fat. This will increase your blood sugar levels and feed bacteria and yeast, as well as fueling cancer cell growth. Not to mention, a swell of other health problems. Now, let me know ask you. Have you ever heard of someone that has been diagnosed with a “protein deficiency”? That’s because there is no such thing.
An average female weighing 140 lbs needs about 50 grams of protein per day, whereas an female athlete weighing 140 lbs will need a little bit more, around 70-80 grams of protein daily.
Protein is made up of amino acids and each amino acid is not equal to the next. Some are considered “essential”, which your body can’t produce on it’s own and must get it through a nutritious diet. Foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids are known as complete proteins. However, we don’t need to eat all the essential amino acids together in one meal to get adequate amount of protein. It’s possible to eat a variety of foods that are rich with essential and non-essential amino acids and still get the right amount of protein. There are however, many plant based foods that are filled with all the essential amino acids, such as hemp, chia and spirulina. Plant proteins contain such a wide variety of amino acids that vegans are almost guaranteed to get all the necessary amino acids with very little effort.
While animal flesh may be considered a “complete protein”, it is also “complete” with potentially harmful saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics. Unlike plant-based protein, animal protein lacks fibre, antioxidants, enzymes and various other nutrients.
I have made a list of some of my favourite plant-based foods that are high in protein. You might be surprised to see some foods on this list that you didn’t know contained any protein at all!
- Lentils: 18 grams of protein per cup
- Buckwheat: 6 grams of protein per cup COOKED This is also a complete protein
- Tofu: 10 grams of protein per cup
- Seitan: 21 grams of protein per 1/3 cup
- Quinoa: 8 grams of protein per cup This is also a complete protein
- Spirulina: 4 grams of protein per tablespoon This is also a complete protein
- Tempeh: 30 grams of protein per cup
- Soy Milk: 8 grams of protein per cup SOY is also a complete protein
- Green Peas: 8 grams of protein per cup
- Hemp Seeds: 13 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons
- Pumpkin Seeds: 8 grams of protein per 1/4 cup
- Chia Seeds: 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
- Spinach: 5 grams of protein per cup
- Broccoli: 4 grams of protein per cup
- Almonds: 7 grams of protein per cup
- Nutritional Yeast: 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
- Sprouted Grain Bread: 10 grams of protein per 2 pieces of bread
- Amaranth: 7 grams of protein per cup Cooked
- Tahini: 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons
- Chickpeas: 6-8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup
- Peanut Butter: 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
You can also combine foods to create a complete protein, such as legumes and whole grains (brown rice and beans, lentils and barley, peanut butter on whole wheat bread) or legumes and nuts and seeds.
I hope that this list of foods and various other information has cleared up some misconceptions you might have had about vegans and their protein intake. We just need to expand our nutritional outlook a little bit and you can see that the possibilities are endless and we don’t need the protein from animals. Try to start swapping out animal based proteins for plant-based proteins in your diet, and do a little test to see how different your body feels after a few days or weeks of this experiment.
Add chia or hemp seeds to your morning smoothie or sprinkle it on some toast with peanut butter. Eat a handful of pumpkin seeds or almonds for a snack. Make your sandwich on sprouted grain bread. Make a lentil or chickpea stew or soup. Add greens, such as peas, spinach or broccoli to your dinner. Make tofu, seitan or tempeh the star of your dinner. Get creative and start making your health a priority!